Joseph Robert and William Shields

When James died in 1863 the farm was divided between William and Joseph Robert and each son constructed a new farmstead. The old homestead was located at a bend on Johnson Mill Road, about 300 yards from its junction with what is now Ethridge Road; William built his home place further north on Johnson Mill Road, while Joseph Robert built his new house at the junction of the two roads. According to family tradition, the sale of two bales of cotton during a period of high prices at the close of the Civil War paid for the construction of Joseph Robert’s home – a ‘plantation plain’ house that is today the home of descendents of Joseph Robert.

In addition to building new home places the brothers had to reorganize the operation of their farms in the wake of the Civil War and the emancipation of their slaves. Some of the former slaves remained on the farms and became wage earners and sharecroppers. Joseph Robert, who was younger than William, acquired a smaller share of his father’s land: in 1874, when the settlement of James’s estate was completed, Joseph Robert was farming 256 acres while his brother owned 528 acres. But, despite a long period of depression in the agricultural economy of the South during the last three decades of the 19th century, Joseph Robert prospered and the size of his farm grew to equal that of his brother by 1890. As his farm expanded Joseph Robert devoted more of the land to cotton and it was probably in this period that the Shields built their own cotton gin. The railroad arrived in Jefferson in the 1880s and this must have made the shipment of bales of cotton and importation of guano fertilizer much easier.