FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 13, 2010
CONTACT: Caneta Hankins, Center for Historic Preservation, 615-898-2947
WASHINGTON COUNTY FARM JOINS RANKS OF STATE’S CENTURY FARMS PROGRAM
Beech Grove Farm Recognized for Agricultural Contributions Before Statehood
(MURFREESBORO)—Beech Grove Farm, located in Washington County, has been designated as a Tennessee Pioneer 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 Farms Program recognizes the contributions of Tennessee residents who have owned and kept family land in production continuously for least 100 years. Pioneer Century Farms were established before Tennessee became a state in 1796.
Shadrack Hale founded a farm of at least 1,000 acres from land grants and purchases dating as far back as 1778. He and his wife, Mary, had four children: three sons and a daughter. According to the family, Shadrack and his brothers Meshack, Abednego and Nicholas, with their brother-in-law Rev. Matthew Talbot, moved into this area of what was then North Carolina. The family witnessed many important events in Tennessee history.
“The oldest deed in the records of Tennessee was witnessed by one of these brothers,” family members said. “Shadrack Hale signed the petition requesting that North Carolina approve the new State of Franklin.”
Shadrack Hale Jr. became the owner of the farm in 1803. He acquired at least 100 acres from his father and also signed the petition for the creation of the State of Franklin. While his wife’s name is unknown, he had one son, Landon Carter Hale, who eventually inherited the family farm. Landon Hale was married to Hannah Ellis, and the couple had 11 children.
James Ellis Hale, born in 1836, received land after Landon passed away in 1893. Married twice, James had one son, William Brewer Hale, with his first wife, Delcina Chase, and five children with his second wife, Nancy Anne Ferguson. The Hales raised hogs, cattle, horses, mules, chickens, corn, wheat, tobacco and fruit. James Ellis served as a magistrate for his district, and Nancy Anne was one of the five charter members of the Oak Hill Baptist Church, which still is active. It was during this generation that the Civil War occurred, and Nancy’s brother fought for the Confederacy.
After her father’s death in 1897, Mary Tennessee Hale Odell, (or Molly as she also was called), and her husband, Albert Monroe Odell, received approximately 80 acres. They continued to raise many of the same crops as her parents with the addition of turkeys. The couple had lived with his parents in Virginia before receiving the land, so Albert built a new home between 1897 and 1900 in Tennessee, where two of their five children were born. He also built a large barn, crib, sheds, chicken house, carriage house and a house to rent. While serving on the building committee for the Oak Hill Baptist Church, he built the pews and pulpit. He also worked on many other buildings in his community.
When Molly died in 1944, the land was divided among her children. Eugene Hale Odell bought his siblings’ shares. He and wife, Ava Rowena Watkins Odell, also bought two other tracts of land once belonging to Shadrack Hale. They owned approximately 160 acres. The couple had two children, Richard Gene and Anna May, and raised tobacco, corn, wheat, barley, hay, fruit, beef and dairy cattle, chickens and horses. Very active in their community, both were members of the Oak Hill Baptist Church, where Eugene served as a deacon and Rowena taught Sunday school, organized the first Bible school and served on numerous committees. Rowena also was in the Home Demonstration Club.
In 2004, Richard and Anna inherited the farm. Richard and his wife, Joanne Chambers Odell, had three children: Joanna, Richard Patrick and Laurel Leigh. Anna May and her husband, John Edward Mays, had two daughters, Anita Anne Newsom and Cynthia Anne Clark. Richard and Anna rented the land to Carl Cox who raised corn, hay and dairy cattle.
Today, Anna Mays owns 25 acres on which she raises Angus cattle, horses and hay. Her daughter and son-in-law, Anita and Mike Newsom, also work and live on the land. There are several older buildings on the farm, including the original house, tobacco barn, feeding shed and a smoke house. The Mays and Newsoms were honored at the Farmland Legacy Conference held at Pigeon Forge on Nov. 12. Beech Grove Farm is the 24th Century Farm to be certified in Washington County and the 49th Pioneer Farm to be certified in the state.
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.
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. Recently, MTSU unveiled three new doctoral degrees in the sciences.