219. Heritage Barn


Farming in northern Michigan was a strenuous way to make a living in the late 1800’s. The harsh weather and difficult terrain stretched the capabilities of those hardy souls who worked the soil. 

Most of these farms were self-contained. They raised livestock of all sorts, food sources for that livestock, food for the family, and some commodities to sell.

One absolute necessity on every farm was a good barn that could provide shelter for the animals and storage for the crops such as hay and straw required to care for those animals.

Although there were many designs, most Northern Michigan barns had certain basics. The main floor was accessible via a ramp or the barn was built into a hillside for direct access. There was room for animals and perhaps the milking line on the lower level, a loft above stored hay and straw. Stalls were often on both the lower and main levels. Sometimes even silos and granaries were built into the main structure.

Although some farmers attempted to build on their own, it was more common to utilize a master barn builder and hold a barn raising.  George Fornwald and his son were just such master builders! George happens to be the Great Grandfather of one of Heritage Villages staunchest supporters, Martin Jahn. Martin and his wife Pat were in possession of the old picture you see before you and shared it with the Heritage Village group. Following nearly two years of searching, we found the barn in the picture still standing and in relatively good condition.

Although codes and costs have deterred us from an attempt to move the actual barn, we are undertaking the next best thing. We will have an architectural drawing done to a slightly smaller scale but accurate in every detail. We will then have a builder reconstruct the barn just as it stood when George finished the building 

Who knows! We may actually hold a barn building just like in the old days. Watch the hill beside the garden in front of you. You will see 1895 come alive again.

If you would like to be part of this exciting project contact us at MackinawHistory .org or visit us on facebook