CHESTER TOWNSHIP — Gerald and Mary Lou Robinson saw their friendship with neighbors come full circle recently as their Amish neighbors pitched in for a barn-raising and Harmony United Methodist Church members provided lunch for the workers.
The Robinsons’ hay barn burned to the ground in early July. They lost nearly 1,000 bales of hay and 65 bales of straw that were stored in the barn. They are thankful that no animals or people were injured in the fire.
Four fire departments responded with the first arriving within 15 minutes. Their neighbor C.D. Hoover, who owns Hoover Equipment Rental, also came with a track hoe to help during the fire. They couldn’t save the hay barn, but they did save the other barns that were only 20 feet away.
Gerald said in his 50 years of farming he had not had such a fire. They found the cause was the moisture was too high in the hay and that caused the fire to ignite.
It is ironic, as Gerald said this year he had the best crop of hay he had ever harvested.
Fortunately, their insurance covered the loss of the barn and they are working out compensation for the hay, straw and the new skid loader they lost in the fire.
Neighbors offer help
Mary Lou said the word got out about the fire and neighbors came to help right away offering food and supplies. Their son Terry’s classmate, Jon Mason, and several other farmers came with bales of hay for their cattle.
One of the first to come after the fire was their Amish friend, David Raber. The Robinsons have sold hay to the Amish and transported them many times for their logging and other needs. They have known Amish in the Chesterville and Johnsville area for many years.
Terry said that Raber offered that he could get them the lumber and materials for a new barn. The materials weren’t a problem since Raber owns and operates a sawmill.
Raber said that he could also get together 40 to 50 men from his community to do a barn-raising for the Robinsons. As plans progressed one of the Amish who makes tents and tarps offered a big tent for the lunch and benches from their congregation could be used.
Robinsons accepted Raber’s offer of help with the understanding they would pay for the lumber, materials and labor as well as a sizeable donation to the Amish community.
The donation they give to the Amish community will go towards their medical and other emergency needs since the Amish don’t carry insurance or accept Medicaid or Medicare.
The barn raising
Work started a couple days in advance of the main event with the posts being set.
The day before the barn-raising 14 young men came to raise the rafters and some of the frame.
Robinson said there were some young boys who came that were just 10 or 12 years old. They ran to get the nails and other things needed as they learned to work beside the men.
Saturday morning Raber brought together 40 men to complete the barn.
The site of the new barn hummed with constant activity of hammering and sawing as they laid down the vapor barrier and sheet metal roof.
The men worked constantly in the 85-degree heat and had the roof up by 10 a.m. They only paused to get a quick drink of water.
“The men know what to do,” said Raber. They have worked on barns and buildings many times before and were comfortable walking on the roof and handling the carpentry.
“We have good neighbors,” said Gerald as he thanked the Amish, the women and men of Harmony United Methodist Church, and all who have helped since the fire.