In collaboration with the Triangle Land Conservancy, the Community Histories Workshop – led by Rob Shapard – is exploring the history of the land and people at their newest preserve, Walnut Hill.In collaboration with the Triangle Land Conservancy, the Community Histories Workshop – led by Rob Shapard – is exploring the history of the land and people at their newest preserve, Walnut Hill.

Walnut Hill is a 405-acre former farm in the Shotwell community of Wake County, about twenty miles southeast of Raleigh. Members of the Mial and Williamson families farmed Walnut Hill for more than 200 years, building up the farm to include some 2,700 acres at one point. This area included some of the most fertile soils in Wake County, and the owners of Walnut Hill raised cotton, before eventually shifting to tobacco and other row crops in the twentieth century.

Between 1940 and 1952, the North Carolina State Experiment Station operated a research station at Walnut Hill, studying new methods for conserving soil in tobacco agriculture. And part of the farm – and neighboring land – are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Oct. 2000) as the Walnut Hill Historic District.

The Triangle Land Conservancy purchased the remaining 405 acres of Walnut Hill in 2013, from two Williamson descendants who wanted to honor their parents’ wish to see the farm preserved. The preserve and contiguous lands feature forested areas and streams that drain into Marks Creek and the Neuse River, making it a perfect site for outdoor activities. The conservancy intends to open Walnut Hill to visitors, and also to research and share the many layers of history at the farm and community.

As first steps, Rob Shapard is working with TLC and CHW to record oral histories with several family and community members, and identify historical materials in sources ranging from libraries to personal collections, that will help tell the farm’s story. Watch this page and our website for updates.