Toms Creek is situated in the green rolling hills of the Uwharrie Mountain range in a crossroads community known as Farmer. Its name is derived from the clear, pristine stream called Toms Creek that carves its way through rough terrain on its way to unite with the Uwharrie River.
The story of Toms Creek begins in the depression era of the 1930s. Ovie Henson, a young widow, had aspirations of owning her own farm. Along with her only son Joey, she labored to save enough money to finance her dream by teaching in a one-room schoolhouse by day and by caning chairs at night. Ovie later traded half interest acquired in the Humble Mill, (near what is now the NC Zoological Park), with the Ingram Family for the original 217 acres of the farm. She then began the task of clearing land and constructing the necessary buildings and fences. Soon, Ovie had a typical farm to tend—complete with sheep, pigs, chickens and cows. Still, she felt that something was missing. Upon noticing that there was no shrubbery around her newly completed farmhouse, Ovie tried her hand at rooting cuttings given to her by a neighbor. While her initial success seemed to be pure luck, it was later realized that Ovie possessed a truly green thumb. Before long, she had more plants than she could possibly use. She also realized that others would pay as much as 25 cents for her surplus of plants! She decided to designate this new income to her church fund.
Joey, who had been his mother’s helper since the beginning, was called away to service in the Philippines near the end of WWII. After serving his tour of duty overseas, Joey returned home to find that his time away had been very trying for his mother. Therefore, he postponed attending college to live at home and expand the farm. With some new additions, Ovie and Joey started the first “Grade A” dairy in the county. The twosome could now offer commodities from their dairy as well as their poultry operation, which included fresh eggs and fryers. People who traveled NC Highway 49 in those days may also remember the herd of sixty sheep that provided income from wool as well as a source of mutton. Moreover, fresh strawberries from Ovie’s berry patch became a well-anticipated treat for the community each season. Life may have been difficult in those days, but on the farm there was wood for the fireplace and food for the stove.
1952 brought change to the Henson farm when Audrey Lou Massey eloped from the mountains of Madison County to become Joey’s bride. The addition of her “mountaineer-know-no-stranger” policy would be the impetus to thrust a hobby into a business. As the self-described “pusher” of the family, Audrey was quick to give her new husband (as she called “the brains” of the operation) the ever so gentle nudge to get things growing. With a fifty-dollar Christmas gift from her parents, the decision was made to buy an assortment of trees to seriously commit to the enlargement of the nursery section of the farm. Her mother and father, who were convinced that no one in his right mind would ever pay to buy trees, certainly did not see this as a wise investment!
Two daughters, Melinda and Rebecca, were added to the family in 1953 and 1956. Each year, the nursery continued to slowly enlarge, while the dairy provided a steady monthly income. The last attempt to acquire a boy was successful in 1966 as Rodney completed the Henson family. It was soon obvious as to what aspects of farm life captivated each child. Melinda’s enjoyment came from being outdoors, following in her father’s footsteps. This may have attributed to the later inhibition of more “feminine” traits, such as cooking! Rebecca preferred time spent with the dairy herd as opposed to plant related chores (which possibly “steered” her into the career of teaching!).
Working the dairy remained an integral part of the farm until all three children completed college. Melinda honed her natural artistic skills at North Carolina State University while attaining a B.S. degree in horticultural landscape design with studies in landscape architecture. Rodney, who first pursued accounting before accepting the farm as a way of life, still today is vital to keeping the nursery running smoothly.
While in graduate school, Melinda married Steve Vaughan, and together they brought an entirely new perspective to the family business. With Steve’s engineering background, he provided the technical expertise that allowed Melinda’s landscape visions to be realized. What she could dream, he could construct! Working alone from the board to the ground, they soon found themselves in need of assistance. It was not long after they developed their team of workers that they were traveling from Myrtle Beach, SC to Martinsville, VA creating beautiful gardens.
As the business reputation began to grow, so did the family. The Vaughan’s first contribution to the family business was with the surprise arrival of twin boys, Brandon and Aaron, in 1981. Grandpa Joe even acknowledged the event with the expansion of the nursery by ten acres. Farm life has the unique "advantage" to accommodating children. Customers still call the office and reminisce about those twin babies "helping" with the business. After a seven-year rest, the third grandson, Hampton, was born. As the agricultural labor force began to change, the business and family expanded with immigrants from Vietnam, Mexico, and Laos. The Vaughan children knew them only as extended family, bearing names such as Lung Siu, Jose Fiscal and Eliodoro Martinez. Lives as well as the business have been enriched by their addition to the family.
As any family, each day adds a page to the story of life. Since Ovie Henson accepted her call of stewardship to God’s green earth, the following generations as expected have an awakened sense of appreciation to the beauty as well as the quality of our environment. On February 22, at age ninety-nine, the business and family matriarch died, while thousands of white daffodils she planted along the banks of Toms Creek unseasonably bloomed as though to bid her goodbye. Despite jovial remarks by her great-grandsons regarding the development of the farm into a golf course, the family’s collective decision to attempt (though unsuccessfully so far) utilize methods such as conservation easements to preserve the farm is a tribute to her legacy and love of nature. Unknown chapters are still to be written in the Toms Creek story by future generations.
MONDAY - FRIDAY
9:00am - 5:00pm
9:00am - 2:00pm
Nursery and Office Location
6454 Old NC Highway 49
Farmer, North Carolina
Toms Creek Nursery and Landscaping.
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