William Faulkner recited martial vows in the shadow of where both General Grant and General Sherman once stood.
The Ole Miss chapter of Campus Crusades for Christ was founded here.
College Hill Presbyterian Church is recognized as the oldest church in Lafayette County and for its rich history of serving the Oxford and Ole Miss family, after all the College Hill Church and the University of Mississippi grew up together.
The church building was constructed in 1846 while laborers were constructing the Lyceum Building, which later would establish The University of Mississippi when Ole Miss welcomed its first freshman class in 1848. Both the Lyceum and College Hill Presbyterian Church are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We had just 15 members when Jack Oakes became our pastor in 1967. He made a special effort to involve students from Ole Miss, and soon, we had to put chairs in the isles to accommodate the large numbers,” said Sydney Johnson, long-time elder of the historic church founded in 1835.
“We had so many students that our pastor’s wife, Ms. Kelly Oakes, suggested we do something for the students, so we began holding an annual Sunday dinner on the grounds to honor our students,” Mr. Johnson said. “We still have the fall dinner on the grounds to honor our students. Several years ago, we added a spring event that is held each year on the last Sunday before exams.”
In the 1960’s, the founder of the first Campus Crusade For Christ, Dr. Ric Cannada, frequently visited the College Hill Church and encouraged Ms. Oakes to organize the first Ole Miss chapter of Campus Crusades for Christ. Dr. Cannada, retired Chancellor of the Reform Theology Seminary, now resides in Jackson, Miss.
“On the 175th Anniversary of the church (held in 2010), we had in attendance that Sunday 15 of the first student members of Campus Crusades,” Johnson said.
To this day the church continues to serve a diverse group of local members and Ole Miss students. Century old cedar trees line the south side of the iconic Greek Revival building, and frame the small cemetery behind the church. Both Confederate and un-named Union troops lay buried there along with church members who have died.
The church structure is the oldest Presbyterian facility in North Mississippi and the oldest church building of any denomination in the area. Constructed of bricks fired on site, the building was completed in 1846 at a total cost of $2,809.
The church’s pulpit, pews and pew gates are the original furnishings.
According to the website, Wikipedia, Union troops of General Grant and General Sherman camped on the grounds of College Hill Church, and it was in this church that William Faulkner was married.
Minutes of the first organizational meeting held in 1835 are secured in the vault of First National Bank on the Square in Oxford. Just west of the bank is the historic office of the late Phil Stone, now the office of attorney Tommy Freeland. It was attorney Stone who encouraged Faulkner to write.
College Hill Presbyterian Church is thought to be a setting used by Mr. Faulkner in novels. Union Gen. Sherman burned much of Oxford. Untouched was College Hill Church and the courthouse where Union troops camped.
The church is located four miles northwest of Oxford on County Road 102 (College Hill Road). Across the road is College Hill Store, another historic structure now serving as a meeting place for various events.
–– Jim Roberts, HottyToddy.com staff writer email at firstname.lastname@example.org