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Taking a trip into the past

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
The barn shelter at Briggs Woods Park near Webster City in Hamilton County was built after the Briggs family settled in the area in 1862 and is the only remaining building from their farm.

WEBSTER CITY — There are several amenities to enjoy while visiting Briggs Woods Park near Webster City in Hamilton County: camping, golfing, kayaking and exploring trails.

There is also an opportunity to take a step back in time and enjoy a piece of history.

The barn shelter at Briggs Woods Park is the only remaining building from the Briggs family that settled in the area in 1862.

According to history provided by Hamilton County Conservation, Ulysses Briggs, or Ulis as he was called, came with his family at that time to a farm along the bank of the Boone River, just south of Webster City.

Ulis Briggs became a stonemason and realized the great need for lime to make cement. He had discovered good limestone along the river before he moved, so he built a kiln in which he heated the stone and crushed it to produce lime.

The kiln was located on the south side of the Boone River about a quarter-mile downstream from where the Northwestern Railroad Bridge crosses the river today.

He built a large frame house near where the present barn shelter is located.

Later, in 1919 Ulis Briggs’ eldest daughter, Thirza Briggs Aldrich transferred 60 acres of the farmstead to the Hamilton County Supervisors to establish the park.

This gift contained three special provisions. One was that her brother Frank Briggs and his wife Grace could live in the farmhouse for the rest of their lives and Frank could graze his cattle in the pasture. Frank Briggs was required to keep the fences in good condition.

Another provision was Charles Briggs could harvest firewood from the park for his personal use during the remainder of his life and the third condition was Aldrich requested the county never allow any hunting in the park.

Brian Lammers, executive director for Hamilton County Conservation said he has been told the barn was once used as the county’s conservation headquarters building for a time.

“They used to hold board meetings in the basement,” he said. “The basement was also used as shop type building for staff to work on and repair equipment.”

Later, the main level of the barn was converted to a rentable lodge facility. A concrete floor was put in at that time.

In 2005, the barn received a new roof, new windows, doors and paint in preparation, Lammers said for the 50th anniversary of the Hamilton County Conservation Board formation in 1956.

The barn received more attention in 2019 in time for the 100th anniversary of Briggs Woods Park.

Although it has been kept up through the years, Lammers said it is in dire need of attention.

“The foundation is getting weaker,” he said. “One day, we hope to find the funding needed to renovate and preserve the barn, but time will tell.”

In the meantime, the barn shelter is a rentable lodge facility featuring electricity, water faucet, an outdoor charcoal grill, picnic tables and a fire ring circle gathering area.

The barn shelter, which overlooks the lake and is along 5.7 miles of paved hiking trail, is available April 1 through Oct. 31.

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