Upland Chronicles: Lovedays kept family farm through more than a century of changes

Jun. 17, 2013 @ 04:25 PM

With each passing generation, fewer and fewer farms can be found in Sevier County. Once the predominant lifestyle, farming has been replaced by various ways to make a living which require less time and sweat.

As the times changed, heirs have chosen either out of desire or necessity to sell the family farm and pursue other means of livelihood.

As part of the nation’s bicentennial celebration, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture created the Tennessee Century Farms Program in 1975. The program was designated to be a recognition and documentary effort. It honors and recognizes the dedication and contributions of families who have owned and farmed the same land for at least 100 years.

The statewide and ongoing program has 1,507 certified farms, 15 of which are located in Sevier County. Additional criteria includes: at least 10 acres of the farm being part of the original founders land, the farm must continue to produce at least $1000 annual income and at least one owner must be a resident of Tennessee.

Even though the city limits of Pigeon Forge has eclipsed it and Dollywood is the across-the-street neighbor, a part of the farm bought by three brothers in 1895 remains in the same family today. Therefore, current owner Jere Loveday has applied for membership in the Tennessee Century Farms Program.

Brothers James J. Loveday, Stewart Caswell Loveday and Albert Levator Loveday purchased jointly on Oct. 7, 1895 a tract of land in which the headwaters of Middle Creek, a principal tributary of the Little Pigeon River flowed through. At the time, the property was located approximately 5 miles south of Sevierville and 2 north of Pigeon Forge. The farmstead was henceforth known as the Loveday Family Farm.

Prior to purchasing the property, the Loveday brothers were raised on a farm in the Walnut Grove Community. They were three of the nine children of Ira Loveday and Matilda Catherine Benson Loveday

On Feb. 6, 1899 Stewart Caswell Loveday (1869-1943) married Hannah Elizabeth Hicks (1878-1955), a daughter of Confederate veteran A.J. Hicks who was one of owners from whom the Loveday brothers purchased the property.

Principal crops and livestock included tobacco, hay, cattle, horses as well as various vegetables.

In addition to farming, Cas Loveday worked for Farmer’s Mutual Insurance Co. and served as a member of the Sevier County Board of Education. When the Pigeon Forge Baptist Church (now called First Baptist) was formed in 1914, Cas and Hannah Loveday were among the charter members.

Children of Cas and Hannah Loveday included Lela Grace, Alton Theodore, Royce Herman, Ola Kate, Eula Blanche, James Paul, Lois Jane (Ownby) and Ruth Evelyn (Davidson). They also raised Cas’s daughter Paralee Olive (Marshall).

Upon the death of Hannah Loveday in 1955 Royce Herman Loveday (1905-1971) obtained ownership of the farm. After graduating Carson-Newman College, Royce married Lucy Jane Robertson, daughter of Sevier County Sheriff F. Marion Robertson and Sarah Alice Rambo Robertson. Royce and Lucy were parents of two sons: James (1938-1995) and Jere Dwight.

Together Royce and Lucy operated the farm while serving their community as educators. Royce began his teaching career at Roberts School, a rural two-room school in neighboring Jay-El Community. He later joined the faculty of Sevier County High School serving a duel role as science teacher and football coach.

In recognition of his leadership during a pivotal period for the football squad, Royce was inducted posthumously into the Sevier County High School Sports Hall of Fame. His teaching career spanned 38 years.

Lucy taught school in Sevier County for 34 years. Most of those years she taught at Middle Creek School, a two-room facility located near the farm. She was active in the Sevier County Home Demonstration Club and served as Sunday school teacher at Pigeon Forge First Baptist Church for 50 years.

After the death of Royce and Lucy Loveday, their younger son Jere acquired the farm. James Loveday had died untimely at the age of 57, ten years before their mother passed away.

Both James and Jere followed in the family tradition and became educators. James married Edna Marler who was also a teacher. They were parents of three children: Glenna, Molly, Ike and Chuck. Jere married Linda Gayle Gibson. They have two daughters: Christy and April.

Currently, Christly Loveday Maples (daughter of Jere) and her husband Jimmy Maples reside on the farm with their children; Bryson, Olivia and Wyatt. Worked by Jere and his grandson Bryson Maples, the descendents of Cas Loveday continue to produce tobacco crops along with raising cattle and growing vegetable and fruit crops.

The four-room, wood-frame house built by Royce Loveday in 1940 remains intact on the property. Over the years, improvements such as running water and electricity were added. The residence remains in use.

In recent years encroachment, particularly the enlargement of nearby Dollywood Park have come closer to the Loveday Family Farm but the family has held steadfast to their land and heritage. With the enlargement the boundaries of the Pigeon Forge city limits, the mailing address for the farm has changed from a RFD Sevierville address to 2204 Goldrush Road, Pigeon Forge.

Expect to see a sign displayed on the property which reads: “This is a Century Farm, 100 years of continuous agricultural production, State of Tennessee Department of Agriculture,” sometime soon when you travel Veteran’s Boulevard to Dollywood.

— Carroll McMahan is the special projects facilitator for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce and serves as Sevier County Historian. Contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or email to cmcmahan@scoc.org; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to ron@ronraderproperties.com.