Down On the Farm – Isn’t that a Little Feat song?
Anyway, that’s the theme for this week. Down on the Farm. And I decided to do something a little different. I want to introduce you a little bit to the Bailey Farm in Sebastian County, Arkansas. Francis Baker Bailey first came to Arkansas around the time of statehood. In a profile of Otway L. Bailey, son of F.B. Bailey, it was recounted that
[t]he father was a farmer by occupation, served as Justice of the Peace many years, made a prospecting tour through Texas in 1845, afterward roamed through Arkansas and Missouri, and subsequently returned to Arkansas, where he died in January, 1855.
HISTORY OF TEXAS TOGETHER WITH A BIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY OF TARRANT AND PARKER COUNTIES, profile of Otway Licepious Bailey, Lewis Publishing Co, Chicago, 1895
I suspect that the Bailey family was in Arkansas or southwest Missouri prior to Arkansas statehood in 1836, since some of the children went to Texas as early as 1838. But, the first stake in the ground I can find is a patent for 40 acres on 10 July 1844 by F.B. Bailey. He purchased this land in Section 3, Township 7 North, Range 31W which puts it right on the edge of Fort Chaffee outside of Ft. Smith, Arkansas.
I don’t think they stayed here very long since I find the family living in Pope County, in the town of Galla Rock by 1850 and they appear to have stayed there until around the time of the Civil War. By then, F.B. Bailey was deceased and his son Hume Field Bailey was not a Rebel sympathizer. Perhaps he moved his family nearer to Ft. Smith, the site of a fairly large U.S. Army garrison, for a measure of safety and stability during a dangerous time. Being a border state, raiders were very active in Arkansas. Remember Josey Wales?
Hume Bailey bought land in Sebastian County, around today’s City of Hackett, very near to the Oklahoma border. Starting with most of a 1/16 of a section and growing his holdings to close to 100 acres by the time of his death, Hume had enough land to scratch out a living, but just barely. He and his wife Sarah Louise Council Bailey raised ten children – three that Hume had with his first wife Amanda Shafer, one that Sarah had with her first husband John O. Brewer, and six together.
It’s somewhat difficult to trace Sebastian county land records from Atlanta. FamilySearch.org has many indexes of the deeds online, but not many of the deed books themselves. Combine that with the fact that there are two courthouses in Sebastian county where things are recorded. So, I have not found as many deeds for the farm as I would like.
But my family is a bunch of pack rats. Turns out I have property tax receipts from about 1850 until about 1940, almost every year. Each one details the particular property that is owned and who paid the taxes. So, you can see when land comes in and goes out, as well as when the head of household changed.
In April 1874, Hume paid tax on part of the SW 1/4 of the SW 1/4 of Section 16, Township 6N, Range 32W just on the outskirts of what is now Hackett. This piece of land stayed in the family until the very end. By 1890, the Bailey farm has taken its final form, containing most of the SW 1/4 SW 1/4 of S 16 T 6N R 32W and most of the NW 1/4 NW 1/4 of S 21 T6N R32W. Also included are small slices immediately to the east of these pieces of land. On the map, this is the green square. Just for reference, the small red square was F.B. Bailey’s original patent.
So long as Hume Bailey lived, taxes were for the most part paid on time each year until his death in 1891. By then, the male children had for the most part moved away and the farm began to struggle. Sarah Bailey is now the name on the tax receipts. We see a lot of penalties for late payment on property taxes. On some receipts, there is a notation that a payment is for multiple years of taxes. And in fact, there are several instances through Sarah’s widowhood where the farm is sold for taxes and then redeemed. I don’t know the details of this practice. It seems like there must be a period where the farm is almost but not quite in foreclosure, when the original owner can redeem it for the back taxes and a penalty.
After Hume died, Sarah applied for a widow’s pension from the U.S. Army, since her first husband, John O. Brewer, had died during the Civil War and Hume had never served. This made her eligible for a small pension. In the application, she and several people comment on the fact that the farm is not worth a lot and that she is nearly destitute with it as her sole income.
At Sarah’s death, Charles Council Bailey, the oldest son of Hume and Sarah, inherits the farm. He is the father of my grandmother, Susan Louise Bailey Dickson. Charles married Viola Tennison and goes on to have ten children, with Susan being the youngest. Tax receipts hint that things were pretty tight for a family with so many children. Once during the height of the Great Depression, the farm is again sold for taxes and then redeemed. But, there are often penalties for late payment.
Everyone pitches in on the farm. The boys work in the fields. There is a great picture of “The Hay Crew” taking a break from working in the fields. Some of the land was used to grow cotton, based on Cotton Allotment forms filed during the Depression. Some appears to be rented. But the farm was never a highly productive piece of land. Charles worked as a merchant in addition to farming. Some of his sons worked in local coal mines. But, the family was close and many of the descendants remain in touch even today. We are hoping to perhaps have a reunion of the descendants of Charles and Viola in 2019.
Of course, there were plenty of animals on the farm. I love this photo of my grandmother Susan Louise Bailey and her calf, Blossom. And this is a pretty good one of her dad, Charles Council Bailey and one of his working draft horses.
So, what can we take from all of this? I think life on the farm was critical to the way this family grew together and how they turned out as adults. I think that if you imagine a small farm on the edge of Oklahoma during the Great Depression, you might have a pretty good idea of what this farm was like. But, it was home. And it remained in the family for nearly 100 years.
Eventually, I will track down the rest of the deeds to see when each piece was purchased or sold. I will continue to work to find out when Francis Baker Bailey arrived in Arkansas. And I will continue to figure out what it was like down on the farm.