Thursday, August 6, 2009

Elijah Filley Stone Barn

We had been out to Rockford lake last weekend and on the way home to a little detour to see the Elijah Filley Stone Barn. I've always heard about it but never seen it. Here is the story behind the barn...

In 1867 Elijah Filley his wife Emma, their two sons, Fitch and Hiram and his father Ammi came to Gage County. The family lived in a tent until they completed their seven rooms, 1 1/2 story stone dwelling in 1868. They called their new home "Cottage Hill Farm".

In 1874 the farmers were in bad shape. They had two summers of drought, grasshopper invasion, and crop failure. Many farmers were backing up and heading back east. Those that remained needed work. Elijah Filley chose this time to build his barn. The news that Elijah Filley was building a barn spread fast. Men came from all over the area looking for work. Men who lived too far away to drive home each night were quartered in tents.

The stone for the barn was hauled from Elijah's property near Rockford. The lime was hauled from Beatrice. Stone piers were erected to hold the floor joist support beams from the interior. They are two feet square and the beams are one foot square and extend the entire length of the barn. The main floor was laid of three-inch planks and the floor seams were caulked with oakum, which was then covered with melted pitch. The oakum was made from hemp. All this was to make the floor watertight. The lumber was hauled by ox team from Nebraska City.

By mid-October the walls went up. A row of decorative hand-carved narrower stone was placed around the barn between the lower and second level. The walls on the first floor were two feet thick, and eighteen inches thick on the two upper floors. The haymow floor joists were placed, and the stonework was completed on the tenth of November 1874.

The carpenters had the roof plates and rafters cut before the last stones in the walls were laid. All the workers then helped with the rafters, nailing the sheeting and laying shingles. An eight-foot square cupola completed the barn.

The barn, which became a local landmark, served its intended purpose for many decades. On April 11, 1977 the Stone Barn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The following year, it was willed to the Gage County Historical Society by owner Edwin Pedersen, with over three acres of the surrounding land and $10,000 for restoration. The Gage County Historical Society is continuing the restoration, which was begun in 1980, as funds become available. An additional 20 acres were added in 1986. The exterior restoration of the stone was completed in 1981. The Barn is presently open to the public on scheduled dates and for special events.

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