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Sherman’s Stone Milk House to be relocated
July 9, 2017

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Editor's note: Connie Dean is helping relocate the stone milk house 1.9 miles. Below is her story of the milk house and also the plans for it to be moved.

SHERMAN - The stone milk house building in front of the Sherman Livestock sale barn was built almost a hundred years ago by a couple of women who wanted it to be both beautiful and functional, and they built it to last. The little stone building has been a fixture in the landscape for so long in Sherman. For years it sat in contrast to the activity of Reed's sale barn on Kendrick Street as reminder of days gone by with no signature or information. Just different. While it quietly sat there, three barns out of wood have burned and now the third one owned by the Johnson's (Sherman Livestock Auction) with convenient loading docks to move livestock around is its closest and most recent neighbor. Things change a lot when you live a 100 years.

It has been there my whole life; it's uniqueness intrigued me in an almost mysterious way that I did not understand fully for a long time until I found out the full story which I will tell you here. As a very small girl, I used to study it from the back seat of the light yellow and white Buick when we used to drive from our farm in Mina to Mayville. One day, when my dad saw my nose pressed against the window looking at it, he said "That was built by the Mitchell girls." Wow, the first answer to my mystery. I wondered about the Mitchell girls, but did not ask as I liked the picture I made in my head of two teenage girls in long skirts picking up and lifting the heavy stones in place together. I assumed that they were sisters in my imagined version of the story.

It was a long time later that I found out that when it was built it stood in front of the barn that was Pebble Brook Dairy farm. My dad explained to me that the milk house was also a springhouse that included a

naturally water-cooled area that kept the milk fresh. Remarkably, the Michel girls built it over a spring so the cool water coming into the interior tanks kept the milk in cans cool until they were bottled into glass bottles. This stone milk house is particularly unique in the fact that it was made out of stone and not of wood as was traditional in the 1920s, and the unique choice to build it over a spring. It turns out as my dad told me more, his grandparents (my great-grandparents Mary and Whitney Dean) owned that farm and lived there and ran a dairy and had an apple orchard they sold apples from. The house has been gone for many years but my dad has a family picture taken by the house. It's the old-fashioned sort of photo with the family standing outside in front of the house because the light was better than inside the house.

As a young couple, Whitney and Mary Dean moved from Nebraska to establish themselves in Sherman, NY, returning to the lush area of his grandparents. Although a machinist by trade, Whitney Dean (Jack's Grandfather) took to dairy farming in 1919 in what is now the location of the Sherman Livestock Auction. By 1920, Whitney and his wife Mary Bevan Dean built a state of the art home including indoor plumbing, electricity, hot water heat and a wall mounted telephone. The family had a thriving milk delivery service in Sherman called Pebble Brook Dairy, which occasionally you may see an old milk bottle with Pebble Brook Dairy on it.

As their children grew up, things changed for Mary and Whitney as their grown kids started going their own ways. My grandfather Ernest studied electronics in Fredonia. My Uncle Albert (Betty Person's father) helped to farm but he also traveled by train all over the country to county fairs and shows with his Brown Swiss cattle when they first came to this country. Thus, he was not able to help when my great grandfather broke both legs when falling out of an apple tree in his orchard. His legs were badly broken in many places. The doctor did not even set them as he assumed Whitney would "not make it," underestimated the Dean genes. But Whitney recovered and gimped about with canes for the rest of his life. After the accident around 1930, one of his daughters and her husband came to help on the farm. Her name was Stella Mitchell and her husband Lonnie Mitchell. Finally, I discovered the Mitchell girls connection! The Mitchells moved to Pebble Brook Farm with their 5 daughters to help. During this time two of the Mitchell women built the stone milk house with the tutelage of my Great Grandfather Dean. He taught them about stone work and how to choose and lay up the stones.

Recently, when the owner of the sale barn wanted the stone milk house moved or destroyed, my father Jack Dean (who is 95 years old) decided it was worth preserving. He first approached the Yorkers as he felt it was a great place for it to represent the long history of dairy farming, so woven into the fabric of Sherman. The Yorkers felt they did not have the room for it. Not to be deterred, Jack thought of the Farmers' Mill as an appropriate place for it to stand. The Farmers' Mill agreed and have a spot waiting for it near the old dairy bottling building. The stone milk house will be quite visible when you drive up that street.

Now, as we have gotten into moving it, I have learned some more things about my mystery. We had an Amish man dig down by the foundation to see how deep it is so we could prepare the new site by digging the hole to put concrete in for the new foundation. It turns out the old milk house stone foundation goes down at least 3 feet! Wow. No wonder it withstood so many Sherman winters! We also found there was a center walkway inside with two cement tanks for milk cans that the spring water would fill. This got me to wondering if cement was commonly used then. Turns out cement was first used for a bridge in the US in 1889, and by 1936 was used for the Hoover Dam, so around 1930 when the stone house was built, cement was being used for such things. We will not be moving the cement tanks as we will place it on flat ground and furnish the interior with early era milk cans and small dairy farm implements for education, much like the Yorkers have done with the school house and other buildings.

There also has been much brainstorming on how to move the stone milk house. It seems that the getting it up and on a truck is the hardest part. Estimates are that with the 3-foot foundation without the cement tanks it could weigh as much as 50 tons. One plan was to pick it up with a crane but there is a limit to how much the crane can pick up, so we are considering cutting off some of the foundation to reduce the weight, and move the foundation separately. The non-crane plan is to dig now under the foundation, cut it off and jack it up. In either method, workmen will dig out around the foundation and then make holes to put steel beams under it to move it on a trailer the 1.9 miles to its new home.

I can't help wondering what the Mitchell girls would think of all this.

Note: The support for the project has been overwhelmingly positive. We have the funds for the move but are currently a little short on the foundation work at the new location. If you want to contribute or find out more information, please contact: James Dean (Jack's son) at 954-524-7278, or email: jaguru@bellsouth.net. If you have services to contribute like trucking, crane, or concrete, those would be very appreciated.

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