TwHP Lessons

The Shields-Ethridge Farm:
The End of a Way of Life


Shields-Ethridge Farm
(Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm Foundation)

W

hat is that?" A ghost village appears on a drive through northeast Georgia. The collection of gray buildings with red tin roofs of peculiar sizes and shapes beckons. Should you stop and read more about the Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm, you may imagine the ghost fields of cotton that once grew around these abandoned buildings. You may conjure the click of wagons, coming along the same road you drove, bringing cotton to the gin. You may even think you smell sausage being cooked after hog butchering.  This was once a sharecropper’s village, where the seasons of planting and ginning cotton determined the way of life for fifty years.

The story of this place is the story of Ira Washington Ethridge, an entrepreneur who guided the farm through an agricultural revolution. It is also the story of sharecroppers, who in exchange for a house, cotton seed, and fertilizer, planted and picked cotton and paid the Ethridges a share of their crop. Today the cotton gin is quiet. The commissary, where sharecroppers could buy supplies, looks as if someone just closed and locked the door. Hoes, oxen yoke, and ploughs rust in the blacksmith's shop.

What froze this place in time? What clues tell the history of this place? Let's begin the story. Never mind the din of the helicopter overhead. Those are land prospectors, looking for green space to buy and subdivide. But we have time to explore. The history of a harsh and sometimes heroic existence can be read from the buildings and landscape on the Shields-Ethridge Farm.
TABLE OF CONTENTS

About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
  1. Map 1: The Cotton Belt, 1930
  2. Map 2: The State of Georgia

Determining the Facts: Readings

  1. Reading 1: Sharecroppers and the Crops
  2. Reading 2: The Sharecroppers’ Village
  3. Reading 3: The Shrinking Village

Visual Evidence: Images
  1. Maps 3-4: Shields-Ethridge Farm, Agricultural Complex, and Village in 1940
  2. Photo 1: Sharecroppers Going to the Cotton Fields, c. 1920
  3. Photo 2: Sharecroppers waiting turn for Cotton Gin, c. 1920
  4. Photo 3: Inside the Cotton Gin, c. 1940
  5. Photo 4: Bachelors’ Academy and Students, 1910
  6. Photo 5: Shields-Ethridge Farm Commissary Today

Putting It All Together: Activities
  1. The Slow Revolution
  2. Hanging by a Thread
  3. The Rebuke of History
  4. Sharecroppers: Farmers Without Land
  5. Our Agrarian Past

Supplementary Resources

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This lesson is based on the historic Shields-Ethridge Farm in Jackson County, Georgia. It is among the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

 

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