8780 Elliott Hwy. Morenci, Michigan 49256
Two barns built on the same spot were done in by two steam
The first was destroyed in 1910 by an accidental fire started by
a threshing crew. The engine that set the fire is believed to have
been a 19 Port Huron. The engine was not damaged in the fire, and
is possibly now owned by Laurel Runals of LaGrange, Ohio.
The second barn was built in 1911 to replace the first, but
wasn’t roofed properly, and over the years the rafters and loft
became badly rotted. Brad and Amy Hauenste in purchased the farm in
1990. They were increasingly concerned about the safety of the
barn, and decided that it had to come down. Burning was impossible,
due to the closeness of other buildings.
This is where the second steam engine comes in. Nearly all of
the Hauensteins are big fans of steam power and have many friends
with traction engines, including Troy Paws on of Tipton,
Troy had his 17-50 Peerless at Rod Hauenstein’s after the
National Thresher’s Convention in June of ’92. He offered
the use of the 50 to try pulling the barn down. Everyone thought
that it was a good idea; even if it didn’t work it would be fun
The second weekend in August was picked, and the engine was
driven over during the week, 4.2 miles taking about 2 hours. On
Saturday morning, about 80 neighbors, relatives and steam fans came
to watch the second barn’s demise. A neighbor, Don Gentz,
brought his dual-wheeled Case tractor over as a backup.
While the engine was still firing up they decided to let the
Case tractor pull out the loft beams. The Case was doing a good job
until one beam refused to budge. The tractor became hung in its own
tracks and would not back up enough to release the cable.
At this time, the engine was only up to about 50 PSI, but was
run over and hooked to the tractor anyway.
Unfortunately, at 50 pounds the engine couldn’t pull the
tractor and beam, but only rocked it enough to release the cable.
This raised doubts among the onlookers as to the ability of the
engine to drop the barn.
The engine soon reached full operating pressure, and it began
showing everyone the power of steam! First to go were the back wall
supports, then the east wall supports. After one powerful tug the
whole end of the barn crashed down four to five feet onto the
foundation. From that point the upper loft beams became the next
targets. After a few pulls there, it became quite dangerous hooking
up the cable. The siding had loosened and was falling from the
peak. Then, as Troy Pawson, Harold Higley and Rick Ruttkofsky were
hooking up the cable, a piece of siding fell just inches from
Harold, and the barn began to rumble.
Barn lying flat behind our help, pictured left to right: Harold
Higley, Brad Hauenstein, Rod Hauenstein, Chawn Higley, Troy Pawson,
Jim Hauenstein, David Rutlege, and Myron Powers. The
‘unraising’ took two hours from first pull until the barn
Jim Hauenstein was on the hill beside the barn and yelled,
‘Get out of there!’ Now, no one had ever seen any of the
above mentioned move any faster in their lives, and 10 seconds
later the barn was in a heap. Thank God no one was hurt!
The barn fell perfectly, as it did not hurt the garden planted
around it or the milk house attached to it. Myron Powers blew the
whistle on the Peerless to signal the end of the second bam.
After the dust had cleared, everyone sat down to a
thresherman’s style dinner. The talk at the table was of who
ran the fastest away from the barn while looking behind them.
The Hauenstein family thanks all involved in the barn