Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Neilson's Has Anchored Square for 175 Years


Neilson’s has anchored the Square for 175 years.

This revealing turn-of-the-century shot depicts wagons in front of the Courthouse and Neilson’s Department Store. Neilson’s has anchored the Oxford Courthouse Square for 175 years.
The only time the store has ever stopped doing business was when the Union Army burned it, and the Square, to the ground. But Mr. Neilson got out with his gold, buried it in his yard, survived the war and rebuilt his store. Today the front facade appears as it has for the last 149 years.
The founder of Neilson’s was William Smith Neilson, born in 1812 in the mountains of of Greene County in east Tennessee. In 1832 the Chickasaw indians in North Mississippi ceded their land to the United States government and their wilderness lands ultimately became the site where Lafayette County was established in 1836. The current site of Oxford was incorporated as the County seat in 1837, and named Oxford in the hope that it would be selected as the site for the proposed University of Mississippi.
In 1838 WIlliam Smith Nelson came to the former Chickisaw lands to establish his own merchant business here. He bypassed the thriving frontier town of Memphis and reached Oxford about Jan. 1, 1839. His first store was a small log cabin on the north side of the Square. where he sold groceries, clothing, hardware, drugs and everything pioneer families needed.
The store grew along with the town. Neilson ultimately settled his upgraded store on the eaast side of the Square, married an Oxford girl and had eight children.
Courtesy of John Cofield. John is a writer and one of the area’s leading folk historians. Some historical material courtesy of Neilson’s web site.