Bradford History

Mary Robnett Bradford and Estelle Bradford granted a warranty deed on Nov. 27, 1959, to the University of Missouri for 524 acres, which became known as the MU Bradford Farm. The University made monthly payments to them for the rest of their lives. Mary Robnett Bradford died Nov. 5, 1963, and Estelle Bradford died Aug. 4, 1985. The University of Missouri received the final deed Aug. 14, 1989.

In making this excellent farm on the two mile Prairie in Boone County (approximately two miles east of the KOMU-TV Station) available for agricultural research, the Bradfords answered a critical need of the University of Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station. Such a farm was needed for research with crops, plant breeding, weed control, soil fertility and other agronomic studies.

Ms. Estelle Bradford says her family always referred to it as the Robnett Farm. This was because Mary Robnett inherited the farm from Sarah E. Robnett, her mother, a widow of Plesant H. Robnett.

Plesant H. Robnett, known by his friends and still referred to by old timers in Boone County as “Ples” Robnett, was one of Boone County’s most prominent farmers. Boone County History states that in 1882 he owned 1,600 acres on which he produced Shorthorn cattle and Cotswold sheep. He, according to written references, had facilities for wintering 300 cattle and a barn with 100 stalls for either horses or cattle.

Ples Robnett, who was born Sept. 10, 1824 in Bourbon County, Ky., was brought to Missouri in 1825. He attended Little Cedar Creek School and “finished studies” at Bonne Femme Academy. He was married Jan. 24, 1865, to Sally Simms, daughter of Jacob and Winifred Simms.

Although this farm was not the headquarter farm for Robnett’s extensive farm operations in the 1880s, part of it was no doubt identified with them as it was near his other land which was inherited by his other two daughters, Mrs. W.P. (Madge) Dysart, Dr., and Mrs. Estelle Vivian, mother of Mrs. Sidney Rollins, Sr.

Other interesting notes on the components of this farm are that the patents on 344.66 acres of this farm were signed by President Andrew Jackson, one as early as July 13, 1833. They were issued at the U.S. Land Office in Fayette. The remainder of the patents for the land in this farm were signed by Martin Van Buren, President of the United States, one as late as Jan. 10, 1840.

On June 13, 1839, 40 acres of this farm (the south one-fourth of the quarter section in the southwest corner) was deeded to the State of Missouri by William and Eliza Shields in consideration for the University being established in Boone County under the Geyer Act of February 11, 1839. They had obtained a patent on the same land Jan. 10 of that year.

The Curators of the University sold these 40 acres to Mary Robnett on April 2, 1912. The natural resources of our country are recognized as providing the fundamental bases for our cultural legacy to succeeding generations. Land in its broadest economic sense is our total natural environment. This farm is a part of the land and of our natural resources.

“Investment in education is an investment in human resources. Making this farm available for research to help insure that future education will be based upon knowledge developed under the scientist’s never ending efforts to unlock nature’s secrets is a most fitting memorial to one of Missouri’s pioneer families.”In a Sept. 5, 1991, memo, the late John Milton Poehlman, Ph.D., indicated that “Lloyd Cavannah and I laid out the plots shortly after the University acquired the farm.”

Surveying of the plots was done by Charles “Chuck” Cromwell. “Weed Control Studies” is claimed to be the earliest research conducted on this farm in the spring of 1960 by O. Hale Fletchall, Ph.D., Elroy J Peters, Ph.D., Mr. Stritzke, Mr. Fink, Dr. Hicks (Portageville) and Laurel E Anderson, Ph.D.

Fletchall often commented that weed control studies could have been located on the best land since they had “first chance” but they elected to set up their studies on the distant northwest corner of the farm, fearing that the unsightly weed control plots would eventually be moved further from the buildings and public view.

In 1985, an additional 71 acres of land were purchased by the Curators from Kevin Moore, Ph.D. This land was located directly across Rangeline Road to the east and was first used by Foundation Seeds until fully set up with plots and alleys in 1988 for research use.

Bradford Farm Program of Dedication
June 8, 1965

by Rev. Seth Slaughter, dean emeritus, Missouri School of Religion

Opening Remarks and Introductions
by Elmer R. Kiehl, dean and director, College of Agriculture, Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station

Addresses from:
Robert Neill, president, University of Missouri Board of Curators, and Elmer Ellis, president, University of Missouri