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Oxford Public Ledger 

Thursday, July 9, 1903 

History of Granville County. 


Interesting Facts Relative to the Early history of Oxford : Other Items.


By William H. Harrison 


Chapter II 




As I mentioned in a previous article oxford became the county seat of Granville County in 1769. Its central location and its central location and its extreme healthfulness were considered in making it the county's capital. Ever since oxford was first settled it has been recognized as one of the healthy places in North Carolina. The land is rolling just enough to give almost perfect draining. When kept clean there is no more pleasant or healthy place to be found anywhere. Malaria is practically unknown here. Of course all towns, no matter how healthy or filthy, or unsightly, are to those who live in them "beautiful and healthy, " but of Oxford this is really true, which is attested by those who know its record well by the longevity of its inhabitants. 


For years after Oxford became the county seat it remained a small village, most of the lands, being owned by large planters who did not wish to sell any part of their magnificent estates. Besides, owing to the fact that the country was settled very sparsely, there was not sufficient demand for trade to build up an inland country town. It was not until 1810 that the town was incorporated though it had been laid off in streets and lots in the year of 1812. Up to the year 1800 there were no towns or villages except for Oxford, Williamsboro and Harrisburg in the county. 


A large tract of land, partly embraced in the town of Oxford now was granted to William Willis, Esq. By the Earl of Granville in 1760, the same year the large grant to William Searcy mentioned in my last article made. The first court house erected in Oxford stood on the tract granted to William Searcy. The tract granted to Mr. Willis was on each side of "Reedy Branch," now known as "Foundry Branch." He sold two hundred acres of this tract to Samuel Benton, Esq., said lands lying on each side of the "Sherman" road running from Harrisburg bridge across present limits of town toward Bera. Samuel Benton was possessed of a good estate and was also prominent in local politics. He was the father of the Hon. Thomas Hart Benton, who was among the leading statesmen America has produced. Samuel Benton lived in a house which stood on the very spot on which now stands the office occupied by the Late Mr. John W. Hayes. He was buried on the place now owned by Mr. F. W. Hancock. This old house was peculiar in structure, being built on the old Gothic style with high lattice work in front. Some of the lattice work in this house is now part of the kitchen of Dr. S. D. Booth. This house was later owned and occupied by Gen. McClanahan. Still later it was left unoccupied and was in bad repair, being used before it was finally tore down as a goat house and for that reason was known for years as "the goat house." It is probable that in this house was born Thomas H. Benton, above mentioned. It is true that some biographers give Hillsboro as his birthplace, but, so far as I can learn, there is no authority for this. He lived for some years at Hillsboro with his widowed mother, and entered the University of North Carolina while living there, from which institution he was expelled before graduation, and it is now generally thought by the older men who know most of his life that he was unjustly expelled. Benton afterwards removed with his mother to a place near Nashville, Tenn., and later to Missouri, which State he was so ably represented for many years in the United States Senate. 


The first courthouse built in Oxford was an old wood building, and erected about the year 1769, Just before the courthouse now in use was built, this old house was purchased by the Masons and used as a Masonic hall, being removed to the corner where the Baptist church now stands. Afterwards it was purchased by Mr. James P. Floyd. Part of the timbers in this old house were used in the construction of Col. W. B. Baliou's handsome new residence. The front part of the present brick courthouse was erected in 1838. The Judge's stand was almost in the middle if the house now in use from East to West and North of the center from North to South. The rear part of the house-together with the splendid vaults-was built in 1891; so that today Granville, has one of the most convenient and commodious court rooms in the State. 


The first jail built in Oxford was about where the large bill board between the courthouse and Opera house now stands. It was built of large oak logs with boards nailed over the cracks on the outside and was plastered inside. The pillory was located where the opera stands. The log jail was burned and replaced by a brick jail situated where the present jail is located. The latter was burned about 1842 and shortly afterwards the present jail was built in its stead. 

Among the oldest houses in Oxford is the Kingsbury house, now the home of Mrs. R. P. Hughes. This house was built about 80 years ago but is such excellent material and is so well built that it is still in good condition and will last for many years. This house was built and occupied by Thomas Booth, Esq. 


The house occupied by Mr. F. W. Hancock, and one of the prettiest home sin oxford, was built shortly after the Kingsbury place by a man named Jones, who was much in love with Thomas Booth's daughter, and with Thomas Booth's daughter, and it is said built this handsome residence which directly fronted the home of his sweetheart, hoping to thereby tempt her and induce her to marry him. But she refused to be bought this way, preferring rather to marry the man she loved. Let us hope that she lived happily, though I am unable to trace her beyond this sensible act. 


I will now notice briefly the history of the different religions denominations in Oxford, beginning with the Methodist Church. 


The first Methodist house of worship was erected in the year 1821. This is the same building which was remodeled and is now occupied as a residence by Dr. J. G. Hunt, being in the same place it was first built. There are a few -and only a few -who can remember the early work of Methodism in Oxford-its struggles and its triumphs-and the noble work it has done in raising men to a higher life and from duty of God. The lot on which the old church built was enclosed by a high fence. The house at that time was cheap, unpainted one, with a row of small windows on each side, and one over behind the high box pulpit, which the minister reached by going up two or three steps, entering the box and closing the door after him, like many if the old-time pulpits were built, There was in this Church one long, narrow aisle. All the men sat on the left side of the aisle and the women on the right according to the fashion of that day. The pews were unpainted and very high, and like most of the pews of that day were not built for comfort. There was no organ and no choir, but the whole congregation engaged in the singing using mainly the old and most familiar hymns. 


Rev. Junius P. Moore and Rev. W. C. Gannon were the most noted of the early pastors of this church, Revs. Lewis K. Willey, and John York, who were local preachers, greatly aided in the work. 


One of the mighty forces of that day in the church was a Mr. Fulford, who was only a layman. He resided in the country near Oxford, but was prompt in all the services of the church and did much to build up the church, being a exhorter of rare gifts and a man whose piety and consecration enabled him to do much effective personal work. In those early days members were received into the church on trial, or "on probation" as it was called. If, after the six months expired, their walk had been circumspect they were admitted as regular member's, During their time of probation they were entitled to all the ordinances of the church. This custom in the church has long since passed away. I shall give more of the history of this church in the next article. 


{To be Continued} 






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