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Arts & Culture

New Book from MTSU Shares Civil War Stories from Tennessee Farm Families


MTSU's Center for Historic Preservation has published a new limited-edition book, "Plowshares and Swords: Tennessee Farm Families Tell Civil War Stories," to share more statewide history during this 150th anniversary of the conflict that split a nation.

Authors Caneta S. Hankins and the late Michael Thomas Gavin cover the entire state in the new hardcover volume, using the lives of individual farm families to tell about war, the homefront, military occupation and emancipation.

"Plowshares and Swords,” which is being released as part of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial commemorations, includes more than 100 images of Tennessee farms and farm families, many of which have never been published before.

Hankins and Gavin contacted the owners of Tennessee Century Farms, primarily, to gather materials for "Plowshares and Swords.” From those responses, augmented with additional research, the co-authors incorporated accounts from more than 100 farms in 56 counties. 

The Tennessee Century Farms program, which was established by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture in 1975 and transferred to the Center for Historic Preservation in 1985, documents and recognizes farms continuously owned by the same families and in agricultural production for more than 100 years. More than 1,500 farms in Tennessee, many 150 or 200 years old, are listed as Century Farms.  

“Families whose ancestors weathered the harsh wartime realities of the home front and rebuilt their farms during Reconstruction generously shared oral history accounts, documents and photographs,” Hankins said. 

“Among their stories are those of former slaves who made the transition to freedom and farming their own land.”

A list of farms, by county, included in the book can be found on the Century Farms website, http://www.tncenturyfarms.org.

Hankins will discuss the book at the Heritage Center of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County beginning at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, and will sign copies after her talk. The Heritage Center is located at 225 W. College St. in Murfreesboro, just off the Public Square.

Hankins directed the Tennessee Century Farms program from 2002 to 2013 and recently retired as the assistant director of the Center for Historic Preservation after a career of more than 35 years. Gavin, who passed away earlier this year, was the preservation specialist for the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area from 2002 to 2013. Hankins and Gavin also collaborated on “Barns of Tennessee,” published in 2008.

“Plowshares and Swords” costs $55, shipping included, and can be ordered with a check or money order made payable to the Center for Historic Preservation, Attention: Civil War Book, P.O. Box 80, MTSU, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 37132.  

All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the MTSU Foundation to support the work of the Center for Historic Preservation across Tennessee. 

For more information, please contact the Center at 615-898-2947 or email histpres@mtsu.edu.