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Saline County Century Farm: 6th generation tends Townsend family farm

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

An aerial view of the Townsend Brothers farm has fond memories for the family, which include mother Patricia, brothers Rusty, Tom and James and sister Angela Morton. Their father James M. Townsend is deceased. The brothers are the sixth generation to farm the land, which was patented to Saunders Townsend in 1830.
(Contributed photo)
The Townsend Brothers are the sixth generation of their family to work and farm on their family ground, which came into the family sometime around 1830 when Saunders Townsend settled in the Arrow Rock neighborhood as one of the largest land owners.

James Townsend now lives in a home on 220 acres, which was recognized Nov. 12 as a Saline County Century Farm for being in the same family for over 100 years.

The ground has been passed down through the family from Sanders Alexander Hamilton Townsend, one of 12 children born to Saunders and his wife Susan.

Tom Townsend accepts the Century Farm plaque for the Townsend Brothers farm located near Hardeman. The farm has been in the family since 1830.
(Geoff Rands/Democrat-News)
Other members of the family, including James' brother Rusty and sister Angie, also live on farms passed down from Sanders.

An aerial photo of the farm in 1964 hangs on the wall of James' home and shows the house where Thomas "Paul Tommy" Sanders lived until he died. He was the son of Sanders A.H. Townsend.

The home included part of a two-room cabin that was moved from a nearby farm.

"Paul Tommy moved it up here and they built around it," said Patricia Townsend, adding it was moved "a long, long time ago -- before 1912."

Paul Tommy lived in the home until his death. Then his grandson, Nolan, and his wife, Helen Jeffress Townsend, moved into the home, living there until 1977. Nolan's father was Everette Townsend.

The original home was bulldozed down in 1993, before a new home was erected.

It was when Nolan and Helen lived there that holds the most memories for Patricia Townsend and her grown sons, Rusty, James and Tom Townsend. Their father, James M. Townsend, is deceased.

Looking at the aerial photo, they pointed to one building "where Nolan raised pheasants when my husband and I were first married," said Patricia.

"He also had beehives over along this tree line. He had all the bee equipment, the old hat, the smoker, all of that bit," she added.

She said they always had a milk cow and chickens.

"She would always come in carrying the eggs in an apron," said Patricia, adding that the chicken house was very large and plumbed for water.

"When dad [Nolan] did her a chicken house, he did her a good one."

Helen would sell the eggs at a little country store in Nelson. "She would either sell the eggs or trade the eggs for groceries. She did that up until (19)65 or '66," said Patricia.

Rusty also remembered his grandmother's "mammoth garden," which covered about one-quarter of an acre.

"If she didn't have 100 quarts of tomatoes and green beans and things put up, she swore we were going to starve to death," she said.

They also remembered she made "chow-chow" which was a mixture of everything still left in the garden.

"She canned everything she got her hands on," said Patricia, adding that Helen also made large amounts of apple butter and grape jelly.

"They did all their own butchering," said Rusty, adding that he can remember the last time they butchered on the farm when he was little.

"Mom [Helen] cured all of her hams, shoulders and bacon and hung them out there in the smokehouse," said Patricia of her mother-in-law.

The old smokehouse is still standing and is the place the Townsend brothers and children hang their deer during hunting season.

Patricia and James M. raised their children a mile south of Nolan and Helen.

"We could leave here or leave our house and never step off family's property," Rusty said.

As the oldest son, Rusty remembers his great-great uncle Harry Ware Townsend. He was married to Ida Richardson, who died of cancer when she was young. Harry, who was Everette's brother, would come to help Helen in her garden.

"Uncle Harry was really a unique old guy," said Patricia, remembering he never drove a car, but instead rode a horse everywhere.

"In the spring he always came over and helped mom put her garden in. She raised a lot of chickens and when it was time to butcher, he was always here," she said.

"I can remember when I was little, because I was up here everyday with grandma and grandpa and I can remember him riding his old mare in here everyday," recalled Rusty.

After the old mare died, he purchased an old tractor to ride.

"And he turned himself over and almost killed himself on it over there on (county highway) AA," said Patricia.

Rusty remembered he wasn't a big man, but was barrel-chested and bowlegged. He also smoked a pipe, which James still has.

Uncle Harry also got Rusty in trouble with his grandmother one time.

"He was teaching me to how to shoot craps in the little red wagon. Grandma was pretty religious and you didn't shoot dice. He said goodbye and I got a whipping," he said.

Tom and James now farm the Century Farm together, along with other land and Rusty has his own farming operation, which includes Townsend ground.

"The Townsends are all farmers. They've been farmers ever since they came into Missouri," said Rusty. All the brothers also work off-farm jobs.

Although now mostly growing soybeans and corn, Rusty recalled that his grandfather and father raised milo, oats and wheat, as well as cattle and hogs.

"We raised I don't how many cattle and hogs," he said. "The Townsends always raised Hereford cattle until dad and grandpa, because Everette always had registered Herefords."

In later years, the family had Angus cattle.

In the early days of farming with tractors the family ran International Harvester, Farmall and Allis Chalmer equipment.

"No green was allowed," said Patricia, who added that "grandpa's probably turning over in his grave with those green tractors on the place."

Tom and James now use green (John Deere) equipment, although Rusty still doesn't on his farm operation.

The brothers are all hunters, and one of their deer stands is the remnant of their grandfather's International Harvester 715 combine, which burned in an accident.

"The combine was parked right out here where those trees are and it was late in the year like this," said Patricia. Nolan went outside to try to use gasoline to thaw out the frozen bin. However he somehow caught on fire, burning his ears and hands and spending a few days in the hospital. "He got okay but had some scarring from it," she said.

Besides memories of the farm, Rusty also remembers the town of Nelson having several stores and schools.

"Since I was big enough to remember anything, there was a grade school, high school, two barbershops, lumber yard, filling station, Hubbards store, Smith store, an elevator, three or four churches that I can remember at that time. It's totally different now," said Rusty recalling his early memories of Nelson.

His first haircut was in the town, done by longtime Nelson barber, Piddle Smith.

"He was the fifth generation of Townsends that he cut their hair," said Patricia, adding there was a write up about it in The Democrat-News at the time.

If they choose to farm, Patricia's grandchildren -- Michael, Nolan, Danielle, Connor, Jaidyn, Jordyn, Kayla Morton and Kelsey Morton -- could be the seventh generation of Townsend farmers. She also has a great grandson, Cole. Another grandson, Brad Townsend, is deceased.

Contact Marcia Gorrell at marshallag@socket.net

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