Rekindling Family Heritage of Virginia Farming.

This country is fast loosing our agricultural heritage. The average age of farmers in this country is 58. Very few young ones are choosing agriculture and animal husbandry as a major in our colleges and universities. We are fast loosing those skills. This is to our detriment as a society who’s founding is based on agriculture and free enterprise. In fact, the first businesses were agriculturely based. We all can trace back our family histories and find a farmer somewhere. These were the back bone of hard working can-do individuals who formed the strong moral character thread that wove strength into this country. It is yet to be seen if this strength is enduring as we are being stretched, divided, scraped, and spit upon and I do not know if the fabric that these farmers will endure this abuse from within. We need to remember where we came from and learn their lessons. We need to pull forward the legacy of their strength and work ethic. So I have reached back to see if I can glean some strength from my family past.


I am the great great grand daughter of Eli Ball Stokes. He was a life long farmer in King George County here in Virginia. As you can see, he was a Corporal in the 9th Virginia Cavalry, 1st Company, also known as Johnson’s Regiment and also Lee’s Legion. This is his wedding photo. I found an application of a soldier’s disability he filed at the age of 85. It is in his handwriting. He states his occupation is farmer and when asked how long he has had this occupation. He states, “all my life”.


Form filed to apply for Soldier’s Pension

I have a photograph of him much older, probably around the time this document was filled out. My first observation is that one of his hands is in very clear focus. It is well worn, leathery and wrinkled, a badge of a farmer.


I have many of these photos thanks to my mother and her father who saved them. Several years ago I made copy negatives of them and printed many copies in my home dark room for my family members so we can have some record of our heritage. This is an important pursuit because this is a history lesson. We are not learning history in our schools, but we can learn our country’s history from searching out that of our family.

Eli married Mildred Jane Clark….


Mildred Jane Clark’s wedding picture during the Civil war.


Mildred’ s enlarged passport photo in 1864.

…And they had a a daughter, Mildred Viola Stokes, my great grandmother who along with her husband, Herbert Sisson, owned a grocery and a bakery in Washington, D.C. Another example of entrepreneurship.


Mildred Viola holding my grandmother, Mildred Myrteen.


Viola with Myrteen (they went by their middle names) in front of the Sisson store.

Their daughter was my grandmother, Mildred Myrteen Sisson.

I am the first in 4 generations to pursue farming. I feel this sense of kinship with Eli, but also those brave Americans that subject their livelihoods to the wind and the rain, that partner with their piece of the earth to earn their keep and provide valuable food and fiber to fellow citizens. I am proud to be a shepherd and feel satisfaction to pass this American heritage to my children. They have their own dreams of course. But they take with them a code of hard work, entrepreneurialism, and patriotism.


About woolfarmgal

In middle age, had the courage to follow my heart-raise sheep, goats and rabbits and build a business around fiber. In the process, discovered an outlet for creativity. I not only knit, I spin, dye yarn, roving and felt, I also now knitting Shetland Wool socks on my antique sock machine called 1910 Socks. I also design patterns for knitting. You can find my products on my Etsy shop, Sweet Tree Hill Farm. And I teach many of these skills. My bliss is working where I live, having sheep as co-workers and sharing all of this with other fiber enthusiasts.

Posted on February 16, 2013, in Farming philosophy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. This is a great post! Thanks for linking up, I have loved reading it. I love your quote “we can learn our country’s history by searching out that of our family.” How true that simple statement is. Our history all depends on who came before us, both national and personal. It is so very important to acknowledge that.

    • Hi Hillary,
      Thanks so much for your kind words. I have loved participating in your blog challenge. And this one in particular. My kids become more interested in history if they can put a face to it , especially one they are related to. And in Virginia, there is lots to visit while researching. Thanks again.

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