When I interview a farmer for an article in Delta Farm Press, I nearly always ask for the names of farms and fields. Most of the time, I get a pretty straight forward answer that needs no further explanation – like Jones Brothers Farm or Field No. 12. But sometimes, a name is just curious enough to warrant further exploration, like Somerset Plantation, or a field called The Battlefield.
If I dig deeper, there are often unique insights into American history wrapped around these names.
In that vein, I would love to hear from farmers and others out there who can speak to the historic origins of their farm and field names, personal or otherwise. Please provide a short synopsis in the comment section of this blog.
Recently, I was on the farm of Jay Hardwick, in Newellton, La., which is just across the Mississippi River from Vicksburg, Miss. Hardwick, who farms cotton, corn, soybeans and milo, is using his farm as part of a Field to Market agricultural sustainability project. There’ll be more on this in an upcoming Delta Farm Press article.
Hardwick, a history buff, told ag journalists during a recent tour of the sustainability project that the family farm, Somerset Plantation, was established by John Perkins in the early 1800s, a time when Louisiana was little more than an unexplored wilderness. Perkins named the farm after his boyhood home in Maryland. The Perkins family left the area many years ago, but surprisingly, descendents still keep in touch with Hardwick.
Somerset was also an unwilling campground for Union armies during the Civil War. In one particular field, Hardwick’s hands have unearthed many a Civil War artifact and hundreds of mini-balls.
Hardwick also showed us a small canal running through the farm which was actually an ancient run of the Mississippi River. Hardwick has done much to preserve the simple beauty and grace of the old remnant.
You’d be surprised at how many Englishmen were in the Mid-South in the period immediately after the Revolutionary War, many of them prominent plantation owners of the time. Are residues of their influence waiting to be found in towns like Liverpool, La.? There’s got to be a good story there.
Just as important, why were Englishmen and Americans living in apparent harmony during such acrimonious times? Perhaps the perils of a new frontier bound them together for the sake of security?
There is so much history preserved in the southern agricultural landscape. Much of it is unknown to the average citizen, but still exists as part of an oral history passed down through generations of farming families. If you have a historical landmark or an interesting fact or story about your farm to share, I’d love to hear from you.