In 1984, Jack Case Wilson, a native of Greenville and Ole Miss graduate, published a book on the history of Oxford homes. The book was a pictorial history of Oxford homes still standing and also of ones that had been destroyed for one reason or another. Faulkners, Fortunes and Flames had photographs along with a short history of the residents of the homes. Four of the homes that Wilson wrote about are no longer standing and are a loss to all residents and visitors of Oxford.
The oldest home was that of Jacob and Katharine Thompson. The home was constructed in 1841 when Thompson was a member of the United States House of Representatives. In 1864 when the business district of Oxford was burned by federal troops, his home was also destroyed. The home was said to have been the largest and most beautiful home in Mississippi at the time. It had twenty rooms and was a two-story home with large verandas. The home was crafted from bricks made by Thompson’s slaves. Everything the architect’s skill could suggest to enhance its beauty was incorporated within the home. It had a private art gallery in which the Thompsons hung paintings from their trips to Europe. The interior consisted of native hardwoods, carved and polished to a high degree. There was also a carriage house, offices, and a gate-keeper’s lodge which is now the renovated home of Dr. Wayne Terry Lamar and his wife Pat, the former Mayor of Oxford.
Oxford merchant James Eades constructed the Eades-Rowland House in 1853. It was a two-story wooden home with a large two-story portico on the east side. The home was on the corner of North 9th Street and University Avenue. After the Civil War the home was used as a fashionable girl’s school. In 1873 Delta Gamma Sorority was formed at the school. In the 1890s a new front was added facing University Avenue with a two-story gallery running across the front. In 1897 physician and Ole Miss professor Dr. Peter Rowland purchased the home for his family residence. After his death his daughter lived in the home until the 1970s. At that time the house had become extremely dilapidated and it was torn down to make way for apartments.
In 1858 Oxford Cumberland Presbyterian Minister, Reverend Stanford Guthrie Burney purchased several hundred acres just to the southwest of the University campus. On the property he had a large two story brick residence constructed in the Greek Revival style. The floorplan had a wide central hallway both upstairs and down. There were four rooms on each side of the hallway on both floors. The front portico was narrow and supported by four slender columns. At a later time the front portico would be removed and replaced with a broad Victorian double gallery. There were enormous sliding doors that separated the downstairs rooms. The windows were almost floor length with sets of interior folding shutters. In 1877 the Burneys would leave Oxford for Nashville where Reverend Burney would teach at Cumberland University. In 1916 Mr. H. Guy Hathorn would move his family into the home. He was physician in Woodville and had wanted his eleven children to be close to the University to further their studies. The Hathorns would live in the house the next fifty years and then sell the property to the University. Unfortunately, the University did not want to preserve the old mansion and had it torn down. Later the area of the home site would be the location of the University’s marijuana experimentation field. I wonder what Reverend Burney would think about that.
Mr. W. T. Avant, the son-in-law of Colonel James Brown a stock- holder in the Mississippi Central Railroad, in 1859 built a Greek Revival mansion on Washington Avenue near what is now Central Elementary School. The home was known as “The Bride’s House” and would later be known as the Avant-Stone House. University Chancellor and son-in-law of L.Q.C. Lamar, Edward Mayes, would later purchase the home for his family residence. He would install in the home an extensive library that would later be used by a local upcoming Oxford writer. After the Mayes sold the home to the parents of Phil Stone, William Faulkner would often come to the Stone mansion to use the library. He had a friendship with Phil Stone that lasted for decades. Stone was not only his friend but he was his mentor. In 1924 he arranged for a volume of his poems to be published. Only 500 copies were in the first printing of The Marble Faun and they did not sell very well. In January of 1942 the Avant-Stone House caught fire and burned to the ground. All of the contents of the home, including manuscripts by Faulkner, were also thought to be destroyed but in 1952 the Stone family gave Faulkner critic, Carvel Collins, permission to look through ruins of the library. He found several bundles of Faulkner’s poems that had survived the fire. Today this first edition is worth several thousand dollars each. This confirms that something may seem to be lost forever, but upon searching, good may come forth from the ashes of loss.
Jack 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.