FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 19, 2010
CONTACT: Caneta Hankins, Center for Historic Preservation, 615-898-2947
JACKSON COUNTY FARM JOINS STATE’S CENTURY FARMS PROGRAM
175-Year-Old Hall Farm Recognized for Agricultural Contributions
(MURFREESBORO)—The Old Myers Farm in Jackson 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.
The farm’s story began in 1816 when Phillip Myers, whose grandfather came from Germany, married Mary White Cook. The widow of Capt. James Cook, Mary was the mother of Mariah, William and Earl Cook. With Myers, she had five more sons.
In 1835, Phillip Myers purchased 200 acres of land from his stepsons, William and Earl Cook. The farm is on the old Fort Blount Road, which leads from the Cumberland River. Fort Blount operated in 1788-1794 to provide protection for travelers along the Avery Trace.
Myers was a gunsmith and postmaster at Fort Blount. Mary was industrious, “providing for her family and their slaves by supervising the spinning and weaving of wool and flax, and sewing for (all) … members of the family,” according to the farm’s history.
In the same year that he purchased the property, Phillip Myers died, leaving the farm to Mary and their five sons. Myers was buried in the family cemetery on the farm. Mary and her sons, along with several slaves, continued to farm and raised a variety of crops and livestock. When she died in 1845, her sons inherited equal shares of the property.
According to a family history by Calvin Elias, the youngest son of Mary and Phillip, the family had a tradition of military service. Elias Myers, father of Phillip, was from North Carolina and enlisted in the Revolutionary War when he was 14 years old, where he served for seven years. His son, Philip, then served in the War of 1812 and was with Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans.
Luther Bigelow Myers, son of Phillip and Mary, served in the Mexican War under Gen. Winfield Scott and also fought in the Civil War as captain of Company D, 25th Regiment of Tennessee Troops, under J. E. Johnson and Col. S. S. Stanton. Calvin also served in Mexico under Gen. Scott as a private in Company E of the 4th Tennessee Volunteers. He soldiered for four years of the Civil War as captain of the 1st Company from Overton County, Tenn., as well as the 8th Tennessee Confederate Regiment.
Another brother, Patrick Henry Myers, acquired 150 acres of the original 200 from his siblings. In 1862, he married Sarah Elizabeth Pate Payne, a widow with two children. Patrick and Sarah were the parents of White Henry, Mignon Belle “Nancy” and Lucy Virginia. Patrick’s wife and children received the land after his death in 1868. Sarah reared her children and managed the farm until the 1880s. At that time, she married Jonathon Haley and moved to Texas. Her daughters also married and moved to Texas, selling their shares to their brother, White.
White married Roxie Gailbreath in 1898. They had three children, Sallie Marie, Joseph and Raymond Eugene. This family grew grain and tobacco, as well as cattle. After White’s death in 1934, the land was divided among his three children. Because Sallie and Eugene moved away, Joseph tended the farm. Sallie went to college and studied to be a teacher while Eugene moved to Nashville to enter banking.
Joseph and his wife, Georgia McCawley, were the parents of Joe and Billy White Myers. The family raised tobacco, corn, oats, soybeans, wheat, hogs, mules and cattle, in addition to raising and training horses. Joseph, whose family recalled that“ he loved his dogs,” also bred and raised foxhounds, selling and trading the hunters as another source of income for the farm. Just before his death in 1952, he purchased a new Farm-All Row Crop tractor, the first one for the farm.
In 1952, Billy White acquired his brother’s share of the farm as well as other acreage. In 1954 at the Future Farmers of America’s national convention in Kansas City, Mo., Billy received the highest degree awarded by the organization, that of American Farmer, an award based on farming, leadership and scholarship. Throughout high school, Billy was active in the 4-H and vocational programs. In 1959, he married Mary Lucinda Chaffin. The couple’s children are David Eugene White and Stephanie White Konrad.
From the time of receiving the land until the 1970s, Billy White owned 150 acres of the 200 purchased by Phillip Myers. However, the Cordell Hull Dam and Reservoir project took about 86 acres of river bottomland.
Billy White Myers served as a county commissioner for 28 years and was a county judge in 1960 and 1961. He and Mary also operated a five-and-dime store, general store and a feed barn. Today, they raise grain crops and a small amount of tobacco and beef cattle.
The Old Myers Farm is the seventh farm to be certified in Jackson County, Hankins said.
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 for editorial use, please contact the CHP directly at 615-898-2947.
With three Nobel Prize winners among its alumni and former faculty, Middle Tennessee State University confers master’s degrees in 10 areas, the Specialist in Education degree, the Doctor of Arts degree and the Doctor of Philosophy degree. MTSU is ranked among the top 100 public universities in the nation in the Forbes “America’s Best Colleges” 2009 survey.