Members join in old-fashioned barn raising

Nearly 25 members of the Hingham Ward, Hingham Massachusetts Stake, joined a community project recently to build a barn similar to what the Pilgrims knew 350 years ago.

The barn was raised near the original home of John and Priscilla Alden, who were among the Pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower. The Aldens were granted a 100-acre parcel of land in Duxbury, Mass., in 1627, where they eventually built a second home in 1653.As the only remaining structure that was built and occupied by passengers of the Mayflower, the Alden House is considered an historical and architectural treasure.

Today, the Alden House is a museum where thousands from around the world come to enjoy the fully furnished home that retains many of the original features.

Because of the demand on the museum, the family organization, known as the Alden Kindred of America, decided to expand facilities by constructing a barn on a site where the last barn is known to have existed.

Bob Edmunds, an Alden descendant and long-time member of the Hingham Ward, was asked to direct the Alden Kindred organization shortly after he and his wife, Gerda, returned from an 18-month family history mission in Germany.

His first task was to oversee the barn project, a project that, because of its historical implications, proved to be a complex effort of research and coordination. He solicited private and corporate donors, and requested the assistance of a team of professional archaeologists from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst to determine if the barn would disturb anything of archaeological significance.

Ground was broken for the barn in October 1997. The foundation was poured and sheathed in fieldstone taken from old stone walls of western Massachusetts.

Six months later on a Saturday morning, John Howe, bishop of the Hingham Ward, joined other ward members, including Robert E. Chatfield, first counselor in the stake presidency, in the old-fashion barn raising.

"The results of the barn raising are a beautiful thing to behold," said Brother Edmunds. "The barn should stand for hundreds of years to come."

Besides the beauty of the barn, Brother Edmunds was impressed with the smooth orchestration of the raising, and the fact, that given the danger of lifting heavy beams by many unskilled and untrained laborers, that no injuries occurred.

"Lifting heavy beams is dangerous," he said. "It required teamwork among people who generally sit behind desks and push pencils or use computers.

"The raising went far more smoothly than anticipated," he said, explaining that the project was completed several hours earlier than planned.

In addition to the barn raising, Lynette Howe, wife of Bishop Howe, demonstrated a family history database of about 45,000 names of Alden descendants to help visitors identify their ancestry. The Church's Personal Ancestral File program was intregal in building the database of names.

The new barn was built using the same basic construction methods of the Pilgrim times. A framing contractor from New Hampshire directed the work. Volunteers, including ward members and non-members, began in the morning by hoisting five heavy, preassembled cross-sections and continued working into the afternoon when roof beams were manually hoisted into place and secured with white oak pegs.

The barn replica was built as a reminder of the Pilgrim era when barns were an indispensable component of early colonial life, and as a means of expanding tourist facilities at the site.

Alden descendants have managed the property since the turn of the century when the Alden family organization acquired a portion of the property, including the historic home.

The Aldens are perhaps best remembered in history because Henry Wadsworth Longfellow featured them in a fictional incident in his poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish.

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