The Trappers Cabin and its Shared History in Post-Colonial America

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We recently took down another beautiful corn crib from circa 1850. This structure has a fascinating history, and when we moved it six weeks ago, it wasn’t its first journey across the fields!

Trapper's cabin barn restoration green mountain timber frames

In the photo above, I discuss the frame with the current property owner. We are grateful to him and his family for wanting to see this historic barn frame saved.

History of the Barn

trapper cabin homestead hartford NY barn for sale green mountain timber frames

This photo shows a beautiful farmstead in Hartford, New York. In between the large barn and the house, you can see our little corn crib peeking through. I have been learning some of the history of the area from a wonderful little book published in 1896. As I delve into the history, I find that this corn crib has a complicated story- one that brings up both sorrows and joys in the story of this area. history of hartford new york | Green Mountain Timber Frames

A Bit of History from Hartford, NY

May 2 of 1764 first saw the lands of what would become Hartford given by grants from the English Crown to officers of the New York Infantry after they had served in the French and Indian wars. This land had previously been hunting grounds for the Iroquois tribe. The family who owns the land now tells me that they have found many stone arrowheads in the cornfields around the barns.

In the Revolutionary War section of the book shown above, Samuel Bowen mentions that one of the combatants in the war hailed from Hartford. His family was an early owner of the property where this timber frame barn once stood.

On March 12 of 1793, the town of Hartford was established. It was named after a tribal group who had been pushed out of Hartford, Connecticut, and who had taken up residence in the area.

Here are a few details that caught my eye and imagination from the town records:

  • In 1794, just one year after the town was officially formed, it was decided at a town meeting that the grazing of sheep and swine on the town commons would no longer be allowed. In addition, it went into the notes of the meeting, which was held at the house of David Austin, that a lawful fence be no less than four and a half feet tall.
  • In 1803, a special town meeting was called at the Baptist Church to take measures to slow the spread of smallpox. A committee of 11 was appointed to find ways to minimize the terrible effects of the disease.
  • 1818 saw the imposition of a new tax that would raise $300 for the support of the poor, and also for a town-run home to support the needy.
  • In 1846, Hartford took a vote to decide on the sale of “spirituous liquors.” Of the three hundred and two votes cast, 151 favored a liquor license, with the exact number of voters opposing the town-sanctioned sale of liquor! One year later, the mood had shifted, and the licensed sale of liquor was approved in town by a majority of 92 votes.

And right around the time that Hartford voted to allow the sale of liquor, a wonderful little corn crib was crafted.

About the Hartford Corn Crib

The barn was built to house the corn that was grown on the Hartford farm. It measures 14 x 20 feet. Classic corn crib siding was installed, which allowed for excellent ventilation that would keep the corn drying after it was harvested. Wide boards were sliced so that air could flow through the gaps, but rainwater would be unlikely to enter and spoil the corn.

Trapper's Cabin vintage corn crib siding green mountain timber frames

The barn stood in the farmyard for over 100 years, right next to the large barn where animals were kept, and also where militia members were once housed during a conflict with Native Americans in the area. trapper cabin homestead hartford new york barn for sale green mountain timber frames

The Corn Crib Makes Its (First) Move

Our little corn crib saw a big change in the fall of 1968. No longer needed for corn storage, the barn was moved from the farmyard out to the woods behind the fields. The structure was moved with the use of a bulldozer.

trapper-cabin-corn-crib-moved-green-mountain-timber-frames.jpg

When the corn crib was moved, the family discovered a hand made mortar and pestle under the floorboards. It seems that one member of the Bowen family was a physician, and he likely used this tool to smash and mix early medicines.

19th century doctor tools from the trapper cabin corn crib green mountain timber frames

In its new location on the edge of the woods, our little cabin was transformed from corn storage to trapper’s cabin. Here is what the 2nd floor loft looked like when I first got to visit it:

Trapper's Cabin fur stretchers in the loft vintage cabin green mountain timber frames

The Trapper Cabin and the Fur Trade

This time period was the height of profitability in the fur trade. The family that now owned it was involved in purchasing pelts from trappers, and then curing them to be used in the making of clothing. We pulled hundreds of these wooden stretchers out of the cabin, some with notes on successful trapping trips dating from the 1940s through the 1980s.

fur stretchers trapper's vintage cabin green mountain timber frames

When the Green Mountain Timber Frames first viewed the cabin, it was in distress. The roof had leaked and it had not been inhabited for decades other than by porcupines and birds. Like the dry storage of corn cobs, the trapping industry was a thing of the past. We decided to take on the project of saving this barn, and finding a third purpose for the worthy structure.

Dismantling the Trapper’s Cabin

We moved onto the site in early February and tackled the clean-out of the barn. Once we got down to the structure, we removed the slate roof as well as the original cedar shake roof that was underneath. The siding was next. The boards on this little structure are impressive!

Some of the loft floorboards are also remarkable, and we know from our history book that these most likely came from local water sawmills that were in operation on the East Creek, not far from the cabin location.

wide floor boards trapper cabin corn crib restoration barn for sale green mountain timber frames

The interior of the trapper cabin originally had a full loft and a staircase. There were bins on the 2nd floor for storage of grains, and we presume that bins existed along the eve walls for the drying of corn. In the next photo, you can see one bin remaining on the fall gable wall, as well as a bin on the 2nd floor.Interior photo of trapper's cabin vintage corn crib

We popped the pegs from the joinery, and disassembled the frame. Each wooden joint was labeled. In the next photo, you can see Isaac working on removing one of the oak pegs that holds the top plate in place. Andy seems to be helping to hold the barn up!

trapper cabin corn crib restoration

We had a great crew for the tip down of this adorable frame. Here they are standing on the 2nd floor of a gable end:

dismantling the trapper cabin corn crib barn for sale green mountain timber frames

The braces that the guys are holding have a unique detail on them. I am intrigued by the “swoop” cut into the edge of the braces. It is gorgeous, and not something I have come across often in braces:

The floor joists and floor boars in this frame are wonderufl. Here is a view from the interior after we stripped the siding boards:

trapper cabin corn crib barn for sale

We made a fascinating discovery on one of the interior boards that came from this corn crib. In the next photo, you can see multiple inscriptions scratched into the surface of a pine plank:

witch hex in the trapper cabin corn crib green mountain timber frames barn for sale

This daisy wheel is an intriguing mark that we occasionally find in barns. Many theories abound about the meaning, ranging from a geometric blueprint for the structure, to the more superstitious theory that the mark was a “witch hex,” meant to ward off the presence of evil spells and the people who cast them.

This frame was built at a time not that far removed from the dark history of the witch trials of New England, and it does seem plausible that secret markings were used to protect food from imagined curses.

What is next for this timber frame structure?

For the second time in its story, the corn crib turned trapper cabin has been carried across the cornfields to the original Hartford site, and now back to our shop in Middletown Springs, Vermont. Because the farm road was impassible by truck and trailer, we brought our tractor over to carry the disassembled barn back to the main road.

trapper cabin corn crib hauled through the fields for restoration green mountain timber frames

We have now restored the timber frame structure, which included replacing one post with a similarly colored and aged timber, as well as other more minor repairs. In the next photo, we have one cross-section, or bent, of the barn assembled in our shop during the restoration.

restoration of trapper cabin corn crib green mountain timber frames

We are now looking for a new home for this cabin and the stories that it tells. It would make a remarkable woodland or meadow cabin retreat with a half loft.  Here is one last photo that shows the 2nd floor of the cabin.

Loft of trapper cabin corn crib green mountain timber frames barn for sale

This barn is for sale! Interested in learning more about this antique corn crib?

Contact me! 

802.774.8972
 luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com

Dismantling the Rupert Granary

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Here at Green Mountain Timber Frames, we have just finished dismantling a beautiful early 1800s granary.

Rupert Granary corn crib green mountain timber frames

This fantastic 18×20 corn crib was used to store the vitally important corn and grain that were grown on an historic farm in Rupert, Vermont.

Rupert Granary | corn crib | green mountain timber frames cabin

This structure has tipped walls, meaning that it was purposely built with the eve walls tipped out to be wider at the top than the base. This technique was used in the 1700s and first decades of the 1800s to keep rain running away from the valuable contents of the barn interior. You just can’t be too careful about protecting the food that will get you through the next winter!

antique barn door | rupert granary | green mountain timber frames

Come Inside this Historic Corn Crib

The barn was entered via this gorgeous door with hand wrought strap hinges. Once inside, there were high bins on either side. Hardwood 4×4 studs created the structure of the bins, which were approximately 3-feet wide and 9-feet high. The board walls of the bins had been removed before we arrived, but the elevated and slatted floors were still in place that kept air circulating all around the food that was stored in the bins.

1800s staircase | rupert granary | green mountain timber frames

200-Year-Old Corn?

Immediately to the left of the entrance door was a steep staircase up to a central loft. Ears of corn could be carried up and dropped down into the bins for retrieval throughout the long Vermont winters.

In the next photo, you can see some corn kernels that we found under the loft floorboards. I am so curious about the age of these corn seeds! They could be from a crop that grew 200 years ago so, of course, we saved them.

corn kernals from 1800s | rupert granary | green mountain timber frames

There are unique, full-length beams, which run the length of the structure. These hand-hewn timbers established the width of the bins for corn storage and also framed the edge of the central loft. In the next photo, you can see where this beam is lapped over the girt.

full length summer beams | rupert granary | green mountain timber frames

The care that was given to the chamfers in this joinery where it is notched over the center bent is spectacular.

full lenth summer beams up close  |  rupert granary | green mountain timber frames

We were also stunned by the beauty of the handcrafted rafter tails. They protrude out beyond the eve beams to create a gorgeous overhang that further protected the valuable corn from the weather.

handcrafted rafter tail  |  rupert granary | green mountain timber frames

Holding the Roof in Place with Rose Head Nails

At the dawn of the 1800s, iron was a valuable commodity, and it took a lot of work to forge nails by hand. In the next photo, you can see a few of the original rose head nails that were used to hold the roof boards in place.

rosehead nails  |  rupert granary | green mountain timber frames

In light of the value of nails when this frame was erected, the top plate (eve beam) was set with an overhang and carefully channeled to receive the top of the vertical siding boards. This was yet another detail that protected the interior from moisture. The top of the boards was carefully chamfered so that they would fit tightly into the groove in the beam. No nails were needed at the top of the siding boards because they were fit so tightly into the channel.

The Important Role of Hardwood Pegs

The main fastener used was, of course, hardwood pegs. These beautiful wooden dowels have held strong for over two hundred years, and it was an incredible experience to pop them out and contemplate the fact that they have not been touched by a human hand for so very long.

granary pegs  |  rupert granary | green mountain timber frames

We have had so much fun discovering the particulars of this vintage timber frame, and feel so lucky to be involved in saving it to be enjoyed by future generations. In the next photo, Jesse and Andy stand next to one of the center bent posts.

timber framing crew  |  rupert granary | green mountain timber frames

After labeling and stripping the roof boards and siding, we started popping the pegs and disassembling the joinery. Here is some of the crew after we lowered the first bent to the ground.

Green mountain timber frames crew | rupert granary

Once the bents were on the ground, we disassembled them and labeled the individual beams and braces.

There were two extremely friendly maple trees that have been hugging the granary for many years now. We used one of them, along with a block and tackle, to lower the bents to the ground. In the following video, you can see how we did it with the help of that maple tree.

Restoration Plans for the Rupert Granary

We will be restoring this adorable little frame over the coming month and we are excited about its future somewhere on a new foundation where many future generations of humans can enjoy it.

Speaking of enjoying and using this granary, here is a beautiful photo provided to us by the property owner of someone else who has enjoyed the Rupert Granary in recent years. When we pulled up the floorboards in this barn, we found many remains of dinners consumed there. It appears that chicken dinner was a favorite of the fox family that lived under this barn- much to the chagrin of the farmer!

Fox visitor | Green mountain timber frames | Rupert granary

Stay tuned to find out where this beautiful little granary is headed for its next phase of life and, as always, let us know if you are interested in restoring and preserving a barn of your own.

 

A Day-Trip to Waterford, Vermont…and 2 Surprises Behind a Barn

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A few weeks ago, Matt and I took a drive up and over to Waterford, Vermont. It’s in Caledonia County, and sits right on the border with New Hampshire. Waterford is a town I had never before visited. We were there to look at an old barn for sale.

Gunstock barn home for sale green mountain timber framesWe had been called because the foundation under a large gunstock timber frame is crumbling, and the property owners would like to see this barn saved and re-homed before it deteriorates further. This barn was worth the long drive from our home base. The posts and timbers are beautiful, and even the braces are hand hewn. gunstock timber frame for sale green mountain timber framesWe will be carefully disassembling this beautiful and worthy barn in the coming months, after which we will restore the timber frame. Stay tuned for more information as we get this structure measured, drawn to scale, and listed as an available frame on our webpage.

Exploring this Historic Barn

What we found when we walked around the back side of this structure stopped me in my tracks and struck my imagination. It was an immediate and poignant reminder of the days when this barn was used to store food from the land, and to house and feed the animals that sustained the New Englander’s lifestyle. decrepit farm silo green mountain timber framesThere, next to the barn, was a decrepit old silo, with vines growing up the side. It looked like the turret of some old agricultural castle, and I pushed my way through wild grapes and wild cucumber vines to find the opening. interior of woodford silo and stone foundation green mountain timber framesThe roof had collapsed and I could see vegetation reclaiming the interior. The old stone foundation was mossy and I could imagine the excitement of the farm crew many years ago as they laid these rocks in a neat circle to define the storage space for their crops- no doubt in between the daily chores of feeding the animals, tending the fields along the Connecticut River and milking the cows. a tree grows in the silo green mountain timber framesUnlike most of the old wooden silos that have vertical boards held together with steel rings, this one had vertical studs with thin boards bent to match the radius inside and outside. A sumac tree had sprouted, and its upper branches were capturing the afternoon sunlight as I peered in. A single four pane window was in the top of the silo wall, and in the early days this would have let that same sunlight into the interior to illuminate for the farmer how much of the summer’s bounty remained as the winter months progressed. I am so glad we will be catching the large barn before it, too, is reclaimed by vines and trees.

Surprises Behind the Gunstock Barn

There was another surprise behind the large gunstock barn that we had come to see. As we looked out into the woods, we saw another abandoned structure literally cradled by the limbs of trees. antique corn crib for sale green mountain timber framesI asked about the little barn, and was granted permission to explore it. The owners had not been in it for a very long time, and suspected it was nothing that would be of interest or that could be salvaged. I went in for a closer look.

Each gable rake of the little barn had a tree that had pushed right through the metal roofing. Undoubtedly, this barn must sway with the poplar, maple, and birch trees when the wind blows.

Climbing through the door, I was blown away by the interior. Like the silo, the uses of this structure were immediately apparent.

  1. First, it had been built as a corn crib. The slatted siding on the back gable wall gave me this clue. It had a beautiful stair case up to the loft and the stairs were designed with a half radius at the top and hand made hardware that allowed the stairs to be folded upward and out of the way.
  2. Second, someone had rigged a wood stove on the second floor and a little side table and chair indicated it had been home for someone-perhaps summer help on the farm.
  3. Third, this had been used as a machine shop in the 1800s and the first half of the 1900s. It is absolutely filled with gadgets, tools, hardware and belt-driven devices.

pulleys and wheels in a corn crib machine shop green mountain timber framesinterior of timber frame machine shop and corn crib green mountain timber framesThe incredible durability of old-growth timbers was apparent as I inspected the hand-hewn timber frame. In spite of the trees pressing in, the frame is worthy of restoration, and we agreed to purchase this 14×18 foot frame. Once restored and erected on a new foundation, it will make a remarkable cabin with sleeping quarters on the second floor. We will be listing this corn crib on our webpage soon.

Like many high quality corn cribs from the late 1700s and early 1800s, this barn has braces that go up from the posts to the girts, and also braces that go down from posts to the sills. corn crib interior green mountain timber framesI cannot wait to spend a day inside this barn with our dedicated team doing our best to decipher and document the creative web of belt-driven machines and jigs. We will then begin popping out the hardwood pegs, disassembling the timber frame joinery, and labeling all of the wooden joints. In time, this frame too will have a new home and a continued evolution of usefulness. The constant variable throughout these progressions will be the stout integrity of the structure and its aesthetic beauty.

Our day in Waterford was a good one, spent meeting new people who care deeply about saving the buildings of our New England farming heritage, learning about the farming practices of long ago, and acquiring two more vintage timber frames that are worthy of restoration.

Interested in old barns? Contact us to chat.
– Luke Larson