The University of Wisconsin Press

Agriculture / History / Wisconsin

The Round Barn: A Biography of an American Farm, Volume One
Silo and Barn, Milkhouse, Milk Routes
Jacqueline Dougan Jackson

“Perhaps the fullest, most concrete history of the heyday of the American family dairy farm. It is a Tocqueville of the barn and pasture and big house, the milk route, the cornfield, and the making of an honorable living and a beautiful life. The Round Barn is a unique, unprecedented, and incomparable work, a definitive American work, a work of incalculable value to our history, our sense of ourselves as Americans, and perhaps our future. That Jackie Jackson has added this extraordinary book to American literature and history is one of the great accomplishments of contemporary American writing.”
—Reginald Gibbons, Northwestern University

Over one hundred years ago, Wesson J. “Grampa” Dougan, initially a Methodist minister, was forced to leave his calling due to increasing deafness. After turning to farming, he finished building an innovative round barn on his dairy near Beloit, Wisconsin in 1911. Dougan christened the new building by posting his philosophy of farming on the silo at the center of the barn: good crops, proper storage, profitable livestock, a stable market, and “life as well as a living.” The Round Barn: A Biography of an American Farm tells an authentic, sometimes gritty, often humorous story of how the Dougans worked to achieve these aims.

Making use of extensive oral histories, documents, letters, diaries, photographs, and creative nonfiction from the unusual Dougan Dairy, Jacqueline Dougan Jackson faithfully and warmly re-creates the story of her family’s farm, which extends over seven decades. Focusing on the farm’s milk business—from tending the cows to processing the milk to milk delivery—this volume illustrates the partnership between the Dougan Dairy and the University of Wisconsin’s College of Agriculture in all its groundbreaking scientific influence.

“This is an intimate, endearing portrait of the Dougans, a remarkable American farm family guided by a set of principles painted on the silo inside their round barn. The book is a mosaic of beautifully written stories grounded in Jacqueline Dougan Jackson’s personal memories, family traditions, oral-history interviews, and solid historical research. Jackson’s stories—full of warmth, humor, and charm—give readers a fascinating insider’s view of life on a pre-industrial dairy farm.”—Robert E. Warren, Director of Oral History of Illinois Agriculture Project

Jacqueline Dougan Jackson is the author of fourteen books including Stories from the Round Barn and More Stories from the Round Barn. A founding faculty member of Sangamon State University, now University of Illinois–Springfield, she has had her fiction read over Wisconsin Public Radio. She grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm amidst extended family and pet goats.

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Of Related Interest
The Round Barn, A Biography of an American Farm, Volume Two
The Big House, Around the Farm
Jacqueline Dougan Jackson
“Jackie Jackson throws open the Round Barn doors at the Dougan family farm to tell us an American story. She gives us a rich history of farm life at the mercy of the forces of science and the market but grounded in rock-solid Wisconsin values. In our world of ‘140 characters’ Jackie adds depth and texture with the remembered word, the treasured memory, and the wonderful characters she met on her life’s journey.” —U.S. Senator Dick Durbin


September 2013

572 pp.   6 x 9   176 b/w photos,
13 b/w illus., 3 maps, 2 tables

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Paper $24.95 t
ISBN 978-1-884941-18-4
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• Volume Three is forthcoming in 2014, and it will widen The Round Barn’s scope to the relationships of the farm with the community, state, nation, and world

The Round Barn—with its example of a family farm run with decency and devotion to meaningful labor, and its layering of details about twentieth-century farming and milk marketing—seems tailor-made for lovers of Wisconsin and Midwest history. . . . Readers will finish this book with a genuine affection for members of the family, who come alive in its pages.”
—Anne-Marie Cusac, Wisconsin Book Festival

“There are many books on the subject but none I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot of them) as complete and as interesting as The Round Barn: A Biography of an American Farm.”
—John F. Oncken, editor of the The Agri-Dairy Newsletter

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Updated June 4, 2013

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