Hamilton County was established in 1819 and was named in
honor of Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury in George Washington’s
administration. The county seat is Chattanooga,
a city that has been significant in Tennessee’s
railroad transportation history. As a prominent rail center, Chattanooga became a focal point during the
Civil War. Chattanooga also has many tourist
attractions such as Rock City, Ruby Falls, the Incline Railway on Lookout Mountain,
the Chattanooga Choo Choo family entertainment complex, and the Tennessee
Aquarium. In addition, to its tourist attractions, Hamilton County
has many industries and businesses such as a Coca-Cola bottling franchise,
DuPont, McKee Baking, and Combustion Engineering. Hamilton County
has only one Century Farm known as the Shelley Dairy Farm.
information regarding Hamilton
County, please go to the Tennessee
Encyclopedia of History & Culture website.
For a brief historical sketch of each farm, click on the farm name.
Shelley Dairy Farm
map is for a general geographical understanding. It does not provide
the specific locations of the farms because of privacy reasons.
Map courtesy of Carole Swann, Tennessee Department of Agriculture
Shelley Dairy Farm
The Shelley Dairy Farm is the only Century Farm in Hamilton County.
John Matthews acquired title to his land in 1839, owning 160 acres located one
mile south of Georgetown.
According to the family, “when John Matthews and his sons first came into this
area, there were many, many acres of land which had been cleared by the Indians
and on which they were growing Indian corn, broom grass and wild sweet
potatoes.” The Cherokees also “made many things such as clay pots, woven
baskets from willow limbs and clay brick . . . . There was enough Indian trade
brick for three chimneys for the two-story house” of the family. “The Indians
also made deer skin moccasins, jackets and rugs as well as caps of animal skins
and feathers from wild ducks, geese and turkeys.”
Matthews and his family became friends of the Cherokee
and learned much about tilling the soil of Hamilton County
from their Indian neighbors. They grew all types of foodstuffs in addition to
harvesting fruit orchards and local wildberries. The second generation owner
was Pleasant Lewis Matthews, who loved “the soil and the good things it
produced.” A graduate of the College
of William and Mary in Virginia, “he dedicated
his life to improving the soil, the crops he grew, the forest land and trees.
He spent much time improving horses and cattle, and apple and peach orchards.”
In 1845, Pleasant directed his slaves in the construction of a farmhouse and
all the necessary outbuildings and furniture. The farmhouse still stands and is
listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The farm’s third generation owner was Nancy Matthews
Edwards, the founder’s granddaughter. Nancy and her husband Edward managed a
very progressive and diversified farm on their 1,800 acres. In fact, Edward
“introduced alfalfa to southwest Tennessee.”
He “was strictly an up-to-date farmer and went it along scientific lines. He
always made it a rule to buy and introduce the latest improved farm machinery
and applied all the latest and most progressive methods to his farm work.” Ed
also developed one of the largest stock farms in the region.
In 1939, Inez Edwards Shelley inherited John Matthews’
original 160 acres and the farmhouse. Eight years later, she willed this
property to her son Raymond D. Shelley. Although Raymond died in 1985, the
family still operates the farm, which features a large, modern dairy operation
with Holstein cattle, and keeps alive the family tradition of service to both
the civic and agricultural communities of Hamilton County.