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Herefords and farms mostly gone from road that bears their name

Posted: April 14, 2013 - 12:00am
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The original Hereford Farm was a 2,300-acre cattle ranch that included a sales barn and arena.  Special Photo
Special Photo
The original Hereford Farm was a 2,300-acre cattle ranch that included a sales barn and arena.

A Hereford is a breed of beef cattle, but you aren’t likely to see any of them along the Columbia County road bearing that name.

Hereford Farm Road, which meanders 5.7 miles from North Belair Road to Columbia Road, took its name from the 2,300-acre Georgia Hereford Farm, but there haven’t been many cows or bulls along the stretch since the property was subdivided and auctioned in 1956.

Originally known as the Gov. Crawford Plantation after William H. Crawford (1772-1834), the property later was purchased by Army Gen. Leonard Wood. During the late 1930s, the property was owned by a Judge Callaway. It was acquired by John H. Weiss about 1940. He was the father of the late George Weiss, a well-known Augusta radio personality.

In 1947, N. Flournoy Fiske, joined by partners L.L. Tankersley and G.B. “Dip” Lamkin, purchased the farm from Weiss. Tankersley had managed the farm for Weiss and “every Hereford on the place is a personal friend of his,” Fiske told reporters after the sale. “He knows them by name and number and also knows their pedigrees backwards and forward.”

Fiske, president of Fine Products Corp. in Augusta (also known as the Hollingsworth Candy Co.), told reporters that “before buying the Georgia Hereford Farm I made a connection with a man (Tankersley) who has Hereford knowledge and experience in abundance and who is familiar with this particular place.

“He managed this place for Mr. Weiss up to two years ago, at which time he was stricken with a long spell of sickness of which he has now recovered. He is buying a sizable interest in the company that will own and operate the Georgia Hereford Farm, and he will spend all of his time in its supervision. Also, one of my lifelong friends, Dip Lamkin, will have a financial interest in the new company.”

Fiske, who continued John Weiss’ goal of making the farm one of the nation’s best, told a reporter that he wasn’t operating the farm merely as a hobby, “but as a demonstration in business methods and as a serious movement to (improve) purebred cattle in the state of Georgia.”

He scheduled his first sale of registered Herefords at the farm for April 22, 1948.

“The sale is being held at the beginning of the pasture period, which means that buyers will be able to fatten the cattle on their own pastures,” he said, “instead of having to buy feed for them as would be necessary in the fall.”

The sale was such a big deal in Columbia County that public schools were closed for the occasion, much to the pleasure of children, including now-District 3 Columbia County Commissioner Charles Allen Jr., whose father, Charles Sr., had become general manager of the farm.

Subsequent sales attracted hundreds of buyers from all over, including England, the junior Allen remembered. “They’d always serve barbecue, and I ate a lot of it,” he said.

The senior Allen had majored in animal husbandry at the University Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine. Later, with World War II in progress, he was drafted into the Army.

“He’d learned how to inoculate farm animals, so he became a medic in the Army, ‘shooting’ soldiers with hypodermic needles. He served in the European Theater during the war,” his son said.

Fiske and his family also got a good deal of pleasure from amenities on the place, including a 7½-acre pond and hunting opportunities.

“Uncle Flournoy used to take me dove hunting on the property, and I was his ‘bird dog,’ retrieving birds he’d shot,” recalled Julian F. “Buddy” Fiske, of Augusta. “He was always good to me. He’d always wanted sons, but fathered two daughters, so I guess I was his ‘son.’ ”

“I just loved it,” said Augusta attorney Sam Maguire, one of N.F. Fiske’s grandsons. “I fished in the ponds and also went swimming. Grandfather was a firm believer in pond fertilization in a big way, and after swimming we’d come out tinted in green. We caught lots of bass and big bream.”

The junior Allen, who still lives on a few acres on the old place, said he “used to paddle N.F. Fiske and his friend Dr. W.W. Battey around the pond. They’d pay me 25 cents or 50 cents, depending on how many fish they caught.”

“I think Uncle Flournoy bought the property with the aim of retiring out there one day,” Buddy Fiske said.

But that was not to be.

In 1956, the elder Fiske suffered a heart attack and his doctor gave him two options: Sell the farm or sell the candy company, Buddy Fiske said. His uncle knew that many people depended upon their jobs at the candy company, so he put Georgia Hereford Farm up for sale, listing 2,030 acres, farm buildings and dwellings and all the amenities for $175,000. Approximately 200 head of polled Herefords, farm machinery and equipment were offered separately.

A descriptive brochure was distributed to interested buyers, but when the property didn’t sell it was subdivided.

That worked.

“I really hated to see it go,” Maguire said.

One of the beneficiaries of that sale is attorney Douglas Batchelor. Instead of cattle grazing in the pasture of his 27½-acre property on Hereford Farm Road, the Batchelors’ horses enjoy the lush grass.

Near the Batchelors’ driveway, the overgrown ruins of a brick-walled structure are all that remain of the amphitheater of the Hereford Farm’s sales barn.

Augusta attorney W. Hale Barrett was present with Fiske during some of the properties’ sales. He recalled that after the farm sold, Fiske purchased a grand home on Augusta’s Lake Forest Drive.

The home’s owner told the buyer, “Mr. Fiske, you have purchased a wonderful home,” Barrett remembered.

“Mr. Fiske replied, ‘I just sold the finest place in the world.’ ”

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