The barn was recently on the Iowa Barn Tour, the last weekend of September. Owner, Vicky Hinsenbrock guided about 85 people through her restored barn, spring house, and grounds that still has the original limestone hitching post. Hisenbrock was one of the most popular barns in the Northeast Iowa tour.
Settled among beautiful rolling meadows, the farm is where Vicky raises her horses. The homestead has been lovingly restored to its former glory since the farm was purchased in 1859 by Peder O. Bakke, a Norwegian immigrant. Peder’s father, Ole Halsteinsen Bakke, never made it to America, dying on the sea voyage from Norway. Peder (later known as Peter in America) bought the land from his stepfather, Gota Erickson.
Vicky explained the important features our early settlers looked for when buying land. Namely, good soil to grow their crops and woodland for lumber, to build their buildings. But the most important feature of the land was a water supply The farmer would look for a small stream that could provide water for his livestock. Unfortunately, as many farmers used the same streams the cleanliness of the water would decline. Spring water that was filtered through layers of rock and soil was the answer to getting clean water for family use.
Gota bought 71.88 acres in 1854 from the school commissioner for $1.24 an acre. He sold this to Peder for $500 and took back a $300 mortgage. Peder bought more land and went on to be known as Peder Oleson and/or Peder Oleson Bakke. The small original home had already been built by Gota in 1855. The barn, however, was built by Peder and his wife shortly after the land purchase in 1878.
The large, forty-foot beams were most likely cut in Wisconsin and floated down the river to the family. The barn is pegged and still has the original dump rake in the ceiling. The rake was most likely a later addition. The rake was originally used as loads of loose hay was backed into the barn and a grapple fork lifted the hay onto the platform of the rake and a series of ropes and pulleys moved the rake to the correct place to be dumped. The barn originally had stalls for horses and a milking area for dairy cows. It also originally had a cupola, which was removed sometime between 1956-1978.
Above the barn on a hill, sits the spring house that was built by Erick Ramsay, most likely built after the barn (1878), but before the house (1882-1883). The windmill northwest of the spring house fed water into the building to keep items cool. Another opening on the east side of the building took the overflow to a tank to water livestock. After the new house was built, the small original house was turned into a chicken coop.
Vicky explains during the tour that she is grateful for her knowledge of the Bakke family history, which she received from Elsie Rosendahl of Decorah. Elsie and her brother, Kenny Moen, spent many happy summers with their grandparents, John and Martha Bakke.
Peder and wife, Ingeborg, had five children. In 1902, the farm was passed down to son, John Bakke. John and his wife, Martha, had six children. Two died before they were twenty, most likely from pneumonia. In 1945, the farm was sold to their two unmarried children, Henry and Idelia Bakke. The farm stayed in the Bakke family until 1956, when it was sold to Conrad and Gladys Olson. Conrad sold the farm in 1978 to Melvin and Nancy Macal. In August of 1993, Vicky Hinsenbrock purchased the acreage and is lovingly restoring the homestead to its former glory. Ray and Jan Blanchard also bought land from the Macals that same year. A few years later, Michael Sersland bought the rest of the farm.
This is just one of the many barn histories learned on tour during the Iowa Barn Foundation’s All-Iowa Tour. Mark your calendars for the last weekend of September each year and step back in time to learn about our agriculture history.