30 Amish Men Come To Churchville To Ply Their Famed Skill: Barn-raising

October 21, 1990|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A group of three men hammered spouting onto the frame of a barn under construction at Donald L. Lomax's 82-acre cattle farm on Calvary Road near Churchville.

At the other end of the structure, another worker cut a sheet of tin that will become part of the 3,800-square-foot barn's roof.

Meanwhile, two other men -- one old, one young -- carried lumber from a stack into the two-story barn where it will be used to panel a wall.

This wasn't the scene of just any construction site.

The workers were a group of about 30 Amish men from southern Lancaster County, Pa., whom Lomax had hired to build a new barn.

The Amish came with their own lumber and tools. And they brought their own designs and old-fashioned know-how.

The Amish -- a Mennonite farming community that shuns such modern conveniences as cars, power tools and electricity -- relied on hammers, calloused hands and strong backs to do the work.

The work appeared tiring and tedious: hammering nails, taking measurements, trimming lumber. Yet the Amish finished the barn-raising in one day.

"I haven't seen a blueprint yet," said Lomax's son, Thomas, as he surveyed the work of the Amish men Friday. "It's all done in their heads."

The team builds about five barns a year, Lomax said. In Amish culture, barn-raisings are often a social event, a time for friends and relatives to get together. But the Amish also build barns for farmers outside their close-knit community.

Lomax said he decided to hire the Amish team to build his barn because of their quality craftsmanship.

"I'm convinced that they're the experts," he said. "I know their workmanship is excellent."

Lomax and his family have lived at the farm since 1972. The new structure replaced a 270-year-old stone barn that was swept away by Hurricane Hugo last year.

Lomax, manager of the Bel Air branch of the Legg Mason investment firm, declined to say how much the barn cost to build because the Amish asked him to withhold that information.

Lomax said he sought the skills of the Amish after hearing that they built several barns in northern Harford County. He traveled to Lancaster County, the heart of Amish country, and found a team willing to build him a barn.

Earlier this year, Lomax brought the team's foreman, Ivan Miller of Quarryville, to his Churchville farm and showed him what he wanted.

Miller and Lomax pounded out an agreement and scheduled the work for last week.

On Wednesday, Miller and some of his workers came to Lomax's barn to set up for the following day. They took measurements, set up their tools and laid out the lumber.

The rest of the team arrived Thursday at 6:45 a.m. and quickly got to work. They first laid the floor on a foundation that was set in the summer; lumber for the floor came from the old McCormick Spice plant in Baltimore City, Lomax said.

The workers then turned their attention to the frames for the walls. They built each of the four frames in one piece and then pulled each into place using a system of ropes.

Once the walls were up, the Amish workers began working on the barn's roof. They cut notches into the roof's beams and placed the slats of the roof into the beams.

Thursday's work was cut short by a storm, but about 10 members of the crew were back to work Friday, again at 6:45 a.m. Fighting wind and cool temperatures, the team paneled walls, put spouting in place and covered the barn with the tin roof.

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