Friday, November 6, 2015

History of Oak View Farm, Wake County, 1829-1955

Oak View Farm is now part of Historic Oak View County Park and the farmstead is open to the public. The following history of the farm is from the park’s Web site:

The recorded history of Oak View began in 1829 when Benton Southworth Donaldson Williams purchased a tract of land in eastern Wake County from Arthur Pool for $135. The property included 85 acres and several outbuildings. Williams continued to acquire land and holdings over the next 30 years and completed construction of a two-story Greek Revival I-Frame house in 1855.

Though Williams was not considered a member of the planter class, he was a successful farmer. By 1860, the Williams family owned 10 slaves and produced 10 400-pound bales of cotton per year. After the Civil War, most farms in the South greatly increased cotton production, and by the 1880s, 93 percent of Wake County farms, including Oak View, produced cotton. Williams is also an important local historical figure, as he served as one of four delegates representing Wake County at the 1868 North Carolina Constitutional Convention following the Civil War. Oak View is the only surviving homestead of the four Wake County delegates.

When Williams passed away in 1870, his will indicated that his land be divided among his children and his wife, Burchett. Portions of the property were also sold to satisfy debts. Burchett passed away in 1886, and 178 acres of land, as well as the house and outbuildings, were auctioned off to Job P. Wyatt and Phil Taylor. Several years later, Taylor sold his interest in the property to Wyatt, whose family continued to operate the farm until 1940.

Under Wyatt family ownership, Oak View was one of only a few manager-operated farms in Wake County. Instead of using sharecroppers to farm their land, as was common during this time, the Wyatts hired a property manager to live in the main house and oversee the operations of the farm and the tenant farmers. Several tenant families lived in small houses on Oak View's property and were paid a wage for their work. Unfortunately, none of these houses remain. The Wyatts also built several more outbuildings on the property, including the Cotton Gin House, Livestock Barn and the Carriage House. The Pecan Grove, which was planted in 1911, was an effort to diversify the farm's operations and is another lasting Wyatt family legacy.

In 1940, the Wyatts sold Oak View to Gregory Poole. Although the Poole family lived at Oak View for only three years, they are largely responsible for the current appearance of the main house. Influenced by the trends of the day, the house was remodeled and expanded in the Colonial Revival style. Some of the changes to the home include the addition of an indoor kitchen, a sunroom and a library. These additions briefly preceded more modern conveniences that the Pooles installed, namely electricity and indoor plumbing, which had never been present at Oak View before. During this time, the Poole family also expanded the barn and upgraded the farm's facilities. Shortly after all these renovations were complete, Gregory Poole sold the farm to James and Mary Bryan in 1944.

The Bryans were the last to operate Oak View as a family farm. In addition to farming the property, the Bryans also dug the farm ponds that remain on the land. The Bryans sold Oak View 11 years later to Chauncey and Ella Mae Jones, who rented out the land once again to tenant farmers.

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