Community Agriculture Alliance: Routt County's historic barns

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Routt County has a long history in agriculture. Early settlers needed to raise crops and dairy products for their consumption. Once established, some families began ranching and raising cattle, sheep and horses. Eventually, others raised hay and cool-weather crops for market.

Necessary for all these operations was a place to shelter the animals, farm supplies and other materials - a barn. In Routt County, the barn was the first building constructed on a homestead. The family slept in the hayloft, and the animals were sheltered in the stalls below until there were resources to build a cabin, usually the following year.

According to "The Agricultural Context of Routt County," the barn usually was the largest building on an agricultural property. Most early Routt County barns were built with either a saltbox or gambrel roof and faced the east or south for maximum light and protection from the weather. The long, north side usually had few, if any, windows. The earliest barns were constructed with locally available materials - logs from the property - and reflected the traditions and skills of the builders. Once sawmills were established, wood siding also was used. Early foundations were made of local rocks and stones placed at the corners and pressure points of the buildings. The older log barns were not chinked in the hayloft to allow for ventilation of the dry hay and to prevent combustion.

Frame barns built later used metal ventilators to serve the same purpose. While evidence of shake roofs exists in earlier barns, metal roofing was the most common. Four barns are individually listed on the Routt County Register of Historic Properties.

- The Priest Creek Barn was named after Chester Priest, who homesteaded the land in 1890. Priest Creek also was named for him. The barn was built in 1905 by Andy Morrison, according to local historian Vernon Summer. It is a two-story structure with board and batten siding, a stone foundation and metal gable roof. The front of the barn has two tall, double-width doors, while the back has two double-Dutch doors. Small vent windows are on the north and south sides. The interior has a large hayloft, stalls for animals and equipment storage, and a small grain room. Corrals, a loading chute, and loafing sheds are nearby. The barn has been restored and is still used for ranching.

- The Peavy Barn was dismantled and moved by horse-drawn wagon to its present site in the late 1930s by Marshall Peavy. There is a long tradition of resourceful ranchers moving buildings to new locations in Routt County when they no longer served a purpose where they were originally constructed. That is the case of this log barn also known as the "Barn on the Carl property." During the 1930s and 1940s, Marshall Peavy, Quentin Semotan, Coke Roberds and other local ranchers were instrumental in the development of the Quarter Horse breed. Two separate associations were developed, with the American Quarter Horse Association formed in 1940 on bloodlines developed from Routt County stock. Peavy left a legacy of livestock breeding in Routt County that continues today. Now on a concrete foundation, the barn is built of rough hewn logs with land-scribed notches at the corners and has a metal gambrel roof.

- The Mad Creek Barn was built in 1906 by James "Harry" Ratliff, who later became the first forest supervisor of the Routt National Forest during the Range Wars. Despite repeated attempts of the cattle barons to intimidate or remove him, he administered the forest for the greater good. The barn is built of logs with hog-trough corners. It has a metal gable roof and sits on a foundation of upright log stumps. The barn was preserved in 2001 through a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and Historic Routt County, with funding from a State Historical Fund grant. It is accessible to the public through an easy hike on the Mad Creek Trail.

- The Fetcher Barn at Hahn's Peak is a familiar landmark in north Routt County. The barn was constructed in 1929 by J.T. Kelton, who later became a well-known Routt County sheriff. The Fetcher family, respected ranchers and visionary community leaders, purchased the barn parcel in 1962. The hayloft is no longer used for hay, but was the site of many festive barn dances in the '50s and '60s. The barn has an arched metal roof and sits on a concrete foundation. The front elevation has large double doors of diagonally placed wood. The peeled logs decrease in diameter as the height increases, and the notched corners are reinforced with vertically placed milled lumber.

Historic Routt County is extremely pleased that during the years a number of rural property owners have chosen to take the next step in preservation - listing their barn or ranch on the Routt County Historic Property Register. Some owners have prepared their own nominations; others have worked with Historic Routt County through our Nomination Initiative. Of the more than 80 properties on the local register, in addition to the four barns, there are 17 ranches. To learn more, call Historic Routt County at 875-1305 or visit www.historicrouttcounty.org.

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