Wayne's Memory Barn -
Wayne Stellish stands outside the entrance of his Memory Barn. Photo by Dan Whitney.
Wayne Stellish was born and raised on a farm near Hartley, and lived there with his parents, Louis and Lousetta, until he was 17. At that time the family purchased a farm 6 1/2 miles south and 4 miles east of Cherokee from Ed Gearke - 200 acres for the grand sum of $26,000. Wayne Stellish has continued to live on that same "family farm" southeast of Cherokee since that day in 1937, with the exception of four years in the Air Force during WWII.
While in the service, Wayne was assigned to train with the Royal Air Force in England, and while serving there, met a young lady named Ann , from County Cork. Ireland, and married her in England in 1945.
Stellish returned to the family farm in January 1946, and his "war bride" joined him three months later. He remembers that the young couple were greeted by a crowd at the train depot in Aurelia, and Wayne said it "seemed like the whole town came out" to greet them. Louis built Wayne and Ann a small house on the family farm in 1947, and in 1969, Wayne purchased the larger family house and property from his parents.
Two "firsts" -
This John Deere Series A tractor, the first one Wayne Stellish owned after he began farming, is the largest display item in the Memory Barn. Beside it sits the first (and only) bicycle Stellish owned as a child. Photo by Dan Whitney
Wayne and Ann raised four children - Dennis, Kenneth, Leslie and Nancy - on that farm, and they also raised a lot of hogs. With as many as 1800 head at one point, there were four farrowing houses on the property.
Ann died in 2001 and a couple of years later, the now-retired farmer decided to establish an area to display several artifacts he had collected through the years - memories of a time gone by, life in rural Cherokee County in the 20th Century.
Wayne Stellish worked on his pet project on a regular basis for several years. He cleaned up a former farrowing house on his property - built in 1900 - and filled it with three generations of Stellish family (and other Cherokee County) farm and household items he had collected. He established what he calls his "Memory Barn" in memory of his parents and beloved spouse. Former Chronicle Times reporter Nancy Nelson wrote a feature story on Stellish's barn three years ago, when it was a work-in-progress.
This is the suitcase Ann Stellish brought with her from Ireland when she came over in 1946. Note the original tag designation. Photo by Dan Whitney
Stellish completed his project last year, and it is now open for people to visit by appointment. The Emerald tour group, sponsored by Central Bank, visited the barn last June, and thoroughly enjoyed their "tour." Wayne has welcomed other groups since that time, and would welcome anyone who is interested in seeing "first-hand" what life was like in rural Cherokee County in the 20th Century. The 89-year-old retired farmer keeps his immaculate building under lock and key when there are no visitors, though, so any school, church, senior, or other group or individual who would like to see a bit of Cherokee County history is advised to call Wayne at 712-434-5937 to arrange to see his "memory barn."
Stellish estimated that it should take visitors 90 minutes to go through the exhibits, and I can verify that. When I glanced at my watch at the end of my self-guided "tour," I found that it had taken me EXACTLY 90 minutes, though I could have stayed longer. The visit is well worth the time and effort.
The "Memory Barn" (it is NOT a Museum, says Stellish) is, as I stated earlier, pretty much a self-guided tour, with numbers placed on all the exhibits and correspondingly - numbered information about each item located nearby, so visitors can go at their own pace.
News of the times -
This 1945 newspaper is one of many historic front pages and historic magazines on display at the Memory Barn. Photo by Dan Whitney
Try it out if you're looking for "something different to do" and want to re-kindle your own memories - or share them with your children or grandchildren.