Our Town: Game Plan: Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve

Bill and Merrie Hedrick stand on the land that they donated to create the Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve. Bill bought the land in 1968, he and Merrie were married on the porch of the farmhouse in 1978, and they raised 8 children there until 1994 when they made an arrangement with the city to preserve the land as a park.

“Bill used to say it was our castle and there was
a moat that went all the way around us.”

–Merrie Hedrick, The Dr. Bill and Merrie Hedrick Homestead
at Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve

by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Madeline Gray

Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve is a distinct piece of land: The U-shaped city park in Wake Forest is bordered on three sides by the Neuse River. Its shape is what first caught Dr. Bill Hedrick’s eye in the 1960s. He had returned to his native Raleigh to practice family medicine, and was with a friend, flying in a small plane over the area. “I said, ‘Look at that: the river goes all the way around that farm,’” he remembers saying. “I’ll never forget it.”

After many years of making offers, Dr. Hedrick finally purchased the property in 1971, moved to the land, and called it Horseshoe Farm in honor of its unique layout. By the time he met Merrie in 1976, he’d restored the property’s decrepit farmhouse – enough to take her there for a “romantic picnic,” anyway. Two years later, on Valentine’s Day, the couple married at Horseshoe. Together, they created a homestead complete with livestock, gardens, and hundreds of acres of untouched wildlife. Dr. Hedrick had four children, and together he and Merrie had four more; all eight grew accustomed to eating eggs from their chickens and entertaining themselves by churning cream into butter. “Those early years were some of the happiest,” Merrie Hedrick says.

Meanwhile, Dr. Hedrick built the medical practice where he still works at 85. Merrie Hedrick, for her part, served two terms as a Wake County commissioner among her many other civic involvements. They’ve both received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. It’s perhaps no surprise that when it was time to downsize in 1994, they sold Horseshoe to the City of Raleigh so that it could become a park.

Today, Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve contains almost 150 acres of pastures and woodlands connected to the Neuse River portion of the city’s greenway trail. What was once the Hedricks’ homestead has been converted to a public visiting area that was dedicated to the couple in September. “We had a picnic out there that day with our family,” Merrie Hedrick says. “I hope it will be the first of many picnics there, again. I love the Horseshoe.”