Monday, May 21, 2018

Two Benton County farms join ranks of state's Century Farms program

Cox Family Farm and Hall Heirs Farm recognized for agricultural contributions

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Two historic Benton Countyfamily farms are now part of the Tennessee Century Farms Program, administered by the Center for Historic Preservation at MTSU, and are being recognized for keeping continuously owned family land in agricultural production for at least the last 100 years.

The Cox Family Farm, now in its seventh generation of ownership, was founded in 1863 when Alfred Rucker Tippitand his wife, Kate Gossett Tippit, purchased land from her brother near Holladay in Benton County. They passed the farm down to their daughter, Artimissa Tippit Thornton, in 1907, but Kate continued to run the farm until she died in 1918.

In 1938, the founders' great-granddaughter, Hazel Thornton Cox, and her husband, Leonard Cox, began managing the farm's operations, and it became known as the Cox Family Farm. Today the Coxes' son Harold, his children and grandchildren grow corn, wheat, soybeans and Bermuda grass hay and operate a pick-your-own pumpkin patch. Harold also was named Conservation Farmer of Benton County in 1990.

The Hall Heirs Farmwas founded on Christmas Day 1865, when Patrick Henry Ryanand Mary Jane Latimer Ryanpurchased 123 acres in the Rushing Creek community of Benton County. Their five children inherited the farm after their father’s death in 1885, and the siblings worked together, growing corn, hay and cotton and raising cattle and sheep. One of the brothers,Guy Ryan, also established a limestone rock quarry.

William Lawrence Ryan, who married Della Mae Cuff Ryan, was the only one of the siblings to have a family. William and Della’s children inherited the farm after his death in 1953, and daughter Lessie Mae Ryan Halland her husband, Robert Hall Jr., raised eight children there. Six of those children now own the farm along with two of Lessie Mae and Robert's grandchildren, who are the founders' great-great-grandchildren. The eight Hall heirs manage the farm, which is currently leased and produces corn and soybeans.

Since 1985, 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 program, visit or contact the Center for Historic Preservation at 615-898-2947 or P.O. Box 80, MTSU, Murfreesboro, TN 37132.

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