NEW PALESTINE — Steve Dodd reached into the pocket on the left side of his shirt, pulled the can of chewing tobacco out, opened it and scooped a pinch of chew between his index finger and thumb.
He then stuffed the tobacco in between his lower lip and gum before tossing his head back on a headrest to have a good think.
Dodd, 71, a New Palestine resident, was sitting in the driver’s seat of his old pick-up truck, trying to recall back to the day when the big old barn at 5352 U.S. 52 West, the one sitting on the north side, between county roads 500W and 600W, was vibrant and part of the family’s farm.
“My mom, she was into fixing that old barn back up, but the beams, they were rotten and we just couldn’t do it,” Dodd said.
The barn is now owned by Dodd and several of his relatives.
Thanks to high taxes and a request from New Palestine officials to either repair or take down the unsafe structure, Dodd’s making sure the old barn, sitting on property land-granted from President Thomas Jefferson back in the 1860s, will soon become a thing of the past.
A small crew is taking it apart day-by-day.
From the latter part of the 1800s through the 1900s, the barn, sitting on 80 acres of family owned land, once stood tall, a real eye catcher just off of the main road in New Palestine. The barn was used to house cattle, store harvested crops, along with machinery and was even the place folks would gather for social outings like dances, family members said.
Greg Bardonner, 43, New Palestine is the great nephew of Jeanette Scotton, who lived in the old house at one time. He would often visit her and his grandmother, Charlotte Dodd, who also lived there. The ladies liked to play jokes on the youngster — trying to scare him, sending him into the old barn to get eggs.
“I was just scared to death to go in there,” he said. “Those chickens were in the barn where it was just so dark.”
The old house and barn, also known as the old Scotton place, was once a staple and symbol of Indiana rural living, he said. The homestead was even iconic, the place to see when people people came into New Palestine.
Bardonner’s great-grandfather would often rent his farm equipment to folks during the Great Depression, he said. It will be odd, driving into town and not seeing the old barn there anymore, Bardonner added.
Since its heyday, the old barn hasn’t been used, other than for storage, and its age had begun to show, town officials said.
A while back, storms blew pieces of the the back of the barn off. Family members got the mess cleaned up quickly, town officials said, but the damage made the already unstable barn unsafe.
“It’s a shame it’s got to come down because it’s a neat old barn,” building inspector Jim Robinson said. “But my guess is the cost to repair it was just too much.”
Dodd’s grandparents Guy and Carrie Ostermyer-Scotton lived in a house on the property, a place relatives had land-granted back in the 1860s. Dodd still has the sheep skin deed from 1860 marking the family boundaries, signed by President Thomas Jefferson, he said.
After the death of his grandparents the 80 acres was passed along to Dodd’s two aunts and his mother.
The land has since been deeded to the children of the sisters and other relatives, including Dodd and Bardonner.
The Dodds often walked the family cattle from their summer home on County Road 5612 600W to the old house and barn, just west of the New Palestine Lions Club, where they’d spent the winters, in the 1930s and 1940s, Dodd said.
Dodd had the original house, just off of U.S. 52, demolished a couple of years ago due to its dilapidated state.
Since then he and a handful of relatives, who all must agree on what happens to the 80 acres, haven’t quite figured that out yet, but they will more than likely sell the property, he said.
The land is currently being farmed by family members.
Dodd chuckles when he thinks about some of the tales family members told about the barn and what went on within its walls.
It includes folklore whispers about one of his, aunts, now long dead, who used to visit the old barn, shell corn inside and take the corn to Tennessee where she used it to allegedly make moonshine, Dodd said.
“She had a moonshine still and was moon-shining whiskey down there,” Dodd said with a laugh. “She wasn’t kidding us any.”
The barn has attracted interest from all over, Dodd said. Every time he stops by to check on its demolition, people ask him for the wood, just as they did when he tore down the old house, he said.
Seems everyone wants a piece of history, he said.