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Oxford Stories: College Hill Presbyterian Church Is Part of Oxford’s History

Plaque in front of College Church
Plaque in front of College Hill Presbyterian Church.

Situated in a quiet location off of County Road 102 and Old College Hill Road, sits College Hill Presbyterian Church. It would be easy to assume that it is just another church. However, there’s something historically significant about College Hill Presbyterian.

Front of College Hill Presbyterian Church
Front of College Hill Presbyterian Church.

The church was founded in the family home of early Scots-Irish settler, Alexander Shaw, on January 11, 1835. The original name of the church was Neriah Church, but it was soon renamed Ebenezer Church.

College Hill Presbyterian is the oldest Presbyterian church in North Mississippi and the oldest structure of any denomination in Oxford. The grounds of the church served as an encampment for historic Union Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, and over 30,000 Union troops during one of our nation’s most trying times – the Civil War.

White crosses mark the graves.
White crosses mark the graves of former slaves, Union and Confederate soldiers.

The cemetery behind the church houses unmarked graves of former slaves, as well as Union and Confederate soldiers – each with a small white cross to commemorate their lives.

When visiting College Hill Presbyterian, one cannot escape the sense of history. From the aged bricks and columns, to weathered graves and commemorative plaques spread throughout the grounds – history is everywhere.

Another plaque outside of College Hill Presbyterian Church
Another plaque outside of College Hill Presbyterian Church

Scott Kilpatrick, a member of College Hill Presbyterian and director of the Cooperative Education Program at the University of Mississippi, said the history of the church is captivating and very significant.

Kilpatrick said the surrounding grounds near the church also served as important land for Union troops during the Civil War, and that the shop across the street from the church is one of the oldest standing structures in Oxford.

Inside of College Hill Presbyterian Church – pews sit in perfect rows, each seat with a Holy Bible alongside a hymn book. Everything inside the church looks old, but well maintained.

Church programs, registration forms and hymns in the wooden stand out front of the church.
Church programs, registration forms and hymns in the wooden stand out front of the church.

The church smells of aged carpeting, wax candles and stale air. The tall, heavy doors leading into the church creak when you enter.

College Hill Presbyterian is also the place where legendary Mississippi writer, William Faulkner, married his wife, Estelle, in 1929. The church has served many purposes throughout its history, and continues its mission still today.

The cemetery at College Hill Presbyterian Church
The cemetery at College Hill Presbyterian Church
A close-up of a white cross marking a grave site of a former slave, a Union soldier or a Confederate soldier.
A close-up of a white cross marking a grave site of a former slave, a Union soldier or a Confederate soldier.

Column by Anthony Dicandia as seen on OxfordStories, marked for HottyToddy.com. For questions or comments, email hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

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