4-H club documents Frankenmuth Township barns

By Ann Daenzer and Joan Kuhne

4-H'ers in Frankenmuth Township, Michigan, completed a barn documentation project in 1996-97 to celebrate the town's sesquicentennial and farming heritage. It also was a chance to put into practice what we had learned at a 1995 4-H FOLKPATTERNS workshop at Kettunen Center. We used the pilot version of the 4-H FOLKPATTERNS Barn and Farmstead Survey as a guide. This article outlines the steps we took as a 4-H club to carry out this project.

We interviewed local historians, including a retired newspaper editor, a retired Frankenmuth Township supervisor and members of the Frankenmuth Historical Museum staff. All agreed it would be great to have a visual documentation of our township barns. The retired editor agreed to write a brief history of agriculture in the township, which we added to our bulletin and used in training

We needed project money and found a generous benefactor in William "Tiny" Zehnder, owner of the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn, who also had been photographing local barns. Project costs totaled $800, mostly for film and film processing.

We held a community workshop and despite a small turnout, planted the seed of the project. Next we contacted local 4-H teen and adult volunteers with farming backgrounds to work as documenters. Other community members joined us, including a retired physician whose hobby is photography, and a retired school administrator.

We held an evening training workshop, using slides of Michigan barn types and the barn documentation book.

We put together eight teams, with one member of each named the team photographer. The township sections were divided among the teams, giving the teams preference for their own and neighboring sections. Using enlarged copies of the county plat book, we identified land and property owners. Teams were asked to complete their work by May 15, 1996. A local photographer processed all the film. In August 1996 we began to organize and file the photographs and completed survey forms. We purchased archival products (such as photo sleeves for looseleaf notebooks) to store and display our work. The Frankenmuth Historical Museum or the Frankenmuth Library will store our project.

Ann Daenzer is a member of the 4-H Frankenmuth Pacesetters Club in Saginaw County. She organized and led this community service project at age 15. Joan Kuhne is an adult volunteer leader of the group and the chair of the State 4-H FOLKPATTERNS Programming Committee.

Documenting Barns

Making a photo record of historic barns is an excellent community service project that can help make people more aware of the decline in older farm buildings. This increased awareness can be a first step in preserving a community's architectural heritage. If your 4-H club or group is interested in piloting the 4-H FOLKPATTERNS Barn and Farmstead Survey, contact LuAnne Kozma, MSU Museum, East Lansing, MI 48824, phone (517) 353-5526, or E-Mail:

If your group is considering a barn documentation project, you also may want to contact the Michigan Barn Preservation Network, P.O. Box 614, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48804-0614. Also see the Barn Journal online.