Presenting Mr. Ira’s Masterpiece: A Thesis

Presenting Mr. Ira’s Masterpiece: Two Centuries of Agricultural Change at the Shields-Ethridge Farm

By Patricia Stallings

University of Georgia Thesis, May 2002

For two centuries, owners of the Shields-Ethridge Farm in Jackson County, Georgia adapted to changes in the larger agricultural scene. Following the pattern of other upcountry settlers, they first cultivated tobacco, then switched primarily to cotton when the region became immersed in the growing market. By 1900, the glutted economy began to show signs of recovery, enticing the farm’s new owner, Ira Washington Ethridge, to fully participate in its growth. Transforming the farm into a complex of cultivation and ancillary businesses, Ethridge left a decided mark on the operation. With mechanization, though, the region’s cotton production waned, leaving cotton-dependant farms like the Ethridge’s to face crucial decisions. Today, the farm serves as a growing museum, one that can fill a void left by other living history farms that focus primarily on historic agriculture and not the social and cultural changes brought by mechanization.

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