During my 2012 trip to Virginia, one of the remarkable things I got to do was to visit one of my families working farm. You must understand that I was born north of the Mason-Dixon Line. I have been to my Great-Grandfather’s homeplace. However, they are raising timber now and not animals. Joan Foster, she was the wife of my first cousin, once removed, still was operating Keyacre Farm. The farm had been in the Foster family for at least a century. Joan and her husband, Charles T. Foster changed the crops and livestock to be more progressive. The original farmhouse remained upright, albeit not habitable. It was this farmhouse that gave me the inspiration for this post. My great-aunt Claudia Sublett married into the Foster family and the farm.
When I start to look at an ancestor to write about, I typically start with the US Census records. It is here that you find a lot of semi-factual information. I say semi-factual, because Census records typically are full of errors. Sometimes the error was from the census taker. He or she tended to spell names phonetically. Sometimes the error was from the person giving the information. Regardless, you have to take this information with the grain of salt. It is more exciting to write about an ancestor that is not as far removed and you have first-hand accounts. That is the case for Claudia Sublett. My mother and Aunt have been able to help flush out the stories within the facts.
Claudia Sublett was the first child born to John Thomas Sublett and Georgia Kate Sublett. Claudia was born on 5 October 1902 in Campbell County Virginia. Her father was a farmer. Her mother Georgia kept house.
In the 1910 Census, the family is living in Falling River, Campbell County. Claudia lives with her parents, her sister Annie and her brother Lacy.
In the 1920 Census, the family is still in Falling River, Campbell County. Claudia lives with her parents, her siblings Annie, Lacy and Mae. Also living in the home was her grandfather George Bland Sublett, he was 74 years old. Claudia’s youngest sibling Clarice “Pete” was born when she was 17 years old.
At some point, Claudia marries Harry Fran Foster. It seems likely that Claudia and Harry got married around 1922 or 1923. I haven’t been able to find a marriage certificate.
If you look at the 1930 US Census, one of the questions asked was “age at marriage,” It was listed as 20 years old, Claudia would have been 20 in October of 1922. When Claudia married, she moved into the big farm house located at 1838 Hat Creek, Road, Brookneal. Harry had taken over the store and the farm.
Claudia and her husband Harry are living together when the 1930 Census is taken. They are living in Falling River, Campbell County. Also living with them is her mother-in-law and father-in- law, her sister-in-law, Myrtie Baker, and 9 year old niece, Eleanor Baker. Her husband’s occupation is listed as a merchant. We do know from family history that this was the big farm house located in Brookneal. My mother tells me that they ran a grocery store. They are also listed as having a farm; however the Farm Schedules have for the most part been lost.
By the 1940 Census, Claudia is living with her husband Harry, their two sons (Charles and Anthony) in Falling River, Campbell County. Also listed in the home is her mother-in-law, Eula Foster, her sister-in-law, Myrtie Baker, and 18 year old niece, Eleanor Baker. Her husband’s occupation is listed as a merchant, retail grocery. They also have a farm in this census.
When I asked my mother about her Aunt Claudia, this is what she said “She was the oldest sister. Did lots of housework and did canning and had lots of African violets. She and Harry were the richest of the family. She drove a pink Thunderbird car. They owned a grocery store and farmed with their two sons, Tony and Charles. We use to play a lot of croquet when we went to see them. Stayed at their house some summers and got so bored and homesick.”
During our genealogical trip to Virginia in 2012, we went to see the farm where Claudia raised her sons. Claudia passed away in 2000. The property, known as Keyacre Farm, was transferred to Charles Foster and his wife Joan. Charles was an airplane pilot and farmer, however he passed away before my visit. Together Joan and Charles kept the farm going. According to Joan Shrader Foster’s obituary, they raised registered Angus Cattle.
While preparing for this piece, I conducted a general google search of Keyacre Farm. The Foster’s farm was put on the market following Joan’s death in 2015. Here is an excerpt from the advertisement:
Beautiful working farm (157 acres) has been in the same family for well over 100 years. 3,100±SF, 2-story home place (needs renovation), large metal shop with office, shop & bath with attached shed, large metal feed barn with feed/hay storage area, cattle working area, and shop, 3 silos, metal hay storage building, milking barn, windmill. Farm has long state road frontage, rolling terrain, good mix of pasture/crop land. Feed tanks, cattle working gates, corrals and concrete feed bunkers (Farm Auction Guide, 2018).
keyacre farm action flier
The Keyacre Farm is also listed on the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services list of Century Farms (VDACS, 2018).
Until later, I will keep exploring backwards.
Farm Auction Guide, retrieved 5/24/18 at https://www.farmauctionguide.com/index.php/virginia-auctions/absolute-1547-acre-keyacre-farm-s-300640.html
Henderson Funeral, retrieved 5/24/18 at http://hendersonfuneral.net/obituaries/joan-s-foster/92/
Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, retrieved 5/24/18 http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/conservation-century-farms-campbell.shtml