The term “homestead” means a family’s home, including the house and any other buildings or lands that go with it. Often, we think of it in terms of a large tract of land, but that is not necessarily required.
However, there is an area in Tennessee, along the Cumberland Plateau, where a New Deal Subsistence Homesteads community was built. There were about 100 of these communities throughout the country and the Tennessee community is evidence of the ingenuity, hard work and dedication that these folks had.
Of the initial 233 families selected for the Cumberland Homesteads project, 30% were distressed farmers, 30% were unemployed miners, 30% were unemployed textile workers, and 10% were struggling professionals (including teachers, nurses, and a doctor). Architect William Macy Stanton, who designed a number of buildings in TVA’s planned city of Norris, created the basic design for the homes and other buildings at the Homesteads. The community’s first stone houses were completed in late 1934.
Although the original purpose of the Homesteads project failed, the community survived, and over half the farms remained in the hands of original homesteaders through the 1950s. Indeed, the homestead house design is still visible if you drive through the area. There may be some additional rooms added, but the basic homestead house design is still identifiable.
I was speaking with a gentleman who was a child when his parents received a homestead. He said that they would build the barn first, because that would house the animals that they needed for food and it would hold whatever equipment that they had to use on the farm.
He laughed and said that, since there was no glass on the barn windows, the rain would come in through the window openings. That meant that they needed to see which way the wind was blowing so that they could move their hay mattresses and clothing to the other side of the barn so they would not get wet. This was a vivid memory, and I suspect he could feel the damp hay even as we were speaking.
The Homesteads water tower provided a source of water as well as serving as the social headquarters for the community.
Today, the water tower building is used as a museum recording the existence and perseverance of the community that thrived there almost 100 years ago. In the museum area, there are hundreds of letters, pictures, and personal items, many of which provide an interesting view of life in the rural Cumberland mountains.
The typical homestead house was made from the stones that were on the property itself!
Telephone communication was certainly not something that could fit in your pocket! In fact, you will notice that the only way to speak into the phone was to put your mouth up at the phone itself. You would hear by using the ear piece attached by a cord hanging on the side of the phone box.
This is a picture of a Conlon Zephyr which was a type of ironing machine. Indeed, this was state-of-the-art in the mid-1930s. The little sign on the fabric reads:
“Flowered feed sacks were welcomed bonuses for the farm wife. She carefully chose her colors and patterns for making dresses, quilts, curtains, etc.”
The wood stove kept things toasty in the kitchen, likely the area most folks would congregate during the harsh winter on the plateau.
In our world, things always are subject to change. Today in 2018, we in the United States certainly do not live like they did in the 1930s. We have electricity and we have cell phones. Most of us don’t use feed sacks for curtains or clothes. Some would argue, I suspect, that some of the changes in modern days are not for the better, while other changes have surely made our lives significantly easier. But like them or not, changes have, and will, come. Things change.
But there is One who does not change, and I am referring to our God and Father. Scripture says:
“”For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”
God, Himself, is saying that He does not change – a characteristic that is totally foreign to us. He is immutable. He is the same today as He was before creation even existed. And, He will be the same when time is no more.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.“
Christ’s divinity and His immutable nature is highlighted by the writer of Hebrews when he says:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.“
Praise the Lord that He is unchanging and that His promises are, therefore, secure. This gives the believer security to know that when we have been adopted into God’s family through faith, we can trust God not to change His mind and “unadopt” us because of something we have done.
No man can slip through His fingers into the breach of hell if that person is a child of God and has expressed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God neither changes His plan, His covenants, His prophecies, nor His justice. In other words, God is dependable – God is immutable, unchangeable!
While things change in our world, we can be secure in the knowledge and conviction that our God does not change. His perfect plan for us will be accomplished no matter what the circumstances surrounding us may be. Thank Him, today, for His wondrous love and mighty strength to keep us in His arms throughout the turmoil and change that we see all around us.
Father, the old hymn says “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand” and those words are true. Christ is the Rock on which I stand when all else around me is tumbling and changing, when the world is rushing to evil and violence, when even Your people are abandoning Your Word. Father, I pray that my Homestead is in heaven, secure in the grip of Christ my Savior. I further pray that You would use these thoughts to encourage, challenge and strengthen those who read them. May Your Spirit move in our world, today.