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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

Nibley works to find way to preserve historic barn at Elkhorn Ranch

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 owners.

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 any others.

"I've had a good life but I've worked hard," Morgan said.

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 growing up.

"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 property.

"I'm not getting any younger," Gibbons said. "Got to quit acting like a kid someday."

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