The Rum River Barn & Vineyard is a great representation of the history and settlement of Central Minnesota. The land was first recorded in 1855 and in 1858 was claimed by Cadwallader C. Washburn; a soldier, lawyer, and businessman who would go on to be the 11th Governor of Wisconsin and owner of the Minneapolis Milling Company, which would later be known as General Mills. In 1900, the land was sold to John Pillsbury, 8th Governor of Minnesota, businessman and philanthropist.
At this time, Minnesota was growing rapidly as settlers moved west and took part in the logging industry. The White Pines of Minnesota were known to be 200 feet tall and six feet in diameter. They provided lumber for railways across the state and the construction of cities out-of-state like Denver and New Orleans.
The banks of Tibbett's Brook at the Rum River Barn & Vineyard were created by the Tibbett's Logging Company. They used it to transport the pine logs from the prestigious forests of the Golden Triangle to the Rum River and down to the Twin Cities. There were logging camps on the banks and remnants remain from their stay over a century ago.
The land on which the Rum River Barn & Vineyard sits was settled in 1914 by Norwegian immigrants, Sigvart and Helga Selmer. They built a one-room house which still remains as the bridal dressing room. They started a family right away and had 3 children; Walter, Harold and Selma.
The Selmer family logged and manicured the land and prepared fields for crops and farming. They lived off of wood heat, had outdoor outhouses and used oil lamps.
Tibbett's Brook provided much needed resources for the Selmer family and their neighbors. They caught minnows and fish and utilized the banks of the creek for hunting and trapping, which in turn gave them food, clothing and means for trading.
The children attended school down the street in a one-room schoolhouse. Later they attended the high school in Milaca.
In 1929, the Selmers hired locals to build a new two-story house for them. This was a great stimulation for the local economy during the Great Depression. The home was considered to be one of the nicest properties in the area and the Selmers were highly regarded as a good family with good values.
If folks didn't know the Selmers for their property or personal values, perhaps they would have noticed Sigvart for his transportation preferences. The family had plenty of horses, but Sigvart was partial to riding around on a bull! Even on a long trek to North Dakota he rode there and back on a bull.
In 1932, Sigvart and his sons, Walter and Harold found a large white pine that was left behind from the logging days. It was so big that it took seven horses to pull the log up to the farm. They patiently allowed the log to dry for ten years and then milled it using hand saws. After the lumber sat for an additional ten years, it was used in the construction of the White Barn. The west roof was sheeted entirely by the pine tree and the east roof with another. Notably, all of the original structures at the Rum River Barn were built from oak and pine from the property. Virgin white pines and old oak groves still remain on the land.
Later, in 1957, Harold and the surrounding neighbors began the process of clearing the way to run electricity to their homes. They logged 4.5 miles of trees with hand saws from their properties to the trails and roads off Highway 169. By 1959, they had water and power to their homes.
Sigvart Selmer stayed on the farm until he died in 1959. The property was passed on to Harold, who remained on the farm for the rest of his life. He kept busy with farming; first sheep and pigs, then dairy cattle. He switched operations in 1980 to beef cattle to help alleviate the amount of labor involved.
Harold Selmer sold the property to the Carvin Buzzell family in 2003 and lived in the home until he passed away in 2008.
In 2003, Buzzell took over the operations and began converting the property to become a winery and an event destination to share the history of the farm. Three acres of vineyards were planted with 14 grape varietals from the University of Minnesota.
On the property you will see remnants of the historical farm. At the entry sits the horse-driven plow the Selmers brought from Norway. It was used to clear the vast wooded area to create open land for crops. The old horse-drawn scoop shovel that was used (for six weeks) to dig the hole for the basement of the house can also be seen. Tools, two-person hand saws and hay sickles have stood the test of time, as well as oil lamps and wood-burning stoves bringing to mind the hard work and diligence that made this place what it is today.
In 2006 Rum River Barn and Vineyards hosted the first wedding event. Today, the Rum River Barn & Vineyard is Minnesota’s premier country and barn event venue for weddings and special events.
Rum River Barn and Vineyards is the “Original Barn and Country special events venue in Minnesota”. Operating under the same ownership since 2003 “longer than any other Barn and Country venue in Minnesota.”