HICKMAN COUNTY FARM JOINS RANKS OF STATE’S CENTURY FARMS PROGRAM
Neeley Farm Recognized for Agricultural Contributions
(MURFREESBORO)—The Neeley Farm, located in Hickman 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 at Middle Tennessee State University.
The Century Farm Program recognizes the contributions of Tennessee residents who have owned and kept family land in production continuously for at least 100 years.
Founded by David Melton Duncan in 1861, the Neeley Farm sits along the Big Swan River. This 105-acre farm combined two tracts of land, the first 85 acres from John Sharp on Jan. 31, 1861, and 30 acres from J. A. Hines and wife on Jan. 25, 1883. On his land, Duncan raised corn, hay, peanuts, hogs, mules, cattle, timber and a garden. He and his wife, Mary Ann Whiteside, married in 1854 and had 11 children. According to the family, during the Civil War “Yankee soldiers camped up and down Swan Creek, and the Duncans protected their money by hiding it in the clock.”
After David and Mary’s death, the land was divided among their children. Through the years, D. C. “Tobe” Duncan purchased most of the farm. He and his siblings, J. W., George and Kesiah, raised broom corn, made brooms using an iron broom maker and sold them in town and to their neighbors. The three siblings never married and lived together on the farm until their deaths. Married to Jeannie Smith, D. C. had four children. After her death, D. C. married Tabitha George and had two more children.
The land went to auction after the death of D. C. Duncan. It was purchased by Cooper Duncan, D. C.’s oldest son. According to the family, Cooper’s wife did not want to live on the farm, so he sold it to his sister’s husband, Henry Stanley Neeley, in November 1927. He and his wife Claudia Duncan Neeley, had 10 children, seven of whom survived to adulthood. Just two years later, the stock market crashed leading to the Great Depression. According to the family, “times were hard.” Having a large family to support, the Neeleys canned their own food, churned butter, sold eggs, raised and slaughtered their cows and hogs, made lye soap and sheared sheep for the wool. The main crops on the farm were corn, wheat, hay, sorghum cane, tobacco, chickens, eggs and a garden. After Stanley’s death in 1958, Claudia gained control of the farm. In 1985, she transferred the deed to her children, Ed Neeley, Annie Brown Farais, Dee Cee Neeley, Bernice Proffitt and Mai Katherine Neeley.
The great-great-grandson of D. M. Duncan, Dee Cee, purchased the land from his siblings in 1997. Aside from the family farm, he also owns another 210 acres, 160 of which are used for farming. He currently raises horses, cattle and hay for feed. The land is also used for deer and turkey hunting and is known for its spring, which flows year-round. Dee Cee, 83, continues to manage the daily operations of the farm. He tends the pastures, keeps the hay cut and maintains the fences and buildings. The property has been placed in the Neeley Family Trust, meaning the farm will go to Dee Cee’s children, Pam Tenpenny and Ricky Neeley, and then to their children after their deaths.“He has a lifetime estate and recognized the importance of passing the farm on to family,” family members said.
The Neeley Farm is the 18th Century Farm to be certified in Hickman County.
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 Farms Program. For more information about the Century Farms Program, please visit www.tncenturyfarms.org.The Center for Historic Preservation also may be contacted at Box 80, MTSU, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 37132 or 615-898-2947.
• ATTENTION, MEDIA: To interview the farm’s owner or request jpegs of the farm for editorial use, please contact the CHP at 615-898-2947.
Founded in 1911, Middle Tennessee State University is a Tennessee Board of Regents institution located in Murfreesboro and is the state’s largest public undergraduate institution. MTSU now boasts one of the nation’s first master’s degree programs in horse science, and the Council of Graduate Schools in Washington, D.C., acclaims MTSU’s Master of Science in Professional Science degree—the only one in Tennessee—as a model program. This fall, MTSU unveiled three new doctoral degrees in the sciences.