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Barnes farm earns 100-year distinction
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When the Barnes family gathered at the family home-place on Ivy Bluff Road recently, it was to celebrate River Valley Farms being designated a Tennessee Century Farm.
The announcement of the farm’s inclusion in the program came from Caneta S. Hankins, director of the Century Farms Program at the Center for Historic Preservation at MTSU. The Century Farms Program recognizes the contributions of Tennessee residents who have owned and kept family land in continuous agricultural production for at least 100 years.
Four out of five children born to Col. C. Doyle Barnes Jr. and Lucille Vera Tenpenny Barnes, still live in Warren County. These include, in order by age, eldest son Harry Lee Barnes, daughter Joyce Barnes, Jimmy Barnes, and daughter Vickie Barnes Bouldin, who documented the family farm’s history on the Century Farms application. The family lost youngest child Carl to cancer in 2008.
Jimmy and his wife Paula, of Paula’s Dance Academy fame, share ownership of the farm with Carl’s widow, Wanda. Jimmy and Paula own the land on one side of Ivy Bluff Road while Wanda owns the land on the other side.
Joyce lives in the 1952 home where the children grew up. All the children, including Harry Lee and his wife Janet, and Vickie and husband Mike Bouldin, are still very much involved in the farm which has been in the family for almost 200 years.
At the celebration, Jimmy gave much of the credit to his sister Vickie for getting the information together for the application.
“The reason we’re here today is because of what Vickie has done,” Jimmy said. “Vickie has done so much and I appreciate everything she did.”
Jimmy recalled his childhood on the homestead.
“I’m going to rehash a little bit about mom and dad and the farm,” Jimmy said. “You know, mom and dad did a great job. We weren’t rich, but we never did without anything. Seemed like anything we wanted, we got. I remember growing up we were luckier than a lot of city people. We had fishing, swimming, and you got to ride your bicycle and visit a neighbor once in a while.”
But it wasn’t all play. The entire family worked the farm and attended to their spiritual growth as well.
“Of course we worked,” Jimmy said. “And Mama’s golden rule was you didn’t miss church. Everybody went to church.”              
Jimmy talked about how the dairy cattle which provided much of their living were also a source of pride, winning many trophies in competitions up to the state level. Literally hundreds of these awards were on display at the event.
“Dad and mom really loved cattle and we loved showing cattle,” Jimmy said.
In her research, Vickie found the farm has a storied history which began in the 1800s.
According to the Century Farms news release, River Valley Farms is bordered by the Barren Fork River and takes its name from its fertile valleys and river bottoms. James Jasper Lance (1791-1879) was given a land grant of 100 acres in 1828 — one on which he grew corn, vegetables and livestock. The farm had several fresh-water springs, which continue to be used today.
Clayton Nale Lance, James’s eldest son, was born in 1813. In 1836, Clayton took his wife, Matilda Luttrell Nance, his young son, James S., and Matilda’s mother and traveled to eastern Alabama, where they lived among the Creek Indians at Talladega. According to the family, “They also witnessed the march of the Indians from Alabama to their new home in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).”
This trek became part of the Trail of Tears. On their way back to Tennessee, Clayton helped dig the canal around Muscle Shoals. Once back on the farm, he acquired a tract from his father in 1851 and raised corn, soybeans, cane, wheat, chickens, cattle, hogs, horses and mules.
After R.C.’s death in 1918, the farm went to his and Matilda’s son, Col. C. Doyle Barnes. He and his wife, Hilmer Martin Barnes, had five children, but only Doyle lived to adulthood. Along with the River Valley Farm, Doyle Barnes owned another farm where he operated the Clearmont Mill and ground flour and meal during the Great Depression. The family recalls, “He was a very generous person and would strive to barter for most anything to keep a family from going hungry.”
The patriarch of the current generation, Col. C. Doyle Barnes Jr., acquired the farm in 1956. He married Lucille Vera Tenpenny, and the couple continued to raise vegetable gardens, a herd of 75 to 100 dairy cattle and hay, and eventually a thriving family of five children. “C.D.,” as he was known, was a progressive farmer concerned with preserving the farm for future generations. He followed many conservation practices and dug ponds that were fed by the springs.
As Jimmy alluded to in his comments, all of the children showed registered Holsteins and Guernseys at fairs in Tennessee and Kentucky. This was a very important time for the current generation. They remember the 1910 barn, which is still in use, as the center of the farm’s dairy operations and the main source of income.
In her documentation of the farm’s history in the Century Farms application, Vickie wrote, “If that dairy barn could talk, it might tell of the cold mornings that were so difficult for that teenager to roll out of bed, get milking and feeding done and then go to school. It would tell of the tie that binds our family together throughout life and would help form each of our characters today. Although at that time in our life we thought we had it hard, I can truly say that it made us the individuals we are today.”
River Valley Farms is the seventh Century Farm to be certified in Warren County.
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 Farms Program.
For more information about the Century Farms Program, please visit The Center for Historic Preservation also may be contacted at Box 80, MTSU, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 37132, or 615-898-2947.