Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 17, 2018

Tornado destroys buildings in Van Buren

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jul 20, 2018
Photo by: KODIE CARR/VAN BUREN COUNTY REGISTER Keosauqua Lumberyard in Keosauqua was badly damaged by the storm that came through around 6 p.m. Thursday.

Tornadoes wreaked havoc across Iowa Thursday, leaving behind a trail of destruction that stretched from Marshalltown and down through Keosauqua and Farmington.

The iconic barn north of Keosauqua owned by Bob and Sharon Galloway was flattened. The Van Buren County engineer Ryne Thornburg reported one of the buildings used to house equipment for the secondary roads department was completely destroyed. A couple pickups received so much damage from flying debris that they are likely totaled, and one motor grader has substantial damage.

Keosauqua Lumber suffered major damage to its roof, too.

Farther south in Farmington, two historic buildings had their roofs blown off – the old buggy factory and the Hartrick Lumberyard. Downed trees and power lines were also reported.


Galloway barn

Bob and Sharon live on a farm near the intersection of Highways 1 and 16, but they were not at home when the tornado swept through around 6 p.m. Thursday. Ironically, they were visiting friends in Farmington, which was hit later that night. Sharon’s daughter Marydawn Schuck said she was on her way to Keosauqua and would check to make sure the house was OK.

“She called and said the house looks fine but the barn is gone. She said it was flat,” recalled Sharon.

The barn was built around 1890 and was on the National Register of Historic Places. It held equipment made by Louden Machinery Company of Fairfield. Schuck said it was used as a milking barn at the time it was built.

Because of the barn’s historical significance, it has attracted many onlookers over the years. Sharon said it’s very common to see a motorist pull off the road to snap a picture of the barn.


Painting contest

In an incredible coincidence, the Galloways’ barn was the subject of a painting competition held the very day it was destroyed. The organization Villages Folk School invited artists to paint “plein air” (in open air) county fair scenes and area barns Thursday and today. The paintings would be judged at 5 p.m. today under the grandstand at the Van Buren County Fairgrounds, and then sold.

Several artists painted the barn on what would be its last day standing. Sharon said she hopes to buy a few of those paintings tonight.

Mel Stockwell directs the folk school. When she learned that the storm was headed south after leaving Jefferson County, she called the artists and told them to seek shelter. She mentioned that one of the artists was from New Jersey, so she had to explain to him what a tornado was and that he had to go to a basement.

Schuck said one artist drove up that evening intending to paint the barn, but arrived too late.

Sharon said she and her husband had been wondering what to do with the barn for a few years. She lived at the property from 1964-1970, then moved away. She returned to the farm in 1992, and the following year made several upgrades to the historic building. A new roof was put on, it was painted, and the foundation was repaired.

But by 2018, the barn was needing another $30,000-$40,000 in repairs. Sharon and Bob had ceased using it, and it seemed like a lot of money to restore a building they only looked at.

Sharon speculates that the barn collapsed because its wooden beams had become very weak. She noticed that wood was not strewn all over the acreage, suggesting it wasn’t hit by a tornado directly. Instead, it appears to have merely fallen over.

She said it’s too wet to drive trucks around the property picking up debris, but the couple might need a helping hand next week. Before long, her 90-year-old husband will be busy substitute teaching fifth- and sixth-graders at Van Buren Community School.

Schuck said she hopes her brother can salvage the wood and make something from it, perhaps a headboard, for her house.

“My grandpa lived there for years, and we all have strong ties to that place,” she said.

Sharon said the damage to her home was limited to an attic window being blown out, and window damage to a brick shed near the house.

“We’re thankful that everything in the house is intact,” she said. “For some reason, God took our barn but left our house.”

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