FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 18, 2009
CONTACT: Caneta Hankins, 615-898-2947
WASHINGTON COUNTY FARM JOINS STATE’S CENTURY FARMS PROGRAM
202-Year-Old Sunnyside Farm Becomes County’s 23rd Century Farm
(MURFREESBORO)—Washington County-based Sunnyside Farm has been designated as a Tennessee Century Farm, reports Caneta S. Hankins, director of the Century Farms program at the Center for Historic Preservation, which is located on the MTSU campus.
Located just inside the city limits of Jonesborough, Sunnyside is a 200-acre farm founded by Nathan Shipley in 1807. The family reported that this parcel was part of land grants awarded to Nathaniel Taylor from 1790 to 1795. Shipley, a native of Baltimore, and wife Elizabeth had one son, Enoch.
Enoch acquired the property in 1834. He was a surveyor and held several posts in Washington County government. Married to Elizabeth Hoss, their son was Nathan, who, like his father, was a surveyor. Nathan acquired the property in 1844, and he and wife Mary were the parents of Elbert A. Shipley.
A member of the 8th Tennessee Cavalry throughout the Civil War, Nathan—following his years as a solider—he became a civil engineer. By this time, the farm had expanded to about 450 acres, the family notes.
Elbert, in his turn, became the owner of Sunnyside. In 1865, trying to follow in his father’s footsteps, he enlisted in Company I of the 8th Tennessee Cavalry, but was not mustered because of ill health. After the war was over, he farmed, attended school and became involved in several Jonesboro merchandising businesses. In 1877, Elbert was claim commissioner for Washington County. In addition, he served as chairman of the County Court, and between 1878 and 1886, he was elected and served as Washington County Clerk and Master in Chancery.
In the late 1880s, he also served as secretary of the Jonesboro Board of Education and was chairman of the Republican Committee 1st Judicial district for many years. During Elbert’s ownership, the farm produced pure-bred Aberdeen Angus cattle, Poland China hogs, white Leghorn hens, fruit trees and wheat.
In 1908, Walter P. and Albert L. Shipley, the sons of Elbert and wife Jennie, became the next generation to own the land. Although the property was legally divided between the brothers, they chose to farm the land together for many years. Under their ownership, the farm produced Pure-bred Aberdeen Angus and full blooded Guernsey cattle. They also raised Poland China hogs, Hampshire sheep, white Leghorn hens, turkeys, fruit trees, hay, tobacco, corn and other grains.
Brothers Albert and Walter also served as community servants, businessmen and were involved in politics at the local, state, and national levels. Albert, who was married to Pearl Britton, served on the staffs of Govs. N. W. Hopper and Alfred A. Taylor. In 1921, Albert furnished President Warren G. Harding with a 42-pound turkey from the farm for Christmas dinner at the White House. Harding spared the bird, the family reports, and called it “the feathered monarch of the White House garden” because it was such a fine specimen.
In addition to farming, the two brothers were very active in the community, with Albert serving in Washington County as Clerk and Master in the Chancery, chairman of the Republican Congressional Committee of the 1st Judicial district and secretary of the Republican County Executive Committee.
Walter, married to Frances Britton, was a graduate of the University of Virginia. He was president and manager of Shipley Hardware & House Furnishing Company in Jonesboro. In 1912, he was elected mayor of Jonesboro and also was a delegate to the 1920 Republication National Conventions in Chicago, representing Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District. Both brothers were members of the Masons and the Junior Order of American Mechanics.
In 1964, Marjorie Shipley Mitchell, the daughter of Walter and Fan, acquired the farm. Her mother was the daughter of Frank and Alice Lee Howren Britton, also Washington County natives. Fan was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Jonesboro Schubert Club and an accomplished violinist. She and her husband, Samuel W. Mitchell Jr., had one son, Samuel William Mitchell III, who has been the farm’s owner since 1988.
Today, Samuel and wife Irene live on the farm, where beef cattle, tobacco, hay, various grains and corn are the primary products. A main livestock barn, a tobacco barn, a springhouse, a smokehouse and a large farmhouse are among the buildings on the busy farmstead.
Hankins said Sunnyside is the 23rd Century Farm to be certified in Washington County.
About the Century Farms Program
The 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 CHP 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 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.
“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, please visit its Web site 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 the farm’s owners or request jpegs of the farm, please contact the CHP directly at 615-898-2947.