12/28/05 — Century-old farm books loaned to USDA library

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Century-old farm books loaned to USDA library

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on December 28, 2005 1:50 PM

When Johnny Talton inherited his great-great-great aunt's home on Princeton Road, something unusual was inside -- farm books, more than a century old, were stored in a dresser drawer.

Talton, a shift supervisor in the county's 911 center, knew the books were there because he had looked at them with his relative, Caroline Waters, when he was younger.

American Farm Book

News-Argus/Kaye Nesbit

A page from the "New American Farm Book," published in 1870.

The books included: "New American Farm Book," which was published in 1870; "Department of Agriculture Special Report No. 12: Investigation of Diseases of Swine," which was published in 1879, and the "Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture" for the year 1883.

After moving into the house, Talton got the books out and believed that they had historical value. He went to the local office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After speaking to several people, Talton was asked if he would loan the books to the USDA library because they were no longer available and also write information on how he had gotten them. He agreed to loan them for six months, starting last week.

The books were signed by Mrs. Waters' grandfather, W.T. Atkinson, a large plantation owner in western Wayne County.

When Atkinson died in 1892, the home and land were passed on to his son, Silas, who was Mrs. Waters' father. But Talton said Silas Atkinson married a woman whom the family thought was beneath their stature. As a result, he was disowned by his siblings. He died in the 1919 influenza epidemic and was buried in a slave cemetery off Ferry Bridge Road. His daughter and Talton's great-great-great aunt married a few years later and lived in the house until she died in 2001. Talton said the books were still in the same dresser drawer.

"She had looked after me when I was smaller," Talton said. "...I spent time with her and she passed on the Atkinson family history to me. There are not many Atkinsons here now."