MURFREESBORO — The Nelson Bond’s Oakview Farm in Haywood 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.
Nelson Bond’s Oakview Farm is exceptional because it chronicles the experiences of Tennessee’s freedmen and women in the years following the Civil War and emancipation. Only seven other Century Farms in the state are certified by descendants of former slaves who established farms, and Oakview Farm is Haywood County’s first.
After the December crop was harvested in 1867, Nelson and Harriette Johnson Bond married, an institution and status denied them as slaves. Like most freedmen and women in the years following emancipation, the Bonds farmed rented land or sharecropped, began a family and saved as much money as possible from their crops. After 20 years of hard work, Nelson Bond purchased a farm in 1888 in partnership with his white neighbors, P. H. and Richard Mann. P. H. Mann maintained an interest in the land but relinquished all claims to the property when the Bonds made the final payment in 1891.
When they purchased the farm, the Bond family were active members of the Woodlawn Baptist Church congregation. The church is one of the oldest African-American churches in the county and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After 1900, the Bonds helped establish and provided land for Oakview Baptist Church, which is also an historic and active congregation.
Nelson and Harriette’s cash crop was cotton, but they also grew corn, sorghum, hay, sweet potatoes, turnip greens and peas to feed the family as well as their livestock, which included mules, cows, hogs, chickens and guineas. Over the years, Nelson was able to purchase another 18 acres. Deeds indicate that several members of the Bond family also owned tracts of land in the area.
Of the couple’s seven children, at least four lived and worked on the Bond Farm, as did their children. After Harriette passed away in the early 1900s, Nelson married Lucy Usher, a widow living in the area, in 1907. When Nelson passed away in 1914, he bequeathed Lucy a life interest in the homestead while his surviving children inherited the remainder of the farm. A portion of the land had to be sold through the Chancery Court of Haywood County, but three of Nelson’s sons – Ben, Richard, and Edd – were able to purchase it in 1915 and partitioned it amongst themselves.
Ben Bond and his wife, Parthenia Evans Bond, Richard and his wife, Lizzie, and Edd and his wife, Bessie Mann, lived on and worked the 138 acres like the previous generation, growing similar crops and livestock. They also had a fruit orchard.
Unlike Nelson and Harriette, the second generation was able to send their children to school beyond the elementary grades. Jeanette Bond, Edd and Bessie’s daughter, and Nola Walker Bond, Richard and Lizzie’s daughter-in-law, taught at the local Winfield School. When not at school, the Bond siblings’ children, 24 in all, helped with farm chores.
Edd and Bessie’s children later moved out of state. Richard and Lizzie and Ben sold their portion to Ben and Parthenia’s son Lawrence, and his wife, Nola.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Lawrence and Nola Bond were active in the civil rights movement, and the family acknowledges that the “ownership of the farm undergirded their ability to do this. “ Nola served on the Haywood Branch of the NAACP and was a highly regarded educator and businesswoman. Today the Nola Walker-Bond Scholarship is available to Haywood County students.
In 1968, Lawrence and Nola sold their portion of the Bond Farm to their nephew and his wife, John Melvin and Barbara Bond.
Over the years, the farm was inherited or acquired by Ben and Parthenia’s descendants, including their son James Thomas Bond and his wife, Susie Anna. Many of Ben and Parthenia’s children moved to Illinois. James and Susie had 10 children: Zelma, Elma, Mildred, James, John, Bettye, Robert, Rosetta, Howard and Marion.
Today, 120 acres of the Nelson Bond’s Oakview Farm is owned by four of the founders’ great-grandchildren and their spouses. Living on this historic farm are Melvin and Barbara Bond, Howard and Margaret Bond, Marion and Floride Bond, Homer Kinnon and Robert Bond. Howard works and manages the farm where cotton, corn, soybeans, greens, peas, okra and melons are grown.
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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