- [S106] The Mountain Press, 4 Oct 2014.
Upland Chronicles: McMahan Century Farm has a rich history
David Crockett McMahan received a land grant in 1838, which included the 322 acres that now make up the McMahan Century Farm.
T.W.D. McMahan and his son Roy built the two-story farmhouse on the property in 1915.
Graves of William Richardsonís wife, his two children, and two other women who were hastily buried by Richardson after they were massacred by Indians are located on the McMahan Farm.
On Nov. 29, 1838, David Crockett McMahan received a 4,000-acre land grant located nine miles southeast of Sevierville. A section of the property included in the grant was called Richardson's Cove, the farm originally deeded to William Richardson. Descendants of David McMahan still own parts of the land grant. In 2009, 322 acres of the original farm, now owned by brothers Jack D. McMahan and Thomas W. "Tommy" McMahan were designated a Tennessee Century Farm.
William Richardson moved his family from Virginia to the part of North Carolina that would later become Sevier County, Tenn., sometime after the end of the Revolutionary War. He was accompanied by his son-in-law Obediah Matthews, husband of Richardson's daughter Leah. The family built a cabin beside a spring.
On Dec. 22, 1792, a party of Indians attacked Richardson's cabin and murdered his wife, two of his children, and two other women with tomahawks and a war club, the latter of which they left at the site. When Richardson returned from a short trip to a grist mill, he discovered the massacre.
After hurriedly burying the bodies on a hillside above the spring, Richardson left the farm, never to return. He spent his remaining years with his daughters and son-in-law.
There are no records showing the transfer of deed from the Richardson heirs. However, existing documents prove that David Crockett McMahan acquired the property as part of his land grant signed by Gov. James K. Polk in 1841.
David Crockett McMahan was born Oct. 10, 1796, in Grayson County, Va. He was a son of Archibald McMahan II and Elizabeth Byrd McMahan, who obtained a grant for 25 acres on Aug. 20, 1825 in the area of Sevier County that was later called Pearl Valley. His grandfather, also named Archibald, migrated from Ireland in 1746 and settled in Virginia.
David married Mary Large, and they had 11 children. Mary died in 1853 and was buried on a hilltop on the property. Over the years others have been interred in the graveyard, which is now called Richardson's Cove Cemetery.
Along with his father and brothers, David raised thousands of hogs and mules which they "drove" to market in Greenville, S.C. In fact, one of his brothers, James Balford McMahan, met his future wife, May Ann Wilson, at one of the "stops' in North Carolina where she was serving breakfast at her father's inn.
The 1850 U.S. Census listed David C. McMahan as a farmer with property valued at $3,000. On the substantial acreage, the family raised corn, wheat, beef cattle, hogs, chickens, milk cows and sheep. He inherited two slaves named Frank and Tibby from the estate of his father in 1853.
He later married Sarah Webb, and they had one daughter. In his later years, David suffered from rheumatism and died April 4, 1878, at 81, of "stomach trouble."
After David died, the property was divided among his children. The section that is now the Fred O. McMahan Century Farm was inherited by Thomas Wilson "Wilse" McMahan, the seventh son of David. Thomas DeArnold "T.W.D." McMahan, a nephew of Wilson McMahan, acquired the farm in 1883.
T.W.D. married Melinda Trotter from Middle Creek. He built several buildings on the farm, including a cantilever barn measuring 82 feet, the largest two cribs/double cantilever barn built in Sevier County.
Around 1900, T.W.D rebuilt the old blacksmith shop that was once operated by his father, McNulty McMahan. He also built a dam and mill on the river where flour and meal were ground. The dam washed out in a flood in 1920, and the mill was later moved to another location on the farm.
At one time, the farmstead was the site of a general store and post office, a carder where folks could have their wool carded for yarn, a tannery used for tanning cow hides to make shoes, and a blacksmith shop.
T.W.D. gave property for Richardson's Cove School, which also served as the community church from the time the church was organized in 1914 until a new church was built in 1930.
In 1895, T.W.D. led the building committee that chose the Beaux-Arts classical deign of the Sevier County Courthouse. He was instrumental in the establishment of the first Sevier County Fair. In 1915, T.W.D and his son Roy built a two-story, wooden house on the farm for Roy and his wife, Ora Fox McMahan. Roy inherited it when T.W.D. died in 1921.
Roy was of the first generation to grow burley tobacco. During World War II, he also raised corn and peas to sell to Stokely Cannery, and sold eggs to Riverside Hatchery. In 1930, Roy donated property to build Richardson's Cove Baptist Church. The church was used for worship until 2007 when a new church building was built.
In 1968, Fred O. McMahan his wife, Archie Ray Dennis, took over the management of the farm and, with the help of their two sons, started raising pure-bred Black Angus. While managing the farm, Fred and Archie Ray were active in the community. Fred was a rural-mail carrier and at one time worked for TVA. He served on the Agricultural Extension Board for 30 years.
Archie Ray taught school from 1945 to 1963 and served as church clerk for 50 years and treasurer for 25. She also served on the Sevier County Farm Bureau for 36 years.
Fred died in 1998 and Archie Ray continued to live in the home built in 1915 until her death in 2011, at which time their sons Jack and Tommy became owners of the farm.
Carroll McMahan is special projects facilitator for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce and serves as Sevier County historian.
The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a column or have comments, please contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email@example.com.
- [S94] Sevier County, Tennessee Census, 464b, 17 Jul 1870.
- [S94] Sevier County, Tennessee Census, family 287, page 406a, line 4, 31 Aug 1850.
LN HN FN LAST NAME FIRST NAME AGE SEX RACE OCCUP. VAL. BIRTHPLACE MRD. SCH. R/W DDB
4 287 287 McMAHAN DAVID 51 M FARMER 3,000 VERGINIA
REMARKS: Birth Place as spelled on census
5 287 287 McMAHAN MARY 49 F S. C.
6 287 287 McMAHAN WILSON 18 M TENNESSEE X
7 287 287 McMAHAN ANNE 16 F TENNESSEE X
8 287 287 McMAHAN DAVID 13 M TENNESSEE X
9 287 287 McMAHAN MARY 12 F TENNESSEE
10 287 287 McMAHAN HARRIS 18 M TENNESSEE
11 287 287 WORTHY RICHARD 26 M LABORER S. C.
12 287 287 RICH HENY 10 M TENNESSEE X
13 287 287 RICH WILLIAM 8 M TENNESSEE X
14 287 287 PENTLETON MARY 16 F M TENNESSEE
15 287 287 PENTLETON MARTHA 14 F M TENNESSEE
16 287 287 PENTLETON WILLIAM 10 M M TENNESSEE
17 287 287 PHILLIPS WINNA 40 F TENNESSEE
- [S34] In the Shadow of the Smokies, Smoky Mountain Historical Society, (1993), 426.