Local brick-maker David Kennedy built his home in 1860, high on the next ridge over from the town Square on the Pontotoc Road. This road would later be called East Jackson Avenue. The home is hidden behind foliage on a high bank at the top of the ridge. Kennedy was a transplanted Yankee and had built another home in Oxford just like this one for Rev. S. G. Burney in 1858 near where the pot farm is on campus. The home is no longer standing.
Improving on the Burney home, Kennedy made the walls of his new house of solid brick and a foot thick. The ceilings downstairs were 12 feet high and 13 feet on the second floor. The home also had an 8-foot attic. The house had two main halls opening from the front to the back of the home. This provided cross-ventilation at all times. Originally porches ran the length of both of the first two stories, but later the top balcony was deleted.
Legend has it that Kennedy fell on hard times before the war. One day he took one of his strong young slaves to the Square to sell him. This he did for the sum of $900. Before he headed home, Kennedy stopped by a local tavern and drank his fill. When he arrived home he hid his money somewhere in the house. Upon arising the next day, he searched for his hidden loot but was unable to find it. To this day many have looked but no one has found the $900.
Kennedy finally had to sell his home and Huldric Price of Oak Grove decided to purchase the home and move his family into town as his brother, Bem, had done. If you will recall, Huldric Price, was one of the subjects of last week’s column. The Price family consisted of four children; three sons and a daughter. They also extensively renovated the home and added a wing on the back. In the summer of 1897, when yellow fever came to Oxford, Price took his family to the resort town of Monteagle, Tennessee.
Price died in 1903 and his family remained in the home till the 1920s when the home was sold to Ole Miss Professor and the first Dean of the School of Education. Dr O. A. Shaw was also instrumental in starting University High School in the late 1920s and 30s. The daughter-in-law of the Shaws would own and show the home during the run of the Oxford Pilgrimage.
One of the most interesting things I remember when I visited the home during the pilgrimage were the six, four poster beds. Some people call these Queen Anne beds, others call them teaster beds. The bed that Shaw, Sr. was born and died in was said to have been purchased in France for noted Indian chieftain, Greenwood LeFlore. The bed has beautiful four-leaf clover bed posts and is also said to have been patterned after the bed of Napoleon Bonaparte.
In another room was the only four poster bed with a canopy. It, at the time, was the room for Johnny Shaw, who was a great player for the Ole Miss baseball team. His many plaques and awards were placed all around the room. Mrs. Shaw was a former tennis star and her trophies and awards were in display in other parts of the home. There were quilts from the trousseau of her great-grandmother on beds throughout the home. One had an oak leaf pattern and another a Rose of Sharon pattern.
Although David Kennedy and Huldric Price made a mark of sorts on the history of Oxford, Dean Shaw probably cast the greatest shadow over Oxford. I previously mention the fact that he was one of the founders of University High School. This was something that benefited the children of Oxford from 1930 to 1963. University High was formed as what at the time was called a “learning school”. Students from Ole Miss were trained in the art of education at the high school.
This was a radical idea at the time in 1929 and 1930 when Dean Shaw and few other far-thinking men decided that the City of Oxford and the University of Mississippi could partner together and have a school unlike any other in the United States. Several other colleges were starting to try the same method, but University High School was a noted success from 1930 to 1963 when Oxford High was constructed. We students at UHS had the benefit of new areas of thought and teaching practiced on us. It was a well-known fact the UHS students did exceptionally well in college work after graduation and in their chosen fields.
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.