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FARMERSTOWN, Ohio — The best way to take in the barn building at Mose Miller’s dairy farm near Farmerstown may have been in silence.
Indeed, it was in silence that many watched, Amish and English, standing next to each other, or sitting in chairs at a safe distance.
There were times when there was nothing to say, nothing to ask or answer, just look and listen — to the sounds of hammers driving in nails, battery-powered drills screwing holes in the boards, the saws cutting each board to size and the talk of 400 men and sons working together.
It was the kind of sight that mostly spoke for itself — a sight of hard work, cooperation and hope. And the more you watched, the more you saw. Like the men on the roof, hanging on by wrapping their legs around boards, or the wooden pegs driven into beams to attach the frame, the endless supply of food, or the little boy carrying cans of soda to workers.
Just two weeks ago, this farmstead along County Road 183 in Holmes County was torn to pieces in an EF-1 tornado. No one was hurt, but a half-dozen buildings were destroyed, including the main barn, which was nearly a total loss.
But on Sept. 29, shortly after 6 a.m., Mose Miller’s barn became the destination for hundreds of neighbors and friends, and others across Ohio and even beyond, who all wanted to witness the beauty of a barn raising.
It only took an hour or two to get the frame up, and from there, the walls and roof were framed, and then the metal siding and roofing, until finally, sometime in the afternoon, the massive barn was complete.
“When you just jump in and help each other it doesn’t take long to put a barn back up,” said Aden Raber, who lives nearby off County Road 600.
Building barns for their own people is a common practice, said Robert Miller, one of Mose’s sons. But tornadoes are rare in this area, and even more rare is the extensive amount of damage this one caused.
Robert Miller said word-of-mouth is all it takes to get people to come.
“If something like this happens in the area, it travels pretty fast,” he said.
There were different skill levels among those who helped, but most had basic carpentry knowledge and worked together with great efficiency, workmanship and sense of community — things that fascinated spectators.
This slide show is of the barn rebuilding, on Sept. 29:
This slide show is of the damage shortly after the tornado:
A true testament
Several tour buses came for the raising, with tourists from as far away as Washington state, Florida and Louisiana.
“This is fantastic,” said Winifred Mertens, a tourist from central Louisiana. “We didn’t know when we signed up that there was going to be this.”
The tornado that destroyed the Miller barn was part of a larger system of storms on Sept. 16 that produced tornadoes in Wooster, Ohio and in southeastern Ohio. Considerable damage was reported in both locations, with one storm-related death in West Virginia.
The Millers had the barn insured through their church. Mose said he was pleased with the progress of so many people, including the women, who prepared lunch for up to 700.
“From the floor up, it’s all new,” he said.
The Millers planned to start putting hay back inside the barn sometime after noon — just six hours after they began building.