[Masthead] Fair and Breezy ~ 68°F  
High: 68°F ~ Low: 51°F
Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Saline County Century Farm: Hutcherson family continues tradition of improving the land

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This family picture shows Anna Garnett Willis Hutcherson with her children and grandchildren. At center is Anna, who apparently suffered from Parkinson's disease. At far right in the center row, the little boy is believed to be W.W. "Pete" Hutcherson who is being held by his mother, Lillian. Garnett Hutcherson is believed to be the second from right in the top row.
(Contributed photo)
It was part of Willis Walker "Pete" Hutcherson's philosophy that when he owned a farm, he should leave it better than it was when he bought it.

"His philosophy of farming was not to see how much you can get out of the land, but to see how much you can improve the land and still make a living," said his son, Robert Hutcherson.

"He started doing that before they started paying you to do that," added his daughter Linda Simmons, who said the philosophy was one that had been passed down from her grandfather, Garnett Hutcherson.

Today, Robert and Linda, along with their children, carry on that philosophy with the 1,200 acres of land they own near Highway 20 in the Shackleford area.

Pete Hutcherson shows off twin mules born on the family farm near Shackleford. In the background, is the large barn built by his father Garnett in 1917. It is still standing today.
(Contributed photo)
One of their farms, a tract containing 179 acres, was recently named a Saline County Century Farm for being in the same family for more than 100 years.

That might not have been possible if it weren't for their great-grandmother, Anna Garnett Willis, who came to Saline County with a wagon train of people from Culpepper County, Va., around 1852.

She had apparently inherited money from her father.

This home was built some time before the Civil War and was moved across the road to where it sits today when Garnett Hutcherson built a new home.
(Contributed photo)
The family history states, "At the age of 16, Anna Garnett Willis married a man named (Robert) Graves and using her money they bought a large amount of land in Missouri. Women could not own property, so it was bought in his name."

One of those farms was purchased from Graves' father, William Graves. It is that land that is still in the family today.

Graves traveled back to his home state of Kentucky some time after their marriage and died there. Because of the laws of the day, half of the land they owned went to Graves' family, some apparently went for lawyer's fees and some went to Anna.

Garnett Hutcherson built this home in 1923. It is still in use and serves as the farm headquarters.
(Contributed photo)
Around 1860, Anna married Edmond Brown, a Confederate Army captain.

She moved with him to the Fairville area in Saline County and had two children. Around 1863, while home on sick leave from the Civil War, a local Union "bushwacker" killed him.

"The legend goes they were actually neighbors," said Robert. "They came and asked him to step outside and shot him."

The family never would tell who had shot Brown.

In 1867, Anna married her third husband, William M. Hutcherson, who had also come from Culpepper County, Va., on the 1852 wagon train. He served in a Confederate militia.

They had six children. One died as a baby, apparently from a snakebite.

In 1892, Anna died, willing her farms to her children. The children managed and ran the farm together until March 1, 1911, when her son Garnett purchased the land.

Anna Garnett Willis Hutcherson and William Hutcherson.
(Contributed photos)
"My grandfather, Garnett Hutcherson, purchased the farm. That's how our branch of the family happens to be here. (Anna) had several children, but he was the one who bought that farm. Then he bought another farm, that is across the road ... and sold that to my father later on," explained Robert. "My grandfather had brothers who owned land right down the road and also in Malta Bend."

Garnett and his wife, Lillian Grimes Becraft, had six children, W.W. "Pete," Leland, Leon, Dorothy, G.R. and Virginia. With the exception of Dorothy, all the children lived and worked in Saline County their entire lives. The boys all farmed near the Hutcherson farm, too.

Garnett Hutcherson was a well-known and respected cattleman and farmer, said his grandson, Robert.

"He raised cattle and was known for that. Like every farmer, they also had pigs. But hay and grain were the major crops, those were cycled through the animals," he said.

"The farm was really built and operated with the idea of producing animals as the primary way they made some income."

About 1930, Highway 20 was built and Hutcherson donated land for the road. Before that, Shackleford Road was north of the railroad and went east and west from Shackleford to Marshall.

"When they were discussing in the area putting this new highway in, in order to get the highway close to the farm, my grandfather donated the land to the state of Missouri," Robert said.

When they put the highway through there was a small triangle from the farm on the other side of the highway where it made a 90-degree curve, he said. He donated that land for a service station and post office building combination in Shackleford.

"Later there was a garage there," said Robert, adding that in the 1950s the building became a "nightclub." His grandfather, a strict Baptist, would have "never supported anything such as that," he added.

Garnett was very community-minded and helped with the "co-op movement" and was an early member of MFA.

"He helped organize the farmers locally to purchase train carloads of fertilizers and other supplies, including ... lime," Robert said.

"They would go together and purchase at wholesale a carload of something, and then they would bring their horses and wagons over and unload it on to their own vehicles," Robert explained.

Some time during Prohibition, Garnett was elected county sheriff.

"In those days, the sheriff lived at the jail. So he and my grandmother moved in there, and she cooked for the prisoners," he said. Their sons, all in their late teens and 20s, took care of the farm.

Linda and Robert's father, W.W. "Pete" Hutcherson, also served as a deputy during that time.

After Garnett's death, Lillian retained ownership of the property and her son, Garnett R. Hutcherson Jr., operated the farm. After Lillian's death, the children auctioned the property and Pete and his wife Hattie purchased the land.

He had been farming nearby land since 1943, after serving for four years as a highway patrolman.

Linda and Robert grew up on the farm, living across the road from the house that their grandfather Garnett had built in 1923. The house they lived in is still standing. It was built some time around the Civil War, they said.

The home Garnett built is now used as the farm headquarters, and the family has tried to keep it as original as possible.

Besides the two houses, a large barn their grandfather built in 1917 is still standing.

"We have done work to restore and preserve that structure, because it is a remarkable piece of carpentry," Robert said, adding that even today there are no rotting or sagging boards in the barn.

Because they farmed with mules at the time, the barn had stalls for six mules plus two other stalls for horses.

They also have a small wood structure from Anna's original homestead.

Both Robert and Linda attended Shackleford School, with Robert going through eighth grade there, while Linda went until attending junior high school in Marshall.

"My grandfather and all of his brothers and sisters all attended the Shackleford school," said Robert, explaining that at least three generations of Hutchersons had attended school before it closed.

"It was really very close to the original farmstead because there was a road that went straight north to Shackleford."

At one time, there were two churches in Shackleford -- one Catholic and the other Baptist.

There were several businesses in town, too.

"There was a stockyard, where animals could wait to be put on a train or animals taken off the train, then of course the farmers would drive their animals to where ever their farm was from there," explained Robert.

"There was a really nice passenger depot, kind of like the one in Marshall, except smaller," he said, adding that there was a grain elevator, post office, two general stores and at least one doctor.

When Robert was young, the remains of the stockyards were still there. The grain elevator was still operating -- he remembers taking loads there as a child.

The railroad depot was still operating, too, and as a high school student, Robert would occasionally take the train home from school.

"I could just walk up to the depot and pay 25 cents, and the conductor would have the engineer put me off at the road up here. They called it the Hutcherson crossing," he said. The passenger train went from Alton, Ill., to Kansas City, taking one trip each way per day.

Pete and Hattie moved to Marshall in 1969. Since 1976, Robert Zeysing has farmed the land for the family, although they have remained active in its management.

The farm has expanded over the years, and they have found out through abstracts that some of the adjacent land they have purchased was once owned by Anna and lost when her husband died.

They have continued the legacy of their father and grandfather by continuing to improve the farmland.

"Nearly every year we do some kind of conservation project," said Robert.

As part of a watershed conservation project, they recently planted 30,000 trees and shrubs in three different areas on their farm.

"Now (that) we have the tree project, we feel like that is giving back to the environment," said Linda.

In 1998, they formed a family limited partnership.

"Linda and I are the primary shareholders, but our families are also shareholders.

"That is one way letting the value of the farm be there for the next generation," said Robert.

Contact Marcia Gorrell at marshallag@socket.net

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration:

Related subjects