By Don Benjamin

Contributing Writer

The wild Western Slope of Colorado features vivid reminders of older days in the form of standing, and often still working, barns. The vintage structures exist in mostly rural sections of our county but at least one can be found within Delta City limits. Some are modest structures, while others are mega buildings. Some have proven solid enough to withstand the impact of a runaway truck and not a few have been damaged by snow and wind.

Sadly, the county’s oldest barn, located in Hotchkiss, received significant damage during a powerful 2010 wind storm and the unique brick structure needs major repairs. Enos T. Hotchkiss hired a builder to construct his barn in 1885 and his descendants still live on the homestead property adjacent to the town that bears his name. (The DCI plans a future story on the travails of the Hotchkiss barn.)

Each of the county’s remaining historic barns has a unique backstory which, collectively, would fill many volumes. Beyond the huge Hotchkiss barn, the county’s next most imposing structure is the Wick Barn in Cedaredge. (Note, these were given generic ‘place/builder’ names to barns even though the structures themselves have changed hands. As a result, some of the buildings described and pictured here may be known by other names.)

The Wick barn is situated along Highway 65 just north of RJ’s Steak House. Andy Wick’s granddad built the Cedaredge structure shortly after arriving in the area in 1921-22. An historic house sits nearby and, following the pattern established by early settlers, chances are the barn was erected first. Andy and Polly Jo Wick own and operate Upper Valley Holsteins, a 1,000-cow, 58-acre dairy in Austin. Andy’s granddad used the main part of the barn to store hay and as a milking parlor for 25-30 head of Holsteins. As a boy, Andy and his cousins played on his granddad’s farm, but they had to keep their games clear of the barn in order not to startle the cows. Cream separated from the raw milk was marketed at the Creamery down the road in Eckert.

At present, the Wick barn sits on the Z Box Ranch, owned by the Kissner family and managed by Eric and Celia (Kissner) Christensen. Celia’s grandfather, Cletus McCoy purchased the Z Box brand in 1945 and that unique brand remains a family legacy. Cletus was a professional rodeo cowboy who also raised cattle, quarter horses and hay on the Cedaredge ranch which Cletus and Celia McCoy purchased in the 1960s. Ultimately, the ranch passed to the late Bill Kissner and his wife Marty with daughter Celia and husband Eric Christensen serving as ranch managers. The ranch encompasses 76 acres. The historic barn is used to stack hay which is grown on the ranch. The Z Box Ranch raises and trains performance quarter horses.

The Rodstrom Barn on Fruitland Mesa in the Crawford area remains one of the most iconic in the county. It’s the subject of countless photos, drawings and paintings including the work of Hotchkiss resident, Tom Wills. In addition to his artistic endeavors, Wills serves as editor/publisher of the ‘North Fork Merchant Herald’ periodical and he owns Wills Gallery and Used Books Bookstore on Bridge Street in Hotchkiss. Other barns are pictured with a brief note about their history and location. Such structures continue to connect us to the county’s rural rich heritage.

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