Hello – my name is Margie and this farm has been my home since 1976 when my parents purchased the farm. Pictured here is my husband, David, and the whole gang; three of our adult children plus their families. My eldest daughter, Jill, is my partner in The Barn at High Point Farms. There are so many interesting stories of the farm that I hope one day I can write a book and share them all with you. But – for now, let me give you just a bit of the Farm History.
The story of our farm has to begin in the mid-50’s when my grandfather, R.J. Long, was a barber in downtown Chattanooga. He had become friends with many of us customers and one of those was Howard Buckner (son of Willie & Nancy Buckner – owners of the farm at that time). Howard would from time to time encourage my grandfather to “bring your grandchildren to my dad’s farm in Chattanooga Valley.” With entertainment in short supply back then, the proposition was appealing to my dad. Once prior to my birth and once when I was still an infant, my dad brought his kids (and I have three older brothers) to the farm just to walk around and enjoy an afternoon waking the fields and wading in the creek.
farm history before us
Records shows that after the “removal of the Cherokee Indians” that Georgia assumed ownership of Indian land and held lotteries in order to sell the land back to settlers. Abraham was the winner of this parcel and in 1938, he purchased this farm plot for $$ . Over this 175+ years, the old farmhouse has been home to many a farmer who more often than not were struggling to live off the land and to feed their families. Crops like sweet potatoes, corn, cotton, and sorghum were grown in her fields at various times, and even a sorghum mill use to be set up down by the road and probably looked much like the picture above shows.
Old Man Buckner
Willie and Nancy Buckner owned the farm prior to us. They lived simply here on the farm much like most Southern farmers in this area. The picture on the left is the earliest photo that I have of the Buckners and of the farm around the late 40’s. The picture on the right appears to be in the early 60’s and seems to be before the barn had a fire and was partially destroyed because the barn shape is different than it is now. Mr. Buckner had a mess of cows – some very prized ones, they say. The slight glimpse of the edge of the farmhouse and background show a very different piece of property than it is today, but those were different times back then for sure. Farmhouses were simple and flowerbeds were embellishments not necessities. Trees were removed often for logistical reasons or for pasture opportunities. Life was a struggle to exist as most southern farms did in that time. They were mostly self-sufficient type farms where you live off the land, raise your family, and enjoy an independent simple way of life.
how our destiny's story begins
Fast-forward in the story where my dad brought us kids out to visit the farm and play in the creek in the late 50’s. My dad was like most in that era, struggling to make a living while raising children and trying to grasp a hold of that elusive “American Dream.” As my dad strolled around the farm back then, he vividly remembered saying, “I hope that one day I can have a farm like this,” though at the time, the words seemed more like a fantasy than even a hope.
I was born and raised in Chattanooga along with three older brothers. I was an animal nut from day one and my childhood was filled with a menagerie of animals. I always said that I was a good horse rider because I learned how to ride on an ornery billygoat. This is my dad, my three brothers (Roddy, Terry, and Rickey) along with Billy and Maverick the pony.
Now, fast forward to the mid-70’s when my dad found himself back in Chattanooga after a short-term relocation to Michigan through his employer, Combustion Engineering. Back in Chattanooga with only me (age 16) underfoot, orthodontist bills for four teenagers finally paid off, and finally money jingling in his pocket. As he sat in his recliner, he just happened to be reading the newspaper and noticed an ad for an auction – an auction for the upcoming weekend. As he read more details, it sure did sound like that place in Chattanooga Valley that he had been to so many many years ago. Sure enough, it was the same place.
That weekend, he loaded my mother and me in the car and headed to north Georgia in hopes of bidding on one of the tracts of land to which the farm had been divided into as auctions often will try to do. I still remember driving up that long gravel driveway. There was a large tent set up at the top of the driveway in the hay field in front of the old farmhouse. If you read the flyer below, much of those farm equipment was all over the field and yard. There was a couple of dozen cars parked in the grasses and people scattered all over. I saw the old farmhouse and the big pole barn and can visualize the yard full of farm implements of all sorts, stacks of boxes and garden tools, oil barrels and buckets, and just a clutter of junk (that I now wish I had). My eyes were set more on the barn than the junk or even the farmhouse as I was a horse-crazy girl from infancy and I was well aware of the possibilities of my own dream coming true if I only had a barn.
On June 5, 1976, my dad oddly won the auction either by a twist of fate or by divine intervention. You can guess my opinion on that. The old man’s family was still in turmoil over trying to figure out who in the family (and how) would purchase the farm in a cash sale. The one son who could’ve afforded it was out of town and assumed someone else in the family would purchase it. This was the mid-70’s so there was a recession so many people were not in a position to buy large tracts of land. The auction had happened so suddenly that there were no developers there to prey on the auction. So, there Daddy was in the right place and the right time. While the family initially agreed to buy the largest tract of land and my Daddy had won two tracts of land, the auction company put the whole piece up as a whole to any one buyer who can purchase it for just a bit more as a whole. Daddy had no competing buyers for the whole so he won the whole farm! What started as a desire to be able to purchase one tract of land on the creek turned into a twist of fate where ended up being able to purchase the whole farm. That day, my life would never been the same again.
The picture above is of my parents, David and Willene Reynolds, shortly after they had purchased the farm. They did their own version of the “American Gothic” pose here and it is one of my favorite photos of them.
As you can see from these photos, the farmhouse is very old and somewhat dilapidated. From what we can ascertain, it was built pre-Civil War and we indeed found square nail pegs in the inner stud walls. With many apparent additions over the many years, the simply built farmhouse had morphed and accommodated many a poor dirt farm over her many many years. This photos above of the farmhouse was taken that first winter of 1976. You can easily see the aged condition of the house. The wrap-around porch was screened in but in disrepair, that old asphalt type siding was missing in many places, the old tin porch roof rusting, chipping paint and decaying windows – the stark image of a past era when life was totally different than today.
Right after the farm purchase, there was much to do; sell our house in town, make plans on house renovations, and clear out all of the lingering junk left-over in the house, yard, and barn. I wasted no time. I got a job and purchased a horse. All of my free time was at the farm enjoying my horse. Yep – that is me; dark headed, young, and skinny!
When my daddy bought the farm, his intentions were not to grow crops . It would be a gentlemen’s farm, as they say. He would keep his day job and just play farm – owning some cows, growing hay for them, and of course having a large garden but not trying to live off the land. My dad’s initial plan was to restore the farmhouse, alter the existing steep staircase to the top floor, and to add on a large kitchen and bedroom wing to the back of the house. First, was to tear down this lean-to type kitchen/bathroom addition and back-porch off of the main part of the farmhouse. Once this was done, he discovered all sorts of termite damage and structural issues which made him realize that this renovation project was going to be way too complicated and time-consuming so he opted for a Plan B which was to build a new home right near it. So – he boarded up the back of the house where he had ripped it apart and began building the new home.
This is a picture of the farm not long after my parents bought it. The photo is taken by me on the other side of the creek and on the high end of the ridge looking towards the barn with Lookout Mountain in the background. The hillside had been grazed by cattle so there were very few trees on it, unlike today. In fact, there are way fewer trees all over the farm. Daisies dotted the landscape and the creek can be seen wiggling its way through the lowland. This is prior to the construction of the brick house. The barn sits atop a slight rise in the landscape and the hay in the field appears to have just been harvested.
After the sale of our Chattanooga home, brick house construction began, but the three of us (Mom, Dad, and I) lived in the farmhouse for over 6 months during this building process. The farmhouse still had electricity but no kitchen or bathroom – for these had been torn down when we thought there would be just farmhouse renovations. My mother turned one side of the screened-in porch into her make-shift kitchen with a wok, a toaster oven, and Coleman Camping Stove. During the summer, we actually would shower outside by the hydrant. The only toilet initially was in the barn so I will admit that we were not only on an adventure, but it was like stepping back into time as well….but again – life was good. I was finally able to get a horse and enjoy country life – I was in heaven ever bit as much as my parents were.
The farm instantly became a gathering place for family, friends, school functions, church gatherings, and more. In 1980, I got married and soon afterwards, we began a 3 year process of building our own farmhouse on the property, and David and I raised our 3 children here.
Over these many years, the old farmhouse just sat and was mostly used as a storage building……and a playhouse for my kids.
The Next Generation
Over the years, many visitors to the farm would compliment us over the property, but some would say, “oh, but you should tear down that old farmhouse” while just as many would say, “oh, I hope you don’t ever tear down that farmhouse!” Well – we aren’t the “tear down” type, but a costly renovation wasn’t an option for many years as we hand our hands full with our own family needs. Renovations cost money and time – lots of both. We often spent money on the farmhouse just to keep it standing by fixing windows, patching roofs, and such…but a full fledged renovation didn’t come about until much later.
My eldest daughter, Jill, decided that she wanted to get married here at the farm for an outdoor ceremony and a barn reception. This was 2004 when the internet was around but mostly useless – and in 2004, no one had heard of “Barn Weddings” but it was going to be “so-Jill” and we proceeded to prep for it. I give Jill the whole credit for the vision of her wedding, and I was happy that she was being budget-conscious. Though I was indeed concerned that her new inlaws would think us as “true hillbillies” for having a wedding in a barn, I was “all hands-on’-deck” in helping her facilitate this unique wedding.
We did not convert the barn as you see it today, but we did outst the animals from the barn months ahead of time, mucked the stalls good, power-washed everything, and began making curtains and hanging lights. We collected vintage china and silverware and Jill’s vision of the barn conversion began. There was no term “rustic chic” or even shabby chic back then and there certainly was not any book or website that gave us any ideas or help. I certainly give Jill the credit for not only her vision but her boldness to be unique. We did enjoy the process and the wedding was a huge success.
After Jill’s marriage, the two of them lived in Utah for a few months on short term adventure. After their arrival back in Chattanooga, they decided they wanted to live on the farm. They had both finished college, had no money, but were willing to put in sweat equity to begin a transformation of the farmhouse. They lived in my mother’s basement (Mimi’s Guest House), worked, saved money, then we would begin a farmhouse project.
This became the pattern. They would work for weeks, save more money, buy a load of building supplies, and we would all work all weekend long. Inch by inch and board by board, the process was painstakingly challenging and not for the faint of heart.
Piece by piece, learn as you go, learn to repurpose long before Pinterest could inspire you, and be creative along the way. The transformation began and has continued here and there throughout the years.
New roof, new siding on some walls, new wiring and plumbing, and a whole new floor plan, it was time to move in with baby number one was born. Future renovations continued through their years in this house.
It was cute and quaint. They were on the farm and enjoying having their own home. The farm now had four generations living on it at this point and life was good.
the wedding barn idea takes off
As Jill and John settle in with life on the farm and children began to be added, Jill and I had bantered around the idea for months about hosting a few weddings at the farm. Our bantering was a game of sorts as we tossed out ideas and suggestions; what we would call it, how we would renovate the barn, how we would approach the business, and so on. All of these games stopped in December of 2010 as Jill said, “Let’s stop talking about it and just try it.” So, we began making a very very long to-do list over the Christmas holidays.
So the deconstruction and construction began. Muck, remove slats, building walls, adding sod – the metamorphus began. Our initial goal was to host 3-4 weddings that year so we could pay our property taxes and have enough extra money to helpl spruce up the farm a bit. We were not particularly thinking long term. By January, 2011, we had a primitive website using Jill’s wedding photos as a “this is what it will look like” and immediately we received our first booking for a bride who wanted May 1st, 2011, for her wedding. Suddenly the clock was ticking and ticking fast, as we had to go from 0 to 100 on our renovations for a May 1st deadline. We were ready just in the nick of time.
Our first wedding was a success! The barn was very primitive as they were when the “barn wedding” craze began – and actually the more realistic, the better. With a dozen weddings booked our first year, we soon realized that we had actually begun a business beyond what we had envisioned.
So going from the first thought of “having 2-3 weddings a year to pay the property tax” to “oh my goodness, this has turned into an actual business” meant that we took our profits and put them back into the venue. First projects were adding a stage and more restrooms. Every year after that we made a Winter Projects List of various improvements.