DOBSON — For most people, a parcel of land is just that. A place to put down roots and build a life for yourself.
But for a select few, a piece of property is much more. It is a connection with your ancestors. It is a link to the past. It is a part of what makes you who you are.
Such is the case for the Snow family in Dobson.
Recently, officers in the county’s Register of Deeds office undertook what could have been a monumental task of trying to document the family’s property in an effort to get it registered as a Century Farm.
A Century Farm is a farm that has been owned by the same family for more than 100 years, and receiving the distinction is a rarity, to say the least.
Today, there are about 56,000 farms in the state of North Carolina, and only a fraction have earned the honor of being named a Century Farm. Forty-one of those farms, counting the Snow property, are located in Surry County.
In order to qualify a piece of land as a Century Farm, three criteria must be met:
- The farm must be owned by the same family for 100 years or more, as determined by abstracts of title, original deeds, estate or will records.
- The farm must have been in continuous family ownership by a blood relative of the original owner or a legally-adopted child of the descendant.
- Only one plaque or certificate recognizing a piece of property as a Century Farm can be awarded.
North Carolina began recognizing working farms as Century Farms in 1970, according to Register of Deeds Carolyn Comer. To date, about 1,600 farms have earned the distinction.
Comer said one of the joys of her job is working with farmers to qualify farms with the program.
“Our role is to assist families wishing to prove their farm has been in the family for 100 years,” she said. “The program is pretty stringent.”
Jennifer Crouse, assistant register of deeds, worked with the Snow family extensively researching property records to ensure the land qualified.
“This time, it wasn’t that difficult to prove the farm has been in the family,” she said as she stood under a shade tree on the historic farm. “We went all the way back to the mid-1800s on this farm.”
Surveying the property, Trenton Snow, 85, said the farm means more to him than words can explain. From raising cattle to growing tobacco to the more-recent years of raising strawberries, he did what he could to keep it viable and in the family.
“I’ve lived on this property my entire life,” he said quietly of the 90-acre property. “I was born about a mile from here.
“This farm means… it’s sacred to me. It takes me back to my ancestors and I’ve worked hard to keep it in the family for all these years,” Snow added. “This means more to me than just a piece of land. It’s home. It’s a place where I’ve made a living and sent my children to school.”
Snow, who also worked at Chatham Manufacturing in Elkin, said it hasn’t been easy.
“There was a time when we didn’t know whether we could keep it together or not,” he said. “I had to work two jobs, but we stayed with it and kept it in the family.”
His son, Terry, said that while he doesn’t know what the future will bring, he wants to continue the trend.
“We’re just proud that he’s been able to keep it in the family,” he said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with our children, but it would be a shame to let it go.”
His father agreed.
Looking at what appeared to be a dilapidated shed, he walked over and gently rested his hand on the side of the building.
Opening the door, he pointed out the hand-hewn lumber forming the exterior walls.
“My great-grandfather was born in this house,” the elder Snow said quietly. “A lot of people have asked to buy this building to use the old lumber, but I won’t sell it.
“There are a lot of my ancestors buried on this farm,” he added. “It’s going to be in our family a while longer, I hope.”
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.