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The History Of One Old Barn In Washington State

Updated on September 9, 2013
The Rutledge Farm
The Rutledge Farm | Source
The Rutledge farmhouse
The Rutledge farmhouse | Source
The farmhouse
The farmhouse | Source
Inside the barn looking at the roof and construction
Inside the barn looking at the roof and construction | Source
Treasures within.
Treasures within. | Source
Fill in your own caption
Fill in your own caption | Source
No nails used in construction
No nails used in construction | Source
A glimpse at the old days. A history of farming.
A glimpse at the old days. A history of farming. | Source

I like old barns and cemeteries! Okay, fine, I’m weird and I acknowledge that fact. Call me anything you like and I’ll understand but I can’t change the fact that I love old barns. I love the smell of them, a mixture of old hay and animal droppings and decades of other scents mixed and mingled in the floorboards. I love the old wood, so weather-beaten and distinguished, standing against the elements and time and doing so with dignity and grace.

Most of all, though, I love the history of the barn that is such an integral part of the barn itself. When was it built? What was happening around the area when that barn was constructed? Who owned it and what has it been used for? I am fascinated by this stuff, thinking about the life that has surrounded those old structures. Families have come and gone; real-life dramas were played out inside of those barns. They are, in effect, guardians of our societal legacy.

Today I would like to introduce you to one of the oldest sentinels in Washington State, the magnificent Rutledge pole barn just outside of Littlerock, Washington. You might want to wear some boots as you go on the tour with me because you see, after 150 years of service, this old barn is still in use. The Rutledge clan, now just father and son, still have about forty head of cattle and the barn is used to store hay for the winter as well as memories for a lifetime.


Thomas Rutledge arrived in the area now known as Littlerock in 1853 and with the help of fellow pioneer John Shotwell began to slash a road between his homestead and the town of Tumwater to the north. At this time Rutledge lived in a hand-hewn log cabin but he soon began construction on the beautiful two-story farmhouse you can see in the picture to the right. The house has two fireplaces and, as this writer can attest, many furnishings that date back to those early years of pioneering.

In addition to building the farmhouse a barn was erected and that barn, which is one of the largest found in Western Washington, is still in operation today. It is the product of Mortise and Tenon Construction, made again of hand-hewn timbers and beams and it contains not a single nail. Wooden pegs were used in those days to fasten boards together and the construction is of a type called “timber frame,” a common form of architecture in the mid-1860s. In “timber framing” the frame is supported by the size and strength of the timbers and beams rather than the skeletal framing technique used today.

Interestingly the rock from which Littlerock got its name still sits in front of the Rutledge home today.


The old Rutledge house and barn have seen quite a bit of history since they were constructed. Think about this for a moment: when both were built the area was known as the Washington Territory. There was a splattering of settlers to and fro but certainly no organized community. People were still coming to the Territory by the Oregon Trail and statehood would not occur for another thirty years. The Governor of the Washington Territory at its inception in 1853 was Isaac Stevens and the Native Americans far outnumbered white settlers. Dominant tribes in the area were the Kwaialik, Kwalhloqua, Sahowamish and Cowlitz and they must have been fascinated by the huge barn being built near their villages.

The barn, in fact, was built the year the Civil War began and during the first five years of its existence quite a few soldiers could be seen marching along the Littlerock Road as traffic increased between Vancouver to the South and Tumwater to the North.

The Pony Express surely sent riders along the main road having begun in 1860 and at some point in 1863 word of the Gettysburg Address must have reached the Rutledge farm. I’m certain the newly invented lightbulb by Thomas Edison must have illuminated the area sometime in the 1880s and I have no doubt there was a celebration when Washington was declared a state in 1889.

Twenty-nine Presidents have ascended to office since the old barn was built and one wonders how long after Henry Ford invented his Model T that the first of those noisy contraptions drove by the little rock in front of the farmhouse?

This was a self-sustaining time for newcomers to the Washington Territory. The nearest town, Tumwater, was eight miles away, not an easy trip by wagon, so farmers and homesteaders learned to provide for themselves and not rely on government for assistance. If you had a problem you handled it; if you had a need you found a way to supply it. Today’s modern movement toward self-sustaining was not a movement at all in the 1860s but rather a way of life. The preachers in the area might say on Sundays that the Lord shall provide but farmers knew that they needed to give the Lord a hand or nothing was going to happen.


Bev and I found the Rutledge farm purely by accident while in the middle of a quiet Sunday drive in the country. We came to the town of Littlerock, turned left and after a mile of driving sighted a magnificent structure rising out of the farmland. We pulled into the driveway with the purpose of taking some pictures and were immediately greeted by Dale Rutledge and his son who have lived on that farm all of their lives. Dale is now in his nineties and a nicer man you will never meet.

We were given a tour of the barn and then invited into the farmhouse and what was supposed to be a ten minute picture stop turned into an hour-and-a-half history lesson. As we walked through the barn the craftsmanship was apparent at every turn. Many of the original tools and farming implements, unused for decades, were tucked away in corners. The sunlight filtered through spaces in the roof, the original roof, and there was a surreal quality to the whole tour. That roof had withstood the Great Snowstorm of 1916, the Blizzard of 1950, the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, the tornado outbreak of 1972 and countless other attacks by Mother Nature over the years.

These old structures were built to last. The Rutledge home and barn withstood earthquakes in 1872, 1909, 1936, 1939, a 7.3 quake in 1946 and a 6.5 quake in 1965, sustaining minor damage in each but never brought to the ground. They are a testament to a simpler time when man took on the problems of the day with determination and know-how and relied on very little else for existence.


Yes, I love old barns! I am a huge proponent for a self-sustaining lifestyle and in the years to come I believe many of us will need to embrace that lifestyle to withstand the vagaries of the economic and political systems. I love the idea of tackling life with few extras and relying only on loved ones to get by. I love the idea of raising your own food and having all that you need on your property. Most of all, though, I love the idea of a simpler life, whittling down one’s lifestyle so that the important things in life, like family and social values, are at the top of our priority list.

My thanks to the Rudledge men who graciously allowed Bev and I to share part of a sunny afternoon with them. Father and son are the keepers of a legacy that began in 1853 and is still being written today. It was fascinating and heartwarming to visit with these fine gentlemen and listen to them proudly share the past with us.

2012 Bill Holland (aka billybuc)

Visit this site to read another great hub about barns:

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hey, anonymous, thanks for the heads up. I didn't know he had died. He was a good man.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Was just searching for some history on the Rotledgefarm, after reading of the death of Dale Rutledge in the paper today, and came across your post. Wonderful article. Thank you for writing it. Here is a link to the obituary of Mr. Rutledge.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Devin, that is very cool. He was a gracious gentleman when we visited and I love that barn and house. Thanks for letting me know.

    • profile image

      Devin 5 years ago

      I love the photo's you have taken of the farm! Dale Rutledge is my great grandfather, and it's nice to know that somebody appreciates the land. :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Gail! You have to see this barn to believe it; I think Bev and I need to return to it; the inside is amazing.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Came here through Irc's hub about barns and am glad I did. I, too, love old barns and have always been fascinated by them.

      I enjoyed reading the details about how this particular barn was constructed in a manner that has given it the foundation to last for more than a century and a half. The fact that it is still being used is amazing.

      I also loved the way you "happened" upon the barn during a Sunday afternoon drive with Bev. It's always fun to follow an instinctive urge to photograph something and then end up being welcomed by the owners.

      Thanks for sharing this with us.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting.

      Hub Hugs,


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, you are very correct in that statement. Now that I am a writer I see things differently. I'll go for a walk and see a normal day occurrence somewhere and it will job a memory and an article is born. It's really strange how it happens but my mind is constantly seeing things in terms of a possible article.

      It is very cool!



    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 5 years ago from Central Florida

      How heartwarming! If only we could live that way today! Yes, the Rutledge family lives off their land; that is what has come to be their history.

      Isn't it amazing, Bill, how once you determine to be a writer you see everything in a different light? You have your camera at the ready and each vision you experience is if you've never experienced it before!

      History is borne of creative thinking. Creativity is borne of the past, present and future. Life is a circle to be enjoyed and put to use. We just need to learn to see life through the eyes of the writer!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Carol; we spend a lot of time prowling cemeteries, too, but I won't write one about that. :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, I sometimes think I was born in the wrong era. I can so see myself living on that farm 100 years spirit is restless, trapped in 2012. :) Thank you as always my dear; I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      I love barns and hate cemeteries. I always enjoy learning new things from you so voted up.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      Bill, this was absolutely a beautiful and very informative read about the Rutledge farm and barn. It sounds like the family were so very nice to you and Bev, even giving you a bit of a history lesson along the way. Definitely very interesting to read all the acts of god and mother nature that this property withstood over the years and could see in your eyes how intriguing this way of life can truly be. Voted up, shared and of course tweeted too :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Michelle! One of our favorite things to do is drive in the country and look at old barns. So much history and incredible architecture. :)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      I love an old barn....something so rustic is rare in Singapore (let's just say it can't be found anymore unless it's conserved.) So I share your sentiment here! Must say the Rutledge farm looks absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      RT, I hope you can visit our fine state some day; the barn will still be here waiting for you. Thank you for the visit to my site!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      The old barn is well below my usual visits to the continental USA's farthest corner from the SE, but it sounds like an interesting visit if we ever get down there from up there! Thanks for highlighting the Thomas Rutledge house and barn with photos and information.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Blossom; I'm glad you enjoyed it. We'll be visiting more this summer and I'm sure there will be another hub or two about our new discoveries.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 6 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Old barns are special and filled with many childhood memories. Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Teaches, I'm slightly surprised by the number of people who share fond memories of old barns. It seems many of us have great memories associated with them. Thank you as always my friend and have a peaceful and love-filled weekend.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 6 years ago

      I guess the barn was built to last! It is amazing how using pegs can stand up to modern day construction methods. Growing up in the midwest, farming was a big part of everyone's lifestyle. Many red barns were the site for play, family celebrations and church meetings. Enjoyed your hub and it is so well written.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Eddy, I would be honored if you continue to call me Billy. :) And if I inspire you then I am humbled. Thank you dear friend!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      I know where you are coming from;the same as I can picture mine and Dai's farm.

      Thank you so very much for sharing this part of your life because I love it and this in turn inspires me also.

      Are you really sure you don't mind me calling you Billy ;please say if you do.Even though you've just said you don't mind. Oh dear we make hard work out of nothing at times don't we??ha ha ha !!

      Take care


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Eddy, you are one of the few who I do not ask to call me Bill...when you say Billy it seems just right and that pleases me. Thank you as always! I have been fascinated with old barns since I was very young and I can still today recall that unique smell that I find in each barn upon visiting.

      Bev and I have agreed that when we buy a piece of property for our future farm, and if it has just one building on it when we purchase it, that we want that one building to be a barn. We can live in a tent until finances allow us to build a home, but the barn is a must. :) Have a wonderful day my friend! Love and peace always!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Oh yes Billy another great read;you have the knack of making the reader feel that they are there with you.

      What a fascinating hub;I also remember with fondness the old barn on my grandmother's farm when I was small. I used to play in there and would always be joined by a few hens sometime or other.

      I can also remember the smell of hay;hens;and a mingling of so many others too but a great smell never to be forgotten.

      Thank you so much Billy for sharing your day out at the Rutledge Farm with us.

      I needed something today to lift me up a little ;sharing this with you and bringing back the memories of my grandmother's farm has done just this.

      Thank you so very much Billy my dear friend.


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Natasha, what a fascinating young woman you are, so knowledgeable and appreciative of history. I love it! Thank you for taking the time to educate us all.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sueswan, you are very welcome! Thanks for joining us on our drive in the country.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dmop, I appreciate you dropping by; I think quite a few of us have similar fond memories. Take care my friend and wishing you peace and happiness along your journey.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 6 years ago from Hawaii

      This is particularly for dagoglund, but everyone else, too. Yes, nails were expensive, but not as rare as many would lead us to believe. Using pegs, or trunnels (a combintion of the words "tree" and "nail") is fast, easy and actually more secure in a wood frame structure. Nails work loose with time because wood swells and shrinks with changes in temperature and humidity. Trunnels, since they are cut from the same proverbial cloth, experience the same changes and continue to hold the structure fast.

      Part of my job is working in a reconstructed wood frame building!

    • profile image

      Sueswan 6 years ago

      Hi Billy

      What a wonderful experience.

      Thank you for sharing your Sunday afternoon at the Rutledge farm.

      Voted up and away!

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 6 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      As a kid I was always out in the barn or the woods behind our house. I have a lot of fond memories in that old barn, so I know just what you mean about barns. Voted up and awesome.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruby, my pleasure as always. So glad you enjoyed it and thank you my friend.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Tammy, my grandparents had a massive barn in Iowa and I could spend hours in it by myself playing as only children do. Great memories and I'm glad you found something in this hub that brought good memories to you.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, I think the people turned off by cemeteries far outnumbers those of us who like them. Barns, on the other hand, are special to everyone or so it seems. Thank you very much!

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 6 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Great old barn. I like the video on how to build them. Nice to see barns from the past still standing. Great hub! Thanks for the history of such a great old place.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Very neat construction! When I was about 5 I moved into a house with a very old barn. I fell in love with it. The sun shone in the cracks and heated up the hay and I will never forget that smell. There was a rope swing and it was so fun.

      I too love cemetaries. The older the better. I thought I was the only one on the planet that enjoyed walking through them. I live in a gold mine of gravesites from the Revolutionary and Civil wars.

      Great hub that made me stop and think about some things I am very fond of that I hadn't thought about in a long time. :)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Great photos!! Old barns are interesting, I'm not a fan of cemeteries. I watched too many scary movies as a youngen. UP! Awesome!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Fennel, it is a beauty, isn't it? We are going to do more exploring this summer and see what other treasures we can find. Thank you as always for stopping by and leaving a meaningful comment.

    • Fennelseed profile image

      Annie Fenn 6 years ago from Australia

      Billybuc, I'm with you, barns and cemeteries do it for me too, though our barns are known as sheds and in particular shearing sheds. The Rutledge farm is an amazing piece of history - continuing, and so good that it still belongs to the original family. The old barn is just amazing and dare I say it but they don't build them like that anymore, to last!!!' The nail less timber work in the roof looks brand new.

      I like your comparison to the settlers way of life and what has now become a trendy 'alternative' - sustainable living. I also love the idea of a simpler life where "family and social values, are at the top of our priority list".

      Great inspiration for a very fine hub. Thank you for SHARING! My votes to you, from Fennelseed.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dahoglund, you may be correct about the ethnic part; another Hubber was telling me that in Louisiana they can tell the difference in an English building as opposed to a French building in a particular type of beam they used...I'm learning as I go and it is all fascinating to me. Thank you for dropping by and sharing that insight.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I may be mistaken but I believe pegs were used a lot in the early days,probably because nails were not available.Barns in the mid west are often neglected because farmers have found more economical buildings.Something interesting about them.It might be the different styles reflecting various ethnic immigrants.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Natasha, you may be a nerd but you are a lovely nerd and you can visit me anytime you want to spread your nerdiness on historical matters. :) You have a bounty of fascinating facts about history and I am very appreciative that you continue to follow me.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 6 years ago from Hawaii

      Awesome pictures! I didn't know that's how they constructed barns out that way, too. Using trunnels is a good, old technique I talk to people about a lot. I also love the old-style English lack of ridge beam. The French traditionally used a giant ridge beam, while the English did not. This actually helps architectural historians in Louisiana determine whether a structure was built by English or French settlers! (I may or may not be a nerd for historic construction techniques...)

      Voted up and interesting!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Marcy; it is an amazing building and I'm glad I got some good shots of it. I greatly appreciate you and all the help you give to newcomers and veterans alike.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 6 years ago from Planet Earth

      Sign me up for the Love Old Barns Club, too! We had a ramshackle barn (several, actually) when I was a kid, and the smells and look of them bring back memories. Billy, your photos are great - I especially like the one with light pouring through the vertical slats! Very effective perspective and composition!

      Voted up, beautiful and interesting!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ardie, the next time I'm in your neck of the woods I will do just that...thanks as always for being so faithful!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Audra, my pleasure, and thanks for stopping by on your first day back from vacation!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Susan! It is amazing to see in person, all constructed using wooden pegs.

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 6 years ago from Neverland

      NO NAILS?! Very cool Bill. I have an old barn too but it isn't nearly as impressive as the one with no nails. However it does have that musty, grease smell from the tractors. You are welcome to visit it if you like :)

    • profile image

      iamaudraleigh 6 years ago

      It is pretty interesting that the barn was built with wood pegs and not nails. Washington state sounds beautiful! I hope to visit there some day :) Thank you for sharing an experience and ahistory lesson. I found this hub to pretty neat! Voted up!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      That's amazing. I love old barns too. I've never seen one constructed this way before. Thanks for sharing this.

      Up interesting and awesome!


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