Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Old Barn

Right around 1925 or so, a new barn was erected on a hill next to a large hay meadow. It was built in the Finnish tradition with three floors. One on the bottom was for equipment or livestock. Above that was an apartment.The loft above for hay, put up loose as it was in those days.  For twenty years that barn sat serving the farmer well.

While not attending to his farm duties the owner poked around the surrounding hill side prospecting for Lead/Zinc which was the mineral most prevalent in that area, Northern Stevens County, Washington. Lacking an education past the eight grade, as was customary in farm country those days, the farmer read various magazines to further his knowledge. You see he was extraordinarily curious about many things, including the prospecting for minerals. One of those publications was Popular Science.

Reading in one issue he discovered the plans and specs for building a spectroscope. This along with a color chart was the poor man's way of assessing mineral content and type. By burning a substance between two carbon pencil like sticks which created an arc he was able to match the color of the arc to the large wall chart.

One afternoon he had an idea for using his new equipment. Hiking up the hill next to the barn he gridded off sections of the surface using string. After numbering the various sections the man picked up pine needles that had fallen to the ground. He then burned the pine needles in his spectroscope looking for color like a gold panner might look for  gold dust.

He noticed large concentrations of lead showing under the ground. You see, the roots of the pine trees had taken up lead just as they would any other element. He and his nephew, Lewis Love, staked a claim along with others in the surrounding area and proceeded to tunnel back into the hill. He learned blasting with dynamite by doing and pick and shovel which he already knew how to use.

After reaching the ore body it became obvious he had a marketable find. The farmer, turned miner leased out his farm on Deep Creek, the old Pat Grace homestead. Pat was the farmer/miner's step father. His new wife was an elementary teacher who first started at the one room school house in Lead Point. (Still standing) followed by stints at Aladdin, Onion Creek and Spirit School, all grades 1-8 one room schools. Between  1930 and 1937 her meager salary was the only cash they earned. Working farms in those days were self-sufficient in that gardens and livestock provided sustenance.

The farmer's wife had a brother who was a foreman at a foundry in Seattle who offered the man a job. Shortly after reaching Seattle,a  mining company, gearing up for war production bought the mine property and the meadow next to the old barn, which the farmer had purchased at tax sales.

The old barn was converted into offices and an apartment in the old loft. Around 1957 the ore began petering out plus some subsequent lessees  engaged in questionable business practices, skipped out on payroll and beat feet back to Seattle from whence they crawled out from beneath a rock somewhere.

The barn stood in solitary grandeur for many years overlooking a half mile or so of white tailings which still hold zinc, as most of the value was in the lead which was used during world war two for batteries. At the end of the line, the last superintendent who was Ron Nixon a mining engineer stayed on as guardian of the tunnel.

As the years rolled by windstorms would blow the hand cut shingles lovingly formed by the farmer/miner who had left for the coast so that he could feed his family. I was born in Seattle in the year 1938. Shortly thereafter, Dad who was that farmer, Amos E. Huseland, received the check for the mine.  He bought a brick house and five acres in what was then Kennydale, a suburb of Renton and is now part of that city.

Meanwhile, Ron Nixon, a noted Scupturer and Craftsman, started building things out of Dad's shingles. Outhouses, frontier town  models, etc. The barn fell down last year from snow load after ninety years of service as a barn an office and a home, and now just a source for Ron Nixon's models

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have written many blog essays I have admired. None was more moving to me than your story of the old barn, our Dad, the mine, and Ron Nixon, woven together by a craftsman. I will share it with our four youngsters, and suggest you share it with the broader family--Oss, Pickle, Love, Shock, Sharpe, and your own flock. It was beautifully done.

There is irony that given all the frictions between you and Dad, he would have been immensely proud to have read your story. --Stan Huseland