Local Farm Recognized by Governor as One of State’s Oldest

October 21, 2008
Terry Oliver, Deputy Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, John W. Rose, Cindy Rose Dowell, Steve Dowell and Governor Phil Bredesen.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Governor Phil Bredesen has recognized John Williams Rose of the Temperance Hall community as the owner of one of Tennessee’s oldest farms. Lancaster Farm, located in the Lancaster community near the Dekalb County line was established by Rose’s ancestors in 1790. The farm is one of only 41 farms in Tennessee currently recognized as predating the formation of the state of Tennessee. Bredesen recently recognized Rose, along with his sister and brother in law, Cindy and Steve Dowell of Smith County, who help operate the farm.

Governor Phil Bredesen, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the Middle Tennessee State University Center for Historic Preservation honored Tennessee's oldest farms at a luncheon during the Tennessee Farmland Legacy Conference. Pioneer farms are farms founded in or before 1796 that have remained in the same family and in continuous agricultural production.

"These farms are among Tennessee's most significant rural landscapes and each generation, in its own way and time, has contributed to our prosperity and quality of life," said Governor Bredesen. "The state is proud of its agricultural heritage, and these Century Farms give us an enduring link to the past and a rich legacy for our children and grandchildren to enjoy."

Pioneer farms are part of the Tennessee Century Farms Program administered by the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation and supported by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. CHP was started in 1975 by the department in honor of the nation's bicentennial celebration. The program identifies, documents and recognizes farms owned by the same family for at least 100 years. To date, there are more than 1200 certified Century Farms in Tennessee.

“It's appropriate that we take time to honor our state's oldest farms and recognize their contributions to the economy, environment and quality of life we enjoy in Tennessee,” said Ken Givens, Commissioner of Agriculture. “Not only are we preserving the past, but we're helping to ensure the future of these farms by keeping them profitable and giving farm owner’s options for keeping their farms.”

The Lancaster Farm is located on Hwy 141 in the community of Lancaster on the east bank of the Smith Fork Creek just south of the Caney Fork River. Sometime before 1790 John Lancaster and his family moved across the mountains to a parcel of land that was originally part of a Revolutionary War land grant of 2,560 acres. The family engaged in farming, owned and operated a mill on the Smith Fork and founded the nearby town of Lancaster.

In 1800, a son, Richard Lancaster, acquired the farm. In 1799, Richard survived an Indian attack and scalping. Family history records that he hunted Indians from that time until 1826, when he was captured and “shot full of arrows and hung from a bluff along the banks of the river.” Richard is buried in the family cemetery, called Prichard Cemetery, which is on the farm.

The third owner of the land was John Lancaster’s nephew, Thomas A. Lancaster, a veteran of the War of 1812. He and his wife Frances Lancaster had six children. Thomas opened a general merchandise store in Lancaster. William, son of Thomas and Frances, and his wife Elizabeth were the next to own the land. Melissa Lancaster, daughter of William and Elizabeth, and her husband, James C. Prichard, were the next owners of the property.

The farm passed through several more family owners and today is owned by John Williams Rose, who served as Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of Tennessee in 2002-2003. His father, the late Jerry Lancaster Rose helped established the current farm operation. Rose is the eighth owner and the seventh generation in the Lancaster family line to own and operate the farm.

The first annual Tennessee Farmland Legacy Conference brought together a diverse group of stakeholders for presentations on farm estate planning, property taxes and conservation easements for landowners and planning techniques that protect farmland while not hindering economic growth for community leaders. Presenters explained how communities and farmers can both benefit from working together. The conference was hosted by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Tennessee Department of Tourism, The Lyndhurst Foundation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Land Trust for Tennessee, Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, USDA Rural Development, UT Center for Profitable Agriculture, MTSU Center for Historic Preservation and Cumberland Region Tomorrow.

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