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John and Harriet Strayhorn Barksdale Moore, Founders, Moore Family Century Farm

Agnes Strayhorn and Chenney Streetcar Moore were two slave girls who became the mothers of the couple who founded the Moore Family Farm – John Moore and Harriet Strayhorn. Harriet was the only child of Agnes Strayhorn. John was one of four children birthed by Chenney Streetcar Moore. During slavery, John Moore was known as “Shoemaker John”. During slavery the master allowed him to keep the money he made from his job as shoemaker.

After freedom of the slaves in 1865, John searched until he found his mother and brought her to live with him and his family.  John also found a wife Harriet the love of his life. Their union created a blended family of twenty-one children. They moved from North Carolina to Benton County in Tennessee. 

By March 4,1870, John and Harriet Strayhorn Barksdale Moore purchased 218 1/2 acres of land at the cost of fifty cent per acre in the Flatwood Community near Camden, Tennessee with the money made by “Shoemaker John”. Harriet was a midwife who birthed many babies in the community.  From sun up to sun down the family cultivated 50 acres of land and the rest was in young timber. They made soap for washing. Raised their own hogs for meat and plants for food and medicine.  They sold grains, peas, potatoes, milk, butter and slaughter meat.

After the sudden death of his father and brother in 1880, John Lewis, the son of John and Harriet inherited the family business with his mother. Over time he added wife Ida Menzie and 15 children. Cultivation increased to 100 acres as well as sale of livestock and garden products.  New life was brought to the community when the family donated land to build a church, school and cemetery.

Around 1923, John Henry, a grandson of John and Harriet continued the vision with wife Inez Parson and 7 children through the production of livestock and crops. They added offerings such as turkeys, peanuts and watermelon. “Loving Henry” was known for his bright smile, sorghum molasses and Barbeque. Inez was a gardener, sorghum producer and pressure cooker trainer for the county.  When family and guest came to visit “Moma Nezzie” she would rise early in the morning to pluck a chicken to serve for breakfast. Visitors always left with a carload of food and resources from the farm.  Beginning in 1991, the children of John and Inez Moore began managing the farm. 

 

In 2015 with assistance from the Benton County Extension Office, Register of Deeds, and Middle Tennessee State University, the farm achieved the Tennessee Century Farm designation. Administered by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation, Tennessee Century Farms recognize families that have owned and farmed the same land for more than 100 years.

 

The historic Moore Family Farm (1870) in Benton County helps to tell an important Reconstruction era story: how African Americans started their own farms. We will tell the story of disproportionate land lost - between 1910 and 1997, African Americans lost about 90% of their farmland. From the 1920s to today, the percentage of Black landowners steadily dropped from 14% to only 1.3% across the nation. We will inspire the next generation of emerging farm and forest landowners.

 

Some of the Moore descendants have formed the Moore Family Century Farm Group to honor and educate about this legacy. The group will share the history of the few remaining historic African American owned farms in Tennessee and the United States through social media, storytelling, events and tours. The group works to maintain this 150+ year old historic farm in Benton County Tennessee. The group plans to restore and renovate a school building, farmhouse, corn crib, church and cemetery.

 

Compiled by Renee' Williams, 4 February 2017, update September 2022                                                                                          This content is as described in an upcoming brochure that our family is producing in partnership with the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation including contributors Carroll Van West, Antoinette van Zelm, Bethany Hollingsworth, and Abigail Coomes; additional information provided by Rosetta O’Neal, Josie Barksdale Anderson, Shirley Moore Williams, Renee Moore Williams, Heather Smith, Sonya Volz  and numerous relatives.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 

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