1850s farm provides fodder for family stories

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Ginny Hall
Thursday, April 11, 2013

A photo of this Mystery Place is HERE

A “Tree of Life” barn quilt graces the barn on Karen and Tom Kleist’s property, located on County Highway A between Hodges Road and Peck Station Road. It is in Section 6 of the town of LaFayette.

The Kleists purchased the farm from Laurel and Ruth Bronson in July 1979. The barn was built in the 1850s. As far as the Kleists know, the barn always was used to house cattle. At one time the Kleists did milk cows. The barn has an old, attached milk house and a newer attached milk house. When the Kleists bought the farm, the barn was used to house beef cattle. It is now used for their herd of Alpine dairy goats and Boer meat goats.

The barn is a wood peg barn that is now covered with steel. It was built into a hill, with the lower level used to house animals. That part is built of stone and cement block. The Kleists were told it took two years for people to gather all of the rocks needed to build the lower level. The rocks came from their fields.

The large beams and cross pieces were all pegged and then whitewashed. The second level is used for storage. There is a room for hay storage; some machinery also is stored here. There is a grain bin and another storeroom. You enter this level by going around the barn, up the hill and entering through the large doors in the back.

Straw and lumber is stored on the third level. The upper levels are made of wood using pegs.

Karen said that this barn has seen a lot of uses over the years. They have had goats, steers, pigs, sheep and horses in this barn.

Their children grew up here. They have fond memories of playing in the hayloft, swinging from the rafters on a rope and jumping into the hay. Karen said that she didn’t know about this until long afterward.

They have had a raccoon jump out of the hay when they went to get a bale of hay for the animals. They have had opossums come to eat the food in the barn while doing chores. Even a skunk has come to eat. JoJo, their yellow lab mix, learned that time not to tangle with a skunk.

Their three children have lots of stories to tell their kids about their time on the farm. Now the grandchildren come out to help with chores. They love to feed the baby goats. Karen said that they chose well 31 years ago when they picked this farm. They love living here.

The original name for this farm was Oak Heights. Many of the majestic oak trees once found here now are gone. The Kleists use the Tree of Life as a reminder of what this farm once was.

The 1857 plat map and the 1873 plat book both show that the owner of this land was Nelson West. According to C.W. Butterfield’s “History of Walworth County,” West’s address was P.O. Fayetteville. That was the official name of the community many know as Peck Station. West was the son of S.G. and Rebecca (Pike) West and was born in Chenango County, N.Y., on June 23, 1829.

West came to Wisconsin in 1839. His father had previously settled in this township. In 1855 he married Hannah Maria Hodges. They had five children -- Henry, Addie, Nellie, Mark and Mary Grace. He apparently was a good farmer because by 1882, his 280 acres were worth $50 an acre.

The 1891 plat book shows the owner of this property was T. Bartlett. Butterfield indicates that he was one of the first settlers in this township. He was born in Vermont and lived in that state until age 21. He then moved to New York and was engaged in lumbering. After he married in 1838, he moved back to Vermont for two years and then went back to New York.

In October 1844, Bartlett came to Wisconsin and settled first in Spring Prairie where he was in the lumbering business. He moved to LaFayette Township in 1856 and began farming and gradually added to his acreage. Butterfield notes that he came to this state with a family of three children and $15.

The 1907 plat book shows the property owner as H.L. Brownson. The 1921 plat book has the owner listed as E.H. Brownson. In that book it also indicated the name of the property as “Oak Heights.” Then in 1948, the owner was listed as E.H. Bronson. The next owners were Laurel and Ruth Bronson.

Last updated: 8:46 am Wednesday, July 10, 2013

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