Local families receive honors as Arkansas Century Farms

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published December 1, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Nick Hillemann

Several families from the River Valley & Ozark Edition coverage area have been designated Arkansas Century Farms. Among them are, from the left, Caroline and Larry Eubanks of Van Buren County; Lois and Charles “Toby” Torbert of Conway County; Travis Burchfield and his dad, O.D. Burchfield, of Faulkner County; and Sara and Dan Flowers of Van Buren County.

Farming has been a way of life for more than 100 years for at least 16 families in the River Valley & Ozark Edition coverage area. Each of these families received an Arkansas Century Farm designation in ceremonies Nov. 18 and 19. Sponsored by the Arkansas Agriculture Department, the Arkansas Century Farm program recognizes Arkansas’ rich agricultural heritage and honors families who have owned and farmed the same land for at least 100 years. The program recognized 102 families across the state this year. The program is voluntary, places no restrictions on the land and does not require a fee.

One local family, the Newlands of Van Buren County, is also featured in today’s paper. Following is a look at the other area families who received the Century Farm designation.

CONWAY COUNTY

• The Rehm family farm of 80 acres was established by Henry and Louise Rehm in 1907 in St. Elizabeth at the foot of Petit Jean Mountain.

“They farmed the normal stuff — cows, pigs, chickens,” said Larry Rehm, who today is a managing partner of the farm.

“The farm then came to my grandparents, the late Emil and Thresia Rehm, who accumulated more land and farmed 360 acres. It then came to my dad, the late Albert Rehm, and my mother, Rita, who is still living.”

Albert formed an LLC (limited liability company), leaving the farm to his eight children.

“We all own it,” Larry said. “I rent it from my brothers and sisters. My wife, Melissa, and I have 45 mamma cows.”

Larry and Melissa live in Atkins, as does his mother.

Larry’s siblings include Tom of Houston, Texas; Brenda Engelhoven of North Little Rock; Robert of St. Elizabeth; Kathy Stane of St. Elizabeth; Barney of Little Rock; Trina Mallett of Topeka, Kan.; Kevin of Springfield; and Joe of Orlando, Fla.

“We’re proud of the farm,” Larry said. “We’re proud that we have been able to keep it together. Dad gave us strict orders to keep the farm. We hope the next generation will do the same thing.”

Larry said his grandfather [Emil] only had a second-grade education, but he was ambitious.

“He bought a steam-powered sawmill, moved it to the farm and started clearing the land,” Larry said. “He also had a grist mill. He employed quite a few people at the mills, and he also had sharecroppers. And in 1930, he built a general store at what is still called Rehm’s Corner.

“In addition to the store, he had a big dance hall, a skating rink, a baseball field, sold beer and brought in big brass bands,” Larry said with a laugh. “Then the Depression came along in the ’30s, and in 1948, the highway bypassed St. Elizabeth, and the rural hot spot just faded away.”

• The Torbert Farm was first homesteaded by George Alfonso Torbert, who came to the Old Hickory community near Hattieville in 1904 from Alabama.

“He raised cotton and corn on the 80 acres,” said his grandson, Charles “Toby” Torbert. “He farmed with mules.”

Toby’s father, the late B.W. Torbert, bought the farm from George Alfonso, and after B.W. and his wife, Hester, died, the farm came to Toby.

Toby and his wife, Lois, who are both 82, now raise crossbred cattle and hay on the farm, which they call the T&L Farm.

Toby and Lois have two daughters, Linda Edwards and Susie Shaw, who both live in Kentucky; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

FAULKNER COUNTY

• The Burchfield Farm at Wooster was founded in the 1800s by M.H. and May Alsop. They owned 160 acres.

“They sold two acres to the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in 1872 for $25,” said Travis Burchfield, who farms the land today with his father, O.D. Burchfield. “The church is still there. All of my family attended Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, as do family members today. All of the family members who are deceased are buried in the cemetery next to the church.”

Travis said the land came down through the family from M.H. Alsop, to his son, G.W. Alsop, then to G.W.’s daughter, Elizabeth Alsop Browning, then to her son, Secratus “Crate” Browning, who operated a store on the farm. After Secratus died, his wife, Lillian, sold the land to O.D. Burchfield in 1962.

“O.D. moved the old house his grandparents built to make room to build his own house,” Travis said. “The original Browning house where O.D.’s mother was raised is still standing. It was used as a barn for many years.

“We still bale hay and raise timber on the farm today,” Travis said. “We also farm rice and soybeans in the Cadron bottoms less than two miles from our beginnings.”

POPE COUNTY

• The Gravel Hill Farm was established in the Gravel Hill community near Dover by George and Amanda Myers in 1905. They farmed 200-plus acres, raising cows, corn and cotton.

Randy Young, current owner, said the farm was passed down through the generations from the Myerses’ daughter, Eunice, who married Young’s uncle, Dave. The farm then came to Randy’s parents, the late R.A. and Joy Young, then to Randy.

“We raise beef cattle,” said Randy, who is executive director of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. “We have a cow/calf operation of commercial and registered Black Angus cattle.”

Randy and his wife, Sue, have two sons, Evan and Steve, and two grandchildren.

“We hope to pass the farm on to the next generation, if they are interested,” Randy said.

• The Hughey Farm was established in 1852 near Atkins by Stephen Decature Lewis, who farmed 160 acres.

The land was passed down to his son, Stephen Lewis, then to his daughter, Sarah Ann Lewis, who married Isaac W. Talkington. The land then went to Lucy H. Talkington, one of Isaac’s four daughters.

“Lucy married J.W. Daniels, who were my mother’s parents,” said Isaac J. Hughey, who owns the land today. “The land then went to their last surviving child, my aunt, Elizabeth Hillyard Burnett. I got the land from her in 1978 or ’79.

“I still farm the land,” Isaac said. “I have 200 acres. I raise rice and soybeans. They raised corn and cotton for 75 years. They still had mules on the place in the 1950s.”

Isaac and his wife, Doris, have no children. He said there are nieces and nephews who may be interested in farming in the future.

• The Leo and Sharon Knoernschild Farm, in the Lutherville community on the Johnson-Pope county line, was established in 1886 by Christian Knoernschild.

Christian was the oldest of 10 children of Henrich, who came with his brothers from Tiefengrun, Germany, to Augusta, Mo. He settled there first, but the land was not conducive to growing grapes, said his grandson, Leo Knoernschild, who owns the farm today with his wife, Sharon.

Leo said the Iron Mountain Railway Co., also known as the Fort Smith and Little Rock Railroad Co., advertised in the newspaper, describing an area in Arkansas that was a “Garden of Eden.”

Leo said the land was cheap, the soil was great for farming, and even more important, “you could raise two potato crops a year.

“That was very important to Grandpa Chris, who homestead 160 acres of timberland on Colony Mountain to grow grapes, apples, peaches and, eventually, cotton and soybeans,” Leo said.

Chris married Anna Meckert in 1891, and they had three daughters and a son, Emil, who was Leo’s father. Emil married Rosa Drittler in 1929. They raised broilers.

In 1973, the farm came to Leo, who now raises Angus/Hereford cattle on 80 acres of hay and pastureland, with the remaining land in timber to propagate wildlife populations. Leo is retired from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and had the land designated as a wildlife habitat.

The Knoernschilds have five children and nine grandchildren.

• The Murdoch Place was established on 80 acres near Atkins in 1867 by James William and Gracie Murdoch.

“They hacked out a place to live and had orchards and livestock,” said their granddaughter, Inez Murdoch Young. “It was just a subsistence farm.”

The next generation to farm the land was Charles Phillip and Martha Murdoch.

The land then went to their son, and Inez’s father, Earl Murdoch, who farmed 160 acres with his wife, Ann. They grew cotton. “My dad loved his cotton,” Inez said.

Today, Inez and her husband, Howard S. Young, own the land and have added to it, farming 400 acres in timber and Black Angus cattle. They have four daughters, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

“They will inherit it someday,” she said.

• The David Oates Farm dates back to 1857.

John Oates IV, who was born in 1786, came to Arkansas at the age of 65 in 1851. He established the home place at Pottsville.

One of his sons, William Leslie, inherited the land and, along with his wife, Harriet Madrid Oates, built the original home. The land passed through several more generations to the current owners, David Bonner Oates and his wife, Marium.

Today, the Oateses, along with their son, Leslie Oates, farm 900 acres.

“We’re a pretty diverse farm,” Marium said. “We have a cow/calf operation and raise wheat and soybeans. We also raise a premium hay that we cut in square bales and sell to horse-owners.”

David and Marium also have a daughter, Melanie Oates Wheeler, who lives in Pottsville with her husband, Howard, and has seven children. Leslie Oates and his wife, Melissa, have three children.

“Everything’s already set up for them to inherit the farm,” Marium said of her children and grandchildren. “The land will continue to be in the family.”

VAN BUREN COUNTY

• The Eubanks Farm was established on 160 acres in Choctaw in 1896 by Reuben and Flora Eubanks. They raised hogs, crops and cattle.

The land was passed down to their son, Jim Brownlow Eubanks, who was married to Elva White Eubanks. Jim Brownlow sold 47 acres to his son, Larry Eubanks, who farms the land today with his wife, Carolyn.

“I have hay and lease it for cattle,” said Larry, who lives in Heber Springs.

The old home still stands on the property.

“Dad built it with a hammer and saw. We go see about it every week,” he said.

“I hope to keep it in the family. We don’t have children, but I have nieces and nephews in the family line.”

• “The Farm” was homesteaded in Choctaw in 1907 by Doc Huie and his wife, Laura. It is now owned by Dan and Sara Jane Flowers of North Little Rock.

“It’s my wife, Sara’s, farm,” Dan said. “The land patent was for 120 acres. They raised cows, pigs, chickens, corn, whatever. It’s a hill farm on the upper part of Greers Ferry Lake.”

Dan and Sara, who live in North Little Rock, have since sold 40 of the farm’s original 120 acres. They raise cows and horses.

They have two daughters, Susan Lee Baker of Warsaw, Poland, and Jennifer Remy of Fort Smith; a son, Matthew Flowers of Maumelle; and eight grandchildren.

“It’s neat to be a part of this [Century Farm program],” said Dan, who is a former director of the Arkansas Highway Department. “I’ve been around the farm, worked it for 45 years with Sara. We hope to be able to pass it along to the next generation.”

YELL COUNTY

• The Cotton Farm was established in the Carden Bottoms area in 1881 by D.C. Love.

D.C. left the land to his daughter, Myrtle Love, who married Thomas Cotton.

Thomas Leonard “Len” Cotton of Dardanelle acquired the land from an aunt, and he now manages it with a partner, Gordon Miller of Centerville. They raise row crops, mainly soybeans.

Len Cotton and his wife, Avis, also own another 100-year-old farm, The Greenwood Farm.

• The Greenwood Farm near Dardanelle was established in 1869 by Leonard “Len” Cotton, who raised cattle on the land. Two acres of that land was given to establish a school.

Today’s owner, Thomas Leonard “Len” Cotton, said the land was then passed down to his grandparents, Thomas Cotton and Myrtle Love

Cotton, then to an aunt and finally to him in 1974.

Len and his wife, Avis, continue to raise cattle on the land. The Cottons have two children: a daughter, Sarah Patterson of Little Rock, who has their only grandchild, Jack Thomas “J.T.” Peterson; and a son, Republican Congressman Tom Cotton.

• The Crow Farm was established in 1898 by Elhanan Pruitt Dean, who came to Yell County from Tennessee. He farmed 40 acres in the Carden Bottoms in the Cottontown community.

“He acquired a good many acres later,” said his great-grandson, Robert E. Crow Jr., who owns the property today. “Cotton was the main crop then.”

The land was passed down to Elhanan’s daughter, Goly, who married Arthur Crow. Their son, Robert E. Crow Sr., took over the farm and raised row crops. The land then came to Robert E. “Bobby” Jr., who had farmed in a partnership with his dad until 2005.

Bobby and his wife, Debbie, now lease out the row cropland and keep cattle on their present-day operation of 1,000 acres.

The Crows have three daughters, Amanda McClellan of Conway; Sheri Sykes, who lives on the homeplace; and Erin Mills, who lives in Alma. The Crows have eight grandchildren.

Bobby and his sister, Linda Hon of Russellville, are part of a land trust developed by their father that includes their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

• The Evans-Neuhart Farm was established in the late 1800s to early 1900s [the first deed found cites 1901] by John Pleasant and Martha James Evans. It is 3 1/2 miles west of Plainview.

The Evanses, who had nine children, owned 320 acres, most of which was in cultivation. They raised cotton, corn and some cattle.

Dr. Luther Evans acquired the land upon his father’s death in 1932. Luther died in 1933 and left the land to his widow, Lorene Ellington Evans. Lorene willed the property to her grandsons, Larry Neuhart and his brother, Paul Evans Neuhart.

“My mother, Annie Grace Evans Neuhart, made sure the Evans farm stayed in the family during many difficult times,” said Larry Neuhart, who lives in Fort Smith.

“My grandmother Lorene, who was very resourceful, farmed the property with cattle and crops by having some great people live in a house on the farm with which she shared the income,” Larry said. “In the 1960s, my father, Cleo Neuhart, used the farm to raise cattle, hay and timber. He had cattle on the farm until the late 1990s.

“In the first part of the 21st century, we leased out the pastureland and harvested the timber,” Larry said. “In 2009, the Arkansas Forestry Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave us a certificate for Forestry Stewardship, after we replanted 100-plus acres in pine and hardwood timber.”

Larry Neuhart, 59, has no children. Paul Neuhart, 61, and his wife, Cindy, live in Atlanta, and have one son, Phillip Evans Neuhart, who lives with his wife, Kathryn, in New York City; and one daughter, Mackenzie Neuhart of Atlanta.

• The Parsons Farm was homesteaded in 1868 by C.V. “Van” Wesley, great-uncle to Jason Parsons of Dardanelle, who owns the farm today.

Jason’s wife, Mistie, said Van arrived in Arkansas from Czechoslovakia “as part of several families that immigrated to the area and formed the Czech community that has a rich and long history in the Dardanelle area,” she said.

Van owned the farm until his death in 1968.

After Van died, the 80 acres was owned by several other of Jason’s great-uncles and a great-aunt, then by his grandmother, Mary Wesley Klober. In 1986, Jason’s mother inherited the farm and operated it until 1999, when Jason took over the farm.

Jason and Mistie now own 100 acres. They grow chickens for Wayne Poultry and raise cattle. They have two children: Anthony, 20, and Katie, 14.

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