COCKE COUNTY FARM JOINS RANKS OF STATE’S CENTURY FARMS PROGRAM
Baxter Farm Recognized for Agricultural Contributions
MURFREESBORO— Baxter Farm, located in Cocke 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 MTSU.
The Century Farms Program recognizes the contributions of Tennessee residents who have owned and kept family land in continuous agricultural production for at least 100 years.
In 1875, Pless Morris purchased 100 acres southwest of Newport. Here, he and his wife, Emma Baxter, and her son, Chester Arthur Baxter, who was known by all as “Chess,” grew tobacco, hay, corn and grains. They also raised cattle, chickens and hogs. Pless established the Morris Cemetery, which remains in use.
Chester Arthur Baxter inherited the farm from his stepfather in 1924. He married Edna Mae Bryant Baxter in 1906 and the couple had five children, including Arthur Lee Baxter and Maudella Baxter Sisk, who continued to represent the third generation. Much like the first owners, the family grew tobacco, hay, corn and grains in addition to raising cattle, sheep, goats, mules, hogs and chicken. Their 1930 farmhouse and 1932 barn remain in use. Chester also opened the Baxter Grocery Store on Cosby Highway, which was a meeting place for the community.
Arthur grew up working on his family’s farm and acquired the land in 1959. He and Margaret Jane “Jackie” Denton Baxter celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2007. Jackie has worked alongside Arthur in all phases of the farm operation and is described as a “nurturing mother and impeccable hostess.” For several decades, the farm produced the same crops and livestock as previous generations. Arthur was also well-known in Tennessee and surrounding states for his prize winning Polled Hereford cattle. In the mid-1990s, he ceased tobacco production and began raising a predominantly commercial herd of cattle. Today, Arthur manages 60 of the original 100 acres, but has acquired additional acreage while also leasing other property to maintain about 200 head of cattle. Sons Freddy and Terry assist their father with the daily farm work.
Through the years, the Baxter Farm has appeared in numerous Newport Plain Talk articles, ranging from the 1982 announcement of Terry’s prize-winning Polled Hereford yearling bull, Arthur’s 1985 crop production, to Freddy’s successful burley beds in 1986. One of the greatest challenges to the historic Baxter Farm was the Cosby Highway project, which Arthur actively opposed because of its impact on his ability to farm successfully. Today, the Baxters use a tunnel under the road to move cattle between pastures. For 137 years, this family has been an enduring part of the Cocke County agricultural heritage.
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.
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