The fame of the Old Barn began when Edward Allis, founder of the Allis Chalmers Machinery Co. (modern day AGCO) purchased the farmland where the Old Barn Resort now rests.
The farm sat on a hill above the decaying milling town of Clear Grit, which had thrived for a few years in the late 1860’s and 1870’s. The mill at Clear Grit was an expansion site for Preston founder and miller John Kaercher. The town had a barrel factory that made containers for the flour and a narrow gauge railway connecting it to the Southern Minnesota line.
By the end of the 1870’s, however, a grain disease called “wheat smut” damaged much of the crop, and many farmers began to move farther west. John Kaercher found himself overextended financially, and Edward Allis, who had a mechanic’s lien against the mill, became the sole proprietor of the mill in January 1882.
Edward’s son, Jere, came to manage the mill and stayed to farm, raising Poland China hogs, purebred Holstein cattle. When Jere decided to milk Holsteins he built a barn 50 by 100 feet, four stories high, stall room for 75 cattle, with all the modern improvements
Later Jere became interested in race horses and is supposed to have had 20 trotters in his stable that he entered in competition at county and state fairs. In fact, the farm had two private race tracks. The barn was then fitted with a tack room and living quarters for stable hands.
Emma Allis, Jere’s wife, cultivated a variety of flowers, and the farm became a center for social activities, drawing people from miles around for dances, basket socials, ball games and ice skating and skiing in the winter.
Jere and Emma were divorced in 1889, the same year Jere’s father died. Edward left the farm in trust for Jere and his offspring.
Later, Jere and a second wife, Gladys, eventually gained control of the farm but were forced to sell it in 1906 to a local land speculator for a mere $15,000, making it one of the biggest land bargains in Fillmore County history.
Vernon Michel eventually purchased the farm IN 1988, just before the official opening of the Root River State Trail. Vernon’s intentions were to restore the barn to its former glory and develop a campground.
In 1990, following extensive remodeling, repairs and new construction, the barn and farm were transformed into The Old Barn Resort.
Doug Brenna and Shirley Endres purchased the property from Vernon in late 1996, and for 20 years successfully took the business to a more complete Resort feel. They added the 18-hole golf course, remodeled the restaurant and bar, made changes to the pool and patio area and even added numerous campsites.
In May, 2016 Eric Brenna and Travis Dundore, son and son-in-law to Doug Brenna, purchased the Resort aiming to continue the wonderful family owned Resort. Eric and Travis only look to enhance the property making sure all guests continue to enjoy what was originally created.