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Farm Archaeology Part II

This morning we had an appointment with someone from the VA Department of Forestry. He’s actually a neighbor, and it was a great visit. Not only did he teach us all about how to care for our trees but he knew so much about the area.

The old tobacco barn by our creek, which lies just a few feet over our property line, and the tantalizing view of a large ruin beyond the creek were only the first hint of what lies beyond. We crossed the creek (with me of course slipping off the stepping stone and finding myself shin deep in icy water) and walking up towards the old ruins we could see. The man we were with confirmed it to be the ruins of a large barn. He thought the family who owned it was prosperous, judging by the size of it and all the outbuildings.

Following the trail and a few more trickling streams up through the woods, we started to see more out buildings – a corn crib, the ruins of something else. Then on top of the hillside John spied daffodils nodding in the spring breeze and I noticed the remnants of a decorative wrought iron fence. We were deep in the woods, probably a mile from the main road and about half a mile from our house. Suddenly the ruins of the old farm house appeared on top of the hill. It was a breathtaking moment for me. These were the people who owned our land, who farmed it. The home was big for the time period. The roof was missing and the back walls had caved in, but there were two chimneys, two large porches, and electrical switches on the wall, so they had electricity and it was occupied in this century. Judging by the hand-wrought nails left in the siding and a few pieces of old wavy glass, the construction techniques, some old nails we found and the fact that the house wasn’t listed on a Civil War- Confederate era map of the area, we gave it a rough age of around 1870.

It was a thrill for me to finally find the old farmhouse which was once the center of the land. The fellow walking with us also said there was an old plantation home somewhere very nearby dating back to the early 1800 or late 1700’s that had once owned over 4,000 acres, part of which must have been our property.

The biggest thrill for me, though, was seeing the remnants of the old front porch. The posts on the porch, although of wood, were identical to the ones we chose for our home. And the color? Spots left on the wood siding indicated it had once been yellow….with shutters…which is what we chose here.

I know yellow’s a popular house color and there are millions and millions of homes painted that color, and millions more houses with green shutters. But isn’t it absolutely wonderful to think that somehow, someway, we’ve recreated a bit of the past unknowingly?

Oh and the good news: our trees are healthy and don’t need anything done for at least 6 years. Thank you VA Dept of Forestry for the tree education – and nice to meet you, neighbor.

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  • J. L. McMillen (Sheffield)
    February 21, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    My Great Grandfather was Thomas Edward Sheffield (TE) who moved to Robinson (Benton County) Arkansas in 1866 from Dallas County, TX & married Mary Elizabeth Walker in 1868 from Robinson — (who had my grandmother Ellen Jo Ann Sheffield in 1873 — who had 3 children before moving to Westville, OK in 1898.) TE Sheffield is credited with building the first Tobacco Barn in Benton County after 1866. His father Thomas Christopher Sheffield (TC & his wife both died in spring 1894) but had 13 children of which TE was one. (TC would have built a large home.) They were farmers & successful Tobacco raisers. Together, they all owned many acres in the area which is named Sheffield Road north off old highway 68 near the Illinois River between Siloam Springs & old Robinson Rd. The description of what you are mentioning sounds so much like their area & perhaps the ruins are remains of their original home/farm & tobacco fields.

  • J. L. McMillen (Sheffield)
    February 21, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Sorry that I bothered you with this — I just realized that you live in Virginia not Arkansas! Please disregard the comment made earlier — I was so excited that someone may have found my Ancestors property!! Thanks for understanding!

    • Jeanne
      February 21, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      That’s okay, and I kept it because I love hearing from readers. Keep on searching – you never know what you will find! Good luck!

      • J. L. McMillen (Sheffield)
        February 21, 2015 at 9:47 pm

        Thanks — Wishing you well on your continued success in your business!