American Heritage Trees is a national 501(c)(3) organization that promotes educational and environmental development by providing saplings of trees from important places throughout the United States that can be purchased by individuals, schools, or organizations. Each tree has a story describing the historical significance behind each tree. As the centerpiece of its successes, AHT supports partnerships involving other nonprofit organizations, industry, and academia.
The Historic Farm
In 2010 the Rice Farm was designated as a Tennessee Century Farm. Tom and Phyllis Hunter bought the family farm in 2013 and started American Heritage Trees. The Rice Farm has a long and interesting history.
Andrew Jackson was a land speculator and farmer, as well as a lawyer, in the early years of Tennessee’s statehood. It was from this future president that John Rice purchased 214 acres in 1800. The bill of sale, which has remained in the family along with the deed, notes that Rice paid the equivalent of $1 per acre for the property in a combination of French crowns, gold, and U.S. dollars.
On the farm, John and wife Mary and their seven children raised cattle, hogs, horses, sheep, hay and grain. The farm was also the site of the first Methodist Church where John Rice served as the areas traveling minister. During this time, about 14 families established the community of Gladeville near the Pond Lick Creek. The family cemetery was established during this time, with the earliest grave dating 1811. It is thought to be one of the earliest cemeteries in Wilson County and has 150-200 graves according to the family’s reports.
By 1821, the farm was owned by three sons of John and Mary. Benjamin married Elizabeth Climer; John married Nancy Ramsey; and Simeon remained a bachelor. Benjamin and Nancy were the parents of William C. and John and Nancy.
William C. Rice acquired the property in 1864. He and wife Catherine Gates had been married since 1841. With their seven children, they continued the family’s traditional crops and livestock and added a mill. In 1909, 103 acres of the original farm went to Thomas J. Rice, son of William and Catherine. With his wife Nannie and their three children, Annie, Minnie and Ezra, they raised hay, corn, fruit, cattle and a large garden.
Ezra “Edd” Rice acquired 103 acres in 1940. Married to Carmen Murphy, they were the parents of Christine and Phillip. They continued to raise a garden, corn, hay and cattle. Wilson County was the site of military maneuvers during World War II and the Rice Farm saw its share of this training. The war was brought much closer to the Rice family when Philip, serving in the Air Force, died in the service of his country in 1942.
Christine Rice Robinson and husband Sam became the sixth owners in 1981. With their son, Phillip Darryl, they raised cattle, goats and pastureland. In 2005, Darryl acquired the farm and continued to raise hay and cattle. When Highway 840 split the farm, he donated the original log dwelling, built by John for Mary and their family, to Fiddler’s Grove at the Wilson County Fairgrounds. Darryl lived on the farm until his death in 2012.
In 2013, Tom and Phyllis Hunter acquired the farm. Tom is the great-nephew of Ezra “Edd” Rice and the grandson of his sister Annie Rice. Like previous generations, the Hunters continue to have a large garden and animals on the farm. A portion of the land is now leased to American Heritage Trees, the nonprofit nursery started by Tom and Phyllis, which is dedicated to preserving and growing trees with historic lineage. Seedlings and cuttings from the famous and historic locations are currently grown on the Rice Farm.