200 Years & Counting: Elliott Family Reflects on Farming History in Robertson County

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Robert Elliott and Sons

Photo credit: Nathan Lambrecht

If we rewind time back to 1807 and the Revolutionary War, we will find the start of Robert Elliott and Sons. Gen. John Nichols was awarded the original land grant for his service in the war and thought so much of the Elliotts’ ancestors that he gave the family 640 acres in what is now Robertson County. The family chose to settle in that section of land because it had a natural spring – the spring, in fact, where the family still receives their water from today.

Robert Elliott was the second oldest of six children to grow up on the family farm in the heart of the Great Depression. The family raised chickens, hogs and cattle, and in 1935, with his entire savings, Robert started a registered Angus cattle herd. Two of his children, Joe and William, inherited the farm from him and carry on the family name as the sixth generation.

“My daddy [Robert] was one of the first to keep records and identify bulls with the University of Tennessee,” William says. “We’ve kept his process up, but are more specialized now. We do embryo transfer, and we try to breed and select bulls to improve our herd.”

Joe and William, along with Joe’s oldest son, Lake –the seventh generation – continue to specialize their Angus herd where they sell calves and bulls to the public through their on-farm sale every year.

See more: Meet East Tennessee Farmer Terry Snyder

“We sell breeding stock to roughly eight states now,” Joe says. “That’s what keeps us going. We use ultrasound equipment and have a DNA profile for every animal we have, which ensures we have a good selection of breeding stock for our customers.”

In the 1970s and ’80s, the family focused on growing row crops. In the 1990s, they started with greenhouses and now grow more than 2 million tobacco plants for customers.

The family built the original homeplace on the farm in 1827 as a modified saltbox home with a dog-trot in the middle and chimneys on both ends of the house. The homeplace still exists and is where William lives today. It’s also the place he and Joe have fond memories growing up.

“We grew up packing coal in the kitchen and that’s what we used to heat the house with, but we also had an electric stove and oven and so forth,” William says. “I consider myself very lucky that my ancestors kept the farm, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to live and raise a family here.”

It’s a more than 200-year-old strong farm that has no doubt stood the test of time. And for Joe and William, along with their children and grandchildren, they have faith in the foundation their ancestors created so long ago and hope the farm will continue to last for many, many more years.

“I’ve always loved communing with mother nature. And I carry close the old Indian proverb that says ‘leave the land better than you found it, for you did not inherit it from your forefathers, you borrowed it from your grandchildren.’” Joe says. “I’ll be gone from this earth someday and the whole world may change, but people still have to eat, so I’m hopeful what we have here today will remain.”

Celebrating Century Farms

To celebrate 100 years of Tennessee Farm Bureau, we plan to highlight century farms that have been around for the lifetime of the organization. And this Farm Bureau family is the perfect kickoff for this section, as Robert Elliott was involved in Farm Bureau and his children and grandchildren remain active in the organization’s advocacy and leadership efforts today.

2 Comments

  1. Teresa Keen

    February 12, 2021 at 8:27 am

    I am SOOOO looking forward to your upcoming articles about Century Farms in TN. I love history, and was privileged to be a part of the group that compiled Portland’s Sesquicentennial Book back in 2009. Our area’s (upper Sumner County) Century Farms were listed in the book, along with one that was over 200 years old. Should you need any Century Farm leads for your articles, please let me know.

    Thanks for all the great information in the TN Home and Farm magazine.

    • Jessy Yancey

      February 12, 2021 at 1:55 pm

      Hi Teresa,

      Thanks so much! We have a big story coming up in our fall issue that I hope you enjoy.

      Best,
      Jessy Yancey
      managing editor

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