91.3 acres Conservation Easement
The Billy Joe Kepley Farm, also known as the “Old Homeplace Farm,” in Davidson County was protected in 2006. This conservation easement on 91.3 acre provides for the protection of farmland, open space, water quality in the Reedy Creek watershed, and the Old Leonard Schoolhouse.
82 acres Conservation Easement
All conservation easement donations are family decisions, but when Mary Teague and her brother, Willard Smith, decided to donate an easement on their 82-acre family farm in Davidson County, the donation became a true family affair. That’s because Mary and husband, James, had already deeded their share of ownership to their two daughters for estate planning purposes, retaining a life estate on the property where they will settle after refurbishing a historic home. Including spouses, eight people signed the easement, a new LandTrust record. But the effort was worth it, creating a new foothold for conservation in this still-rural section of eastern Davidson County.
The property features rolling pasture, mature hardwood forests, about five acres of wetlands, scenic viewshed on Old Highway 64 and Conrad Hill Mine Road, and approximately 4,600 linear feet of tributaries to the nearby Fourmile Branch, which feeds into High Rock Lake. There’s even a family connection to the creek. “This land originally belonged to our ancestor Captain Peter Hedrick, an officer in the Revolutionary War,” says Willard. “The story is that he wassuch an outstanding officer that, in return for his service during the war, he was granted land four miles down the creek and four miles across.” Thus, the name “Fourmile Branch.”
Today, the property’s historic significance is defined primarily by the Victorian house that Mary and Willlard’s grandfather, Grover “Pops” Hedrick, built beginning in 1908. Mary and James are restoring the grand two-story structure, visible from Old Highway 64, where Mary and Willard spent so many happy hours. “As children we were always at that house, either gardening or playing in the attic. Now I’m going home,” says Mary of her restoration efforts. “I like to call the house ‘My Tara,'” she adds with a laugh. The property is also home to an abundance of wildlife—a recent visit revealed numerous deer tracks, while a chorus of frogs sang happily fromthe wetlands. There’s even a ghost! “Some folks used to say you could see either a headless horse, or a horse with a headless rider, walking through the fields,” recalls Willard.
Mary and Willard are proud of their efforts to conserve the family property and are advocates for conservation, reaching out to neighbors and relatives with adjoining properties to educate them about conservation options. “My family has always said, ‘Save the land. Keep the land, they don’t make it anymore. Be good stewards of the land,'” says Mary, explaining their decision to donate the easement. “This was the best way to do it. My mother always wanted us to protect the land, and Pops (her grandfather) would be proud we did. So we just decided to go for it.” A family affair, indeed.
16 acres Conservation Easement
The 16 acre Davis/Timberlake Property in Davidson County was purchased in 1999 as a Gifts Heritage Program property. The LandTrust placed a conservation easement on the land which will stay with it for perpetuity, then resold the property and used the monies to continue efforts to save other lands in the area. The property provides a buffer to 600 feet of High Rock Lake.
124 acres Conservation Easement
Like their great-grandfather Dr. James Franklin Beall,* Jim Beall Graham and his brother, Charles Graham, have taken a heroic step to insure their legacy family farm in Davidson County stays intact. In 1872, it was Dr. Beall saving the farm from forced sale at an auction on the Lexington Courthouse steps. One hundred thirty-one years later, it was Jim and Charles signing a conservation easement halting the otherwise inevitable path of development along the I-85 corridor.
Historically known as “Beallmont Farm,” the property rests just east of the interstate along Belmont Road in Linwood, North Carolina. The sprawling farm, which in total claims well over 500 acres, has been in the same family since 1763. It was at that time that King George III of England, acting through Lord Granville, granted the land to Jim and Charles’ forefathers. And, despite the numerous family farm owners that have held other jobs along the way (including state legislators, county commissioners, educators, and physicians), Jim and Charles are now the sixth generation to perpetuate agricultural practices on their land.
The farming practices utilized include all the latest innovations in sustainable conservation agriculture and federally recommended best management practices. They include never-till crop production, riparian buffers, field stripping, rotational grazing and cropping, and controlled chemical application. Additionally, great capital expenditures have been made to outfit the farm with modern agricultural infrastructure, from renovated dairy machinery to three new silos.
Another structure existing on the farm is the historic early 19th century Beallmont homeplace, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in July, 1984. The goal of the Graham Family is to complete the farm’s preservation using a phased approach. This first phase comprised 124 acres situated on the north side of Belmont Road.
Clearly this leg of the project was made possible only through the conservation ethic of the Graham Family. However, both the North Carolina and U.S. Departments of Agriculture played an important role in aiding the Graham Family in fulfilling their conservation goals. Programs funded by the N.C. Farmland Preservation Trust Fund and the National Resources Conservation Service assisted in partially mitigating the financial disadvantage incurred by restricting the farm from future residential or commercial development.
*Dr. James Franklin Beall was a medical doctor for the Confederacy. He was a ranking officer for the North Carolina 21st Division, and served in several celebrated Civil War battles, including tending to the dying Lt. General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson at Chancellorsville (May 2, 1863).