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Oxford's Olden Days: Ammadelle – Money, Calvert Vaux and William Turner

If you recall another home in the Oxford Pilgrimage had the distinction of having William Turner and his crew as builders. Turner had constructed the stately home, Cedar Oaks for himself. In this new home construction, Turner was employed to follow the blue prints of noted architect Calvert Vaux. This would result is the lavish Italiante manner located at 637 North Lamar. The home was originally called “Edgecomb” and later became “Ammadelle”, the name it goes by today.
Ammadelle was constructed for Thomas Evans Bedgegood Pegues, who in 1856 moved his family from Lafayette Springs to Oxford. Pegues’ grandfather had emigrated from England to Charleston, South Carolina in 1735. He amassed a plantation that was some 20,000 acres in size. Pegues’ father had moved to Dallas County, Alabama and owned a large plantation. Pegues came to Lafayette County in 1850 and had over 2,000 acres of farmland near Lafayette Springs.
When Pegues decided to build a home on North Lamar in Oxford he studied various architectural design books before selecting number 32 in the design book Villas and Cottages by Calvert Vaux. He traveled to New York and met with Vaux. He visited a home on the Hudson River that had been constructed to the design he had settled on for his home. The design was based on Italian models from Tuscany with the addition of broad verandas to help battle the fierce Mississippi sun. Vaux estimated that the total cost of the house would be between fourteen and fifteen thousand dollars. This was an incredible sum for the time, considering that no house in Oxford built prior to the Civil War had cost more than a few thousand to build.
Pegues was the person that first planted the oak trees along North Lamar. The trees that he planted have long since died, but they have been replaced by the ones now standing. He had the bricks for the home made on site by his slaves. The home also has a secret room in which Confederate soldiers were hidden during the war. The home has two very unusual features for a house built during this period. It has closets and the kitchen was not in a separate structure, as most houses of the period.
Construction on the home started in 1859 but ceased during the Civil War and restarted after the war. Pegues was a trustee of the University of Mississippi at the time and was instrumental in saving the university from federal torches in 1862 and 1864. His home was the last home the Union troops passed on their way out of town in December 1864. A fire was started in the home by the Yankees but was extinguished by members of the Pegues family and a few house servants. Charred floor planks can still be seen in a second floor room.
In the 1880s the home was sold to Charles Roberts who gave it the name “Edgecomb”. There is no record as to where Roberts came up with the name. Around the turn of the century the home was sold to Bem Price who purchased the home and fifty acres around it for $30,000. Price was the cashier of the Bank of Oxford and a wealthy investor and trader. He changed the name to “Ammadelle”, which were the names of his sister Amma and his wife Delle.
Price died in 1903 at the early age of fifty-three. He is buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery and it was said that he and J.W.T. Falkner were banking rivals in Oxford and that each wanted to have the tallest monument on their grave sites. If you go by St. Peter’s Cemetery you can judge for yourself which monument is the tallest.
Delle Price lived in the home until the 1930s and upon her death the home was inherited by Price’s niece, Minnie Sively. Later the home was sold to David Neilson who in the 1960s sold the home to the John F. Tatum family, who still occupy the home. Also in the early 1960s the home was used in the movie “Home from the Hill” and the character that Robert Mitchum played was the owner of the home.
In April 1898, when Bem Price had purchased the home on North Lamar the EAGLE noted in an article that Price had started extensive landscaping and plantings. The paper noted that when the landscaping was completed the home would be “the pride of North Mississippi”. In 1975 the home on North Lamar, as it aged gracefully, received National Landmark status. Also a few years ago, Tatum family placed the home and seven acres of land in a preservation and conservation status with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. This will keep the home from ever being torn down and the land subdivided. This was a testament to the owners of the home who, as it passed form owner to owner, kept the Italiante structure virtually unchanged.
The next installment of Oxford’s Old Days will feature another Oxford home, Isom Place. This was the home of the man that had first suggested the name for the new settlement in Lafayette County, Oxford.
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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