In the Shawnee Hills (aka Western Kentucky Coal Fields) of Greenville (Muhlenberg County), Kentucky, lies Martin Acres, an eighth‐generation black‐owned family farm with a long history of agriculture practiced by both our family and the land’s original inhabitants. Martin Acres has more acreage of forests than are used for agriculture. It also has the lowest and the highest point in the County. Halls Creek, Drakes Creek, and Jarrels Creek run through the farm. And the forests and non‐agricultural fields of Martin Acres are teeming with diverse native plants growing wild.
Portions of the land that comprise the farm, Martin Acres, have been in our maternal family since the 1800s. The furthest that we have been able to go back in our family tree is our great‐great‐great grandfather, Lourenza Dow Martin, who was born in 1833.
On 4 May 1833 Lorenza/Lourenza Dow Martin (our great‐great‐great grandfather) was born to unknown parents who were enslaved. In the mid‐1800s, Lourenza was given the opportunity by Charles Martin (the man who enslaved him) to purchase his freedom; however, he did not want to become free without also purchasing the freedom of his beloved Vanie. Lourenza remained enslaved for a few more years and he purchased the emancipation of his soon‐to‐be wife, Minnie Malvina "Vanie" Reynolds (who was born on 18 June 1838), and himself. Lourenza purchased 125 acres (some of this land was purchased by his grandson Herbert L. Martin) from Charles upon which Minnie, himself, and their 12 children lived.
As the children got older, some of them moved out of state; however, one of the sons, Finis Martin—born on 17 February 1859—bought a farm and settled near the Rhodes Chapel Community. Finis married Willie Mathis (who was born on 9 September 1867) and to this union they had seven children.
The 5th child, Herbert Leslie Martin was born on 22 September 1896. Herbert learned how to farm from his father, Finis, who gave him 100 acres of land. Herbert purchased an additional 100 acres from his father. Herbert became a very successful and widely respected farmer—he was on the cover of Progressive Farmer magazine in the 1960s— who amassed more than 1000 acres of land in his lifetime. Even though Greenville is within the Western Kentucky Coal Fields region, he never wanted to see the farm strip mined. The land currently owned by the descendants of Herbert and his second wife, Beatrice Tutt Martin (who was born on 14 November 1909), and the Finis Martin Estate is now collectively called Martin Acres.
The late Viola Martin Mapp—our grandmother—was the fourth oldest of Herbert and moved out of state to attend college and she never returned. Many years before the passing of Herbert in October 1968, Martin Acres grew industrial hemp as a World War II Victory Garden. And our family has grown tobacco, corn, wheat, potatoes (along with other crops), and raised chickens, cattle, pigs, and sheep. The last animals on the farm were sold in the 1980s. Since 1968, Martin Acres has been in a state of transition that continues today.