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Woodard Hall - Oldest Farm in Robertson Co. TN

Photo by Josephine G. Larsen

One of the Robertson County pillars of distilling, Woodard descendants remain on their same property at 5876 Owens Chapel Rd. in Springfield. Woodard Hall Farm is one of three designated Pioneer Farms in Robertson County which means a family has owned and kept the property in agricultural production for at least 200 years. It is also the oldest farm in the county.

Thomas Woodard and Elizabeth Pitt Woodard built the home about 1792. Woodard Hall comprised 180 acres. By 1836, Thomas willed the homeplace and 205 acres to their son, Col. Wiley Woodard (1810-1877) and Elizabeth Henry Woodard (1811-1891). Other land was divided among 5 other siblings. Wiley made significant renovations in 1854 and increased his holdings to 2,000 acres. By the mid-1800s and particularly after 1880, the tobacco operations prospered under Wiley Woodard’s stewardship.

While the Civil War stopped the distillery business, post-war it recovered and thrived. With the market revolution and the increase of railroad lines, the Woodards and other distillery families were able to export whiskey far and wide. With the condition being just right for great whiskey making - sulphur and iron- free water, plenty of corn to mash and fertile forests to make charcoal and barrels, the Robertson County distilleries prospered.

Wiley was an original investor of the Springfield National Bank and helped fund the Springfield and Manscoe’s Creek Turnpike as well as the Edgefield and KY railroad. Wiley’s nephew, John Woodard, built The Beeches.

After Wiley’s death, son George Rogers Woodard (1842-1920) inherited Woodard Hall Farm and its 409 acres and other children received portions of the farm so the entire 2,000 acres were broken up. George never married , and in 1930, the property passed to his sister, Josephine “Josie” Woodard Brown (1848-1940) and her husband Jordan “Ed” Stokes Brown (1845-1890) with 228 acres. They married in 1867. After service in the Civil War, Brown started in the dry goods business in Springfield for a few years. In 1869, he joined his Woodard in-laws in the distilling and retail business.

In 1932, their son Edwin Hart Brown bought Woodard Hall Farm. In 1970, Josephine Brown Cervantes (1909-2004) inherited Woodard Hall and lived there with her husband, Ernesto Cervantes (1902-1985). Woodard Farm comprised 225 acres. Woodard Hall is the oldest house in Robertson County continuously owned and inhabited by direct descendants of the original owner.

In 1985, Joe V. and Katherine “Kay” Baker Gaston owned the Woodard Hall Farm, and Kay is a Woodard descendant. She is the author of “Robertson County Distilleries.” Many Woodard relatives remain in Springfield and in the Robertson Co. area. The property was recognized as a Tennessee Century Farm - working farm for 200 years. NRHP 1975 See Arthur Pitt House & Distillery, The Beeches/ John Woodard Home

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