For Release: May 1, 2012
Contact: Caneta Hankins, Center for Historic Preservation, 615-898-2947
CHEATHAM COUNTY FARMS JOIN RANKS OF STATE’S CENTURY FARMS PROGRAM
Knox and Nicholson-Pardue Farms Recognized for Agricultural Contributions
MURFREESBORO— The Knox and Nicholson-Pardue Farms have been designated as a Tennessee Century Farms, 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.
The emerging rights of women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is a common thread in the county’s two most recently certified Century Farms. Nannie Elisabeth Walker Hunt, one of only a few women who established a Century Farm, purchased 60 acres west of Pleasant View along Old Clarksville Pike in 1896 for $700. She paid for her land in four installments and made the purchase three years after the death of her husband, William J. Carney Hunt.
In 1904, Hunt sold 14.75 acres to her son-in-law, Melvin Fox, for $400. Melvin and his wife, Annie Mai Hunt Fox, raised chickens, hogs, cows, horses and mules, and grew wheat, corn, hay and dark fire tobacco. Melvin constructed several buildings to support his operation. Around 1910, he built a tobacco barn, smoke house, stable and a barn primarily used as a tobacco stripping room. All of these structures have been maintained through the years and are used for their original purposes today.
Twice, the Foxes purchased adjoining land to expand their farm; in 1916, they acquired 24 acres and in 1920, they purchased another eight. By 1918, Melvin built the homestead where he, Annie Mai, and his mother-in-law, Nannie, lived until her death in 1931. Melvin and Annie Mai did not have children of their own but adopted their niece and nephew, Mattie Mai Blanchette and Joseph Blanchette; the children were residing with the Foxes as early as 1920.
Although the land did not legally change ownership again until Melvin Fox’s death in 1963, Mattie Mai and her husband, James Leonard Knox, lived and worked on the farm before this date. They grew wheat, corn, hay, milo and three kinds of tobacco – dark fire, burley and wrapping tobacco. Their livestock also was a source of income; they raised beef and dairy cows as well as hogs. The dairy cows produced milk that was sold to PET Milk, and the hogs were processed into smoked hams and sausage or sold to Elm Hill and Frosty Morn. When Annie Mai Fox passed away in 1951, Melvin continued to live with Mattie Mai and Leonard Knox until his death when Mattie Mai inherited 47 acres. Mattie Mai and Leonard were married for 52 years. The Knox and Fox families are buried beside each other in the cemetery at Mallory’s United Methodist Church.
The Knox’s third son, Richard “Rickey” Melvin Knox acquired the family’s farm in 1992 and the deed of sale provided his brother, Grady Eugene Knox, a life estate for the use of the home and its surrounding acre. Rickey and his wife, Kathy Steele Knox, live on the farm where their children, Brandy Lynn Knox and Robert Steele, were raised. Brandy was the first in her paternal family to go to college; she attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and majored in agricultural science and earned a master’s degree in food microbiology. She now works in Richmond, Va., for the parent company of U.S. Smokeless Tobacco, Phillip Morris USA. Her father is a contract tobacco grower for this company and is the sixth generation to grow dark fire and burley tobacco on the farm his great-grandmother bought 116 years ago.
The right to vote was important to Emily Rena Nicholson-Pardue, and she was one of only three women living in her precinct who exercised that privilege in the first presidential election following the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Married to Finis Brown Pardue, the couple lived on 120 acres near Henrietta on a farm purchased in 1912. With nine children, the family grew tobacco, corn, hay, vegetables, strawberries, apples, pears and peaches. They also raised horses, cows, chickens and hogs.
The second generation to own the farm was Gilford Adkins and Irena Pardue-Adkins, the daughter of Finis and Emily Rena. The couple acquired approximately 60 acres in 1957 and raised hay, corn and fruit. Though they did not have children, the farm remained in the family, passing to Harold and Clayton Frazier, grandsons of the founder.
The current owner, Harold Frazier, acquired the land in 1989. He is a member of the Farm Bureau. Today, Frazier’s nephew, Jack Green, lives on the farm and grows hay, vegetables, tobacco and fruit and raises cattle. The house that stands today has evolved through the years, but still incorporates a log cabin that was home to the generation that established this farm 100 years ago.
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 http://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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