Friday, March 31, 2023

John Cofield's Oxford and Ole Miss: A Poor Man's Cemetery

Edward Boyer posted this on Facebook:
“On a fall day in 1984, Rev. Houston – who worked as a gravedigger – took me around to the different family burying grounds around the county.
“He knew them all. Sneeds, Childresses, Ivys … and a couple of black burying grounds, too. Each had their own distinctive characteristics: large sandstone blocks, canopies built over graves laid out along a ridge (ending with the graves of five Confederate veterans), and, in one case, snuff and whiskey bottles in specific patterns outlining the graves, with the ground scraped clean of any vegetation.
“Because when you are poor and illiterate, the only way to find your family’s graves is by the pattern of snuff and whiskey bottles set into the ground.”

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.
Check out Cofield’s new book, “Oxford, Mississippi: The Cofield Collection,” a pictorial history book with John’s writing on the history to go along with the photos. It’s available at Square Books on the Square in Oxford and online at
Contact John at