The barns are located at 8906 Waterman Road and on
Watson Road, both south of town. Driving to the Bill and Barbara
(Sawyer) Wade farm I was given a tour of the former dairy barn
which is now used as a storage building for their big combine
and other farm machinery. The kit was shipped by railroad and
unloaded in Waterman where it was picked up by then-owner John
W. Smiley in 1919 and hauled to his farm. It was called the Favorite
model which sold for around $900, according to the catalog.
Sherrie Martin wrote about kit-built barns in the recent issue
of the Waterman Area Heritage Society newsletter, and I contacted
her to obtain more information.
It seems that
Sears Roebuck went into the house and barn business early in
the 1900s and issued catalogs for people to order ready-made
kits for all the materials to construct a house or barn.
There are apparently many examples of Sears kit houses
around the country, but a lesser number of barns survive. Two
of those dairy barns are still standing south of Waterman. Rebecca
Hunter, co-author of The Sears, Roebuck Book of Barns:
A reprint of the 1919 Catalog published in 2005, came to
Waterman this winter to search for some houses and the barns,
verifying their assembly from kits by the numbers inscribed on
boards throughout the structures.
Bill Wade stands in front of his barn south of Waterman
that was built about 1919 as a kit barn that came from Sears
Roebuck loaded on a railroad car. (Schrader photo)
The siding is cypress wood, with framing lumber made
of No. 1 yellow pine. All the windows, doors, and hardware were
included, plus oxide red paint sufficient for two coats plus
white for the trim. The Fire-chief brand of shingle roll roofing
was guaranteed for 15 years. The haymow had a capacity of 17
Wade said its condition has deteriorated
after 90 years, and he plans to tear it down and replace it with
a metal building. The cost of putting on a new roof would be
about $20,000, more than 20 times the cost of the original barn
and probably more than the whole farm cost a century ago. He
has already put on new roofs twice during the past 44 years.
The Watson Road kit barn is located on a farm owned
by Jeanetta Boughton. She is not sure who owned that farm when
the barn was built around 1920, but says it is also in poor condition
and will probably be demolished.
I wonder if they
had barn raisings, where neighbors from miles around would join
in erecting the new building, and then would celebrate its completion
with a barn dance Saturday night?! Thats what we see in
the movies anyway.
My favorite memories of our
barn while living on a Babson farm near Hinckley is playing war
or hide and seek in the barn, even having a rope swing in the
haymow, and sneaking my first smoke out back of the
barn. When living in Waterman we had a small barn that doubled
as a garage at the north end of Cedar Street where I got my first
BB gun and shot at pigeons up in the loft. For those old timers
who may recall, it was known as the Simpson place. Then we moved
to the Drake house on Grant Street where a beautiful magnolia
tree still blooms out front each Spring. I know it is still there
as I drove by the old house last week.
while south of town at the Wades I had to take another nostalgic
drive one mile south to my birthplace in 1940, the KIRK-LAND
farm, then owned by Harry and Bebe Kirk of Chicago, where my
father milked the dairy herd and raised Spotted Poland Chinas.
In those days I didnt even know there was a town named
Kirkland and sure didnt know there was a Poland or a China
either. But I digress....
In the column I wrote about the regional history fair a
few weeks ago one name of a winner from Genoa-Kingston was inadvertently
left out. Nicole Hebel received a superior rating from the judges
for her historical exhibit called Cahokia. Thanks to her parents
for bringing that to my attention. I wish her the best in the
next level of competition in Springfield.