HISTORY OF THE HAMLETT-SMITH FARM
Before Chester Countywas settled (part of Henderson, McNairy, Madison, and Hardeman Counties) in 1882, this land was owned by the Trice brothers (John Calvin, John Harrison, Greg Harrison, George Harrison, Verban Harrison, and Joel F. Hamlett); it was located in Henderson County. Now only three small farms lie between this farm and the Henderson County line (about 1-1/2 miles north); the farms belonged to Sid Rhodes, Ed Bailey, and Ernest Ryalls.
In 1860 John Calvin Trice, father of Florina Trice Hamlett, deeded this tract of land to her which adjoined the land owned by her brothers and uncles. The Trice men owned considerable land in the area. They were wealthy and were knowledgeable in agriculture. Joel F. Hamlett (son-in-law) and the Trice men were instrumental in changing the County from a non-productive to a productive crop and livestock county. Crops grown prior to 1906 when we bought the land were cotton, corn, wheat, rye, oats, and legumes. The land was well managed as to rotation of crops, soil erosion, and forest management.
My father continued these farm practices and added others as seeds became available through saving or purchase. Terraces and ditches were made by horse drawn plows and finished by shovels used by farm laborers.
All farm work was done by horse drawn equipment prior to 1918 when the first tractor was purchased in the area. The Standard Oil Company installed the first gasoline pump and tank here with hand operated pump. Color was added to gasoline to prevent it from being used in cars. The pump is still here (not in use) in good condition.
In 1890 the first farm supervisor (now county agent or extension agent) was sent to the county. He was L. M. McCallum followed by Robert C. Riggan and he was a member of the first graduating class of Freed-Hardeman College. They showed farmers better and new methods of farming and equipment. In 1915 our first women supervisor, Hettie Riddings, came and started helping the women and girls with new and better methods of all practices relating to the home. I was the first club member in the county and first to receive a club pin. I have part of a canning exhibit prepared in 1916 and it is still in good condition (69 years old), also project books and materials, I have my first sewing project - apron, towel, gown, patching, darning, etc. 4-H Clubs and Home Demonstration Clubs were organized in the state in 1924.
This farm and home was the center for all demonstration practices the supervisor wanted to show the farmers and wives. The first reservoir dam in Chester County was built here in 1948 - retaining walls, brush dams, and bales of hay for preventing soil erosion. This is the only farm in Chester County that has a field with 200 acres and not a tree. Like all other farms this size (552 acres), we have unsightly areas, gullies, scrub timber, and some thin land. Yields of crops were unusually high when done by horse drawn equipment and harvested by hand. Now with big and safer equipment in 1970 all land was planted in wheat and beans, and in 1970 just beans with larger acreage yields; in 1981 and 1985 all land was planted in cotton, except lands which are not suited, with yields of 1½ to 2 bales per acre.
Not one farm adjoining this farm has its original owner since 1905, and only two are owned by heirs.
The barns (4) are still standing in good condition as are many pieces of horse drawn equipment. One of several cisterns remains at the end of the big mule barn used for water supply, others at the house used for refrigeration.
In 1936 the Department of Commerce Civil Aeronautic Administration 2nd Region, Atlanta, Georgia leased land for 20 years for an immediate landing field, the 2nd largest in the United States from the following land owners:
William Sidney Rhodes - 41.95 acres
Robert Ed Bailey - 1.17 acres
W. L. Smith Jr. - 17.18 acres
Monnie Smith Sims - 19.85 acres
Martha E. Smith - 40.62 acres
Minnie Smith Bailey - 11.78 acres
John McCall - plot for Beacon light approx. 135 acres
The land was leveled, tile drainage systems, and retaining walls were installed to hold the soil. Two runways, one to the east and one to the south, with 50 lights around the entire field. Three eighty-five foot steel structures, one beacon with revolving lights, were spaced some distance from the field. One eighty-five foot steel structure abstruction light with a stationary red light in the front yard burned all the time except in the daylight hours. There was also a radio tower.
A communication building, all steel, held the equipment and was manned by four men -Rowsy, Pennington, Baxter, and Elder. Also a weather bureau reporting system manned by Grissom, Watkins, Bingham, and Josephine Tinimons, someone was on duty around the clock.
On August 13, 1938, the grand opening celebration was held with over 2,000 people attending (see handbill) - thirty-five planes were on display doing maneuvers, stunt flying, parachute jumps, take-offs, and landings. It was the most elaborate show ever held in Chester County.
In 1954 an ambulance plane brought the body of C.H. (Slim) Bolton, who had died while on vacation in Germany. This was the only ambulance plane ever to land on the field in twenty years. I am the only living member of the airport committee who had to identify the body. (Members were Sid Rhodes, H. A. Morgan, Cary Vandyke, Robert Hardeman, and Joe Rainey.)
In 1942 a hospital plane B-17 (4 motor) made a forced landing carrying wounded soldiers; no one was injured, but the plane was slightly damaged. The soldiers were transported to VA hospitals in the area. Two or three expert pilots were flown in to try and get the plane back in the air, but all failed. Later the plane was cut in four pieces and hauled away by truck. It was the only plane like this ever to land in the twenty years.
This field was used as a training center for Fort Knox, Nashville, Memphis, and Jackson. There were take-offs and landings constantly during the training season.
When the lease ran out in 1956, the field was cleared of all equipment, lights, runways, and the communication center house. The land was put back into cultivation in 1958. The house (airport) is in my back yard.
In 1949 the pipeline from Longview, Texas, to Lima, Ohio company leased a right of way all across Chester County, but our farm had more roddage than any other. Revenues received in county go to schools. The inspection plane flies twice a month and there are occasional check ups by operators from Hornsby, Tennessee.
This summary shows how the farm relates to other farms in the county. A forestry plan is followed and keeps tree management up to date. A wildlife reserve is maintained with help of National Wildlife Association. In 1984 the farm became a tree farm over 2000 seedlings were planted in 1983 and 1984.
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