HISTORIC RANCH FIRE: Owners begin recovery of lost barn

COLUMBIA CITY — Smoke rolled across the serene landscape; Laurel Stockamp wandered around the charred timber, inspecting the extensive damage and remembering the tall, long structure as it was more than a week ago. Barrels of hay and ash remain untouched for inspection after a morning fire engulfed Stockamp Ranch’s main bank barn before spreading to the exercise barn and finally the loafing barn.Shaking her head in disbelief at the sight, Laurel said, “Everyone will remember the big fire here.”No people or animals were harmed, and a fragment of the barn was saved as several firefighters fought the blaze from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tom and Laurel Stockamp, the seventh owners of the farm since purchasing it in 1978, said they were in Nashville, Tenn. when the fire began. A neighbor noticed the fire after he returned home from caring for the Stockamps’ three horses, and they were soon contacted about the incident.Laurel said the fifth owners of the property, Alexander and Ruby Campbell, are perhaps its biggest claim to fame. Alexander was the assistant attorney general of the United States under President Harry Truman. He was also a Democratic national committee chairman, who held political meetings at the home on Stockamp Ranch. Truman, President Lyndon B. Johnson and President John F. Kennedy are just a few of the politicians who attended meetings at the house, Tom said.Laurel said the main barn and the house at Stockamp Ranch, built sometime in the 1850s, were both constructed using the land’s surrounding timber. She also said a neighbor described the noise of the old, burning timber as an eerie, screeching sound. “It demonstrated the age of the wood, and it seemed to burn very fast,” said Laurel.Tom and Laurel said they made several changes to the barn and their house over the years, personalizing the ranch to make it their own. While the ranch was well-known for its horses, the Stockamps bought and sold Angus cattle until 1990. They no longer sell cattle, but the ranch includes 208 acres of hay, wheat, beans and corn.Tom said he could not have been happier to raise his four kids on the peaceful, quiet property, working the ranch as a hobby. “When I was growing up down in southern Indiana, we lived in the country, and it always was a desire of mine to get back to the country,” said Tom. “It was my get away.” Although Laurel enjoyed the city life when she was younger, she said nothing can beat the freedom she feels in the open space on Stockamp Ranch.The Stockamps plan to rebuild by putting up a main bank barn, another office and possibly extending the barn. While it was a terrible loss to their ranch, the Stockamps said they are grateful no one was injured.___For a more in depth look at this story, see the March 7 issue of The Post and Mail. Don't have a subscription? Call (260) 244-5153 or subscribe to our e-edition. For breaking news, sports updates and additional coverage, bookmark the homepage and find us on facebook.