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Brooks family farm achieves historical status

Lula farm on National Register of Historic Places

POSTED: August 18, 2013 1:00 a.m.

The view looking out from the old windows has changed more than the view looking in.

Outside, the once dirt Silver Shoals Road has become a paved two-lane street traveled by cars and trucks instead of mules and wagons.

For nearly 140 years, the white farmhouse on the Brooks Family Farm in Lula stood on stone pillars pulled from a nearby creek as the world around it changed. Inside, photos of the home’s former residents, generation after generation, hang on its walls.

Now, the farmhouse and land are cemented in history as it was recently placed on the the National Register of Historic Places.

“I thought what an honor for the family and also for my great-great grandfather,” Todd Boring said, pointing to sepia-hued photo of his great-great grandparents, Junius Hillyer Brooks and Mary Jane Ritch Brooks.

J.H. Brooks was a confederate soldier, farmer and traveling preacher. The Brooks had 12 children, all born inside the home.

The property was originally owned by Mary Jane Ritch Brooks’ father. Brooks purchased the land from his father-in-law and built his home on it. The Brooks built the present-day home and several surviving outbuildings in 1873. They lived on and operated the farm until 1940.

Boring, who lives in Miami and travels to the farm for one week every month, said he feels something is very special about living in the home of his ancestors.

“How many people can say ‘Hey, we’re standing where 150 years ago people were standing,’” Boring said gesturing around the room. “It was my family. It wasn’t someone else’s family. Because you can buy a historical house today, but it doesn’t mean your family was there.”

Boring, the sixth-generation owner of the farm, said he started researching his family’s history after his mother signed up for a genealogy website. The research made the family farm he owned even more important to him. When he heard about the Georgia Centennial Family Farm award, he collected and organized the details of his family’s history to apply. The farm was awarded the Georgia Centennial Family Farm award in 2012, and the Georgia Centennial Heritage Farm in 2013.

Since he had the information compiled, the next natural step was to have the house registered on the National Register of Historic Places. The 123-acre farm earned the listing in July.

“I thought what an honor that would be to put it on there and it’s forever in American history, not just Georgia,” Boring said. “It’s forever.”

The home is an I-house, popular with farmers in the late 19th century for its balance and symmetry.

Todd said through his research with the state he learned the I-house was a symbol of economic attainment.

“I-houses were like the symbol, kind of like if you drove a Mercedes today,” Todd said. “It was like you’ve made it and you’re showing off your wealth.”

In its heyday, the farm was a hub for the community. A general store, a blacksmith shop, an apple mill, a cotton gin, a saw mill and a post office were on the farmland.

“At one time, it was like a village here,” said Butch Boring, Todd Boring’s father.

A poured-concrete potato cellar, a corn crib and the original summer kitchen are still standing. The chimney is all that remains of the general store. A mill stone from the apple mill has been recovered and rests against a large black walnut tree planted by Mary Jane Ritch Brooks.

Evidence of the property’s rich history is plentiful albeit subtle.

The Borings can point out areas in the distant fields and provide details of what used to be. A concrete slab near the present-day chicken house marks the spot where emancipated slave, Gordon Wells, lived and worked as a sharecropper.

Near the home’s front door, J.H. Brooks planted a grape vine and used the fruit to make wine for the local churches communions. The carved path of the old buggy trail runs past the vines and up to the home’s front door.

The previous location of the still-standing, though dilapidated home of Mary Jane Ritch Brook’s parents which was moved board by board, stone by stone to a neighboring family member’s property.

Brooks’ descendants point out a few of the home’s features and evidence of their forefather’s greatest fear.

“Well, his wife caught the house on fire one time,” Butch said. “He took the kitchen and said ‘That’s it. I’m building it out back.”

The small white kitchen is now used as a shed, the table where the meals were prepared is still intact inside the small outbuilding.


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