The Amish barn-raising

Nebraska Amish barn-raising photo:  Randall Persing

These don’t happen too often, but when they do, Amish photographers (erm, that is, photographers of the Amish) come out in droves.

The Amish barn-raising.  It’s one of the most-publicized images of the Plain People.  Has anyone ever witnessed one?  The frolic I attended in Ohio in September was more of a ‘shed-raising’, and in fact, most of it had been raised by the time we showed up to help.

It really does take a day, or less.  At least the bulk of what you end up seeing.  Apparently the foundation-type stuff often gets put in beforehand.

I always wondered about dropped hammers, though.  Hard-hats are a no-no in Amish society.

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    1. Wow! Like a swarm of worker bees! i have never seen one but have heard of them. All I can say with the dropped hammers is not to stand under anyone if you can help it! Ouch!

    2. Emma

      Many hands make the work lighter.

    3. Emma

      Hi, I just check your entry about the frolic you went to in september and saw you asked me about my knowledge on the Amish. So, here is my answer (finally): I started to regurlarly attend amish-mennonite services in a mission in Belgium around 15 years ago, and since I’m in Canada I attend a Conservative Mennonite services regularly too. Might convert someday… Over the years I made a lot of friends in different groups. I read a lot about the Plain groups, too (serious stuff, like your blog :-)). My knowledge of the Amish is more of a second hand one though. (even if I had some direct contacts ans “experiences” with Amish people).
      Hope I answer your question?

    4. God, I wish everything were built that way. So cool. I like the cooperative aspect of it.

    5. These types of “work bees” or “frolics” actually happen quite regularly but since they are not advertised among “the English” they go unnoticed. And the “modus operandi” is changing somewhat. In Holmes County, instead of 100 guys showing up in one day, a carpenter crew from one of the many Amish construction firms will donate a day’s labor. Next day, another will show up, and so on until the job is done. Since the crews tend to specialize, it works well. First the excavator, then the concrete crew, then the frame crew, then the roofing crew, then the finish crew (if it is a house).
      Same job gets done with donated labor, just a different technique, a bit less noticable since only maybe 10 or 20 men show up at a time instead of 100 or 200.

    6. Shannon Bromenschenkel

      I’ve seen a small version! I just blogged about it!

      Hope you are doing well!! 🙂


    7. Shannon Bromenschenkel

      Hey Erik! Just got your message on my blog…. my picture was taken outside of Lakeview, Michigan (north of Grand Rapids). Thanks for commenting!! And thanks for linking my blog on your blog! Have a fabulous day! Shannon

    8. There are many stories from 1830s Michigan of Potawatomi Indian men joining with Euro-American settlers in barn raisings and log-cabin raisings. Some of those stories are from the Climax area in Kalamazoo County, which I’ve been blogging about lately. One house from 1835 is still standing and being lived in, but it’s a wood frame house, so probably it didn’t involve a big party of neighbors putting it up. The Native peoples’ reward for all this neighborliness was that they were evicted from Michigan in 1840.

    9. Have not seen an Amish barn-raising, but did observe my Mennonite neighbors raising a barn just over the back fence from us. As you mention, the foundation work (concrete blocks in this case) had been done in advance. The skeleton. siding, and roof of the barn was done by a big crew of workers in one day (using pre-fab roof trusses.) There was still plenty of work left to finish it up completely, but it was a water-shedding structure at the end of the barn-raising. Many of the workers at this barn-raising were brothers, brother-in-laws, nephews, cousins and other extended family members.

    10. Felix


      In the photo i did not see any amish men wearing them.

      1. These are Nebraska Amish. That group does not wear suspenders.