A New Look at Old Middleton – Barns

It’s about time that we do another New Look at Old Middleton, wouldn’t you say? 😁

Barns were once the centerpiece of farming operations, and one of the first structures to be completed on a new farm. They served as livestock shelter, feed and equipment storage, and a place to service and repair farm machinery. Today as agricultural practices change and farmland is developed, the need for old barns has diminished. This does not mean that they don’t continue to have value. They have historic value as reminders of our agricultural heritage, and many remain structurally sound and could be repurposed for modern use. One such barn has just been torn down, and another piece of local history is now just a memory.

On Lincoln Road, south of Middleton, the Thomas Barn had stood solidly in place since the late 1800s. The large barn, with its rock and mortar base and the soaring roofline, was visible from Middleton Road. According to Middleton historian Jennie Cornell, the builder, John Thomas, emigrated from Germany, worked his way west from Philadelphia to the goldfields of California, on to Oregon, and finally to this homestead south of the Boise River in 1863, the year the Village of Middleton was originally platted.

Walter Thomas, the second child of John and his wife Ernestine, was born in 1882. He shared many childhood memories with Jennie Cornell of growing up on the homestead, including helping his father haul the rock used in the construction of the barn when he was just ten years old. The area was known as the Franklin Community, and the barn became an important part of the Community’s social life. The upper floor was a perfect location for neighborhood dances, and the lower section provided space for horses and wagons.

The Thomases raised their five children on the farm. Ernestine Schnable, a young widow with two children, married John in 1875. Her children were George and Anna. In addition to Walter, the couple also had an older son, Lee, and a younger daughter, Amelia. Amelia married Fred Chaney, and they made their home on north Dewey Avenue. Fred and Amelia later became the grandparents of life-long Middleton resident, Marty Galvin (featured in last month’s “New Look At Old Middleton” article). Marty and Pat Galvin’s daughter Cindee, and her husband Randy Powell, still live on “the old Chaney place”. Family roots are deep for some Middleton residents.

As subdivisions continue to replace agricultural land, we hope that new residents will appreciate the importance of agriculture to Middleton’s history. We also hope development will be carried out with consideration for the value of historic structures.

If you have any pictures of old barns around the Treasure Valley, consider sharing your pictures through our contact form or email us at historicalsocietyofmiddleton@gmail.com. We would love to share them here on our website!

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