Editor’s Note – This is the seventh in a series of stories authored by Robert Kroeger, who has painted 11 barns in Highland County and has plans to paint more. The first 11 paintings, usually framed with actual wood from the barn pictured, will be auctioned off April 2 when the Highland County Extension Support Committee holds its annual dinner fundraiser at the fairgrounds. Proceeds from five of the paintings will benefit the committee. Kroeger titled this story “Roy’s Barn.”
When we drove down Adams Road, Sandy Shoemaker at the wheel and driving like Mario Andretti, I caught a quick glimpse of this lovely barn, framed against a backdrop of thick, green hardwoods, green vines engulfing its right side, with a glowing honey-colored field of hay in the foreground.
Halt, please! Sandy, a Hillsboro area resident who took me to see many of these barns, stopped. I took a closer look, and then snapped photos. The gambrel roof was mostly intact, but many holes in the sideboards meant that the barn’s days are numbered. The timbers inside have been cut in a sawmill – probably dating it to after 1850 – not hand-hewn like many of the old Highland County barns.
Roy Neal owns this barn and told me that he found a deed in the farmhouse attic. Dated about 1850, it revealed that the farm sold for $135. But Neal’s getting old – as is the barn – and he might sell it by the time you see this painting, which I embellished with hay bales, figuring on our stop here in September that harvest would come soon. Regardless of what happens, Neal’s barn is one of my favorites and, framed in its own wood, it will survive in this painting.
Neal, who bought the barn and acreage from Jim Spruance in 1986, connected me with Spruance, whose family roots on this farm go back to the 1800s. He told me that, originally, a Catherine Moore moved here from northwestern Ohio with her daughter and had enough money to buy the farm from the couple who started it. In those days, it was rare for a single woman to buy a farm and run it.
Why did Moore move here? Did her husband die? Did she already know how to farm. Was she tired of the cold winters up north? We’ll never know the full story about this pioneer woman. I admire her courage.
Years later, Moore’s daughter married a Spruance man who passed it on to his surviving kin. Spruance’s dad, born in 1920, farmed the land, as did his father, born in 1890, who lived till he was 90. They raised horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and a few dairy cows. So, for over a century the Spruance family lived on this land, which was good to them – as was Catherine Moore, the brave lady who started this wonderful legacy.
For more information visit www.barnart.weebly.com.
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.