Osborn Family Farm recognized as a Century Farm

Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Jason Osborn holds the Century Farm award. The award was given to his family Nov. 19 at the Jackson County Courthouse in Newport.

The Osborn family, Henrietta Wallace Osborn and her sons, Jon and Jason Osborn, recently accepted an award from the Arkansas Agriculture Department naming the Osborn Farm A Century Farm. It was one of 54 Arkansas Century Farms, including 11 in Northeast Arkansas. The Black Oak farmland has been in the Osborn family since 1891.

Jason said history has been passed down about the early years his family settled in Black Oak. He said some of the very first families in the area included the Harrells, Stotts and Varners.

Susan Varner married J.K. Osborn and became the first owners of the Osborn Century Farm. The farm has been in the family for over 100 years. Presently Jason Osborn, wife Barbara and daughter Lauren live on the farm. The Black Oak home was built by Susan Osborn in 1925, eight years before she died in 1933. It is located near the Black Oak Gin. The present house replaced a log house built in 1882.

J.K. and Susan Osborn were original owners of the Century Farm located in Black Oak. (photo provided)

Five year old Lauren makes the sixth generation to live in the family home.

Osborns following Susan and J.K. are Odus and Maud Osborn, J.E. and Sally Osborn, Larry and Hennrietta Osborn down to Jason and Barbara Osborn.

"My brother and I spent a lot of time on the farm with our grandparents when we were growing up," Jason said. "There is something special about living in the house that my father was born in."

Jason's father, Larry, passed away in August. He was a history teacher for 39 years at Harrisburg High School. Jason said he loved history and collecting.

Henrietta said Larry worked on the farm and used the income to pay for his college in the 1960s. After college the land was rented. Like the owners, the land has been passed down through three generations of farmers in the same family.

Jason said as history is told, J.K. bought swamp land cheap. He had a vision that someone would someday drain the land, put up levees and the land would be farmable.

"I grew up listening to the stories about the family farm passed down through the generations," Jason said. "The Osborns did not throw anything away and I have tax receipts from 1914, all kinds of letters from the Department of Agriculture, and contracts on crop loans from the 1920s-1930s. My grandfather put up two mules, a wagon, cultivator and planter, all it took to make a crop, for a $180 or $200 crop loan. I have letters from World War II on how many gallons of milk and dozen eggs they needed to produce for the war effort."

He said he even has a ticket where J.E. was fined $3 for littering on the streets of Black Oak.

Henrietta has a clock in her Harrisburg home that was purchased at an auction by her in-laws during the depression. She said her mother-in-law Sally said she would sit with Larry when he was a baby and the pendulum would sooth him.

"The clock still keeps perfect time," Henrietta said.

Jason said he remembers his Grandmother Sally talking about riding with her dad from the Craighead-Mississippi County line to Lake City to pay property taxes in 1921 or 1922. She said it was an all day trip and the Lake City bridge was made of log planks.

Jason said they still have a tractor bought by Odus to replace the mules on the farm in 1954. He not only has the tractor, he has the paperwork where it was purchased from Trumann Implement for $1,700 for the tractor, disc, cultivator and breaking plow.

Jason and John learned to drive a tractor on the Black Oak farm. Their job was to water the trees along the fence row and they would load the water barrels on an old door and pull it by tractor.

"One would drive, the other would dip water," Jason said. "We would trade jobs so we would both get to drive the tractor. Grandma Sally worked at the old Singer factory in Trumann. She would pick us up after school on Fridays so we could spend time on the farm."

Jason said he has report cards belonging to his Grandfather J.E. and his sisters. Odus's daughter, Alberteen, was a school teacher at Black Oak. Jason has pictures of her and her students in the mid-1930s.

"We have lots of family pictures, family Bibles with births listed from 1854 to 2009," Jason said. "My daughter is the first girl Osborn born in the family in 99 years. Lauren is loving living on the farm. She has chickens and loves gathering the eggs and even sells fresh eggs."

The smokehouse is still there and the old coal stove used by the family is stored in the smokehouse.

Jason said he is sure it has not always been easy to hang on to the family farm, especially through the Depression years. He has paperwork on three separate occasions when the family fell behind on paying taxes. He has the reclaim forms where they saved the farm just before it was sold.

In addition to paper work, they still use today a dining room suit and dresser belonging to Susan Osborn.

"Dad told stories how Black Oak was when he was growing up and shared stories his dad told him," Jason said. "There was a railroad track that came right in front of the house. My dad said when he was little he was always putting rocks or sticks on the tracks because he really wanted to see a train derailed but it never happened. After he grew up and moved off, the tracks got old and a train did turn over leaving a big hole in the yard."

The Century Farm recognition was held Nov. 19 in Newport. Henrietta and her sons were proud to accept the award on behalf of all of the family members who purchased the land, cleared it, worked it, and sacrificed to keep it in the family for over 100 years.

Jason, like his father, enjoys family history and history of the area. He has 133 years of family "heirlooms." He said they want to update the house but keep it as close to the original as possible.

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