Ayres Family Farm recognized for Century of Agricultural Production
J. Mark Lowe
(as printed in the Robertson County Times, 20 Jan 2010)
Dan and Billie Ann Ayres along with their family were recognized in 2008 as living on a Tennessee Century Farm, by the Center for Historic Preservation, which is located on the MTSU campus. The Century Farm Program recognizes the contributions of Tennessee residents who have continuously owned, and kept in production, family land for at least 100 years. This project recognizes the important work of documenting Tennessee’s agricultural heritage and history through the Tennessee Century Farm Program.
On 7 April 1909, Daniel P. and Mary Ayres acquired 83 acres in Cedar Hill from J. B. and Malissa Robertson. Dan P. and Mary were parents to three sons, Joseph, Jack and William, and raised tobacco and corn. Prior to this, Daniel P. Ayres had been an undertaker in Cedar Hill.div>The second owner of the land was Daniel’s brother, James M. Ayres. He acquired the property in 1910. He and wife Mary Elizabeth Moon reared five children: Bessie Ellen [married Walton Benton Cope], James Louis, Willie Stephen, Samuel Lee and Wallace [died as infant]. During this generation, the farm produced corn, tobacco and wheat. Daniel P. Ayres established a grist mill in Cedar Hill, which he operated until his death.
James M. Ayers and his wife, Mary mortgaged the land to the Union Central Life Insurance Company on 22 Sept 1913. The mortgage was for $700. A description of the property was included on the mortgage:
Beg at a stone, Jesse Alley’s Southeast Corner thence East 50 & 1/6 poles to a Stone, Bob Alley’s corner; thence North crossing the Adams and Barren Plains road [now known as Sturgeon Creek Road] with Bob Alley’s line 240 poles to a stone in William Miles line; thence West with his line 56-1/2 pols to a stone, Allbrooks’s Southeast corner; thence North 5-1/2 poles to a stone; thence West 3-1/3 poles to a stone in said Allbrook’s line; thence South crossing the Adams and Barren Plains road with Jesse Alley’s line 245-1/2 poles to the beginning , containing 83 acres.
After James M. Ayres died in 1919, the family sought to complete his earlier mortgage and extend a new mortgage for building and land.
Mrs. Mary Ayres in her deposition: “I am 59 years of age, reside in the 5th District of Robertson county, on the farm owned by my husband, James, at the time of his death, and my two sons, Louis and Samuel live with me and work and run the farm.
They proposed borrowing $1500 in order to “… pay off the loan and build a new tobacco barn as the storm blew our barn down and blew down the henhouse and damaged the dwelling some, and we have no other barn without building a new one to house our tobacco crop and it will be absolutely necessary to build a new tobacco barn so we can run the farm.” The family petitioned the court to remove the disability of age from Samuel Ayres so he could participate in the mortgage, he being 19 years of age at the time. The original mortgage was released on 19 November 1923.
In 1931, James Louis Ayres became the third generation to own the farm. Louis was married in 1925 to Virginia Ewing Webb (daughter of John J. and Nannie Webb) and their three children were Clarence Edward, James Daniel ‘Dan’ and Betty Ann.
Growing up during the Great Depression, Dan remembers that the family was reasonably self-sufficient. Everyone worked hard to produce corn, tobacco, dairy cattle, hogs and chickens for the family’s table and to sell. He also recalled that although their house was small, “we always had room for family or friends who had no other place to live.”
According to family records, in 1945 the farm received electricity and in the early 1950s, the family’s first telephone was on an eight-party line.
In 1981, Dan, who married Billie Ann Dority, became the fourth generation of the Ayres family to own the farm. Today, the couple’s son, Jeff, produces corn, tobacco, hay and beef cattle on the property, which is currently celebrating a century of family ownership and agricultural production. Lisa, the daughter of Dan and Billie Ann, and her husband, Chris Traughber, have also lived on the farm since they married. The sixth generation to live and work on the farm are the daughter of Lisa (LlieAnna Danielle) and son and daughter of Jeff (Louis Daniel and Laura).
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture began the Tennessee Century Farm Program in 1976 as part of the nation’s bicentennial. Today, the TDA provides a metal outdoor sign denoting either 100, 150 or 200 years of “continuous agricultural production” to Century Farm families.
According to Caneta Hawkins, director of the Century Farms program, “To be considered for eligibility, a farm must be owned by the same family for at least 100 years; must produce $1,000 revenue annually; must have at least 10 acres of the original farm; and one owner must be a resident of Tennessee.The Century Farmers represent all the farm families of Tennessee and their contributions to the economy, and to the social, cultural and agrarian vitality of the state, both past and present, is immeasurable. Each farm is a Tennessee treasure.”
For more information about the Century Farms Program, please visit
Sources: Century Farm Application; Chancery Case #3027; Original Estate Settlements, Deeds and Mortgages in Robertson County Archives.