Farm families preserve history; repurposed home, sheds roll down Highway 95

This 1967 farmhouse made an unusual sight as a truck hauled it away from its former home on 115th Avenue in Greenbush Township to a new location on Mille Lacs County Road 5.

Two big pole sheds and a house, each on a separate flatbed truck and trailer, created a rare sight as the caravan pulled out from 115th Avenue in Greenbush Township shortly after 9 a.m. June 20 and traveled about a half mile westward along Highway 95 to the buildings’ new home on Mille Lacs County Road 5.

The caravan carried with it pieces of the past, present and future plus provided an ultimate visual of how to repurpose even big things. The house and sheds move from the former farm home of Leo and Betty Steinhagen to the current farm home of the Shelley family.

The Steinhagens retired from farming and decided last year to donate their rural property so it becomes part of the existing Kunkel Wildlife Management Area. The Steinhagen property grows the conservation area by about 120 acres and perpetually preserves the land and natural plants, wildlife and other features. The status requires that the land be in a completely natural state, with no buildings or other manmade features on it.

The Steinhagen and Shelley families are friends and were neighbors, said Dale Shelley, a generational dairy farmer who works land north of Highway 95. He said the Steinhagens mentioned their pending move into town and asked him if he might be able to use the pole sheds on his farm. The conversation eventually led to a scenario in which everybody is moving.

Dale works on the farm with his mom and dad, Ron and Shirley; wife Tori; and four sons, Alex, Jack, Max and Owen. Dale said his mom and dad are semi-retiring from the farm and will live in the old Steinhagen house, now situated on a new foundation at the corner of Mille Lacs County Road 5 and 40th Street.

He, Tori and their kids will be adding bedrooms onto a shop-type building where they will live. The aging farmhouse, where the Shelleys have mostly been living all together, will become the farm office.

“This was my Dad’s first move in 80 years,” Dale said.

Asked how his parents feel about moving from a place they’ve lived so long, he said “excited.” Ron’s parents, Albert and Regina, paid $8,000 to establish an 80-acre farm in 1923. They raised nine kids in the Shelley house, and then Ron and Shirley eventually bought the farm from them. They raised a family of six kids in the house, and the farm has now grown to include about 1,500 owned acres and 1,500 leased acres.

Dale said the Steinhagens built his parents’ “new” home in 1967. It is about 28 feet by 38 feet and consists of a story and a half. He said “it is beautiful” inside, and it even traveled down the highway with the satellite-TV dish still attached to the roof. The families have been coordinating and working on the project for well over six months.

“At the end of March, I already had the (house) basement dug,” said Dale.

The home handlers, Marcus Movers, were at the former Steinhagen property for seven days preparing the three buildings to be moved. He said they inserted rod-like tools at either end of the house to break up the foundation and to hold up the home. They then slid in cribbing supports a bit like blocks of a big Jenga game. Support beams underneath the house served as a temporary foundation as a hydraulic jack lifted the structure up and placed in on the flatbed trailer.

“The house weighed 60,000 pounds,” Dale said.

He said the Marcus professionals followed the same procedure to lift and move the two sheds, buildings about 32 feet by 54 feet and 40 feet by 72 feet. Dale said they will house cows and calves. While the house required a concrete foundation, preparation for the sheds involved only digging holes for the building supports.

Dale said the families feel it is important to repurpose big, useful items whenever possible, but the re-use saved a lot of money, too. Even with the expense of moving the buildings, he estimates the total cost for the three structures comes in at about one-quarter of what he might have paid for new-construction buildings.

While Dale and the Shelleys did quite a bit of the preparation work for the moves themselves, there was a procession of interested parties on the day big buildings rolled down Highway 95. East Central Energy sent a few crews to cut power to adjacent lines and be on standby. Marcus movers had the three big hauling trucks and several other vehicles to help.

The Shelleys had arranged for two Minnesota State Troopers to help block off the roadway for a few minutes. When one got called to another assignment at the last minute, the Shelleys just used big farm implements to block the roadway like a squad car would have.

Dale said it was a big and exciting day for everyone, but he was most moved by the surprise reception the family members received at the farm when they arrived with the buildings.

“When we pulled into the yard to set the house down, there were over 100 neighbors there,” Dale said, so they proceeded to serve everybody lunch, say thanks, respect history and celebrate the new locations.


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