SIDNEY — Shelby County Historical Director Tilda Phlipot didn’t have to wait long to learn who owns a barn near Botkins.
Within two hours of opening her office on Feb 2, the day the Sidney Daily News asked in a front-page story, “Who owns this barn?,” Phlipot was answering a phone call from Kent Buehler, of Botkins.
A picture of the barn had been painted by Cincinnati artist Robert Kroeger and is to be featured in his upcoming book, “Historic Barns of Ohio.” Kroeger will sell and sign the books at the historical society’s Ross Center in SIdney, April 21. Kroeger didn’t know who owned the barn when he chose it to be Shelby County’s entry in the book.
“I’m overjoyed that this barn is the one chosen. I’d have never thought that,” Buehler said.
His is the third generation to live at the farm, although most of the farming is now done by his brother, Charles.
“I help a little bit,” Kent said. Their grandparents, Alfred and Agnes Buehler, had acquired the property when the Great Depression forced its previous owner out. The Buehlers and their children, Mark, Paul and Carol, moved from Kettlersville in the early 1930s.
“It was always a working barn,” Carol, now Bornhorst, of rural Fort Loramie, said. No one in the family remembers ever having a party in the barn.
“We played in there. We had a swing in there (when we were children),” Carol remembered. “When they opened the door, we’d swing out — but only when they weren’t working in there.”
Her brother, Paul, moved his family to the farm in 1962, when Alfred retired, Son Jim was in the fifth grade. He and his friends used straw bales in the hayloft to create tunnels to play in.
The barn was built sometime during the first decade of the 20th century. When Alfred bought it, he painted his name and the date on one side. That was covered up by metal siding several years ago.
Through the years, three lean-tos were added to the original structure.
Inside, the barn is pretty much the way it was built, according to Kent and Jim.
“The center aisle was a staging area. Off to the side were hogs. The haymow had hay in it. It had straw in it. It was above the area where we kept the livestock,” Jim said.
There was a haymow in the center and a small one on the east side which sported a large oat bin. Holes in the floor allowed the oats to drop down to the stables below to feed the horses.
Alfred raised milk cows and chickens, in addition to hogs, but it is the horses that Kent and Jim remember best.
“(My dad) had horses that he dearly loved,” Carol said.
“They were Belgians, big draft horses,” Kent said. Alfred named his animals after politicians. His dog was called Roosevelt, and one special horse was named Dewey.
“He was so gentle,” Kent said. Jim recalled that his grandfather would tie the horses to two huge elm trees that used to front the barn. The trees were destroyed by Dutch elm disease some years ago.
These days, the barn holds some equipment and straw. The milk cows left right after Kent’s dad, Mark, was drafted in 1952.
“He and the cows left the same day,” laughed Kent. With Mark gone, there was no one to milk them.
Jim and his father raised hogs, but since 1997, when Kent’s family took over the barn, the only animals to reside there — “Well, besides cats,” Kent said — have been pigs that his children raised to take to the county fair. And their last fair was in 2016.
The family are glad that Kroeger has “preserved” their barn in art. They look forward to meeting him in April.
“It will be nice for the artist to learn the real history of what he painted,” Phlipot said.