The following 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
Albert Lloyd Keller Farm
Albert L. Keller
About 1870, in the aftermath of the Civil War, John Keller, of
About 1885, John Franklin Keller, acquired his parents’ farm. Married twice, he fathered seven children. Under his ownership, the farm supported cotton, corn, sorghum, timber, peas, hay, and wheat. In addition, the farm produced milk cows, hogs, chickens, geese and rabbits.
John Franklin’s son, Archie Clinton Keller became the third owner of the land. Between the years 1910 and 1920, he built three large houses in the community of Toone, two of which still stand. Archie and his wife Bertha Estelle Teague had seven children -- Cecil, A. C., Duree, Delia, May Sue, and Kay. Another son, Albert Lloyd Keller became the next owner of the farm in 1956. A member of Farm Bureau since 1946, Mr. Keller continues to be active in the farm operation which primarily produces beef cattle.
John R. Harris
The great grandson of the founder of the farm and current owner is John R. Harris. He and his son, William Scott Harris work the land raising cattle and hay. Historic buildings still in use include a smokehouse, currently used for storage, a corn crib, and the 1912 farm house.
Photo: The Century Farm Sign on the Harris Place farm.
Barbara K. Blanton
The history of the railroad in West Tennessee was an important part of the life of William Clifton and Alma Blalock Keller, founders of the Keller-Blanton Farm. Born in Toone, Tenn., in 1877, Clifton remembered seeing engineer Casey Jones and hearing the famous whistle of his train. Clifton moved to Whiteville with his father and brothers and sisters after their mother died. Alma Blalock was born in 1880 near Whiteville. When about 8 years old, she remembered seeing men working on the railroad with horse and mule teams. She rode a flat car behind a train engine to Cooley’s Crossing, where the railroad intersected with the old road from Bolivar to Whiteville and on to Somerville through Cooley’s farm which she and her husband would purchase in 1908.
The couple had four children, two of whom survived to adulthood. On 108 acres, the family raised corn, cotton, wheat, hogs, cattle, tomatoes, potatoes and hay. Clifton built the family home in 1912, along with a barn and silo with stables for mules and horses and a dairy for a Jersey herd, a house to store sweet potatoes and a shop with a forge over the years. In 1923, Highway 64 was built through the farm. During the 1930s, Clifton purchased 100 more acres, and in 1938, one of the farms biggest changes, electricity, occurred, allowing Clifton to purchase electric milkers for his dairy cows. After Clifton purchased his first tractor, he stopped raising mules.
In 1946, Clifton and Alma passed the land to their son, Clifford Eugene Keller. He and his wife, Hazel Bowman Keller, along with the elder Kellers, were charter members of the Hardeman County Farm Bureau. Clifford and Hazel had two children, Barbara and Jean. The family raised cotton, corn, soybeans, strawberries, squash, wheat, hay and Holstein and Jersey cattle. Also a progressive farmer, Clifford participated in land-conservation practices and won the owner-operator division of the Save/Enrich Our Soil Contest in Hardeman County. During the New Deal days in the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps terraced the land, and Clifford also built ponds to stop erosion.
In 1982, Clifton and Alma’s granddaughter, Barbara Blanton, and her husband, Charles Gordon Blanton, acquired 250 acres of the original farm. Charles also owns a farm near Toone that belonged to his great-grandfather, Steven Hardy Gibson. In total, the couple owns 1,400 acres of farm and timber. Barbara and Charles have two sons, Leland Keller and Charles Dana. Charles occupies the founders’ house and raises corn and beans on the farm.
Barbara, Hazel and Alma represent three generations of membership in the local Home Demonstration Club. The matriarch of the family, Alma, died in 1977 at age 97, having seen both railroad and highways built in Hardeman County. The Keller-Blanton Farm is the seventh Century Farm to be certified in Hardeman County and is linked historically to the Albert Lloyd Keller Century Farm in Toone, which was established by John Keller of North Carolina in 1870. One of his sons, Abraham, was the father of William Clifton Keller.
Photo (left): Founder William Clifton Keller plowing the land.
Photo (center): The farm barn on the Keller-Blanton Farm with wooden silo taken in 1922.
Photo (right): Filling the silo in 1921.
Pecan Row Farm
Julius Leonidas Sammons,
Julius Leonidas Sammons, Jr.
David Winston Sammons
Located six miles north of Whiteville, Joseph Allen
Sammons established the Pecan Row Farm in 1827. Prior to establishing the farm,
Allen Sammons served as a fife major in the War of 1812. In the 1820s, he and
his wife Sally Long Sammons migrated from
and his wife Sally had nine children and their son William Wiley Sammons became
the next generation to own the farm. Like his father, William served as a
preacher for the Primitive Baptist church and was a farmer. According to the
family, William labored for twenty-six years as a pastor and traveled
“thousands of miles between churches in northern
The third generation to own the land was Julius Leonidas Sammons, Sr. During his ownership, two articles appeared in the Progressive Farmer publication about his farming techniques. In addition to managing the farm, Julius served as one of the first Presidents of the Tennessee Horticultural Society and was the County Road Commissioner for District #2 in the county. Julius and his wife Mary Burton Neely had six children and their son Julius Leonidas Sammons, Jr. became the next owner.
Julius, Jr.’s ownership, he farm cultivated cotton, cron, beans, apples, peaches
and sweet potatoes. He also raised cattle, hogs and peanuts. According to the
family, one of the items that Julius grew on the farm that made him famous in
the county was his “Kerckley Sweet” watermelons. In 1955, Julius built the
first cold storage for commercial fruit production in
In 1982, Julius Leonidas, III, the great great grandson of the founder acquired the land. During this same year, Lee’s Greenhouses was established and soon became the leading producer of bedding plants, poinsettias and flowering baskets in the area. Along with his father, Julius, Jr., the farm raises corn, beans and cattle. A corn crib and a mule barn built in 1899 are still used today for storage of farm equipment. Some pecan trees still line the road that provided the inspiration for the name of the farm.
Photo: A log barn surrounded by pecan trees on the Pecan Row Farm.
Evelyn C. Robertson, Jr.
A rare African-American Century Farm, the Robertson Farm was founded in 1888 by Crawford Robertson and his wife Cora Robertson through an initial purchase of 75 acres. Subsequently adding acreage, the Robertsons accumulated over 200 acres that produced corn, cotton, sorghum, and hay, and also supported cattle, hogs, and mules. Their family dwelling, built in 1906, is still extant on the Robertson Farm.
Crawford Robertson, born into slavery in
Before establishment of
Myrtle Robertson, taught Home Economics in Hardeman County public schools from 1930 – 1972, all but two of those years in the school her father co-founded. Her mother, Cora Robertson, was active in the Hardeman County Home Demonstration Club during the 1940s and 1950s. Upon Crawford Robertson’s death in 1938, his six children inherited the land, continuing to grow the same row crops and livestock.
Current owner, Evelyn C. Robertson, Jr., acquired 122 acres of his grandfather’s acreage in increments beginning in 1964. He continued the family tradition of agriculture and public service as an educator, Superintendent of Western Mental Health Institute, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, and current Executive Director of the Southwest Tennessee Development District. The owner’s cousin, A. J. Robertson, and Alan Ferguson work the farm today, raising corn and cotton.
Photo: A portrait of the Robertsons.
In August of 1828, Thomas Thompson obtained a land grant
to establish a farm in
Thomas and Margaret had three children and their son John
Boyd Thompson became the third generation to own the farm. Under his ownership,
the farm raised cotton, cattle, corn, pecans, hogs and sheep. In addition to farming, John was a founder
and strong supporter of the
Irene Thompson Ferguson the daughter of John and
In 1985, the three sons, Joel Harry, Thomas Boyd and
Robert Thompson Ferguson acquired the farm. Today, Harry and his son Allan
Ferguson work the land and produce cotton, corn, wheat, milo, soybeans and
cattle. In addition to raising crops and livestock, the farm has an on-going
conservation plan that is being followed that includes terracing, planting
cover crops and the construction of waterways. In the 1990s, all three of the
Photo: A view of the barn on the Thompson Farm.