The Schick-Ostolasa Horse Barn is the oldest barn in Ada County. It is thought to have been built in 1868 by Philip Schick. We are lucky that the "Barn Whisperer", Frank Eld, is assisting us in renovating this historic structure. The renovations will begin when funds become available.
Idaho Public TV has a show called Outdoor Idaho. They did a segment on the Barns in Idaho. Our barn was highlighted in the episode! We hope you take a few minutes to view it. Frank Eld is the host. The Schick-Ostolasa part is at the 16:20 minute marker. View here.
From The Barn Whisperer, Frank Eld - The Axe Story:
"My involvement began when I selected the Schick Barn as a research project for Dr. Reinhardt's Public History class at BSU.
When I first stepped into the barn two years ago, I was taken aback at the post and beam construction. I study barns and have been in many, but this one was different. The posts and beams were completely oversized! Where most barns would have used 8x8 inch posts up to 24 ft. in length, this had 10x10 inch posts only 12 ft. high. The cross beams were 8x8 inches, again, larger than usual. Also, this massively overbuilt framework had been hand-hewn with a broadaxe! I could not imagine why it was built like this, but I was determined to find out.
The second surprise that day was when I entered the horse section and spotted an unusual broadaxe lying in a stall. This really hooked me on this barn! I became determined to find out who built it, when, and why was it so overbuilt? So I took on the Schick barn as my project.
Research shows that Philip Schick built the barn between 1863, when he filed for a homestead, and 1869, when he was granted the patent. This makes Schick one of Ada County's earliest residents and his barn one of the oldest in the state. When he decided to build his barn, he couldn't build one like his neighbor's, because he didn't have any, so where did he come up with a plan? He patterns his barn after what had known before moving to Idaho. He came from New York State and so he styles it after New York barns. Additional research reveals that early New York barns were built with very heavy post and beam framing, something I confirmed on a recent trip to upstate New York. This explains the beam sizes used by Schick in his barn.
My ongoing research has been the broadaxe and its possible connection with Schick and his barn. My research quickly revealed that the axe is a New England style, used in the mid 19th century, usually for hewing ships' beams. Last year I bought an almost identical one in Massachusetts. Both have a maker's mark but they are nearly illegible, except for a fairly clear Auburn stamp on Schick's axe. This added credibility to my theory that Schick brought this axe when he came from New York. For over a year, I have unsuccessfully searched for a connection of the axe to the Auburn, NY tool makers. No makers' names matched the few letters that were legible. Coincidentally, Robert Ostolasa, who grew up on the farmstead, recently visited the barn and confirmed the axe had been in the barn all his life! Another connection.
Recently I came across a long forgotten, Kaufman's Axe Book. In it, I found our axe! It had been made by the Underhill Edge Tool Co in Auburn, NEW HAMPSHIRE. Internet research showed that the Underhill tool company began in NH in the early 1800s, and today the original factory/home of the Underhills is the Auburn Historical Society! I contacted their president, Dan Carpenter, and sent him the pictures and the story of our axe. Within a day, he had filled me in on the history of our axe! It was forged by Jesse Johnson Underhill or his son Hazen sometime after 1845. The timeline fits! Coincidentally, Mr. Carpenter says our axe is rare and is only the second one with that mark he has seen. I've now sent him pictures of my axe to see what information he can provide on it.
So, to end, my hypothesis. In the mid 1860s, Philip Schick homesteaded in Dry Creek and as soon as his house is livable, he began building the horse barn. Using horse and wagon, he transported large logs from the hills to his homestead and hand-hewed them into New York style oversized posts and beams, using the broad axe he brought from New England (If he had purchased an axe locally, it would have been a traditional style and not a NE shipwright's axe) By the time he had completed the middle and horse section post and beam framing, his neighbor, Mr. Rossi, also a recent homesteader, had establishes a sawmill and was selling lumber. Schick bought lumber from Rossi (which we know from Rossi's ledger) to finish his roof and siding. Within a few years, Schick adds a cow section to his barn, but instead of hewing the framework, he used Rossi's rough cut lumber, for efficiency. Since the only function of a broadaxe is to hew beams, Schick never used the axe again and just left it in the barn. There it remained for the next 150 years, waiting for someone, who appreciates and understands it, to pick it up and share with you its story!"
We are always doing something on the farmstead! Specifically with the Horse Barn there has been a huge clean up in preparation for an update.
We're in the very early stages of preparing for the restoration of the barn. That means (in part) identifying any structural elements that are too decayed to be used, and which must be replaced. The problem is, modern commercial sawmills don't always make lumber in the same dimensions that were used in the 1860s when the barn was built. Leave it to a family of loggers and woodworkers to step up!
We got to spend an afternoon with three generations of the Reay Family at their property in Garden Valley as they shaped several pieces of lumber to the specifications given to them by Frank Eld. It needs to be emphasized that the Reay family donated their time, effort, expertise and even the lumber for this contribution! The wood comes from trees they felled on their property near Placerville. Below are photos of when the beams were delivered.
The spring of 2020 we did a much needed clean out of the barn. Thanks to the many volunteers who came out that day!
We filled a huge container and found lots of old equipment. We also found the carved initials of Merl See (grandson of Phillip and Mary Schick) carved in the door frame of barn! This would have likely been prior to 1920 which is when the Clara and Forrest See sold the property to Frank Parsons.
Inside the Barn
Clean up - filled the container!
Random equipment found in the barn
Lots of stuff!
Merl See Initials in the Door Fram of the Horse Barn.