In the Depression year of 1935 my grandparents, Leonard and Nettie Wigdahl and their 15 year old son Alden (my father) lost their farm due to foreclosure. They found a nearby farm in Silver Lake township for sale and somehow managed to scrape up a down payment at the present site of our farm. That terrible year of blizzards and droughts and Depression didn't stop Leonard from believing in the future of this farm as he planned his barn...34x64 with red clay tile along the bottom. The head carpenter was paid 50 cent/hr and his helpers received 35 cents. The barn was built for about $4000.
Leonard's two brothers, Carl and Sam, owned hardware stores in nearby Ruthven and Emmetsburg, and they contributed some unique ideas to the barn. There was a windmill on the place. Although there was no electricity available till 1939, they suggested a gasoline engine pump the well water across the yard up into a steel water tank in the barn's haymow,(20' wide and 8-9' deep with a wood cover. ) Gravity would give the toilet and shower "running water" in the basement of the house....quite a luxury then! One day when the tank was full, one of the center beams cracked with the weight of the full tank. It was quickly reinforced with a beam and the tank emptied.
Leonard milked 12 cows and the south side of the barn was dedicated to that process in the early years. Carl and Sam sold Surge milk machines. They set Leonard up with a gasoline motor to create a vacuum and my Dad and my Grandfather were able to use milk machines to milk their cows before electricity came. When Carl and Sam had a potential customer, they sent them to watch milking in this barn and they were amazed! In the early days, the barn housed the work horses on the north end. Flooring was wood, easier on the horses hooves. Later it was cemented and the entire barn converted to farrowing and feeding pigs.
The barn was built in the 1930’s, 34x64 feet, with red clay tile along the bottom, with a running water system and milk machines to milk the cows, all without electricity. Later the floor was cemented and the entire barn was converted to farrowing and feeding pigs.
Photos by Carrie Jones