FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Dec. 1, 2006
CONTACT: Caneta Hankins, 615-898-2947
Dowland-Hall Farm Recognized for Agricultural Contributions
(MURFREESBORO)—The Dowland-Hall Farm in Gibson County has been designated as a Tennessee Century Farm, reports Caneta S. Hankins, director of the Century Farms program at the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP), which is located on the MTSU campus.
J. W. Dowland founded the Dowland-Hall Farm in 1890. Located in the Brazil community, J. W. raised cotton, corn, wheat, strawberries, cabbage, vegetables, orchards, cattle, hogs and poultry on the 20 acres. Married to Idella Dowland, they had five children. In addition to managing the farm, J. W. served as the postmaster for the Brazil community. According to the family’s records, the community also had three general stores, a blacksmith shop, a Baptist church, a Methodist church and a bank.
The next generation to own the land was the founder’s daughter, Ida Dowland, who purchased the other interests from her siblings. During her ownership, Ida’s brothers-in-law, Emerson Shivers and Martin Benge primarily farmed the land. Some of the crops and livestock that were raised on the farm included cotton, corn, cabbage, strawberries, peas, horses and mules. Per the family, the two-story residence was destroyed by fire. The family story of the fire is that son-in-law Emerson Shivers, in an attempt to retrieve honey from a hive inside the walls of the house, constructed a torch to drive away the honeybees. Unfortunately, the house caught on fire and burned completely. Not long after, a new smaller farmhouse was built on the property.
The third owner of the farm was James Wilson Hall, grandson of the founder. Married to Jo Young Hall, they had four children—Sandra Hall Arnold, James Wilson Hall Jr., Richard Gene Hall and Robert Barker Hall. The family produced cotton, soybeans, corn and cattle.
Sandra Hall Arnold became the next owner. She and husband John Richard Arnold had two children, Melissa JoNell Arnold and John Richard Arnold Jr. Over the years, the small farmhouse began to deteriorate. In 2004, Sandra and her brother Robert remodeled the house and tried to retain as much of the original construction as possible. Today, Sandra lives in the house and the farm currently produces cotton, soybeans and corn and is worked by Bob Holder, a longtime neighbor and family friend.
This late-19th century farmstead is the 19th farm in Gibson County to be certified as a Century Farm, Hankins said.
The Tennessee Century Farm Program recognizes the contributions of Tennessee residents who have continuously owned, and kept in production, family land for at least 100 years. Since 1984, the Center for Historic Preservation at MTSU has been a leader in the important work of documenting Tennessee’s agricultural heritage and history through the Tennessee Century Farm Program and continues to administer this program.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) began the Tennessee Century Farm Program in 1976 as part of the nation’s bicentennial. Today, the TDA provides a metal outdoor sign, noting either 100, 150 or 200 years of “continuous agricultural production” to Century Farm families.
To be considered for eligibility, a farm must be owned by the same family for at least 100 years; must produce $1,000 revenue annually; must have at least 10 acres of the original farm; and one owner must be a resident of Tennessee. There are more than 1,000 Century Farms across the state and all 95 counties are represented.
“The Century Farmers represent all the farm families of Tennessee,” Hankins said, “and their contributions to the economy, and to the social, cultural, and agrarian vitality of the state, both past and present, is immeasurable. Each farm is a Tennessee treasure.”
For more information about the Century Farms Program, or to read about the histories of Gibson County farms as well as others across Tennessee, please visit its Web site at at http://histpres.mtsu.edu/histpres.
The Center for Historic Preservation also may be contacted via mail at Box 80, MTSU, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 37132, or by telephone at 615-898-2947.
ATTENTION, MEDIA: To interview Hankins or the farm’s owners, or obtain jpeg images of this farm for editorial use, please contact the CHP directly at 615-898-2947.