Barn Keepers: The early days
The story of Barn Keepers begins in 2002 with the formation of the “McLean County Barn Group,” an ad hoc organization interested in these landmarks dotting the Central Illinois landscape.
Several local “barnologists” associated with the Barn Group soon decided to lead an effort to measure the decline in area barns over the past several decades.
Using This Is McLean County, a 1955 Loree Co. publication featuring more than 700 pages of aerial views of most farmsteads in the county, volunteers tallied up the number of barns—both countywide and per township. All told, they counted approximately 4,500 barns in the 1955 book.
Barn Group members and volunteers traveled to every corner of McLean County in order to count and photograph each and every barn in the county. They counted roughly 1,200 barns remaining in the county, a decline of almost three-quarters in less than a half-century.
On March 27, 2003, the Barn Group met, to consider establishing a permanent organization. Less than a year later, on February 12, 2004, twenty some individuals approved a set of by-laws and elected a board to the newly established organization called Barn Keepers. Jean Cooper, Dave Burroughs, Mark Edwards, Ron Ropp, Laura Whelton, Jim Williams, and Wallace Yoder served on the first board.
Fifteen years later, Barn Keepers is still going strong! In addition to our annual Barn Tours—now an autumn tradition for many—the organization:
- Administers the Centennial Barn program.
- Holds four public meetings a year featuring speakers on a variety of barn-related topics.
- Supports educational programs and barn preservation work in McLean County and beyond.