She noted a “very special family” once lived in the brick farmhouse, first built by Joseph Keebler in 1859.
The four sisters who grew up in the house at 632 Hales Chapel Road agreed. Teresa Carson, whose parents William Joe and Jean L. Keefauver had owned the property since 1964 before selling it to the city of Johnson City in 2009, said she and her siblings have “many wonderful memories of growing up” on the former dairy farm.
The Keefauver family developed the property as Keeland Dairy, with registered Holstein cattle.
“Our parents had a faith so strong that it allowed them to survive on this farm for many years,” Carson said. “When the city approached them about selling, they knew this was what God wanted.”
Carson, along with her siblings Cindy Mayes, Rebecca Alexander and Beth Fox, were on hand for the official unveiling of the historical marker in front of the farmhouse. Carson said she “was thrilled” to see the obtain the historic designation for the 160-year-old structure.
The mayor said she was also pleased to see the city finally deliver on the promise of a state historical marker nearly a decade after buying 53.6 acres of the Keefauver family farm at a cost of $1.4 million. She said the City Commission must next decide how to best use the farmhouse and its surrounding pasture land.
“We have a number of exciting possibilities to explore,” Brock said.
She said among them are keeping a part of the property as a working farm, or as an agricultural and outdoor learning center for schoolchildren. She said site could also be used for summer camp activities and as an agricultural business resources center.
Charles Stahl, assistant city manager, said the city had originally envisioned building a municipal park or a new city school on the property. Changes to the state’s annexation laws and to the city’s growth strategy in Gray have amended those plans.
He said the purchase of the farm had unanimous support among both park and recreation officials and city commissioners. He said while the property is now protected by the city, a master plan must be approved to oversee development of the Keefauver farm.