February 1, 1879—Hall’s Drug Store opened. The new firm, opening in the new and handsome storehouse next to A. Landis, Jr., will be operated by Mr. E. T. Jones, formerly with Messrs. T. D. Crawford & Company, and Mr. John Green Hall, late with Cooper & Williams. These young gentlemen will enter the mercantile arena with ample capital and a thorough knowledge of the drug business. This Drug Store remained opened and in the same location for over 100 years.
February 2, 1921—The old market house (better known as the Opera House) burned. The Opera House, built in 1888, was located on Williamsboro St. behind the Court House. The year that it opened its first floor held the town hall the public market, the fire department, and a small jail; the second floor served as an opera house, which served as a meeting place and performance venue for many traveling troupes as well as locate groups who showcased their talents. Early pictures show a three story plus belfry as part of the building. In 1921 the building was damaged by fire and the house changed both in structure and function after that time. Through the years that followed it was the site of a wholesale grocery (Morgan and Crews Wholesale), the home of the American Legion as well as an auto dealership (Sterns-Knight Auto Company), and the Headquarters Military Company, possibly a forerunner of the National Guard. In 1958, its downstairs was converted into a fire house. Today this building houses Granville County offices, including County Permits and the Board of Elections.
February 1, 1942—A rat riddance campaign began with a block by block cleanup of the business section, urging citizens as well to clean up around their homes.
February 3, 1911—A skating carnival was held at Farmers’ Warehouse under the auspices of the Daughters of the Confederacy. A roller skating contest awarded a pocket knife to the best skater of the boys and a box of candy to the most graceful skater among the young ladies. Roy Royster and Miss Edna Griffith were winners.
February 5, 1890—Royce & Lansing (Ray L. Royce and Web Lansing) Musical Comedy Company performed at the Opera House. This organization embraced considerable talent in the lines of music and comedy. Ray Royce, as a mimic, facial and character impersonator, was the equal of Sol. Smith Russell, who was considered second comedian in the Nashville Theatre during 1864-65, becoming the leading comedian in 1885 after the retirement of William Warren. The Royce & Lansing Musical Comedy Company appeared in San Francisco in 1888 before twenty-one thousand people in one week which speaks for the popularity of the genre at that time.
February 7, 1968—C. L. (Claude Lee) Rucker Recreation Association sponsored the first night of Bingo at the National Guard Armory. The Recreation Association was registered in NC on June 29, 1959 as a non-profit corporation. Its founder was John K. Nelms. It started out as a Boy’s Club and was operating out of the log cabin that once stood behind the Episcopal Church. Harold and Betty Currin got involved in starting softball games for the boys around 1964, playing games in a field across from the old JFD Industry (this building no longer stands). Soon the games became popular and a league was formed. As growth continued more space was needed and the Boy’s Club moved to the old city park area. The park was named in honor of Claude Lee Rucker, who helped the Currins operate the park in the 1960s. The City of Oxford maintains and operates the park today.
February 8, 1890—The Schubert Quartette performed at the Opera House in Oxford. This singing group consisted of four men and was highly praised, “the balance of voices was such that almost perfect cords were produced.” The singers were accompanied by two ladies, pianist and soloist. They sang around the country, being one of the most popular groups of the day.
February 10, 1885—The Granville Grays re-organized the company. During the Civil War, more than 2000 men from Granville County served the Confederacy. One company, known as the Granville Grays and in existence since at least 1861, were at that time enrolled in the First Regiment of North Carolina Volunteers, This was the first company which marched into camp of instruction in North Carolina, and was engaged in nearly all the great battles fought in Virginia during the Civil War. It was composed of the best material in Granville County as is shown by the fact that over forty of its original members became commissioned officers before the close of the war, and some twenty others were promoted to places of trust and responsibility in the line, or in the departments connected with the army. In 1898 they were considered part of the State Guard. The company was in existence until at least 1921.
February 11, 1898—A fire at Meadows Warehouse, run by Z. W. Lyon, spread down Broad St. to Hillsboro St. There were at least two devastating fires in Oxford, each one burning almost half of the downtown business section. In this fire, two prize houses at the end of the warehouse were lost and fire consumed the warehouse in less than ten minutes. The wagon shop of Mr. Glenn, in which was locate the cotton gin of Messrs. Bryan, Cannady & Company, went up in ashes, two tenement houses in the rear of the prize houses were lost as was the wagon and blacksmith shop of Mr. W. T. Patterson.A small house nearby was saved, but the wood shop on the corner of Hillsboro and Broad streets burned. The two-story boarding house was saved as owner John Green, assisted by Frank Taylor and Ike Gregory, battled the intense heat and fought the fire. Due to the diligence of these men, the Roberts boarding house and other adjoining buildings were also saved. Hillsboro St. was full of furniture taken from building that seemed to be doomed. The stemmery of Colonel W. B. Ballou across the street escaped danger. Men with buckets of water were placed on top of the mammoth Minor Warehouse to put out the large pieces of shingles that went flying through the air ablaze and lodged on top. The residences of Messrs. W. J. Stem and E. T. Crews on Broad St. caught fire from flying sparks, but were soon put out. There were several injuries, but none severe.
February 11, 1943—Talent from Camp Butner presented a variety show in the High School Auditorium. Sponsored by the Lions Club, proceeds were shared by the Oxford service organization and the Army for use in furnishing a day room at the camp. Camp Butner was a US Army installation in Butner, NC during World War II. Part of it was used as a POW Camp for German prisoners of war in the US. The camp site was chosen around early January 1942 to have a major training area built and in just six short months, over 3500 buildings were constructed. There were enough beds in the enlisted barracks alone to accommodate over 35,000 soldiers. Several major US Army divisions used the camp as a staging area during the war to assemble and organize prior to being deployed to the Western Front. After the war, the Camp was used as a major facility for the demobilization and deactivation of Army units returning from the war. The Camp was also the location of the Battalion Surgeon’s Assistant school.
February 14, 1911—Seaboard Air Line Railway agreed to put electric lights in the Oxford Depot.
February 18, 1911—In order to establish free mail delivery, the Town Commissioners had to have the new houses numbered, repair the street signs and put up three lights. In April of this same year the lights still were not up.
February 20, 1873—Oxford Orphan Asylum opened in the old dilapidated building constructed in 1857 for what became known as St. John’s College. Under the superintendence of John H. Mills, the Oxford Orphan Asylum received three children (Robert L. and Nancy Parrish and Isabelle Robertson, all from Granville County). It was the first orphanage in North Carolina. In addition to regular school classes, the children learned trades, helping in many areas of daily living. They learned to sew, cook, farm, and gained skills in woodworking, printing, etc. The home is still in operation today.
January 2, 1830—Oxford’s first newspaper, the Oxford Examiner, appeared. It was published weekly from 1830-1838 by Robert J. Yancey, Jr. and covered news in Oxford, Granville County, and North Carolina.
January 5, 1876—There was a meeting held to organize a fire company in Oxford. The Hook & Ladder Company became the first “fire department” with Captain Alexander Farrar (A. F.) Spencer as Foreman; James Francis (J. F.) Edwards, Assistant Foreman; Thomas Dalzell (T. D.) Crawford, Treasurer; W. A. Davis, Secretary; and Dr. George William (G. W.) Landis, Assistant Secretary. Captain Alexander Farrar (A. F.)Spencer was a master brick layer and a mail contractor. James Francis (J. F.) Edwards sold sewing machines and accessories. Thomas Dalzell (T. D.) Crawford ran a drug store in Oxford. W. A. Davis was editor and proprietor of The Torch Light, a weekly newspaper published in Oxford from 1874-1888. It was the official organ of the Democratic-Conservative Party in Granville County. Dr. George William (G. W.) Landis was a general physician.
January 6, 1925—The Oxford Tobacco Market resumed after two weeks off for Christmas and New Year’s holidays. It was expected that the market would sell approximately two and a half million pounds of tobacco between that time and the close of the season. Until January of 1872, Oxford did not have a tobacco market (see January 30, 1872 post below).
January 7, 1925—A man and lady, enroute from Altouna, Pa and traveling in a house car, appeared on the streets of Oxford, both wearing a pair of Crossword Puzzle stockings. The hosiery was loud enough to attract the attention of everybody who passed along the street. They appeared to be of heavy yarn, which was embellished with black and white dice about a quarter of an inch square.
January 9, 1925—Wallace, the Magician, gave a performance at the Oxford High School Auditorium. With sleeves rolled up, he caught pigeons from nowhere. In the finale, Wallace presented one of the most spectacular illusions on earth, “Super Vanish Extraordinaire”. All live ducks, rabbits, pigeons and a lamp vanished like a flash.
January 13, 1879—Mrs John Hays’ Select School for Girls opened in her home. There were so many private schools in the Oxford area that at one time, Oxford was called the “Athens of the South”.
January 17, 1968—County Commissioners approved the start of the first county operated public ambulance service. Henry Currin was the managing director and equipment was headquartered at Granville Hospital. Local calls were $20.00. Calls beyond the county boarder were $20.00 plus fifty cents per mile traveled.
January 18, 1830—Miss Matilda Brice Duty opened a private school. She was the daughter of Dr. Samuel Duty of Granville County. Education took on an early prominence in this area.
January 24, 1890—The Glucklich German Club gave a dance at the Armory Hall, complimentary to Mr. and Mrs. William Henry (W. H.) Hunt and Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Sidney (J. S.) Hunt. Both couples had recently married. Mrs. W. H. Hunt wore white poindesoe, point lace, pearls and orange blossoms. Mrs. J. S. Hunt wore white ottoman, brocade, point lace, diamond and orange blossoms. From the limited information obtained, it seems that the Glucklich German Club was organized for the purpose of promoting the German, a party for the area couples to enjoy. Although there was no indication that a German was danced, the word German in this case can be defined as a party at which the German is danced or the dance itself, complicated steps for many couples in which partners are changed often.
January 24, 1942—This day was declared Scrap Iron Day and citizens collected iron to be sold to steel mills to make tanks, guns, and ships to defend America. The slogan for the day was “Scrap the Japs with Scrap”.
January 25, 1967—Construction started on the new Post Office (the Federal Building on the west side of Main St. in 2015). Once located across Main St. in the building where the Oxford Baptist Church school is presently housed, the Post Office had many other homes, moving from one building space to another. The first Postmaster in Oxford was Rhodes Nash Herndon in 1816, which was the year of the town’s incorporation.
January 27, 1911—Horner School, a military school for boys, held a competitive contest in which the cadets gave interesting speeches. J. E. Bryant was pronounced the winner, rendering the “Sioux Chief’s Daughter”. A dance followed the contest.
January 28, 1851—The Baptist Female College at Oxford was established by act of Legislature ratified on this date. Reverend Dr. Samuel Wait, a Baptist minister and educator, was president until 1857. John H. Mills succeeded him. The school continued to operate during the Civil War, unlike many similar academies throughout the South. When Mills left in 1868, the school passed through a series of management changes until 1880, when Frank P. Hobgood became president. The school became Oxford Female Seminary and offered both “preparatory” and “collegiate” departments. When the school’s building was destroyed by fire in January of 1904, a group of Oxford citizens established a corporation that succeeded in raising money to rebuild. The college closed in 1925.
January 30, 1872—There was a meeting of the Goodwyn Agricultural Club at the residence of Captain James Hunter Horner, Sr. for the purpose of establishing a tobacco market in Oxford, NC. This is the same James Hunter Horner who established Horner School.
With a keen interest in the history of her home town, Joan gets into the spirit of the Bicentennial with these snapshots of days gone by.