Wednesday, February 24, 2021

John Cofield's Oxford & Ole Miss: Faces Of Oxford: Mr. M. R. Hall

Faces Of Oxford – Mr. M. R. Hall

Mr. M. R. Hall at work in his blacksmith shop in the Fall of 1961 – Photo by Martin Dain (c) UM Libraries

“There had been a blacksmith here in Oxford named Mr. Hall, who’d had a shop on Tyler Avenue, the alley running down from South Lamar, in a space behind both what was once the Gin and what was once Murfs. He opened the shop after returning from shoeing horses for the Army in Texas during WWI; he’d been a blacksmith since before that, learning where he’d grown up in Ripley. When I was in high school and college, I would go and hang out in his shop, where Mr. Hall welcomed any visitors.”
–Tom Freeland

“Papa Hall was my great-grandfather. He raised my dad. What a precious man he was. I never heard him speak ill of anyone. He did have some pretty funny stories about William Faulkner. I used to go hang out with him all the time at his shop. He’d send me up to Fudge’s Grocery to pick up a 6 pack of Diet Rite Colas for his wife, Ms Louise.” –Bobby Jones
“I have good memories of going to Mr. Hall’s shop when I was probably 5 to 8 yrs old. My grandfather “Red” Slade was a roofer. He had Mr. Hall make or “fashion” many of the tools that he used in his trade. Most, if not all, were from scrap iron like car springs. If Reddy took me over there in the fall, we’d walk down the hill and watch ’em gin cotton.”
–Joey Mistilis
“I doubt I made many trips to town, when I was younger, that I didn’t stop by to chat. Loved to hang around because he always made me feel as though he really enjoyed the visits.”
–Art Leslie
“M.R. Hall was one of the finest men I have met in my life. Mr. Hall was very dedicated and had tremendous skill in shaping metals. Even in his later years, he could pick up an anvil and move it around like it was a lightweight box of tissues. One of favorite memories of Mr. Hall was when I brought him a nice mess of channel catfish when I was 15 years old. About a week later, he gave me one of the coolest gifts I have ever received. It was a handmade buffalo skinning knife he made for me. I still have it.” –Jeff Fudge
“I lived near, and loved, the Halls as a youth. My parents and the Halls were close friends, ’till they all passed on. I used to follow Mr. Hall around in his strawberry patch and garden. As a teen he loaned me a rifle to deer hunt. He was indeed an Icon of Oxford.” –Andy Mize
“My brother, Andy Waller, was a blacksmith apprentice under Mr. Hall. Andy has kept up this unique trade using things Mr. Hall passed on to him. They were great friends.” –Susan Waller Vaughan
“I have a great story about Mr. Hall. My husband Randy and I went to see him in 1977 about getting my dad’s roller on his manual push lawnmower replaced. While we were there Mr. Hall showed us his collection of knives. One was this large wicked looking circular bladed knife with the very sharp blade on the outside. He said, “This is a moose skinner’s knife.” He showed us several more and then another smaller but similar wicked looking circular knife and said, “If you can tell me what kind of knife this is I’ll give it to you. I blurted out, “a buffalo skinner’s knife.” He looked totally shocked and responded with, “Young lady, you got yourself a knife.” — Robin Katherine Herring Bibby 
VIDEO — An important part of Oxford comes to life! Mr. M. R. Hall filmed and interviewed at his blacksmith shop. Go to the 12 min. 30 sec. mark and enjoy old Oxford:

John Cofield is a writer and one of Oxford’s leading folk historians. He is the son of renowned university photographer, Jack Cofield. His grandfather, J.R. “Colonel” Cofield, was William Faulkner’s personal photographer and for decades was the Ole Miss yearbook photographer. Cofield attended Ole Miss as well.
Stay tuned for more information on Cofield’s forthcoming book: Oxford, Mississippi ~ The Cofield Collection — a pictorial history book with John’s writing on the history to go along with the photos.
Contact John at