Three Generations of Barn Workers: The Stitt Family

By Julie Avery and Stephen Stier

Abridged from an article in the MBPN News based on a series of barn-worker interviews done for the MSU Museum. See Michigan Barn Preservation Network, Newsletters, Summer 1996-Volume 4 for the complete text.

Sam Stitt II, his sons, their sons and families represent over 100 years of experience in barn work from painting to structural straightening; general repair to complete restoration.

As teens Sam II and brother Percy took on a major job of combining two barns into one and changing the roof line—all for a price of $600. After Sam married and began a family, painting barn roofs became a summertime occupation that complemented his year-round ministering and wintertime logging.

The Stitt sons credit their father for their interest in barn repair and restoration work. Of ten children, five of the six sons are in the building trades and four work with barns. These brothers and their families are among the small group of specialists reclaiming Michigan’s historic barns.

Sam III, wife Peggy, and Sam IV represent a second and third generation family in barn repair. Son Sam IV with a degree from Ferris State University in construction management works with his father as time permits. Peggy has her builder’s license and serves as a model to Sam IV’s wife Jennifer as they work side by side painting and repairing.

The youngest of the four brothers, Mike is especially interested in restoration of barns, "…not just fixing it, but putting barns back into their original state." Mike helped to create a timber framing exhibit with the MSU Museum which was shown for several years at the Michigan State Fair.

Terry Stitt another of Sam II’s sons also followed in the family tradition and painted his first barn at age twelve and at 19 had his own rig and was off painting, "…thousands of barn roofs." Today Terry’s work involves a wide range of repair as well as stabilizing, straightening and adapting barns. "I’ve never done the same thing to two different barns, " states Terry." They are all different."

Pat, the oldest son with his sons Tony and Mark represents another second and third generation working together. Pat views his work with barns as a challenge that he loves. Traditional post and beam barns are a "beautiful idea—a great feat of engineering."

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