The Great Barn of Coralan Farm

Menominee County, Michigan

Click the image above to see a larger photograph.

The place dear to my heart was called Coralan Farm, which represented a melding of the words "Corey" and "land." It was settled in 1882 by my great grandfather, Hiram Corey. My father, Kenneth Corey, was born on the farm in 1915, as was my oldest sister, Judy, nearly 30 years later. The Corey roots went deep on that piece of Upper Peninsula land.

The farm is located three miles east of Stephenson, in Menominee County. The barn was built by my grandfather, Homer Corey, of timber cut from the land. The double-thick, 40’ by 70’ stone basement wall cost $70, the frame, another $500. When it was finished the great barn was the best in the area for many years. My father, would later write in his journal, "I have always believed the reason my dad wanted the farm to stay in the family was because of the barn."

My dad loved the farm – and the great barn – as much as his father before him. He took over the farm in 1938 and two years later brought his bride, Mille Palmer, there. Together they made many improvements. The barn was immaculately maintained. Wood flooring was replaced with concrete. Stanchions, automatic drinking cups, a manure-cleaning system, and more stalls were added. An addition on the east end housed heifers. A silo room and steel Martin silo were added on the north side. A big window added light to a new block milkhouse on the south side where the bulk tank and milking equipment were kept spotless. In the early 1960s, an addition was built on the west end of the barn to provide box stalls for cows due to calve, a row of stanchions for heifers, four off-the-floor calf boxes, and more mow space.

In addition to all the demands of active farming, my parents raised a huge vegetable garden to feed our family (Dad, Mom and five girls), plus two boys who lived with us. We planted a windbreak to shield the buildings from strong westerly winds, landscaped the yard with a variety of trees transplanted from the woods on the farm, and even maintained the roadsides, keeping them clean and free of brush. The crowning touch was Mom’s magnificent flower beds.

More than once, my parents’ Holstein herd was named best in the Upper Peninsula. In addition, Dad earned awards for his conservation practices and crop production on 272 acres without the use of chemicals. Coralan Farm became a popular stop on annual farm tours arranged by the Michigan Milk Producers Association and Michigan Farm Bureau.

Thanks to Mom’s skills, the basic two-story farm house also became a thing of beauty. Indoor bathroom facilities came first and over the years many improvements followed. Mom designed the layout for the open, combined kitchen, dining, and living room areas. Big picture windows faced south to capture the afternoon sun and a red brick fireplace with hearth was built on the north wall. Hardwood flooring gleamed. Mom’s design was featured in a farm magazine.

Coralan Farm was a wonderful place to raise a family and the great barn was the heart of it all. We milked the cows there, filled the mow with hay and straw, and sat up in the night with cows as they calved. But the barn was also a place to build forts of hay, search for newborn kittens, leap from the hay into loose straw, read books by flashlight, and even camp out overnight. All five of us girls shared secrets and dreamed dreams in the great barn.
But, one by one each of my sisters graduated from high school and went away to college. Dad’s health was not good. He and Mom considered ways to keep the farm without having 40 head of cattle to milk twice a day – add more land and take on a partner? Just raise young stock? Convert to beef or maybe even create a "pleasure farm" for city people to visit? Nothing was truly workable. You could say that my dad died twice. The day he turned the farm over to new owners, December 15, 1969, and the day he left this earth, December 18, 1995. When Dad left Coralan Farm he left a piece of himself behind and he grieved the rest of his life.

The farm was sold with great hopes that the young couple who followed would have the same energies and abilities that my parents’ had brought to it. But sadly, they did not. Cattle went unmilked. Crops went untended. Soon, an auction was held and everything was sold off – cattle, equipment, everything. Dad had to turn away when people mentioned it. We stayed away from the sale and wept. The great barn wept too.

Another man bought the farm. For a time he let cattle and pigs run freely in the barn. He rented the house out, sometimes to two families at a time. But loving care was a thing of the past. Scraggly trees have taken root along the stone foundation of the barn. Sections of the roof have failed and rain and snow have turned the haymow into a molding wasteland. Burdocks grow through broken windows. Fences lean, boards have been torn out of the walls. The house desperately needs repair.

Although none of my sisters or I moved back to Upper Michigan, my lifestyle comes closest to what we knew on the farm. I go back to Stephenson once or twice a year, drawn there by some powerful force. I sit in the haymow of the great barn and feel the souls of my great grandfather, my grandfather, and my father there with me.

I have hope in my heart that someone with a spiritual connection to the land will buy the farm and restore it to greatness. That is my fervent prayer for Coralan Farm.

The Great Barn of Coralan Farm today, consumed by destructive trees and their even more destructive roots.

Postscript: Since this story was written in mid-1998 for Michigan Barn Preservation News, the house, barn, and 40 acres of Coralan Farm have been sold to a couple from Chicago, Illinois who are already completely remodeling the house in preparation for retiring there. Their goal is to return the farm to the "showplace it once was," and, since seeing photos of the barn in its prime, plan to restore and preserve it as well. Prayers are being answered.

By Jan Corey Arnett 1998


About the Author: Jan Corey Arnett is the youngest of the five girls who grew up on Coralan Farm. (Her father was the youngest of the five boys born there.) All five girls left Upper Michigan to attend college in Lower Michigan and remained there to pursue careers -- two as teachers, one in government service, one as a nurse, and Jan as a writer. She is an award-winning author and photographer and operates a freelance business called Coralan Communications in addition to writing a newspaper column and doing workshops on preserving family history. (A story which took place on Coralan Farm in the 1960s appears in the April 1999 issue of Guideposts magazine.) Jan can be reached at or (616) 968-2510. She is pictured here with Kenna, named for her father Ken Corey.


Back to The Barn Journal front page.