LTLT helps conserve 53-acre historic farm

The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee (LTLT) recently acquired a “working farm conservation easement” protecting 53 acres of rich bottomland and a half-mile of Little Tennessee River frontage on the historic Hall Farm in the Cowee community of northern Macon County.

The conservation agreement protects the water quality of the Little Tennessee River with forested buffers along the river while at the same time guaranteeing that the productive bottomlands will remain forever available for agriculture. The agreement was structured to conserve the historic farmstead, which includes a 19th century farmhouse and eleven outbuildings. The farm also contains one of the most productive stands of native rivercane in the region — a material of great cultural and economic significance to Cherokee artisans.

The conservation easement was acquired with support from the USDA Farm and Ranchland Protection Program matched with State support from the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund along with private donations. The Hall Farm conservation project was top priority for federal farmland support within North Carolina in 2005 due to its historic significance.

“This area represents an area which is uniquely significant to the Cherokee People and indeed to the broad patterns of United States history,” wrote Russell Townsend, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The Hall Farm is the second working farm conservation easement acquired by LTLT in Macon County in as many years. In December 2004 the Land Trust conserved 63 acres of bottomland on the Spring Ridge Dairy in southern Macon County through a similar project. Also of great historical significance, the Dairy project conserved from future development the site of a 1761 battle in which British forces defeated Cherokee defenders at the gateway to the Little Tennessee Valley.

The mission of The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee is to conserve the rural lands, forests and waters of the upper Little Tennessee River valley.

“These magnificent mountain valleys have been home to native, mountain farmers for thousands of years,” said Paul Carlson, LTLT’s executive director. “In the face of unprecedented pressures on the land and its rural communities, it is hard to imagine more important work than to preserve productive farmland from the threat of suburbanization and to thus maintain for future generations the historic, rural fabric of the Little Tennessee.”

The newly conserved conserved farmland lies just upstream of the ancient Cowee Mound within the Cowee/West’s Mill National Register Historic District. Cowee was the principal commercial and diplomatic center of the 18th century mountain Cherokee and appears on the earliest maps of southern Appalachia. Gen. Rutherford’s attack on Cowee in September of 1776 is considered the first campaign of the American Revolution in the South.

In the 1820’s title to the land on the west bank of the river at Cowee came to the Hall Family where it remained for over 175 years until the death of Katherine Hall Porter in 2002.

“It was always Katherine’s wish to conserve this historic farm, and we are proud to be able to partner with the Land Trust to secure a permanent, conservation vision for the land,” said Porter and Helen Lambert, owners of the property.

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