2018-04-19 / Front Page

Barn collapses, cows dead

By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff


CLEVELAND TOWNSHIP farmer Bill Olsen was outside working and chewing tobacco as usual Tuesday after his barn collapsed Monday, killing three cows. CLEVELAND TOWNSHIP farmer Bill Olsen was outside working and chewing tobacco as usual Tuesday after his barn collapsed Monday, killing three cows. The mid-spring storm that dumped 20 inches of heavy snow on parts of the Leelanau Peninsula caused havoc to school and work schedules, but proved deadly for three cows in Cleveland Township.

The roof of a 40-year-old barn owned by Bill Olsen at the corner of Bohemian and Ryant roads caved in with a herd of cattle inside. Three of them died.

“It collapsed Monday morning,” Olsen said, “before I got over there to do chores. There were 50 head in there, and three died.”

Olsen lives on Shimek Road about one-half mile away. He farms about 420 acres in what’s referred to as Bohemian Valley with help from his son-in-law Travis Stein. He and his brother, who died three years ago, were once partners in the farm.

The cattle will be put to good use as Olsen butchered them and gave the meat to neighbors. Because of bruising they could not be sold to a market.

“They were hurt really bad and weren’t going to make it,” Olsen said “So, I had to shoot them. I feel pretty bad.”

The barn itself had withstood the winter of 2014 when more than 260 inches of snow fell in Leelanau County, setting the modern-day record. It’s walls were built of cement block that supported wooden trusses that gave way to the weight of moisture-filled snow that fell for four straight days.

A National Weather Service observation station in nearby Maple City recorded 11 inches of snow Friday night. Olsen believes the area around his farm received more.

“We had more than that, probably 14 inches, and then we had the sleet,” Olsen said.

The Olsen family has been farming in Leelanau County for generations. Bill’s grandfather farmed in Port Oneida; his father farmed in Empire Township.

The Bohemian Valley farm came into his family’s hands almost by accident.

“My grandfather use to loan out money during the Depression. He got stuck with it. He was a farmer in Port Oneida. So it’s been in our family since 1937,” said Olsen, who is 69.

He said no equipment was in the barn when the roof fell in.

“It was just the cattle and the barn. We’ll rebuild it. I’ll probably hire a contractor. I’m getting too old to do that stuff myself anymore,” Olsen said.

His wife, Linda, died in January.

“It’s been a tough year,” he said.

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