GIBSON COUNTY FARM JOIN RANKS OF STATE’S CENTURY FARMS PROGRAM
Walker-Freeman-Bell Farm Recognized for Agricultural Contributions
(MURFREESBORO)—The Walker-Freeman-Bell Farm, located in Gibson 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 Farm Program recognizes the contributions of Tennessee residents who have continuously owned and kept in production, family land for at least 100 years.
Located two miles West of Brazil, Tennessee, is the Walker-Freeman-Bell Farm. This 103 year old farm was founded by James M. Walker in 1907, the same year he took Addie Williams Walker as his wife. Addie had been married previously to James’s younger brother, Pleasant T. Walker, and had three children by this marriage. James and Addie had three more children: Mamie, Eldon, and Jodie Belle.
James earned the $2,200 for the 89 acre farm by trapping and hunting in the Forked Deere Bottoms nearby. This outdoor life may have contributed to the death of James in 1911 when he died of pneumonia, leaving Addie to care for six children alone. Shortly after his death, the family home burned down. Fortunately, Addie had insurance and, with the help of her future son-in-law, Horace Cates, was able to rebuild a comfortable home, affectionately called the “Home Place” by the family.
Times remained difficult for Addie throughout her life; she often had to borrow money to pay her property taxes. With the help of family, friends, and neighbors such as George Peay, who also served as a Pastor at Old Beulah Baptist Church, she was able to keep possession of the farm to pass it on to future generations.
After Addie’s death in 1940, the farm went to her two daughters by James and to her granddaughter, Christine Walker, daughter of Eldon, who was deceased. Mamie and her husband, Eugene, purchased the shares from her brother and her niece in 1944. According to the family, ‘the farm had never been farmed with any consistency. Addie would rent it out or try to work it herself and it was never really productive.”
Under Eugene, the farm began to be more efficient as he raised cotton, corn, cattle, chicken, and hogs. A progressive farmer, Eugene practiced crop rotation and good conservation of the land. The farm prospered and the family became almost self-sufficient during these years, living off the land. In 1990s, Eugene tore down the old log home to make more fertile cropland. The only remains of the house are two Cedar trees that were scarred by the fire that destroyed the original home.
Eugene passed away in 2001 and the farm was left to his and Mamie’s three children, Peggy Bell, Ann Hopkins, and George Freeman. Peggy and her husband Robert bought her siblings’ shares and continue to operate the farm raising cotton, corn, soybeans, and wheat.
Peggy says, “It gives me joy to think about how God has blessed our family through the good and bad times with this small farm. I pray that my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews will continue to own and cherish this land for another one hundred years.”
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 its website at 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 directly at 615-898-2947.
- 30 -
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. This fall, MTSU unveiled three new doctoral degrees in the sciences.