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The next Quarterly Meeting of the Lafayette County Historical and Genealogy Society will be at 2:30 on Sunday, July 28, 2024 in the Genealogy Room at the Oxford Lafayette Public Library on Bramlett Blvd. in Oxford. In addition to our usual, short business meeting, we’ll have a presentation on either historical events or genealogical research.

The public is always invited and with the standing-room-only crowds we’ve been drawing, you’ll want to get there early to get a good seat, explore some of the resources available in our Room, and meet some of our members.  

In our January 2024 meeting, we heard from Richard Howorth, local history buff, former mayor, former chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority and owner of the best independent bookstores in the United States.  He described his research into his family’s migration from South Carolina to Lafayette County, MS along with some of the colorful chacters along the way.  He credited his upbringing and always being in the presence of good books as having a major influence on his life choices.

At our  meeting in October, 2023, Kaye Hooker Bryant, a lifelong resident of Oxford who has helped John Cofield with his pictorial histories of Oxford and Lafayette County reminisced about growing up in Oxford. She also brought along some friends to share their memories. Kay is an awards-winning story teller and kept our crowd entertained. She also welcomed and expected the audience to share some their experiences. Lots of folks, new members, and visitors stuck around following the presentation to swap information. Our friends who started the Society would be pleased to see how the tradition of sharing experiences continues in our Genealogy Room in today’s world.

 

At our quarterly meeting in July 2023, Will Lewis, local historian and researcher, THE Will Lewis told about his latest “finds” related to a local legend, the Wohlleben Saga. Somehow, a blacksmith with a shop just off the Oxford Square ends up bankrolling his family’s businesses after the Civil War with an surprising source of funds after a Union army payroll is captured during Van Doren’s raid on Holly Spirngs, Mississippi. There’s something for everyone in this story with lots of questions and lots of answers in Will’s multimedia presentation. It’s available online now through our Digital Museum website by just clicking on “Videos” and the Wohlleben Saga icon. Be sure to watch part two for ties to Oklahoma and Texas landholdings. This meeting was a real treat for anyone interested in mysteries, money and a Lafayette County family with links to Hollywood, Oklahoma oil money and military heroes.

At our April 16, 2023 meeting, we had a super presentation from our friend, Martha Coleman, Director of the Town Square Post Office and Museum in Pontotoc, Mississippi. She presented some fascinating information about the Native Americans who lived in our area long before any pioneer settlements. Her relaxed, informative presentation style was perfectly suited for our group. She presented pictures from the Museum, which is open afternoons, Monday-Friday, in the heart of Pontotoc. In addition to the WPA-era artwork in the building, the museum also has an operating post office. Pontotoc is halfway between Oxford and Tupelo and the museum is a great way to spend an afternoon. We’ve had to rearrange our Genealogy Room to better handle the crowds we’ve been getting for these presentations.

 

In our first meeting for 2023, we heard some great stories from another one of our friends, John Cofield, a noted historian who grew up in Oxford after his family moved here in 1928.  In addition to describing how his Granddad and William Faulkner became friends, he explained the genesis of his most recently published book of photographs and stories with signed copies available for sale at Square Books here in Oxford.

 

October 16, 2022 Meeting Review:
Circuit Court Judge Jimmy McClure provided the program at our October meeting. He gave a spirited presentation about the history and architecture of several courthouses in northern Mississippi. They range from the simple to the ornate and span a history of 150 years. Interestingly, some of our counties have two courthouses that date back to early flooding on the rivers and creeks in the area. He showed a number of his personal pictures of these courthouses including views from the judge’s standpoint. Not something most of us have much experience in seeing!

We also had a presentation of the new Lafayette County Digital Museum which has just opened at oxfordmshistory.com.  This unique online museum features a variety of exhibits from Oxford’s and Lafayette County’s histories including rare photos and stories along with access to several historic maps which can be “overlaid” with each other to track historical events and locations against today’s roadways and structures.

Following these two items, we had our bi-annual election of officers. No surprises here! All of our current officers were reelected for another two year term starting in January.

July 31, 2022 Meeting Review:
Our speaker was Shelby Harriel-Hidlebaugh and her husband, Mark, who presented a unique history of women soldiers in the Civil War. With a B.A. and an M.Ed from the University of Southern Mississippi in hand, Shelby has been researching these women for over ten years. The initial culmination of her research resulted in a book which was published in 2019 by the University Press of Mississippi entitled “Behind the Rifle: Women Soldiers in Civil War Mississippi.”
 Shelby presenting with Mark

Her articles have appeared in publications such as Mississippi History Now, Military Images Magazine, Gettysburg Magazine, and Camp Chase Gazette. She has also written pamphlets for the National Park Service and state historic sites. She has given presentations in over ten states for groups ranging from national parks and battlefields to colleges, Civil War round tables, libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies, various heritage organizations, and others. Additionally, she has participated in panel discussions at the Mississippi Book Festival and Southern Festival of Books, as well as appeared on C-SPAN2’s Book TV. Her presentation, aided by her husband’s full military costume and manners, was spell-binding in its detail and humor.

April 24, 2022: Meeting Review:
The program for the April 2022 meeting covered the early mapping of the Chickasaw Cession and the settlements on the Little Tallahatchie during the period when steamboats were a lifeline for these towns, before the railroads came through. The people and the development of Wyatt up until its destruction during the Civil War were the major focus with lots of interesting notes about the families there. Following the presentation and a spirited question-and-answer session, we had a brief Society business and updates meeting .
Darrel Brown presenting
Our speaker, Darrel Brown, was a professional land surveyor, retired from the MS Dept. of Transportation in Batesville. Born in Harmontown, he has worked and lived all over the South and lives in Como, MS.  Following Darrel’s presentation and a question-and-answer session, we had our usual short business and activities updates.

January 2022 Meeting Review:
We held our first meeting of the new year on January 22, 2022. Along with a short business meeting and updates, our speaker, Jennifer McGillan (details below) discussed genealogical research and best practices for storing, preserving and sharing the various types of information that any researcher collects along the way to building their family history. Since we’ve all have asked ourselves the question of “should I save it?” numerous times as we look at the stacks of tubs of paper, documents, pictures and notes, her presentation was very timely. Figuring out what goes in the safety deposit box, what goes in “the cloud” and what goes in the recycle bin is a challenge for all of us. Jennifer elightened us on details as well as helped us think about the bigger issues of “what happens to all this stuff when I’m gone?”

The meeting was held the Genealogy Room at the Public Library in Oxford. Masks were required of all participants for the entire meeting given the situation with Covid in our state currently. Jennifer McGillan has been Coordinator of Manuscripts at Mississippi State University Libraries since 2015. She has a BA in English from Davidson College (1997), an MLIS-Archives from the University of Pittsburgh (2003) and a JD from New York Law School (2012). Her research interests include genealogy, 19th century law and social history, vintage cookbooks, women’s work, segregation and the Southern built environment, and pirates.

Her current projects include the Lantern Project, a National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) – funded effort to digitize and transcribe legal records of enslaved persons from Mississippi and Alabama held by Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi, Delta State University, Historic Natchez Foundation, Columbus-Lowndes Public Library and Montgomery County (Alabama) Archives, and Mid-Century Modern with a Tangy Twist: Cooking with Ketchup, a deep-dive into 57 Prizewinning Recipes by H.J. Heinz, c. 1957. She is a professional in a field that is relevent to anyone doing research and we appreciate her time spent in Oxford.