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Webster County barn is a labor of love and passion | News, Sports, Jobs

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen

Libby and Matt Mitchell, along with Everly, 1, and Eli, 1 month, pose with their restored barn southeast of Evanston. The barn was moved from a nearby site and dates from about 1915.

If you’d been hanging around the area southeast of Evanston on the chilly morning of Dec. 19, 2019, you’d have seen a most interesting sight.

An old barn, in need of a little TLC, being driven across the frozen fields from the site where it was built to the site where it now resides, the Libby and Matt Mitchell farm along 255th Street.

The barn is barely recognizable as the same building today.

A labor of love and passion, the barn is now proudly restored and repaired, there to greet the morning sunshine each day.

The barn was built in approximately 1915.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen

The family’s hand and footprints commemorate the newly poured concrete floor in the Libby and Matt Mitchell barn.

“There’s a date that says 1915.” Libby Mitchell said.

“One board has all the names of the guys that built it.” Matt Mitchell added.

Those old signatures, in pencil and easy to miss, inspire reflection.

“I wonder what they were like.” Libby said. “They obviously had a passion for it too.”

That’s evident in the level of craftsmanship those long gone workers put into it.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen

Original milking stanchions wait for installation inside the Libby and Matt Mitchell barn. The couple plan on putting the inside of the barn back to its original configuration.

Precision joints, everything square. Boards inlet into beams instead of just being hammered on. It was an era when quality work was a matter of pride and lumber was a bit cheaper.

“There’s more lumber in that than in a modern shed four times it’s size.” Matt Mitchell said.

The barn was moved by Vote House Moving, of Bradgate.

It was business owner Hubert Vote’s last move. He died shortly afterwards.

“He was saying ‘easy.’” Matt Mitchell said. “There’s nothing I can’t move.”

Libby Mitchell missed most of the actual move.

“I was cooking the whole time,” she said. “So I missed most of it.”

Matt Mitchell, however, was along the whole way.

“I was so happy,” he said. “I know what we could do. it was so cool They just rolled it over and pushed it off. It was just perfect.”

Matt Mitchell had prepared footings before the move with his friend Donny Arends, who took some measurements and notes… on the back of a Yahtzee score sheet.

They didn’t waste any time after the barn was set down to start work on it.

“Three days later we had the side sheathed,” he said. “We put the roof on in two days.”

The siding is concrete board; the roof is steel.

The most recently completed work is a poured concrete floor and the electrical wiring on the outside. They plan on the interior being just as it was before the move. That included stables and a raised lane. The couple believe the former equine residents were probably large draft horses.

“I want to get a half draft, half pony just so there’s a draft horse in the barn again,” Libby Mitchell said.

The barn will be a big part of the couple’s children’s future. Everly, one and a half, and Eli, one month, will grow up with it.

“All this work so the kids can have a horse, cow, pig and maybe a few chickens,” Matt Mitchell joked.

“There’s no better childhood you can provide,” Libby Mitchell added. “I’m already looking forward to 4-H.”

The couple has zero regrets about the project.

“If I could do it, I’d do it all over again,” Matt Mitchell said. “I’ve actually got my eyes on another one. We look at it and say, ‘We did good.’ What are we going to do next?”

They’ve even had to do some minor repairs.

“We got a brand new zero turn mower,” Libby Mitchell said. “I thought, ‘This thing is a bus.'”

“She hits the side of the barn, busts the siding.” Matt Mitchell added. “She said, ‘I smoked the barn with the mower. I had two pieces of siding left over, you can’t even tell now. I told her, ‘Don’t mow around the barn.’

“My heart sunk,” she said.

The Mitchells stayed with the traditional red.

“It was originally red,” he said. “There was also some sort of tannish yellow at one time. We put it back to red.”

The Mitchells are grateful for all the help they’ve gotten from family and friends, particularly his grandfather, Joey Lennon, and the Vote family.

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