Renovated Starkweather barn featured in national publication

Having your story featured in a national publication is not for everyone, but there are some stories that are just too special that to not share them would be a shame. 

connor barn

Posted on 12/12/15

By Melissa Anderson

Mike Connor of Starkweather had the opportunity to share the story of how he, along with some help, saved an old barn in the national publication of Farm & Ranch Living.

“In an earlier issue they asked for readers to submit a picture and a short bit of information,” Connor said,”This was back in June. I did not hear anything from them until mid-November when they emailed  that our barn was one selected.”

Connor’s barn, along with 28 other barns from across the country, were featured in a segment celebrating “The Great American Barn” in the December-January issue of Farm & Ranch Living. Connor’s barn was the only one selected from North Dakota.

“The editor then had me furnish more information which was used in the story they wrote,” Connor said.

What made Connor’s barn so special was that it was a converted horse barn that was lowered and renovated so it could be used for more modern tools.

“The barn was originally built for work horses. The mangers and feed bins were oversized. Stall dividers were all 2×12 full dimension lumber with similar reinforcing on each side of the divider,” Connor said.

Over the course of many years with new farm machinery coming in making work horses obsolete, the barn fell into disrepair. Eventually Connor had to decide whether to save the barn or destroy it.

“We knew we had to do something,” Connor said.

Once the decision was made to save the barn by lowering it and making it usable for other things, Connor found Merlyn DeRyder, who had a little company called ‘Caution Improvement’.

“Merlyn specialized in working on older buildings, barns, etc. He had lowered numerous barns and rehabbed several old community pavilions,” Connor said.

DeRyder stayed right on the farm site during the entire process which lasted about a month during the fall of 1983, working during the day and many times into the evenings.

Over the course of the work on the barn, DeRyder ran new footings and installed a new plate to lower the barn onto.

“When they started cutting, the barn was never more than about 12 inches off the ground,” Connor recalled, “They used huge mechanical jacks and lowered the barn so many ‘clicks’ at a time, so everything stayed square and plumb.”

The Connor family has owned the land and farmstead that the renovated barn sits on since 1920, with Connor’s parents moving onto the farmstead when they were married in 1928.

“By lowering a ‘horse barn’ built between 1890 and 1895, we preserved an important part of our heritage,” Connor said.

Pick up an issue of Farm & Ranch Living to view the full story of Connor’s barn and many other great American barns or visit the website for the publication at