By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Let’s have a barn dance. That sounds like a phrase from yesteryear, but today we’ll learn about a family that is having a modern-day barn dance as a centennial celebration to honor their 100-year old round barn. It’s a fitting symbol for a historic Kansas farm family.
David and Delores Stump are owners of Springhill Herefords near Blue Rapids, Kan. They are also the owners of this historic, rural round barn which will reach 100 years old in 2011.
The farm where the barn stands was settled by Mr. and Mrs. John Drennan who came to Kansas from Ireland in 1870. While building a home for his family, Drennan lived in a dugout on the ranch. The Drennans had ten children.
In 1911, the Drennans had a barn built on the place. It was constructed by Benton Steele, a pre-eminent barn builder and architect of the time. He designed the barn to be round and self supporting. The unique structure left no flat surface exposed to the Kansas wind. A trolley system was designed to distribute loose hay in the center for storage and a manger can feed 100 cattle at a time around the perimeter.
It was built for approximately $3,000. The barn is 92 feet in diameter and 40 feet from the bottom to the cupola on top. The big hay mow could hold 230 tons of loose hay.
In the 1920s, the Drennans dispersed their registered Hereford herd and rented out the farm. Meanwhile, David’s father Harold Stump, began Springhill Herefords in 1937. He rented the farm for five years when he was first married and then moved to a farm across the river. David followed his dad into the Hereford business.
In 1960, the Stumps bought the Drennan farm, including the historic round barn. Today, Springhill Herefords is a family operation dedicated to producing efficient Hereford cattle that excel in the pasture and the show ring. They have more than 150 registered Hereford cows, 1,200 acres of native bluestem grass, and wheat, milo, corn and soybeans on their 3,500-acre operation.
This is a family affair for the Stumps. David and Delores have three daughters: Angie, Jami and Kim. Now all three girls are married and starting families of their own.
Their cattle business has its own website. The website has lots of production data about the Hereford breeding stock for sale, and it also describes Springhill Herefords as “Home of the Round Barn.”
“We use this barn every day,” David said. “We start our calves in there and calve heifers in there,” he said. “There’s a hay mow in the middle and small bales stacked on one side.” The old trolley system for moving hay is still in the barn but not in use. A concrete floor and working facility was added inside the barn a few years ago.
“It’s probably 99 percent original,” David said. “About the only thing we’ve replaced is a few boards on gates, shingles, and a few windows.”
The barn is a striking sight, both inside and out. A cone-shaped rooftop covers the large open area in the center, surrounded by pens and stalls.
“I appreciate the historical value, but it’s also a very useable barn,” David said. “You can clean it out with a skid loader or tractor. As you use that barn, you really come to appreciate it.”
The barn still stands at its original location on the farm east of the rural community of Blue Rapids, population 1,073 people. Now, that’s rural.
This year marks 100 years since the barn was first constructed. The Stumps plan to mark this milestone with a special celebration on August 27. The local historical society will provide lunch, followed by barn viewing, pasture tours, a barbecue supper and – what else? – a barn dance.
We commend David and Delores Stump and all the family for making a difference by honoring history while engaging in modern beef production. Now – may I have this dance?
And there’s more. Remember Benton Steele, the premier barn-builder? In future weeks, we’ll learn about him and about other historic barns around Kansas.
The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to enhance rural development by helping rural people help themselves. The Kansas Profile radio series and columns are produced with assistance from the K-State Research and Extension Department of Communications News Unit. A photo of Ron Wilson is available. Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are also available. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development.