works to find way to preserve historic barn at Elkhorn
By Jacob Fullmer
December 12, 2006 | NIBLEY -- A building with over
100 years of local history is up for bid -- and the
city is the foremost buyer.
Local historian Lisa Duskin-Goede recently encouraged
Nibley City Council to help preserve a barn near Elkhorn
Ranch Park. The property came to her attention early
in her studies of Cache Valley barns and she "panicked"
at the thought of not preserving it.
"Utah gets criticized for not preserving [historic
buildings] like they do in the East," she said. "I just
want to see it saved."
Potential buyers have looked at purchasing the lot
in the past but the owner, Dee Gibbons, was not ready
to let go of his property. The city can choose to preserve
the building or leave the decision up to future property
Goede wants to see this "little gem" of Nibley listed
on the National Historic Register.
Funding the unexpected project creates some unique
challenges. The city and Gibbons are discussing price
options. The city council is considering a number of
ideas to fund the project. Some of the property could
be subdivided and developed to offset the cost of the
purchase. Or, the field may be rented to local farmers.
City Manager Larry Anhder said the building has distinct
features such as the adjacent eight-sided wooden silo
and the working Jackson Fork, a horse-powered means
of moving large hay bails.
"It's a feature that other people recognize as a historic
landmark," Anhder said.
The iconic barn is located at 2800 S. 800 West. The
barn's history is closely connected to the three families
who have lived in the small white house next to it over
the past 100 years. Barns were such a common thing that
people just didn't write about them much Goede said.
She said the city is luck to have the history of this
barn so readily available.
Construction began on the barn shortly after the Morgan
family and their nine children moved to Nibley from
the Salt Lake area in 1903. The silo, which frequently
had bootleggers steal fermented corn juice from it during
the prohibition era, was completed in 1919. The rest
of the barn was finished by the mid 1920s. The farm
serves as a reminder of Nibley's rural history, days
when a family's livelihood depended on hard work and
a successful crop.
Austin "Jimmy" Morgan, 93, the only living family
member of the original owner, speaks fondly of growing
up on the Morgan Farm. He doesn't know how his father
supported such a large family with their originally
sized 80-acre farm.
Morgan said the local newspaper printed on a number
of occasions, "The Morgan farm - you'll never see a
weed!" If Jimmy's father saw one weed, the children
were asked to go up and down the whole field to find
"I've had a good life but I've worked hard," Morgan
He said near 1936, the farm's healthy crop of onions,
cabbage and potatoes supplied all the local grocery
stores. Jimmy got married and left the farm soon after,
in 1937. His brother, Elwood, took over the farm's operation
until 1981 when the current owner, Gibbons, bought the
property. Elkhorn Ranch Park honors Elwood Morgan in
the park's wooden welcome sign.
Jimmy Morgan said he remembers Gibbons as a youth
planning to buy "the old Morgan farm" one day. Gibbons,
73, worked on both his family's and the Morgan's farm
"You work wherever you can find somebody to give you
five bucks," he said.
Gibbons has never considered the barn a historical
monument because he used the barn in his farming for
25 years. The barn is currently being used as storage
and allows the occasional visitor to see the owls that
sleep inside. Gibbons is farming less than he has in
times past and is looking to sell some of his extra
"I'm not getting any younger," Gibbons said. "Got
to quit acting like a kid someday."