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Oxford College of Emory University

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Cobb and Wilson
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  • James E. Cobb, (CSA), U.S. Congress (1835 - 1903)
    Edward Cobb, a Representative from Alabama; born in Thomaston, Upson County, Ga., October 5, 1835; attended the public schools, and was graduated from Emory College, Oxford, Ga., in June 1856; studied ...
  • Brig. General Claudius C. Wilson (CSA) (1831 - 1863)
    Charles Wilson (October 1, 1831 – November 27, 1863) was a Confederate States Army colonel and brigade commander during the American Civil War. Wilson's promotion to brigadier general on November 16, 1...


In 1833, the Georgia Methodist Conference began considering establishing a church-sponsored manual labor school where students would combine farm work with a college preparatory curriculum. At the Georgia Methodist Conference in 1834, a preacher known as "Uncle Allen" Turner suggested that Georgia Methodists should develop their own school rather than support Randolph-Macon College in Virginia.[5] Heeding his advice, the Conference opened the Georgia Conference Manual Labor School in 1835, but the institution immediately began facing financial challenges. As a result, the Conference granted Ignatius Few a charter to establish a new college named after John Emory, a Methodist bishop who was involved in the labor school's founding but had died in a carriage accident before the school opened.[6] In 1836, the new school, Emory College, was established on a tract of land in Newton County one mile north of Covington, Georgia. This site was chosen because of its distance from the city, which the school's founders feared would be a source of distraction for its students.[7] The campus and the surrounding areas were planned and built in 1837 by Edward Lloyd Thomas, a Georgia land surveyor who also planned the city of Columbus, Georgia.[8] On December 23, 1839, the state legislature incorporated the land around the school into a new city called Oxford.[9] This name was selected because the founders of the Methodist movement, Charles Wesley and John Wesley, had previously attended Oxford University.[10] Because the college and town were built together, many of the town's early residents had contributed to the college's founding and continued to be involved in its daily activities.[11]

On September 17, 1838, two years after its chartering, President Ignatius Few and three faculty members welcomed fifteen freshmen and sophomores into its inaugural class.[5] In order to raise money for maintaining the school, Few began selling lots around the college to local citizens.[8] The founders envisaged a curriculum that would rest squarely on the classics and mathematics, with four years' study of Greek, Latin, and mathematics, and three years' study of the English Bible and the sciences of geography, astronomy, and chemistry. According to historian Henry M. Bullock, the founders intended Emory to be, "in the fullest sense of the term, a Christian college.

Civil War and Reconstruction:

Financial tension had reduced the college's income and student body prior to the outbreak of war. So when war broke out in the summer of 1861, the college's administration made the decision to temporarily cease all academic operations. Emory College would remain closed to students for the duration of the fighting. During the war, college facilities were used by both Northern and Southern soldiers as military headquarters and infirmaries. Because of this, many deceased soldiers are buried near campus. The school's library and other archives were damaged and later destroyed due to mishandling by military generals. It was not until the summer of 1866 that the campus was able to return to its academic functions, when it reopened with twenty students and three professors. Emory College continued to struggle with financial hardships after the war, and was only able to continue their operations with the aid of a state G.I. Bill.

A white marble obelisk The Few Monument in the center of the quad recognizes Ignatius A. Few as one of the founders of Emory College. In 1880, the school's fortunes reversed when College President Atticus G. Haygood delivered a Thanksgiving Day sermon expressing gratitude for the end of slavery and calling on the South to put the past behind them to "cultivate the growth of industry". The speech captured the attention of George I. Seney, a Brooklyn banker and Methodist. Seney gave Emory College $5,000 to repay its debts, $50,000 for construction, and $75,000 to establish a new endowment. Over the years, Seney invested more than a quarter-million dollars into Emory College, helping to erect the Victorian Gothic-style administrative building in the center of Oxford College that bears his name. The bell in the Seney Hall clocktower is the oldest permanent monument at Emory University today. Cast in 1796, the bell was a gift from Alexander Means, the fourth President of Emory College, who in turn received it from Queen Victoria.