The Ames Plantation, located in Fayette and Hardeman Counties of Tennessee, is home to a wealth of 19th century history pertaining to the heritage and material culture of southwestern Tennessee. Recognizing the tremendous cultural resource represented by the Ames land base, for over 30 years we have worked to preserve the land’s history in a manner which also provides educational opportunities for area residents of all ages. The program includes the restoration of historic structures and cemeteries, research into the history of the land and its earlier residents, and the implementation of an educational program focusing on local history and preservation.
The shadow cast by our work covers much of Southwestern Tennessee, for in many ways the Ames land base is representative of the region as a whole. The historic structures that we have saved are typical of those being lost to future generations throughout the surrounding area. The understanding that we have gained regarding issues of 19th century land ownership, settlement patterns, mortuary practices, the area’s cotton based economy, and slavery can be applied as a model beyond our boundaries. In many respects Ames is a laboratory for the study of regional historical and preservation issues.
Investigations have revealed over 225 historic sites including the location of homesteads, slave cabins, churches, schools, and cotton gins. We have also identified the locations of 26 cemeteries with 19th century origins. Prehistoric sites are abundant on the Ames land base including a Late Woodland to Early Mississippian ceremonial center. Select sites, both historic and prehistoric, have been investigated archaeologically through a cooperative program which includes Rhodes College, The University of Memphis, and the Ames Plantation.
Research of land ownership, along with associated family histories, has revealed interesting historical details about both the land and its 19th century residents. Our goal is to identify those who occupied the land during this period; essentially those who are responsible for the history of the land itself. Over 150 families have been identified and their life stories are being researched to gain a better understanding of the area’s past.
Through this process we are providing educational opportunities for area residents focusing on local history and heritage preservation. As a destination for school field trips we engage area youth by fostering an “outside the classroom” view of the region’s 19thcentury history. As host to Boy Scout Eagle and service projects we impress upon the young men involved the importance of preserving their past. To provide hands-on opportunities for those who want to get personally involved in understanding and preserving their past we offer membership in the Ames Plantation Historical Society which is currently comprised of over 200 members.
The Ames Cultural Resource Program is meeting its goal of understanding the area’s past while raising awareness of the importance of preserving our shared cultural heritage.