30 May 2011

Oxford, GA

The city of Oxford, just north of Covington, is a lovely city that has a rich and unique story. The city has a shared and intertwined history with Oxford College of Emory University (originally called Emory College). First envisioned in the early 1830's by the Georgia Methodist Conference, the school was chartered in 1836 and was named for Bishop John Emory. Of the original 1400 acres deeded for the school, it was decided that 330 acres would become the town of Oxford and would be laid out next to the college. The name Oxford was chosen as it was where John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, had attended college in England.


The town would be incorporated in 1837, and the town lots were originally sold with a 999 year land lease that stipulated that “no intoxicating liquors shall be sold, nor any game of hazard allowed.” Although the lease rights were later converted to fee simple ownership, the restrictions on land use remained and throughout much of Oxford's history, no drinking; games of chance; or even profanity were allowed. In fact, an Emory student had to go to court in the 1920's for swearing in public. Through the years, both the city and college have grown.


When Emory moved to its Atlanta campus, the college went though some transformations but is now a 2 year liberal arts college of the Emory University system. The city of Oxford was declared the sixteenth shrine of the United Methodist Church in 1971.

To have been a college that may have had a few hundred students at any given time, Emory at Oxford has produced some very notable alumni. First and foremost would have to be Alben W. Barkley, the 35th Vice President of the united States of America. Barkley was Truman's running mate in the 1948 election that everyone thought the Democrats would lose but ended up winning. Barkley is widely credited with coming up with the line, "Give 'em Hell, Harry" and was also the first VP to be called "The Veep." Prior to that, he was a Congressman from Kentucky who served in both chambers from 1913 up to his VP role. He was Majority Leader of the Senate from 1937-1947. He would serve in the Senate again afterwords until his death in 1956. Barkley graduated from Oxford in 1900.

Again, to be such a small school, it is amazing to me that they can lay claim to a Vice President and a Supreme Court Justice! Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (September 17, 1825 – January 23, 1893), attended Oxford in the early 1840's graduating in 1845. He was born down the road in Putnam Co. and after attending Oxford, moved to Mississippi and practiced law there. He would move to Covington, Ga in the 1850's and started his political career as a state Representative. Later, he would move back to Mississippi and was elected to the U.S. House. After the Civil War, he eventually became Secretary of the Interior in Grover Cleveland's administration until he was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice in 1888. A historical marker on Floyd St. in downtown Covington is dedicated to Lamar.

Another fascinating and interesting bit of Oxford College history has to do with Dooley, the "Spirit of Emory." Dooley is kind of the unofficial mascot of Oxford (Emory has their own as well). First documented in the late 1800's when he wrote a letter to the campus newspaper, Dooley's story is quite interesting, indeed. Originally a skeleton in the Science Dept., Dooley's legend would grow through the years. To this day, he is still a vital part of both Oxford and Emory. I actually had the rare privilege to see Dooley in person at Oxford sometime in 1994 or 95. Learn more here and here.

The city of Oxford has a lot going on right now. They just completed a new City Hall that seems like it would be more suitable for a town twice as big, but a very nice building nonetheless. Oxford is also known for their 4th of July parade and festivities that bring in a lot of visitors every year as well as their extensive trails and bike system. By the way, remember the bit at the beginning of the article about "no intoxicating liquors?" Well...technically--that is still the law of the land according to Oxford City Hall. Learn more about the city their webpage.



Thanks for reading!
-Marshall

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