Willow Wood Farm
William E. and Jane T. Cortner
Willow Wood Farm joins other Normandy properties, including Meadow Dale and the Wooten-Kimbro Farms as certified Century Farms. The two-hundred acre farm was founded by George Cortner, a land surveyor, in 1841. He and his wife, Delilah Troxler Cortner, had eleven children. The family grew a variety of crops and livestock as well as timber. A sawmill and blacksmith shop, whose dates of origin may have been prior to 1841, were operated on the farm for at least two generations. The family advises that during the Civil War, brothers Andrew and Matthew Cortner were part of General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Escort.
In 1879, the veteran Alexander Grant Cortner, acquired 145 acres. He and Mary Elizabeth Landers, and their children and cultivated the land and continued to operate the sawmill and blacksmith shop. In 1911, Alexander and Mary Cortner’s sixth child, Will Lucy, acquired 140 acres. He raised horses, cows, hogs, sheep, and chickens while also growing corn, wheat, hay, vegetables, and an orchard on his family’s farm. Will was married twice; with Josephine Cotton, he had three children and with Eliza Kate Sutton, he had nine children. During the 1924 “Name Your Home” Campaign, the Cortners named their property the “Willow Wood Farm,” a name that remains today. Two sons, Forrest, and Claude, served in World War II.
The fourth generation to own and work the land were two of Eliza and Will Cortner’s sons, George R. and Willie Alfred (W.A.) Cortner. They acquired the land in 1928 and continued to farm in ways similar to their parents. The brothers also started a dairy, built a dairy barn and silo, and harvested timber. In 1935, the Cortners purchased a one acre tract of land with a mill raceway on it; the raceway historically provided Rowesville residents and local mill with a water supply that originated on the Cortners’ farm, from the Shipman Creek, near Cave Spring. The brothers’ wives and children lived on the farm and assisted in its production. George R. and W.A. were both members of the Farm Bureau while they had joint ownership of the farm; W.A. maintained his membership throughout his life.
W.A. acquired his brother’s share of the land in 1946. He and his wife, Mattie Poplin Cortner, had five children – Joyce, William Edward, Amna Ruth, Margaret Rose, and John Winston. Like previous generations of farm women, Mattie was active in improving the quality of life on the farm; she was a member of the Home Demonstration Club in the 1940s and 1950s. The dairy continued in operation until the 1970s when W.A. began to raise beef cattle. In 1983, they transferred ownership of the 140 acres to their five children while W.A. continued to manage the farm, raising beef cattle and hay. He passed away at the age of 92 in 1998 and is buried in the Nutt Cemetery on the Willow Wood Farm. This cemetery likely dates back to the early 1800s and has sixty or more graves. It is likely the burial place of several pioneer settlers, including Daniel Shipman.
The present owners, William Edward and Jane T. Cortner acquired his siblings’ share in 1990. While still attending Shelbyville Central High School in the 1950s, William was a member of the Future Farmers and for at least forty years, he has been a member of the Farm Bureau. Jane is a member of the Farm Bureau Women of Bedford County. This generation built several outbuildings to support the farm work. Their children are Mary Lee Cortner Barton and Steven Forrest Cortner. Today, William and Jane Cortner own and actively manage this historic farm.