Off the Beaten Path: Barn Home - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

Off the Beaten Path: Barn Home

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John Stern built this combination house, barn, and grainery in 1907 to resemble the homes used by farm families in eastern Europe.  By 1920, 70-thousand German/Russian immigrants like the Sterns settled here to claim homestead land. Another reason so many Slavic pioneers converged on this area was because the weather was almost identical to the region of Russia they left behind.

They had a lot of north winds, they had lots of prairie grass, so this climate and the terrain was very similar to what they were used to.

Historian Geno Sloan says this type of home was designed to be efficient and functional.  The twenty-two inch walls were made with shale stone dug out of surrounding farm land.

"The walls are really thick so once it was warm it held the heat pretty well," says German/Russian homesteader, James Stern. 

Wood and coal kept homesteads warm during the winter.

"There was a lot of coal burned in this area, a lot of coal," says historian, Geno Sloan. "A lot of homesteaders and the early farms, many of them had their own coal mines, they just dug down into the dirt and there was the coal...and if you were really hard up, you used cow pies."

Stern says his grandparents housed animals in the west end of the home.

There was half-a-dozen cows in there for milking and the four work horses," says Stern. 

A grainery separated the barn from the bedrooms and kitchen, and almost all the doors and windows face south.

"The north wind can be ferocious as we know this winter and you could walk out the south door of your living quarters, you could go next door to the grainery and get the food and then you could go next door to the stable and feed the animals," says Sloan. 

Winters took a toll on settlers, but weather was just one of the reasons prairie life was brutal.  The Stern's first three children were still born and a small cemetery near the homestead still marks the children's graves.

"This happened to a lot of the women and it was tough, but they persevered," says Sloan. 

This home has also persevered. The Sterns lived in their homestead until 1969. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 and today its still in excellent condition despite weathering over 100 North Dakota winters.

















 


 

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