A Washington DC government official visited a local farm to include its stone barn in a heritage barn series archival publication some fifteen years ago.
Alan Johnson, Central State Bank president, reveals more information on the history of his family’s, much written about, Rockcrest Stone Barn, situated four and a half miles Northwest of Elkader, close to the Norway Church in St Olaf on Gunder road.
It is reminiscent of a time past; it features an arched roof, is built of local limestone, and fits in with the local country side beautifully. Its design complimenting the peaceful hills of a rural community is a treasure and an important part of American heritage.
Alan has had a recording of the original stone masons from Farmersburg who built the barn, in his drawer at the bank, for the past ten years. Amazingly both the walkman and the tape functioned perfectly. With the masons now deceased Alan will be seeking a means of preserving and copying the tape.
While the stone barn has been written about in many newspapers over the decades, there is information on the tape that is not revealed in any of those articles, such as, the names of all five stone masons, where they came from, who the carpenters and the quarry men were, the amount they were paid, the name of the quarry, who done what job, their relationship to the Johnson family and much more.
The stone barn, which became named Rockcrest some years later, was originally completed in 1939. What is revealed on the tape however, is that it replaced a much older barn, possibly over one hundred years old, or more, at that time. Much of the wood from the old barn was utilized in the building of the current stone barn and was used for joists.
The stone masons were all related and the father, Fritz Mueller, was a good friend of Art Johnson, Alan Johnson’s father. Art Johnson and Fritz were such good friends that when Fritz’s car died, Art gave him a vehicle. In the 30s that would have been seen as quite a gesture.
The tape, which was made in 1997, also revealed that MaLloyd and Ruben Mueller were cousins, MaLloyd was the son of Marvin Mueller, who worked on the railroads, and Ruben was the son of Fritz, their father was Fred Mueller, grandfather to MaLloyd and Ruben. Carl Mueller, brother of Fritz also worked on the barn.
“There was five of us, three generations of Farmersburg stone masons,” MaLloyd, or Ruben, said on the recording.
It took three years to complete the barn, in the spring and summer of 1937, 1938 and 1939. They were paid 25 cents an hour.
“Dad got 70 cents an hour and in his last year he got 75 cents. The stone came out of the Hoover quarry, Elkader, owned by Teddy and Glen Halverson. They had to pin the rocks to break it the way you wanted it to break. The rocks are all the same size. They used what they called a pin. Grandpa did the facing with a stone hammer, he was 77 years old. Your dad had a stone hammer, my dad and your dad were pretty good friends (to Alan),” MaLloyd or Ruben said, on the tape.
“Carl Mueller had shown them how to break the rock and Louis Tullison drove the truck,” Alan said, having listened to the tape more intently. “The carpenters were brothers who came from Gunder, their last name was Burgin,” he added.
The barn which measures 124 feet in length and 36 feet in width had a milk house attached ten years later which measured 10 feet by 22 feet and was made of the same rock. What was remarkable about the barn in its time was that it was the first in America to fit a labor saving device; a mechanical barn cleaner. It received a huge amount of press coverage because of this.
The barn in all its radiant beauty can be viewed from the roadside.