The Jones Family Tenant Farm

Jones family members received artist prints of the Jones Family Tenant Farm from Archivist and Historical Resources Coordinator, Juanita Whiddon.

Jones family members received artist prints of the Jones Family Tenant Farm from Archivist and Historical Resources Coordinator, Juanita Whiddon. Photo by Rose Rodriguez.

Preservation efforts have largely ignored the history, culture and artifacts of the people who lived on and farmed most of the land of the old South – tenant farmers. Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy is working to ensure that this life is not forgotten by restoring one of the few remaining tenant farm houses and corncribs located on its original farm site in Leon County – the Jones Family Tenant Farm House and Corncrib, built in the early years of the twentieth century at Tall Timbers.

Over the past eight years, Tall Timbers has worked to restore the tenant house and corncrib to their original state, gather oral histories from surviving family members, and accurately preserve the cultural legacy of the African-American tenant farming communities on Tall Timbers Plantation. During this time, over $260,000 has been raised from public and private sources to restore the site. The final step was construction of interpretive exhibits allowing Tall Timbers to share this story with the public through educational tours and special events.

Tall Timbers was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Anheuser-Busch Companies for the Jones Family Tenant Farm interpretive exhibits. The funds were used to fabricate museum-quality exhibits, which tell the story of the invaluable role African-American tenants and their families played in the early history of southern agriculture.

The Jones Family Tenant Farm exhibit opened in May 2008. The exhibit design includes five interpretive panels enhanced by the art of local watercolorist, Eluster Richardson. Much of the story is told by the tenants themselves from battery powered voice stations. In 2009, the Wal-Mart Foundation awarded Tall Timbers a $25,000 grant to convert the audio portion of the exhibit to solar energy, as well as produce an exhibit brochure and bookmarks.

The restored tenant farm buildings provide an opportunity for local school children and the general public to walk on an authentic tenant farm, and learn first-hand about the key role black tenant farmers played in Southern agriculture and the evolution of hunting plantations in the Red Hills of North Florida. In February 2011, thirty children ages 6-11 participated in our first Archaeology and History Day. Hands-on experience in archaeology, photography, and family history with instructors, Ross Morrell, Beate Sass, and Delbra McGriff, as well as opportunities to talk to former tenants were the highlights of the day.The National Register of Historic Places designated Tall Timbers Plantation as Florida’s first cultural landscape in 1989.

Back view of the restored Jones Family Tenant House in the fall. Photo by Christine Ambrose.

Back view of the restored Jones Family Tenant House in the fall. Photo by Christine Ambrose.

Here is a sketch by artist Eluster Richardson of one of the interpretive exhibit panels that will be installed at the Tenant House.

Here is a sketch by artist Eluster Richardson of one of the interpretive exhibit panels that will be installed at the Tenant House