Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Oxford Home Pre-Cut in St. Louis, Assembled in Oxford

During the first Oxford Pilgrimage, one of the homes that was opened to visitors had the distinction of being pre-cut in St. Louis and assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle in 1878.
I am sure that this was the first prefab home that was built in Mississippi. Although it was not an antebellum home, as were all the others in the first pilgrimage, it was opened to the pilgrimage visitors because of its long and varied history. Its beauty and unusual architecture was another reason why the home was included in the first pilgrimage and many that followed in the twenty-two-year history of the Oxford Pilgrimage.

Fiddlers Folly
Fiddler’s Folly is located at 520 North Lamar Blvd.

The home, now known to many in Oxford as Fiddler’s Folly, was constructed for Judge Charles Bowen Howry and his wife Edmonia Carter.
The home is the beautiful modified Victorian Gothic home situated at 520 North Lamar Boulevard. It also has the distinction of being featured in the 1960s movie “Home for the Hills” which stared Robert Mitchum, Eleanor Parker , and George Hamilton.
Howry and his wife were both members of prominent Oxford families. He was the son of Judge James M. Howry, a distinguished jurist and trustee of the University of Mississippi. She was the daughter of Dr. Robert Otway Carter of the Virginia Carters and a descendent of King Carter. Her family had also resided in the mansion know as “Cleve” in Virginia.
Howry was serving as a federal judge in St. Louis in 1875 when his wife became ill and wanted to return to her family in Oxford. He hired the well-known architect James Stewart to design a home for them to be built in Oxford. Stewart had been the architect for three state capitols in western states and the Savoy Hotel in London.
No expense was spared in the design and construction of the home. All of the woodwork in the home was hand carved and the shutters had also been hand crafted in St. Louis. The plasterwork around the light fixtures give evidence to the love and care involved in the smallest details. Beautiful marble fireplaces, probably imported marble, can be found in three of the downstairs rooms. The home was pre-cut in St. Louis and shipped to Oxford. In Oxford the home was reconstructed on the North Lamar site. It caused quite a bit of interest among the Oxford townsfolk when it arrived in Oxford by wagon and the assemblage of the pre-cut jigsaw pieces began.
Howry had entered the University of Mississippi before the Civil War and had been appointed a Confederate officer after the University closed. After the war he was the first graduate of the Ole Miss Law School and had studied under L. Q. C. Lamar who became his life long friend. Later he was not only a federal judge but he was a trustee of the University, a state representative, U. S. District Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi, Assistant Attorney General of the United States in President Cleveland’s administration, and a judge of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington.
After the death of Howry’s wife, the home was sold to Judge R. A. Hill. He was a Republican and had been appointed to his judgeship by a Republican President. He had managed, through his political influence, to retain his fortune through the Civil War. A thing not accomplished by many Southerners during that period. It was Judge Hill who disbarred L. Q. C. Lamar because of an altercation, which also caused the fracturing of the jaw of a federal marshal. This occurred during an infamous Klu Klux Klan trial in 1871. He later reinstated Lamar and he was able to be friends with both the radical Republicans and Democrats during Reconstruction.
One of the other owners of the home around the turn of the century was Daniel Sultan, a native of South Carolina. Sultan moved to Oxford around 1883 and married one of the five Wohlleben daughters, Emma. If you will recall, all of Hermann “Ole Bully” Wohlleben’s daughters married into prominent Oxford families. “Ole Bully” was the Confederate who was thought to have stolen the Union payroll during Van Dorn’s raid on Holly Springs.
The J. H. Elkins family owned the home during the years of the Oxford Pilgrimage. Elkins was a collector of fine violins. He had an impressive array of valuable old violins, which was on display during the pilgrimage. The collection was the impetus for the name given to the home by the Elkins family. Today the home is owned by Oxford insurance agent Tom Davis and his wife Nan.
Next week ‘Oxford’s Olden Days’ will feature Ammadelle, another home on North Lamar that was built in 1859.
Mayfield 34Jack Lamar Mayfield is a fifth generation Oxonian, whose family came to Oxford shortly after the Chickasaw Cession of 1832, and he is the third generation of his family to graduate from the University of Mississippi. He is a former insurance company executive and history instructor at Marshall Academy in Holly Springs, South Panola High School in Batesvile and the Oxford campus of Northwest Community College.
In addition to his weekly blog in HottyToddy.com Oxford’s Olden Days, Mayfield is also the author of an Images of America series book titled Oxford and Ole Miss published in 2008 for the Oxford-Lafayette County Heritage Foundation. The Foundation is responsible for restoring the post-Civil War home of famed Mississippi statesman, L.Q.C. Lamar and is now restoring the Burns Belfry, the first African American Church in Oxford.

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