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Highlights Archives

Barns of Theresa Township, Dodge County


The Hilgendorfs farm 300 acres with 55 milking cows and 45 heifers and calves.
WHI 78406

Between April and September 2004, photographer Jim Widmer and his wife Shirley documented the barns and farmers of their vicinity. Traveling the back roads and byways of Dodge County, they took more than 1,000 photographs that they organized into a "Barns of Theresa Township" collection. Widmer photographed the owners with their barns, taking two photographs of each structure and often including entire farm families. Shirley Widmer took notes on addresses and history given to her by the owners. At the end of the project, Jim commented that the owners had become more interesting subjects than the barns because the stories they told or their personalities illustrated the self-sufficiency, creative invention and thrift that characterize Wisconsin rural residents.

'Stepping Into Another Era'

Widmer said that the barn interiors have a magical quality, that stepping into the barns is like "stepping into another era." In the notes associated with the photo albums, he nostalgically recalled the smell of hay and the shafts of light coming through the wooden slats of the walls.

More than 300 of his barn photos are now online in the gallery, Jim Widmer's 'Spirit of Rural Wisconsin,' Part III. The new gallery joins Widmer's other collections on "The Spirit of Rural Wisconsin," Part I, picturing Theresa Township over time, and Part II, about Wisconsin's tradition of Friday fish fry dinners.

:: Posted January 27, 2014

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