Tuesday, June 18, 2024

A Passion For Cotton Spans Generations

By Clinton Evans
Cotton farmer, Brownsville, Tenn.

I was born Nov. 14, 1959, in Haywood County, Tenn., raised on this farm and spent my childhood in Davie Place — my family’s ancestral home built in the mid-1800s by my great-great-grandfather, John Wesley Davie. My mother, Cynthia Moody Evans, continues to live there today.

I fondly remember the sharecroppers with their mules, planters and plows. I went to the field with them when I was a small child. As I matured, my father, David C. Evans Sr., let me help in many ways on the farm. Fortunately, it came naturally to me. I believe that is where I grew to love the dirt. I am 57 and have only been away from this farm for one year while attending the University of Tennessee, Martin.

After my short college career, I moved home, started farming with my family and married Lee Ann Morris, my childhood sweetheart, in 1980. We began restoring my great-grandfather’s home here on the farm. The house was built around 1890. We have lived in Papa Dee’s house for 37 years, and it is the hub of our activities — farm and family related.

Known as Papa Dee and Grandma Kittie Evans to the relatives, Grandma Kittie had been a Davie. Stern Papa Dee must have been, as the saying goes, “one hell of a farmer!” He died in 1947, leaving Grandma Kittie to carry on until her death in 1962. During their marriage, they acquired a large amount of land in west Haywood County that was inherited by their children. Over the years, some of the land was sold. But the home places are still here, and my brother, John Wesley Davie Evans, and I farm the ground today.

When my father became ill with pancreatic cancer in his late fifties, my brother and I took over the farming operation. We were blessed to have Daddy for 17 more years — some hard, learning years. Wesley and I farmed together through 2003 and then divided. He and I continue to farm all the Davie/Evans ground.

Clinton and Lee Ann Evans, Brownsville, Tenn.
Last year, a neighboring landowner and friend not related to the family was looking for an old home to move to her farm. I discovered she bought the home of my great-great-grandfather, James Evans, Papa Dee’s father. It has been placed on a hill across the road from Davie Place to be restored. The homes are literally facing each other 1/8-mile apart, which is amazing.

I have read a lot about family legacy and succession. Lee Ann and I established a trust in 2012 from which we operate the farm. If our grandchildren wish to continue the legacy of farming, they would become the seventh generation of Davie/Evans farmers.

Lee Ann and I have raised our two children here on the farm. David Clinton Evans III “Buddy,” 35, and Anna Clinton Evans McKinnie, 25, both took advantage of the opportunity to get their college degrees. Buddy majored in ag engineering at Mississippi State University, and Anna majored in education at Union University. Cotton played a major role in their educations and helped get that “paper” in their hands.

Buddy is married to Brooke, a homemaker, who also graduated from Mississippi State. She homeschools our three grandchildren: Oaklee, Tanner and Wiley. Our daughter, Anna — a teacher, is married to Duncan McKinnie, who works in the ag industry. Duncan graduated from UT Martin. We enjoy spending time with our family boating and skiing, which is a great stress reliever.

As a reminder of bygone cotton days, a one-row John Deere basket picker that belonged to Evans’ great uncle, Dee Evans, is still chained to an old oak tree where it has grown into the trunk.

Lee Ann also came from a family farming background dating back five generations. Her father, Billy Frank Morris, was farming their ground when he passed away at the early age of 38. She was only 10. Her mother, Sara Harris Morris, kept the farmland and rented it to a close family friend. He and his sons worked the ground for 40-plus years. After the death of Lee Ann’s mother, our son Buddy — a registered surveyor who has his own business — was helping me more and more on the farm. In 2015, he decided to make farming a major commitment.

I am also blessed to know Ceolia Parker, an 83-year-old man who has worked for me in a variety of ways. He has enthusiastically operated a module builder for many years and never missed a day. He spent much of his childhood on this place and shares my love for cotton. Rickey Perkins, another man who liked to farm and had come from a farming background, was helping me part time. I hired him full time and started working Lee Ann and her siblings’ family ground, doubling our acres from 650 to 1,300.

Cotton has always been a big part of this farm. Most of the cotton equipment is still here, from mule-drawn to modern. There is even an old, one-row John Deere basket picker that belonged to my great-uncle, Dee Evans — Papa Dee’s son, which is now literally part of the landscape. Dee mounted the basket and header on a 4020 John Deere tractor. When he finished picking cotton, he always chained it to an old oak tree where it stands today grown into the trunk.

Being surrounded by reminders of the past and hope for the future is why my love for cotton is so strong.

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