A Cathedral in the Wilderness

In 1799, Peter Dunckel built a barn along the road from the Mohawk River to Cherry Valley. The builder had taken an inventory of Dunckel’s woodlot and found some very promising specimens: towering elms, colossal white pines, noble oaks. Trees large enough to build a barn 50 feet wide and 45 feet long. A barn that stood over four stories high. A barn that could be seen for miles.

It’s hard to say why Peter Dunckel built a barn so grand. Certainly he needed a place to store his crops and his animals. But a barn that big? Perhaps there was more to it. It had been barely a decade since the British Army had swept through the valley, spreading terror and burning nearly every house and barn in its path. For Dunckel, a veteran of Oriskany–one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolutionary War–building such a monumental structure may have been his way of saying, “The war is over, let us prosper.”

We’ll never know.