MOUNT VERNON, Ohio – When George Cassell came to Ohio from Maryland in 1835, he built a barn and a house.
This house would burn down, as would the next house after that, but the barn stayed put. So did the Cassells.
Now, 171 years and many renovations later, the barn still stands, and the sixth and seventh generations of Cassells live on the same land.
The Cassells have taken good care of the barn through the years, and now it is one of Ohio’s best-preserved bank barns.
Top of its class. This year, the Friends of Ohio Barns took notice of the Cassell barn, naming it the Barn of the Year in the category of barns in continual operation.
“A lot of people have shown interest in the barn,” said Art Cassell, a member of the fifth generation to live on the farm.
The fact that the barn has been fully functional since 1835 is perhaps as impressive as the Cassell family’s own legacy on this property north of Mount Vernon.
Angus farm. While the barn originally housed a variety of animals, the first Angus cows came to the farm at the beginning of the 20th century.
Today, the farm is called the Cassell Angus Farm, and the barn shelters weaned calves as well as equipment and feed.
The barn has retained much of its original appearance despite various improvements throughout its life. The original siding – cut from the farm’s own sycamore trees – was replaced in 1960, after an impressive 125 years, with more of the farm’s own sycamore.
Today it remains painted the original red, with a sharp newer touch of white trim. A cupola sits atop the barn, part of the original construction.
“Some places now, I think, just put them on as ornaments,” said Cassell, who grew up on the farm and whose son Alan lives there now with his wife, Traci, and sons Grant and Carter.
Functional. As with the rest of the barn, the cupola was built not just to decorate, but to function. The cupola’s windows allowed a better airflow for drying hay.
Parts of the original stone foundation have deteriorated and were replaced with cinder blocks, but from the open side of the barn, the original foundation is still mostly in place after nearly 200 years.
The barn’s large size makes its longevity and appearance both especially impressive. The open side of the barn – the side away from the bank – includes a long overjet.
3-D. This means that the upper floor of the barn juts out past the foundation across the length of the barn, sheltering the ground below and adding a 3-D look to the front view of the building.
Downstairs, is the very well preserved original hickory stringer running the length of the ceiling.
“This beam is one piece clear through,” Cassell points out, “a full 66 feet.”
Historic home. The Cassell home is impressive as well, a great white house with a large porch on two sides and plenty of spare rooms inside.
Built in 1886, this house followed two predecessors that were lost in fires. In one of these fires, the conductor of a passing train sounded his whistle to raise the alarm.
This woke the neighbors, who were then able to help save many of the possessions from the burning house.
Among the furniture that survived the fire is a grandfather clock that the Cassells still own.
Lasting legacy. Yet for all the history surviving on the Cassell farm, perhaps the most important is the family that stayed put – and kept farming.