Early last month we went to visit the Shields-Etheridge Heritage Farm in Jefferson, GA. Back when my sister in law was a kid she spent a lot of time with the family and even lived with them for awhile.
There have been seven generations of the Shields – Ethridge family that have worked and lived on the farm. Now I’m a little confused on when the farm was originally settled. The sign out by the main house says that brothers James and Patrick Shields settled the land in 1798 but the time line on the farms web page says that Joseph Shields settled there in 1802. Maybe my Sister-in-law could shed some light on this in the comments if she reads it. For this post I’m going to use the time line on the web page.
In 1802 Joseph Shields and his family settled on the land that is now the Shields-Ethridge farm. Joseph and his two slaves cleared the land and raised crops. When Joseph died in 1818 they were also raising livestock on the 294 acres of land. Joseph left his farm to his son James. James and his wife Charity had six children. Two of their sons fought in the Confederate Army. When James died in 1863 he left the farm to his wife Charity. During the time James ran the farm he purchased another 60 acres to add to the farm.
In 1865 Charity Shields signed a contract with three of her former slaves. Charity gave the three woman food and a place to live and together the four woman continued to run the farm.
In 1866 James and Charity’s oldest son, Joseph, returned from the war and built the main house on the land. The main house is still occupied by members of the family. The smaller house next to the main house is the cooks house. I’m not sure when it was built. The main house was paid for with two bales of cotton.
Joseph grew cotton on half his land and the other half he grew grains, fruits, vegetables and raised some livestock.
Josephs wife died in 1896 and his daughter Susan and her new husband Ira Washington Etherage moved back to the farm to help run it.
Ira Etherage built a Sharecroppers Village in the early 1900’s. Sharecroppers would help work the land and in exchange the would get a house, mule and cotton seed. The farm was very successful and doubled in size.
Between 1900 and 1945 many buildings were added to the farm and the main house was added onto. Below are some of the buildings that were added with a link to the main website so you can read all about the building and it’s construction.
The Garage was built in 1923 across from the main house.
The Teacher’s house was originally built in 1912 as a two room cabin Sharecroppers house. In 1938 they added a room to the house and it became the new teachers house.
I’m not sure when the seed house was built but it was during the ginning operations. Many local cotton farmers would bring their crops to the Ethridge gin and leave a portion of their seeds as payment.
The Wheat House was used as a place to store farm equipment and as a granary. This building also faced the main house. The balcony above the door was to make the building look more aesthetically pleasing and so workers could hoist bags of grain into the loft from the donkey drawn buggies parked below.
The Cotton Gin was a very busy place, this is where local farmers would bring there mule drawn buggies full of cotton. You can click on the link above to see pictures from 1918 showing several farmers waiting to unload their cotton.
The Gin office is where Mr. Ira did all his record keeping. Since the cotton dust bothered him he would spend most of his time in the Gin office instead of the Gin House.
My favorite building is the Commissary. People from the farm and from nearby farms would come to the commissary to purchase supplies. In the evenings friends and family would gather on the front porch.
There are several headstones on the property some dating back to the late 1800’s. I love reading old headstones and wondering what the person was like and how they lived. Walking around the farm, reading about the building and people, you can almost see the hustle and bustle of the farm, picture the families that once lived in the houses, the kids out playing. I love old historic sites and learning about them.
If you want to know more about the Shields – Etherage Farm you can click here. It really is very interesting and worth the read. If you want to see the all the pictures we took there you can see the album here.