EUREKA — Situated on private property on the outskirts of downtown Eureka is a large barn that has been ravaged by time. The holes in the walls and floors and sagging supports seem to indicate the barn has been long forgotten and will eventually succumb to the elements.
However, this barn — referred to as the Caleb Davidson Barn — has not been forgotten. In fact, it is getting a lot of attention.
Steve Colburn is the president of Barnstorming Inc. He is a descendant of Caleb Davidson and he has his own farm nearby.
Colburn knows the history of the barn and the Davidsons.
“They came up from Kentucky in 1831. Caleb was born in North Carolina. His grandfather was born in Scotland,” he said.
Caleb and his wife, Martha, hired a professional barn builder to construct the barn on their property.
“In Kentucky they had been doing cattle ranching and I suspect they had just been following the wave of migration that was going on and land was cheap,” Colburn said, adding that land was purchased from the government at this time.
The barn, which Colburn said likely took a couple of years to build, was finished in 1838. The original part was 56-square-feet. An addition was added later. There are two levels and it is referred to as a bank barn because it’s on the bank of a hill.
“You can walk in the upper level on one side and then walk around and go in the lower level,” Colburn said.
Livestock was in the lower level and the hay storage and wagons were kept on the upper level. The barn was used until the 1980s. It is currently owned by the extended family of the tenant farmer (Underwood) who farmed for the Heitzman family.
Prior to that, the Davidsons gave the barn to Eureka College in 1930. The college sold it in 1958 to the Hietzmans who kept it for about 50 years.
Today, there are plans in the works to restore the barn and move it to Lake Eureka as a community center.
This idea began in 2005 with a group of like-minded people at the Eureka Christian Church in Eureka, where Colburn attends.
“We thought it was a good idea to preserve the barn and make it into something useful,” he said.
The City Council recently approved a location at Lake Eureka, Colburn said.
“The city of Eureka several times has conducted surveys and they’ve determined the top item that people want is a community center and that’s city park land there and it was available. It’s a pretty place,” Colburn said.
Currently, a feasibility study is being done to see if the community will support the project. If the support is there, a capital campaign will begin to raise funds.
“We have raised seed
money that allows us to have an architect,” Colburn said.
An original idea was to move the barn to Eureka College since Davidson was one of the founders, but the college was not interested. When the time comes to move the barn, a firm will be hired to dismantle it piece by piece and label it.
“It’s all put together by mortise and tenon pin joints,” Colburn said.
Walking through the barn, there are remnants of a time long ago. Axe marks can be seen on the white oak logs that were chopped down to build the barn. Wooden pegs are visible inside other logs where pieces were linked together.
For those with a vivid imagination, it is easy to imagine men and women in their Sunday best inside the barn, which was actually used as a community center in its early days.
“There weren’t public buildings, there weren’t churches. People met in the barn. This particular church (Eureka Christian Church) was founded in 1832 and they met there,” Colburn said.
In 1854, Abraham Lincoln visited the barn when he was representing Caleb Davidson in a cattle rustling case, Colburn said.
Today, Colburn is happy to give tours to interested parties. The last tour was in June.
Colburn is optimistic the barn will eventually be restored and moved.
“It’s probably the oldest remaining standing structure from that period of settlement era here when people were first moving into the wilderness so it’s a tie to the early history of the community.”
Those interested in learning more about the barn restoration project can visit barnstorming.org.