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The official Greene County Illinois travel information site.

About the Barns

It was after the Civil War when Joe Minch, a Confederate shipbuilder, was working for the Rocky Mountain Railroad and was looking for a fresh start. He relocated to the Rockbridge area and was not sure where his life would take him. But Joe Minch had a particular set of skills that would make him more memorable than he ever would have imagined in life. He alone created a farming trend so popular that it resulted in Greene County boasting the greatest concentration of Round Windowed barns in the entire country.

 

A local farmer Mr. Gimmy struck a deal with Mr. Minch that in exchange for a set of tools, the Navy Veteran would build him a barn. It was natural that he would use what he knew and round windows became a trademark of his design. That original barn has since been razed, but it stood across from where the Kuhnline-Joehl barn now stands. To this day it is unknown how many of these barns he built himself. However, his inspiration can be felt throughout the county and spills into the adjoining counties.

 

The Porthole Windowed barns dot the countryside. No two are alike, but all share that common trait. The round openings would have served multiple purposes. Whether they were used as ventilators or just to allow sunlight to make daily chores easier, they are unmistakable. Some are prominently placed on the gable end in a distinct pattern while others are neatly placed in rows under the eaves.  The barns themselves can be seen in every style; Box , New England Bay, Round/Multi-Sided, Bank, and Dutch Profile. Each one being in shades of red yellow and white. Most of the barns were built in the 19th century and have been documented by the late H Wayne Price. A Springfield native who spent several years of his life dedicated to gathering information about these historic structures. His work uncovered most of the barns, but many more have been added to the list since then.

 

Members of the Illinois Valley Cultural Heritage Assoc. (IVCHA) are doing what we can to ensure they are preserved. IVCHA board members Seth McGee, Carolyn McCarry, Allen Dixon and Sandra Schmidt scoured the country roads to find additional properties and have been contacted by barn owners wanting to share their stories. IVCHA  applied for and secured a place for these barns on the Landmarks Illinois 2009 Most Endangered Historic Buildings in Illinois Lists. Our nomination was completely different as over 30 barns were recognized and now we have located over forty.

 

Agricultural needs have changed in the last century and farmers have had to evolve their practices to meet higher demands. As the amount of crops has increased, so has the size of the machinery used to plant and harvest them and therefore many of the barns have lost their usefulness. When you drive down the country roads you will notice that some of the barns have been tended to in a meticulous fashion while others are in dire need of repair. The goal of IVCHA is to bring attention to these beautiful properties and the possibility of using them for other means. The Barn Quilt Program will allow people from our area and beyond to see what makes Greene County special. Prefabricated metal buildings have become the standard. However, it is safe to say that they lack the charm that their historic counterparts possess. It is our duty to help in maintaining these barns so that future generations can enjoy them as well and realize that we truly have something special that sets us apart from the rest of the world.

 

About the builder

 

Joseph Minch, a son of George and Mary Minch, is a native of Floyd County, IN having been born there, in the year 1843. George Minch and his wife were both natives of Pennsylvania, the former having died in 1858, and the latter in 1869, both in Kentucky. Jos. Minch attended school and worked on a farm until attaining his 14th year, when he went to New Albany and learned the trade of carpenter. He served a three years’  apprenticeship, and then went to Kentucky, where he followed steam boat carpentering three years. He then received a warrant as carpenter in the United States navy, and was detailed for duty on the Mosquito fleet. In 1865 he went to Missouri, where he remained until 1872, engaged in bridge carpentering for the Iron Mountain R.R. Company. He then come to this State (Illinois), worked at his trade at various points, then, in 1874 came to this county and settled in Rockbridge Township, where he has since resided and followed in his trade. Mr. Minch is much respected in the neighborhood in which he resides, and, in politics, is a republican.

 

Taken from the 1885 history of Greene and Jersey Counties.

The Porthole Barns were listed on Landmarks Illinois 10 Most Endangered Buildings in Illinois List in 2009.

Porthole Barns of Greene County

Text Box: Click Here for the official Greene County 
Barn Trail Map.
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Brought to you by the

Illinois Valley Cultural Heritage Association

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