Thomas Alma Moulton claimed land in Jackson Hole in 1807, spending five years to prove up on the homestead, building a small cabin, and beginning the process of turning the land into a home for the family he brought to the area in 1912. The following year he began building a barn, a flat-roofed shelter for his team of horses, Don and Saylor. At the time the barn was capped with shocks of grain to keep at least some of the snow and rain from filtering through the roof.
It took Alma Moulton and his sons, Clark and Harley, more than 30 years to complete the barn. In addition to adding a hayloft and gable roof, they added one lean-to for horses, including animals used to pull the mail wagon from Jackson to Moran, and another where they raised hogs and other livestock.
Today this national icon that some have called the most photographed barn in America catches the eye of photographers and the interest of wedding parties who seek to savor a bit of the “Old West” that typifies Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott and her staff will join Moulton family members and friends, as well as artists and history aficionados, to celebrate a milestone event: the 100th anniversary of the Thomas Alma Moulton barn on Mormon Row.
On July 20 the Moulton family will join Grand Teton National Park for a day of history, storytelling, tours, art and music to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the T. A. Moulton barn.
As part of the day’s events, remarks will be made by Scott, Teton County Commissioner Paul Vogelheim and Jerry Moulton, a grandson of T.A. Moulton. If his schedule allows, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead will join the festivities and serve as keynote speaker.
A concurrent celebration open to the public and hosted by T.A. Moulton’s descendants on their adjoining ranch will include raffles and a silent auction. All proceeds from the family event will benefit the T.A. Moulton Barn Centennial Preservation Fund managed by the Grand Teton National Park Foundation.
Harrison Goodall, a veteran historic preservation specialist, will lead a group of skilled volunteers in completing critical conservation work on the historic barn during the preceding week.
T.A.’s son Clark Moulton often said, “If I had a nickel for every picture that was taken of that barn, I’d be rich.” Therefore, preceding the July 20 events, Jackson Hole Historical Society & Museum (JHHSM) will conduct a fundraiser for future restoration work through a public art show called “A Nickel for the Barn.” The JHHSM is calling upon all artists — amateur and professional — to submit original art with images of Mormon Row for a public exhibit. All proceeds will go to the T.A. Moulton Barn Centennial Preservation Fund that will be managed through the Grand Teton National Park Foundation. Installation of submitted pieces will take place today at the JHHSM building on North Cache in Jackson, and an opening reception will be held from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday.
When Thomas Alma Moulton claimed his homestead on Mormon Row in 1907 he was 24 years old and not married, but by the time he moved permanently to Jackson Hole to live in a 14x18 foot cabin with a sod roof, he brought his wife Lucile and baby son Clark. The trip from Idaho to Jackson Hole was in a wagon pulled by the family’s team of horses, Don and Saylor. They trailed Sally, Lucile’s buckskin mare, and a cow and calf. The five animals and the wagon represented their stake as Alma and Lucile started their homesteading life together on Mormon Row.
While they had their small home, Alma and Lucile knew that a shelter for the animals was equally important. Alma’s barn is of the style common to the era and is not particularly unique in any way. No thought was given to how to match the angle of the mountains behind it, only the best way to protect the animals against the harsh weather common in Jackson Hole.
The logs for the barn came from Timber Island and were skidded home using the team of horses the barn would ultimately house, in a sense meant the horses helped build their own home, just as Alma had built his. The first section of the barn was laid out in an 18 feet wide by 24 feet long box, 12 rows of logs high. The roof was flat, made with slabs Alma got from the sawmill in the nearby town of Kelly. The barn was in this configuration for nearly 20 years.
In 1928, Alma and his son Clark, who was then 16 added five more rows of logs to make a hayloft, and a half pitch roof on the original box-like structure. In 1934, they added a lean-to for the horses used on the mail run from Jackson to Moran Junction.
By 1939 the family’s livestock had outgrown the available space. So Clark and his 18-year-old brother, Harley, built a hog barn on the north side, topping it with a tin roof. The family’s dairy operation took place in the original center section, and the horses used the south side lean-to.
Over the years, photographers of the Moulton barn have graced thousands of cards, magazines, jigsaw puzzles and newspapers. It was also featured in the Hollywood classic, Spencer’s Mountain starring Henry Fonda. The Moultons watched in amazement while Fonda arrived to their barn one day during filming the movie. In the first stall on the south side of the barn, Fonda struggled to milk the cow, Blossom, a chore any self-respecting 8-year-old could do on the ranch.
Alma Moulton sold most of his homestead to the National Park Service in 1960 so today the T. A. Moulton Barn is located within Grand Teton National Park. He had earlier deeded a piece of the homestead to his son Clark, and that part of the ranch remains in Clark’s family ownership.
Because the barn itself is in the Park, it is easily accessible to anyone wishing to visit….and take a photo.
For more information about the T.A. Moulton barn and life on Mormon Row, along with historic photos, please visit the Web at www.TheMoultonBarn.com . ❖