Dutch Barn Preservation Society

Dedicated to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns

NEWSLETTER FALL 2000, Vol. 13, Issue 2, part two

Happy Anniversary

The American Dutch Barn is slowly disappearing from our land. We, of the Dutch Barn Preservation Society, are striving to retain as many of these precious relics as we possibly can. Many owners are actively maintaining their barns. The problem lies with those barns that are being dismantled, and used for other purposes, or being allowed to deteriorate and crumble into rotten debris. Any barn that is saved is another step in preserving what little history we have of our Early Dutch Settlers.

This will be the tenth anniversary of one barn that was saved from destruction by the many efforts of a few people. Two people in particular deserve most of the credit for saving the life of The Greater Wemp Barn, they are: Carl Touhey of Feura Bush, and the late Vincent Schaefer Professor of Atmospheric Science and co-founder of the Dutch Barn Preservation Society. Working together to replace, on Mr. Touhey's property, a Dutch barn that had been destroyed by fire, they chose The Greater Wemp Barn. This is one of the two oldest barns still in existence, the Wemple Barn in Rotterdam being the other.

The Babcock family, experts in this field, did the dismantling, moving, and re-erecting. A few timbers had to be replaced, but in general the structure was sound. When work on the barn was completed in 1990, a dedication ceremony took place with about 150 people present.

Carl Touhey formed a Corporation in order to protect The Greater Wemp Barn. He wanted the barn to be used by and for the public good. Over these past ten years, the barn has seen many meetings, gatherings, weddings, reenactments, and visits by people interested in learning about an American Dutch Barn. To compliment the barn, The Dutch Barn Preservation Society has erected a hay barrack nearby, and dedicated it to the memory of the late Vincent Schaefer.

We cannot save every Dutch Barn, but with the help of people like Carl Touhey we can teach people about its importance in our American history. We wish The Greater Wemp Barn a Happy Tenth Anniversary in its new home, and hope it will stand for another 250 years or more.


(The first of a series about the history of the barn)

The American-Dutch Barn is important for its joinery but it was much more important as a vehicle for progress. As such, we will attempt to develop its perspective in history.

The time of the Van Bergen Barn of Leeds NY is 1680. This period can be associated with the birth of the American Dutch barn. It has just seen the death of the poet Milton and the painter Rembrandt. The composers Handel and Bach will soon be born. Newton, the father of space travel, and Lewenhoch, the perfecter of the microscope, were in their prime. Descartes the philosopher has done his monumental works. That was distinguished company, at the inception of the American-Dutch Barn. It was a time of cultural and scientific explosion, especially in and around Holland.

The Reformation gave men the freedom to explore nature, in other-than the divine terms ordained by the Spanish clergy.

"A million and a half people, including the women and children against the whole might of the Spanish Empire was a very uneven battle. But in the end (1648) the Hollanders not only were able to hold their own but actually turned the tables on their enemies to such an extent that Spain never quite recovered from the blow." ......almost overnight Holland was turned into an economic/ intellectual and artistic beehive..." ("The Arts" Van Loon, 1937).

The fear of heresy was removed from much of human dogma. A mind set was established, conducive to great invention, such as the highly efficient barn structure. An Italian author of the 17th century said of the Dutch, "They have a special and happy talent for the ready invention of all sorts of mediums, ingenious and suitable for facilitating, shortening and dispatching everything they do."

In the 17th century the Hollanders had 2000 ships trading west to Albany N.Y. (42N73W) and east to Nagasaki, Japan (33N130E), a traverse of 17,700 Nautical miles.

Albany-to-NY City 180 Miles
NY City-to-Amsterdam 3481
Amsterdam-to-Capetown 5659
Capetown-to-Port Louis 2400
Port Louis-to-Singapore 3477
Singapore-to-Nagasaki 2500
17,700 total

Daniel Defoe (1659-1731) said, "Understand, the Dutch are middlemen, they buy to sell again and buy to sell in all parts of the world."

It was this network of commerce that beckoned the products of New York farmers. They would build their wealth with exports. Banking was common and marine insurance was wide spread. Check writing was starting.AII this was to help make Holland the foremost trading nation in the world. (Special Issue "Time" Fall '92, "Beyond The Year 2000") She was to be challenged everywhere by England, including the New World where the English would prevail after 1664. Such was the background of the pioneers who built the agricultural industry, and the early Dutch Barns of New York State.

The time of this story is the 17TH CENTURY, when great things were accomplished with so little. Today the tools of progress are endless. Nuclear, steam, and oil provide the power. Chemistry, metallurgy, ceramics, and thin films (Chips) together with sophisticated mathematics produce things like the computer and other high tech equipment. We reach high, with satellites and space travel. We reach low, with the electron microscope. Teams and armies of scientists tackle problems, like the human genome, and usually solve them.

The colonists, no doubt, adopted the philosophy of that "Golden Age", after the Reformation. The answer to life's material problems became analytical rather than mystical, an earth shaking development, in those times.

Remarkable is the fact that in that early time, 320 years ago, suddenly, in the Dutch community of the Hudson Valley of New York State and vicinity, there began an era of barn construction that would last 145 years. Except for builder eccentricities they all could have been built from the same plans. This was the first time in history any single building or structure had been built in such great numbers. Perhaps there were as many as 2000. This would not be duplicated until the mass production of the Industrial Revolution, 70 years after the first barn. Shipbuilding was prolific, but new hull shapes and sail rigs were constantly introduced. This made most ships unique in themselves. The design of the American-Dutch barn, however, remained the same for 145 years.

The joinery of the barn was proudly added to the carpenter's encyclopedia. The part played by the barn's usage will remain unique in the annals of New York State and the nation. (To be continued. Next issue, "The Place")


1453 The capture of Constantinople by the Turks makes it necessary for the merchants of Europe to find new routes to the Orient.
1492 Columbus opens up North America.
1493 Columbus introduces barley, grapes, sugar cane, wheat, and horses into the New World.
1497 Cabot explores North America, giving England its first claim to the NY region.
1524 Verrazzano makes first exploration of New York Bay.
1526 First settlement in the US by the Spanish in Georgia, later abandoned.
1534 Cartier establishes Montreal, also in 1536 and 1541.
1540 Coronado enters New Mexico.
1543 French stockade at Albany.
1585 Potato taken from South America to Spain. (1719 to New Hampshire)
1596 The States General of Holland offers a reward of 25,000 florins for the discovery of a Northerly route to the Orient.
1600 Galileo develops static's, a branch of mechanics.
1606 James I of England makes a grant, to the Plymouth Company, of land including the territory of New York.
1607 Champlain colonizes New France, Quebec Province.
English settle Jamestown.
1609 Hudson explores his river as far as the Mohawk River.
Jamestown learns to grow corn
1610 First trading about the Hudson River by the Dutch
1613 Dutch merchant, Captain Block builds the, "Onrust," to replace his vessel, "Tiger," which had burned, Four ramshackle buildings stood on Manhattan.
1614 Exploration of Long Island Sound by Captain Block results in the naming of, "New Netherlands," and, "Block Island."
Christiaensen (Ship "Fortune") builds Fort Nassau (Albany) and a trading post at Roundout (Kingston).
First tobacco exported from Virginia.
1617 Fort Nassau flooded and abandoned.
1618 The charter of the New Netherlands Company expires and trade with the newly discovered territory is open to Dutch merchants.
1619 "Head Right," that is, 50 acres of land for every colonist transported, introduced in Virginia.
1620 The "Mayflower," sails for Manhattan and lands instead at Plymouth Rock.
1621 The Dutch West India Company is chartered with exclusive rights of trade and Government in New Netherlands.
1621 Swedish ship, "Vassa," 1000 tons, sinks at launching.
1624 The first colonists, 30 families of Walloons arrive at New Netherlands.
Fort Orange (Albany) built, is first settlement in New York.
1626 "Manna-hatin," (So called in the log of the "Half Moon." is purchased from the Indians.
Fort New Amsterdam is established.
First flour mill of the colonies built in New Netherlands: a horse mill.
1628 Feudal rights are given to wealthy merchants. The "Patroon System."
1631 At Manhattan, Peter Minuet builds the 800 ton ship, "New Netherlands."
1635 Charles I of England grants Long Island to Alexander Lord Sterling.
1638 Free trade in Netherlands, monopolies abandoned.
1639 Good farms reported south of Fort Orange.
1640 Connecticut offered land bounties for the cultivation of wheat.
1641 Gov. Kiefts kills 1000 Indians around New Amsterdam.
1643 Indian wars that last through 1645 break out in New Netherlands.
1644 "The Wall," is built on Manhattan to keep out cattle. It becomes Wall Street.
1646 Patents for improved scythe and sawmill granted by Massachusetts.
Rensselaerswyck population 100. Wheat and oats grown for beer and horses.
1650 Hartford Treaty line with Long Island and Connecticut established.
New York State Population 4100.
1651 Stuyvesant purchases the, "Bouwerie," on Manhattan.
1652 Stuyvesant organizes Beverwyck.
First Anglo Dutch war.
1653 Civic government is instituted at New Amsterdam, providing for a Schout (mayor), two Burgomasters (aldermen) and five Schepens (councilors).
1655 Indian massacres lay waste Staten Island and parts of Jersey.
High point in the fur trade 46,000 pelts shipped.
1658 The village of New Harlem (Upper Manhattan) established to encourage agriculture.
1660 River Indians peace treaty at Esopus.
1661 First ferry between Manhattan and New Jersey at Bergen.
1663 Esopus massacre.
1664 Charles II of England maintains English claim over the Dutch territory and bestows it upon his brother the Duke of York and Albany.
Forces of the Duke capture the disputed territory and Governor Nicolls is appointed.
Stuyvesant surrenders to Nicolls but retains a status quo.
1665 New municipal government with mayor, aldermen and sheriff is established.
Mohawk and Seneca's are granted the same rights as the Dutch.
1670 New York population 5800.
1673 Dutch capture New York and call it New Orange
Marquette and Jol iet reach the Mississippi.
1674 The treaty of Westminster restores New York to the English.
1675 Mohawk treaty
Soldiers and 300 Mohawks from Albany stop King Philip (40 miles) who pillages in Western Massachusetts.
1677 Indian treaty of peace at Albany.
1678 New York State export of wheat reaches 60,000 bushels for year.
1680 A "Bolting Act" gives New York City the monopoly of bolting and exporting flour and thereby trebling its size and wealth in the next 16 years.
New York State population 9,830.
New York State ships only 16,000 pelts down 65% in 24 years
Patent granted to Van Bergen and Salisbury. This leads to the first building in Old Catskill, "The Van Bergen barn," THE AMERICAN DUTCH BARN WHICH IS OUR ARCHETYPE.

*Sundry sources but especially, "Manna-hatin," The Story of New York.
And Readings in the History of American Agriculture.

The Dutch Barn Preservation Society

c/o The Mabee Farm Historic Site
1080 Main St. (Rt. 5S)
Rotterdam Junction, NY 12150

Site Phone: (518) 887-5073



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