Editor’s Note: This is another in a continuing series of stories authored by Robert Kroeger, who has painted 23 barns in Highland County, most of them framed with wood from the actual barn. Kroeger called this painting “The Great Barn Robbery.”
As an April, 2016, fundraiser for the Highland County 4-H was ending, Amy and Erik Hamilton came up to me, bought one of my paintings, and asked me if I’d be interested in seeing their barn. They told me they could find some wood for framing, which always gets my attention. I said I could visit them in June.
That Saturday in June, flush with sunshine, was perfect for barn hunting and my day was even better since I didn’t get lost in finding Amy and Erik’s farm, not terribly far from Hillsboro. Their garage, full of tables set for an event, signaled a happy event in their lives – a baby shower for baby number one. They were excited. I did a small study painting for her. Maybe she’ll give it to her grandchildren and tell them about “the legend,” the one I’m going to tell you.
Erik works for the Highland County Engineer’s Office and Amy is a loan officer at a bank, and in their spare time they take care of this 94-acre farm that they purchased in October of 2015. They raise hay and 38 head of cattle. A good spring gave them 25 calves.
After a chat, we hiked up to the barn, an impressive white structure with scalloped trim, a thoughtfully-covered entry, and a massive silo. Judging from only one hand-hewn beam – but lots of lumber cut in a sawmill – I’d guess the barn was built around 1900 and I’d say that whoever built it didn’t spare any expense. It will be around for decades to come.
This used to be called the Edenfield Farm since three generations of this family have owned it, tracing back to Bill Edenfield’s grandparents. In 1995, Bill sold it to Bruce and Linda Smith who, in turn, sold it to Amy and Erik last year.
So, where does the title, “The Great Barn Robbery,” come from, you ask. Well, robbery it was and barn it is, though one word is missing: bank. Before I share the story with you, ask yourself if you ever wanted to rob a bank. Now, be honest.
Bank robbers are some of the most colorful Americans. We might forget who our country’s president was in 1933, but we’ve all heard of John Dillinger. The closest Dillinger got to Hillsboro was New Carlisle in Clark County where he robbed a bank of $10,600 on June 10, 1933.
In the 1940s, about 10 years or so after the days of Bonnie and Clyde, as the local story goes, two robbers made a hit on a Hillsboro bank and fled to this barn, where they hid. I don’t know if this was their first bank robbery. If it was, their career was short-lived since they were caught hiding out here – either in the barn or another barn building. But the money was never found and, according to the story told to me by Amy and Erik, they might have buried it on the farm. Bill Edenfield and his brother searched for it, digging more holes than their father would have wanted, presumably. But a teenager’s imagination can work wonders. Well, the cash is still missing, but the legend continues.
Robert Kroeger is a former Cincinnati area dentist who has since ran in and organized marathons, took up the painting skills he first picked up from his commercial artist father, become a published author, and is a certified personal trainer that started the LifeNuts vitality program. Visit his website at http://barnart.weebly.com/paintings.html.