Log Granary

By Lindsay Marshall of Chanhassen
Carver County Historical Society intern
First published in 2008

It is said, “everyone has their 10 minutes of fame,” but fame is relative. History is full of notable people, who, for one reason or the other, were never recognized for their contributions to history.

These people are the average normal, everyday, hardworking people who fashioned life out of the “big woods.”

Such is the case of Fanz and Maria Borchardt, who moved to Watertown in 1882. Their fame comes 120 years after they built a simple log granary.

Why now? Why has the Carver County Historical Society, now decided to accept not one, but two log buildings?

The first part of the question is easy to answer. They were intact; they had a place to put them; the sponsorships, knowledge to take them down, and put them back up; and they were farm-related, not log cabins. Log cabins are seen all over the state, but not log farm buildings.

One final factor played into this equation. Did the buildings have provenance – did they tell a story?

The answer to this began with first looking through the abstract for land ownership. The first transfer of the land occurred April 3, 1857, between the United States and Horace Hobbs.

From here, the ownership is complex. The property was lost, due to non-payment of taxes and probate. Suffice it to say, that by Jan. 21, 1880, Friedrich and Friederike Mielke owned the land. In December 1887, the Mielkes divided the land and sold 69 acres to Franz Borchardt.

Franz and Maria Borchardt moved directly to Carver County from Regenwalde, Germany, arriving in Watertown June 21, 1882.

After several local moves, the Borchardts moved to the property they purchased from Friederich Mielke in Camden Township. The Borchardts lived on this property for three generations.

Franz and Maria Borchardt had joined the St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, otherwise known as the Crow River Church or Old Log Church. It is this group of members, it is believed, that helped the Borchardts build the log buildings.

How old is the building, and who built it? Was the granary built during the Mielke period, or was Borchardt faced with building his own place? The Bochardts purchased the land during the winter, where would they have stayed?

One must also question whether there was more than one building on the property when the land was purchased. Since log buildings were virtually costless, they leave very little paper trail. The agricultural census of 1880 of the land shows that it was mainly forest and woodland – no mention of log structures.

Where else could one look for evidence about who built the structures? This is where oral history comes in.

Many families share their life stories with their children and grandchildren. With the advice of Marlene Magnuson, a long-time resident of the area and Carver County Historical Society’s researcher, Glenna Schmidt, who is the youngest daughter of Franz and Emma Borchardt, was interviewed.

Within the first five minutes of visiting Glenna, the questions were answered. Her grandfather, Franz Borchardt, built the granary and the barn, as well as many other buildings.

The building was built as a granary, never a log home. Glenna provided pictures of her grandparents on the farm, as well as a Borchardt family portrait from the 1920s and a picture of the house which later replaced their original house in 1909.

Oral histories revealed many interesting tidbits that would have never been known from simply looking at tax records and newspaper articles.

Recently, the early church records of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, (Old Log Church) have begun to be translated. These records were written in German by early members of the congregation before the log church was built. This research will provide a better background of the area, the people, and details of the church.

Other research includes analyzing the original surveyor’s notes, which were written in 1856 and describe – section by section – which trees were growing. This will provide an idea of which trees were used in building the log structures.

The granary has already been erected at the county fairgrounds. The log barn will be taken down in the next few days and will be stored until such time it can be brought inside the museum for all to enjoy. This may be five or 10 years down the road, but these buildings have a story to tell.

They have waited 120 years – a couple more shouldn’t matter.