Last year at this time we took the holidays and celebrations–Halloween (October 31st), All Saints’ Day (November 1st), and All Souls’ Day (November 2nd)–as an opportunity to introduce a fun feature of our website: Ghost Barns! Many barns in the San Juan Islands have been lost to fire, storms, old age, or demolition. To recognize these barns as gone, but not forgotten, the Ghost Barns page includes as much as we know about each lost barn. In some cases just a small snippet from a newspaper is all that’s known, while for others full documentation (measurements and photographs) has been recorded before it came down.
One of the more extensive records we have of a ghost barn is that of Thomas Graham of Richardson on Lopez, who lost his barn along with fifteen cows, a pair of mares and 50-60 tons of hay this month 111 years ago. The loss, which was estimated at about $2,000, and was not covered by insurance, made front page news in the November 18, 1905 San Juan Islander: “COWS AND HORSES BURNED TO DEATH”. A week later the newspaper, under the headline “FARMERS AID IN BUILDING BARN,” happily noted that Graham’s neighbors had raised $256 towards a new barn, concluding “The people of Richardson are all right.” An article elsewhere in the same issue added an interesting twist: it wanted to set the record straight to a rumor in the Bellingham Herald that the fire had been the result of arson because Graham was a County Commissioner who had recently voted to raise liquor fees. As the Islander pointed out, in fact Graham’s brother, William, was the County Commissioner, and the vote was unanimous, so this was clearly not the cause. Succeeding issues of the paper reported regularly on the progress of the new barn which he started in December, noting that by August of the next year the roof had been finished.
Quite frankly, we’re not too sure if the rebuilt barn is one of those still standing in the Richardson area of Lopez Island. Wouldn’t that be nice? Do tell if you know so we can wrap up this ghost story!