SHERIFF BEGOLE is close to completing this labor of love, a 1,792-square-foot barn he has spent the past six years building out of reclaimed lumber harvested from around Shiawassee County. Brian has made an effort to include as many local historical items in constructing the barn, including the rounded windows (from a carriage house in Owosso), a sliding barn door from Duane Tune and two metal cupolas made by Thomas Paul Kinney that came out of the Hankinson barn on Britton Road.
The middle cupola, which is 12-feet tall and made of wood, was custom-built by Undersheriff Butch Brancheau. The siding used to cover the barn was harvested from several Shiawassee County barns. Inside, the antique mason jar light fixtures (inset) were provided by Brian Barnes, while the chandeliers came from a church on Barnes Road.
(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
Brian BeGole grew up on his parents’ 420-acre farm in Antrim Township, in the southern portion of Shiawassee County, where he spent many summer days baling and bucking hay, or playing in the Looking Glass River that runs through the property. The family farm, which was the pride and joy of Brian’s father, George, was named Farm of the Year in 1986.
As a law enforcement veteran of more than 25 years, Brian has not had time to run the farm. He does, however, still call the family estate his home. Brian had a house built at the south end of the family estate along the river, where he and his wife, Tammy, are raising their children.
Though he has tried to suppress his hay baling memories, Brian fondly recalls the times he spent working and exploring on the family farm. Those memories inspired Brian to dream of constructing his own “old-fashioned” barn, an idea he had ruminated over for many years but did not think was possible.
In the meantime, Brian decided to tackle a more manageable project: building a bridge spanning the nearby river. Using wood harvested from abandoned or dilapidated local barns, Brian spent a summer building a covered wooden bridge that his family uses to this day.
After completing the bridge, Brian realized, “If I can build this, I can build a barn.” And so, in the spring of 2012, Brian began putting his plan into motion.
He enlisted the design abilities of Carl Roll, who created the initial sketch on graph paper. He then set to work harvesting lumber – especially hand hewn wood from the days before sawmills – from barns across Shiawassee County.
Brian began by gathering materials. Through his connections in law enforcement and lifelong relationships with his neighbors, Brian was able to harvest, tear down or purchase barns from many Shiawassee County residents.
Brian repurposed materials from the Leroy Hankinson farm on Britton Road, the family of Ivan Brant in Lennon, Dave Zsigo in Lennon, Cliff Leader, Rusty Thomas, Duane Tune on State Road, Sam McLaren, Dutcher Farms on Bennington Road, George Zmitko, the Snyder family in Perry Township, Todd Otto on Escott Road, Doug Kline, the Edye Company in Bancroft, Joel Glass in Vernon Township, the family of Brian Lawrence on Henderson Road, Steve Sherry on Buck Road, Duane Ballard on County Line Road, Leo Potter in Laingsburg, and Brian Barnes.
Brian also had a lot of help in constructing the barn, with Paul Gross and Justin Lezovich being the two biggest contributors. He was also assisted at certain points by Steve “Punky” Cromwell, Undersheriff Butch Brancheau, Sam Safi, Joe Wesley, Jeff Stoutenberg, Rick Lewis, Eric Cleveland, Rob Cole and Tim Hubble.
The barn is 1,792 square feet in size, with a loft, three cupolas, hayloft doors and weathervanes, among many other unique features. Brian is a bit of a history buff, so the barn is full of unique, dated pieces that Brian has collected over the years; from antique chandeliers that hung in a church on Barnes Road, to the rounded windows that came from a carriage house in Owosso. Also, in a nod to his adolescence and to go with the hayloft doors, the barn’s décor will include a hay trolley and hayforks.
Many of Brian’s neighbors who have watched him build the barn over the last six years wonder what the grand structure will be used for. Some assume it will be a wedding venue, others a bar. For Brian, however, this was never about what he would do with the barn. He probably will not host weddings, and he certainly does not have the time to run a bar. He is putting the finishing touches on the barn right now, so there will be plenty of time to decide what purpose the building will serve once he is done.
With the barn nearing completion, Brian is beginning to realize the significance of his project. “It is nice to see the neighborly help from so many people,” Brian said. “I really appreciate everyone who helped, donated or inquired about how the barn was coming. I saw a lot of smiles along the way, when families realized that their barn would live on and wasn’t going to waste away. That was really rewarding.”