Discovering Bath barns: Hammond-Cranz farm

Bath Township’s Heritage Corridors of Bath committee manages one of 27 designated scenic byways in the state of Ohio. The Heritage Corridors of Bath byway, established in 2001, covers thirty-nine miles of road located entirely within the township and is designed to tell the story of Ohio’s Western Reserve from the Bath Township perspective: preserve the rural heritage and maintain the bucolic landscapes for all to enjoy.

When on the byway, more than thirty barns are visible with many of them over one hundred years old and several listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The history and heritage of these barns, like many in Ohio, are fading away.

The Bath Township trustees decided to address this trend and in 2023 created a committee – Discover Bath Barns – as a means to preserve and enhance the heritage represented in these barns. This group, part of the larger Heritage Corridors of Bath committee, has partnered with the Bath Country Journal to publish a series of articles about some of the heritage barns one can find on the byway. The first of these articles covers the Hammond-Cranz barns.

Hammond-Cranz farm

The Hammond-Cranz farm is located on Ira Road, bordered on the south by Old Trail School and the north by Ira Cemetery – where several generations of Cranz and Hammond families are buried.

The property and buildings are often referred to as the Hammond-Cranz farm since it was the original property of Jason Hammond and his family and later purchased by William Cranz. The farm includes seven buildings: the farmhouse, two barns, a chicken house, a smokehouse, a cider house and a carriage house.

Hammond history

Jason Hammond and his wife Rachel Hale Hammond purchased 1,100 acres of land in what would become Bath Township in 1810 from Thomas Bull, an investor in the Connecticut Land Company. As they lived in Connecticut, they sent their eldest of three sons, Theodore, to select the land and build a cabin for the family. Today, this tract would be the south side of Ira Rd from Hametown east into the Cuyahoga Valley.

By 1826, Jason had divided most of the land between his sons. Lewis Hammond, Theodore’s younger brother, got the original farmstead in the valley. The Hammond family lived in the original log cabin for 8 years; Jason built a small frame house in 1818 to replace the cabin. This is the center back section of the current house. After Jason’s death in 1830, Lewis built the planned two-story addition to the front of the house in 1833-34, which is most visible from the road.

Lewis’ greatest contribution to his community was the introduction of Shorthorn cattle and Merino sheep to the area. His innovations show a farsightedness and he built a farmstead to facilitate this contribution.

Today, Lewis’ barn is most likely the one closest to Old Trail School. It is a bank barn and although it contains an earthen ramp leading to the central bay, this barn is also banked into the hillside, which helped conserve heat in the winter and cool the lower level, which was where livestock were housed during the summer.

The U.S. Census Products of Agriculture of Bath Township in 1850 shows the Hammond Farm was primarily concerned with raising sheep. Considering that Lewis introduced Merino sheep to the valley, it is reasonable he owned 128 sheep, and only one milk cow at this time.

Lewis died in 1849 of lung disease. His wife followed him a few months later and Hammond’s heirs maintained control over the property until the Cranz family bought it in 1864.

Cranz history

William F. Cranz emigrated with his family from Germany when he was fourteen years old, and settled in Winesburg, Ohio. His father, like William, was a dairy farmer. When William came of age, he set up a saddlery business in Mount Hope, Ohio, was a merchant in Bakersville, and later “took to farming at Freiburg” near his hometown.

The Cranz family bought the property in 1864 and built the smaller barn about that time. The 1870 agriculture census shows that the Cranz farm was more of a dairy operation with 12 milk cows, 33 sheep, 340 pounds of wool, 500 pounds of butter and 4,422 pounds of cheese.

William built a bank barn on the property in 1885. More than likely, he built the one closest to the house, as it is a Sweitzer Forebay bank barn, known as the “original Pennsylvania barn,” which reflects William’s German heritage. This two and one-half story, gabled-roofed structure is characterized by the forebay extension over the ground floor. The ground floor was the livestock area with foundation constructed of sandstone on one side, and concrete blocks on the other three. The second floor, with the forebay extension, is constructed of wood and contains threshing doors, which created air drafts that assist in the winnowing process.

The threshing doors indicate that the central bay, accessed from the earthen ramp on the opposite side, was used for threshing. The roof is covered with corrugated metal, and the barn’s wood frame is covered with vertical plank siding painted red with white trim. Eugene Cranz inherited the farm after William’s death in 1898.

Eugene was a model of the successful and innovative nineteenth-century farmer. He attended The Ohio State University to prepare himself for his career in agriculture. When he began farming, he was active in community and statewide agricultural organizations and once served as the secretary of the Ohio State Grange.

Eugene was known for his agricultural-related conservation efforts and horticultural experimentation. Most prominent was his advocating for conservation within farming. He also joined the reforestation movement and in 1949, his property was dedicated as Ohio Tree Farm No. 81.

In 1985, more than thirty years after his death, he was inducted into the Ohio Conservation Hall of Fame as an instrumental part of replacing the dying American chestnut tree with Chinese evergreens and being active in the exchange of nut tree grafts. The Cranz Hickory was named after him.

Eugene, along with two of his sons, continued to farm on the property until the 20th century. Subsequent to Cranz’s death in 1951, the farm was divided into small homesites consisting of twelve separate land parcels. In 1976, Cuyahoga Valley National Park purchased the remaining property. ∞

Information came from the following sources: CVNP webpage, Hammond-Cranz National Register of Historic Places documents and previous articles on this location.

This two and one-half story barn has corrugated metal roof, and the barn’s wood frame is covered with vertical plank siding painted red with white trim. Photo submitted.

Photo (main/above): The Hammond Cranz barn is a bank barn, built into a hillside. This design cools the lower level of the barn where livestock were housed in the summer. Photo submitted.