How much longer can this old barn stand. From the shape of the roof, the barn looks like the top had collapsed recently. I initially zipped by this old structure, then decided to turn around and do a little exploring. I respect the private property of the Palouse farmers and stick to the roads that pass by these abandoned structures. This one looked pristine with no trampled down grasses or litter around the building. I left it that way for others to enjoy.
The town of Elberton has as a history similar to many of the late 19th century towns in the Palouse. It flourished for a while, then went into an irreversible decline.
In the 1870’s Giles D. Wilber built a water powered sawmill which provided lumber for nearby farms and barns. The Oregon Railway and Navigation Company build a rail line through the valley in the early 1880’s. The town was plated in 1886 by Sylvester M. Wait and was named after his son Elbert. By the end of the decade, Elberton had a sawmill, flour mill, post office, two general stores, blacksmith and wagon shop, two grain warehouses, livery stable, and a church. During the 1890’s, the town continued to grow. Fruit trees were planted as a major crop. By 1900, the town had a population of 400.
After the turn of the century, the town began to decline. The sawmill moved to Idaho after all the nearby timber had been cut. The town experienced a devastating fire in 1908 and severe flooding in 1910. Elberton then rapidly declined.
During my little exploration, all I could see that remained of the town was the railroad trestle, the church, old building foundations, a few pieces of farm equipment, and several remains of old non-native landscape shrubs and trees. It was an interesting off the beaten path excursion.
“Soon to be Demolished Barn” The Palouse, Washington
On a midday wander along the little Palouse River, I spotted this old barn with a nice background of a railroad trestle and a stream. As I was photographing the barn, an elderly man walked up the road and stopped to talk. He said that he had been living in a little workers house just up the road around the corner. He had been asked to leave because the area was being plotted for a new housing development. He then told me that within the next month or two that this barn was going to be demolished for a home site.
It is sad to see the Palouse’s history fade away piece by piece. Part of my enjoyment of visiting the Palouse is to meet the locals and listen to their memories and experiences of the life in this beautiful area.
Wandering country road, old farm equipment, and an old school house … how many memories do these represent? One hundred and fifty years of history have changed this area from sagebrush and native grasses to some of the richest dry land farming areas in the world. Decades of dilapidated used farm implements are scattered across the area. The old one room Skeen schoolhouse once served the children of the pioneer families.
As we were photographing, an old farmer who lived across the street came over to check up on us. What an opportunity would it have been to just sit down and and spend a couple of hours listening to him talk about the “Good Ole Times.”
This old mill has quite a history. The mill was built in 1890 by J.G. Porter and sold to Harvey Gray. Joseph C. Barron, Sr. bought the mill from Gray in 1907 for $11,500. Joseph C. Barron, Jr. was born in 1909 and joined his father in the business. Junior took over the business and ran the mill until 1960 when he could not compete with the modern facilities. Barron then put in a small modern mill, capable of producing 500 lbs. per hour, in a small building behind his house. He ran the new mill until 1997. At the age of 88 he felt that it was time to retire and sell both his new mill and the old Oaksdale wooden mill to Mary Jane Butters. Mary Butters had worked with Barron for several years and is the owner of Paradise Farm Organics, Inc. which markets organic and heirloom grain products.
The Barron Mill is the only intact flour mill remaining in the Palouse. It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It is my dream to be able to tour the old mill some day in the future.
The Thomas A. Leonard barn was constructed in 1917. The barn is a twelve-sided (round) shape. When built, it was considered as an economical construction method because it took less material to build. The longer term issue was that it was difficult to add on to and retain the shape. Approximately 20 round (polygonal) barns were constructed in Washington from 1890 to 1920. Two of the remaining barns are located in the Palouse.
This is one of my first infrared images that I created about ten years ago. It is interesting to look back and see how my photography has changed over the years. It is also interesting to notice how my subject interest has remained the same. I am always on the lookout for old structures that cause me to think and reflect on the way life use to be.
This image was created on the way back home from a photography workshop with Tony Sweet in the Smoky Mountains National Park. One of the themes he worked with the group on was infrared photography. Old farm structures were one of the subjects we worked on. Skip forward to today … I am planning a trip to the Palouse this spring to photograph the rolling hills and old farms. This summer I have scheduled a workshop with Tony Sweet focusing again on infrared imaging. How things have changed; how things have remained the same.
Old Barn Along Old Valley Highway Near Buena, Washington
How many times have I driven by this old square barn along the old Yakima Valley Highway? I am afraid to say that it has been way too many. This day, like many before, I said to myself that I would stop on my way back. But this time I drove about 100 yards and turned around.
There are too many old buildings that are either falling down on their own or being taken down for alternative uses of the land in the Yakima Valley. I am committed to stop when I see something rather than say, “next time.” Who knows if there will be a next time.