FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 21, 2009
CONTACT: Caneta Hankins, 615-898-2947
KNOX COUNTY FARM JOINS STATE’S CENTURY FARMS PROGRAM
212-Year-Old Murphy Springs Farm Becomes County’s 8th Century Farm
(MURFREESBORO)—The Murphy Springs Farm in Knox 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, which is located on the MTSU campus.
Just one year after Tennessee became a state, Robert Murphy purchased a farm in the Grassy Valley area of central Knox County. He and his wife, Martha McNeil, were the parents of Polly, John, Alexander, William, James, Elizabeth, Maria, Patsy, Harriet and Hugh. In these early years of settlement, the family built a cabin and cleared land for fields for crops of corn, potatoes, hay, flax seed, flour and cotton. Murphy also donated land for the establishment of Murphy’s Chapel, a Methodist congregation.
In 1850, William and Hugh Murphy became the second generation to own the farm. Hugh married twice, though his first wife, Sarah White, was the mother of his seven children. He served as the banker for the neighborhood and was a teacher at Fancy Hill School. The house he built in 1841 still stands and is in the process of being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.
Hugh’s second wife, Dicey LaRue Murphy, and his children, Robert Fillmore Murphy, John Rush Murphy and William Alanzo, were the next owners of the property. Although Hugh gave the farm to all of his children, these were descendants who chose to continue to farm the land.
According to the family’s records, this generation of Murphys provided land for the Corinth Methodist Church and for the Powell Valley Railroad Company to construct a railroad line.
Additionally, the farm’s owners have, over the years, been active in education, businesses, civic groups, and churches, as well as agricultural organizations. For example, Robert M. Murphy Sr. was the first agricultural extension agent for Knox County and was instrumental in bringing the Farm Bureau to Knox County. Meanwhile, Alvin R. Murphy, who worked for Wallace and Tiernen, invented the first chlorinator. He was also instrumental in the formation of Hamilton National Bank and Holston Hills Country Club.
The farmstead has many historic structures and buildings that were built in the 19th or early 20th centuries, including a smokehouse, springhouse, wash house, woodshed, chicken coop, barn and cottage.
For about 20 years, Joe Mitchell has worked the farm, raising primarily cattle and hay. The East Tennessee Draft Horse and Mule Owner’s Association use a seven-acre field fronting the farm. With historic equipment drawn by mules and horses, they
plow and plant the field in the fall and then use a combine to harvest the oats in the spring. The family reports that a number of onlookers always gather to watch the mules and horses at work.
Today, Kevin P. Murphy, John P. Murphy, and Mary Workman are among several family members who own the farm, but these individuals are the only property owners who reside in Tennessee.
“The Murphy Springs Farm, founded in 1797, is the eighth Century Farm to be certified in Knox County,” Hankins said, “and is one of four that has remained in the same family for over 200 years.”
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 secure jpegs of the property, please contact the CHP directly at 615-898-2947.