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Oxford native writes book on history of town

Oxford native and historian Erik Oliver has written a book detailing the history of Oxford with numerous pictures and stories in a volume of the “Images of America” book series. Oliver documents various periods throughout the town’s history, and shares photos that many of the town’s residents have yet to see. (Staff photo: Ryan McKenzie)

Oxford native and historian Erik Oliver has written a book detailing the history of Oxford with numerous pictures and stories in a volume of the “Images of America” book series. Oliver documents various periods throughout the town’s history, and shares photos that many of the town’s residents have yet to see. (Staff photo: Ryan McKenzie)

OXFORD — In celebration of the town’s 175th anniversary, an Oxford native and author has penned a compilation of accounts summarizing histories of the town, complete with hundreds of photographs documenting Oxford residents and locales throughout the past two centuries.

Erik Oliver, who grew up in the town and serves as the president of the Oxford Historical Shrine Society, signed with Arcadia Publishing to produce a volume in the “Images of America” book series dedicated to the history of Oxford. Oliver breaks the book down into seven sections, chronicling various periods in the town’s past, such as the chartering of Emory College (now called Oxford College of Emory University), the schism in the Methodist Church during the 19th century and the establishing of downtown Oxford.

To complete the book, Oliver contacted families who have had their roots planted in Oxford for multiple generations. Being an Oxford native, Oliver reconnected with many families that he knew growing up, including the Branham, Stone, Wright, Mitchell, Ellis and Allgood families.

The book also documents photos and life events of Atticus Greene Haygood, who served as Emory’s youngest president at the age of 36 in 1875, and delivered his “New South” sermon at Old Church in 1880 — a highly progressive speech for that time.

When Emory’s campus moved to Atlanta in 1919, Oxford went through a diminishing period, which Oliver details in the “Emory’s Evolution and Exodus” portion of his book. The book also notes how the town persisted through this period, continuing to be an epicenter of the Methodist Church and becoming a family-friendly community.

Recording the town’s history from its founding in 1839 up to the year 2000, Oliver’s book, contains many well-known Oxford accounts, and some that are not so familiar, even to an Oxford local such as himself.

“I’ve been studying the history of Oxford for years now, so much of it was familiar,” said Oliver. “But you always uncover new things, and that’s what keeps it interesting.”

He went on to add that while many of the book’s photos can be found in public records and archives, he obtained a good amount of the photos from old photo albums and boxes, stored away in attics and basements of Oxford residents with long-standing roots in the town.

“Families and many institutions, when they think of preservation, they think of putting things in an archive or putting them in a box and hiding them away or keeping them as theirs,” he said. “But what happens is, by not sharing it with their younger generations or with other people, when they die, nobody knows what those things are. Nobody knows the context of those pictures or whatever else, and they ultimately just have no value to subsequent generations and they’re lost. There are pictures in here (the book) people haven’t seen that were in archives or in people’s homes. So my point is; if you want to preserve history in the digital age, don’t lock these pictures up in a box or in an archive where only researchers are ever going to find them. Scan them and distribute them widely. A hundred years from now, the likelihood of them still being around is much greater — that’s preservation.”

In addition to his “Images of America” Oxford volume, Oliver has written “Cornerstone and Grove,” a book detailing the history and foundation of the Emory campus. He also dabbles in artistic endeavors, creating bright, colorful animal paintings with intricate backgrounds, along with children’s coloring books.

Signed and personalized copies of Oliver’s book will be available for purchase on his website www.operaevocata.com for $21.99 each plus tax and shipping fees. Copies will also be for sale at Life Dance Wellness Center on Industrial Boulevard in Covington, as well as Mayfield Ace Hardware Store on U.S. Highway 278. Oliver will be holding a book signing at the Oxford Community Potluck Picnic on July 3 at 6 p.m. at Old Church, and another after the July 4 parade, also at Old Church.