Cypress Creek Farm
William George Branch
Members of the Thompson-Branch family have lived on the Cypress Creek Farm located, southeast of Camden, since at least 1849. Family tradition has the Thompsons living on the property since 1819. A War of 1812 veteran, William Thompson, and his wife, Penelope Holland, began cultivating land acquired from the Chickasaw Indians in the 1818 Jackson Purchase. Soon the Thompsons had built a simple log cabin and had an operating cotton gin and still. After William’s death, the couple’s 12 children filed legal claims for 322.5 acres and divided it among themselves in 1849. They raised enough livestock and crops to meet their needs.
The next owner was the founders’ son, Charles Hodges Thompson. By the Civil War, he had purchased 10 tracts from his siblings and had built his own log cabin near his mother’s home. Charles and his wife, Fredonia “Adaline” Utley had 10 children and were engaged in a wide range of agricultural actives. They had a fruit orchard, kept bees, and raised livestock, corn, wheat, tobacco and vegetables. Charles also built a bridge for Camden-Rockport Road travelers to cross the Cypress Creek. For this, he received $20 from the Benton County Court in 1860. This bridge has been replaced by a wooden bridge and then a steel structure.
Although the family had a productive farm following the Civil War, debt hit the Thompsons hard when Charles died suddenly in 1879, forcing the land to be sold at auction. Adaline’s uncle purchased much of the property and immediately deeded 80 acres back to her.
In the following years, Adaline Thompson and her two oldest daughters, Nancy “Velonia” and Arena Jane, worked hard to plow, weed, cultivate, and harvest their crops. The trip produced 500 bushels of corn and, 150 bushels of oats, along with cotton, honey, firewood and truck vegetables. Much of this was sold, but “some was kept for home consumption” family members say.
Arena Thompson married Martin Branch, and he purchased land that adjoined his mother-in-law’s in 1889. By 1899, the Branches had acquired the Thompsons’ 80 acres, increasing their property to 155 acres.
The couple had two boys, William “Willie” Clarence and George “Fay” Willie eventually took on many of the farming
responsibilities, growing a diverse crop as had previous generations. Willie was also working for the NC & St. L. Railroad and was the county surveyor. During World War I, Fay was drafted into the Navy, while Willie remained at home because he was a public official.
In the early 1920s, Willie Branch inherited adjoining land from his uncle, Lem Thompson. Here, he and his wife, Lola Bridges, built a two-story concrete stone house. After Martin and Arena’s deaths, Fay inherited the 80 acres that had been Adaline’s, and Willie continued to manage the farm activities; Willie eventually purchased this land from his brother, now owning more than 400 acres.
Lola and Willie Branch had one son, William “Billy” George. Billy George is the eighth and current owner, owning all 322.5 acres of the original 1849 farm in addition to adjoining property. He and his first wife, Lydia Laux, had three children: David, Linda and Carol. Billy George and Dankin Cepedes, his second wife, are the parents of Martin and Nicole.
The Branches have continued to be active in the agricultural legacy of the Cypress Creek Farm. Until the 1960s, they raised goats, hogs and chickens for personal use and cattle and beefalo until the early 2000s. In the 1980s, Billy George’s beefalo herd was recognized by the American Beefalo Association when he won “Breeder of the Year.” Since 2000, the property has been used for hay production and as a tree farm. About 34 acres are planted with cypress trees, and this portion of the farm is in the Federal Conservation Program.
Since 1819, the Thompson-Branch family has been actively involved in the agricultural history of Tennessee while also being leaders of their community. Many of the family’s houses and outbuildings still remain on the property and are reminders of Cypress Creek Farm’s long history.