Oxford Life in the 1870s
Excerpts from the Diary of Susan “Tudie” Stone Robison
Written between 1872 and 1877
Written between 1872 and 1877
On yesterday afternoon, twelve of the Oxford girls met over at Mr. Branham’s to sew for our preacher’s wife. We had a nice sewing circle, and accomplished a great deal, yet we talked a great deal too. Our sewing machine, dear “Willcox and Gibbs,” was carried over, and Sallie Means kept one going, while Sis Emma used the other equally as well. I must say that the Willcox and Gibbs machine is decidedly simpler, easier to run, and better in every way than any machine I know, and I have seen many kinds. On last Friday, we organized an Orphans Home Sewing Society among the Oxford girls.
On Friday morning we were busy quite early preparing for a visit to the country, in which we anticipated so much pleasure that we could hardly eat our breakfasts. At ten o’clock, Mr. Frank Means and his sister Sallie came by for us in the spring wagon. Lizzie Branham took Sallie’s place, though, and put Sallie in the buggy with Walter Branham, who has been her sweetheart since she was a little child, while Sis Em rode in Cousin George Murrell’s buggy, and I was with the party in the spring wagon. We had a delightful drive out there, seven miles away, and found Mr. and Mrs. Griffin eager to welcome us to their country home and hospitality. There were a dozen of us in all, and such merry times we did have! Our families were all connected, and distantly or closely related, so that each guest felt privileged to act as they pleased.
On Saturday we had a picnic at the river a mile distant and fished until dinner. Not one fish was caught, though Lizzie Branham and Frank Means seemed to be much pleased with each other, and may have made an exchange of certain feelings -- what we sometimes call “fishing on dry land.”
I went to see Mrs. Bryant this morning. How hard it is to be as poor as they are! She says that she feels “cowed” when at church, because everybody looks nicer than she does. I am sorry that she feels so, yet that is unnecessary, for in Oxford I never heard such a remark about such a thing, and hope never to hear one.
Today a party of young folks visited “The Rock” on what might perhaps be called a courting expedition. I had two escorts proffered but did not care to go. I intended to go with Sallie Means, Toby, and Lizzie Branham in the wagon for muscadines, but the wagon could not be had, so we stayed at home and played croquet. It is a very interesting game, so long as all parties keep in good humor, but when cheating and quarreling begin, the fun ends. The young men seem quite fond of it, and the croquet ground is seldom vacated.
After my visit in Atlanta with Susie Rawson, I did not find Oxford or home dull at all, as I had feared, but found plenty to employ me with work and pleasure. Mr. Burks came often in the evenings and we passed some of the time reading one of Dickens’ novels, The Tale of Two Cities. It was quite a thrilling story, painting “the inquisition” with all its horror, and its butcheries truly and graphically. Then we village girls had two sewings, during which we made a very nice quilt for a poor lady. These were very pleasant meetings in which the boys cut squares and stripes for us, and entertained us besides. Then a few of us formed an “eclectic” reading club (because we read so many pieces from that magazine.) This club has met four times a week for two weeks, and the merry times we have had were innumerable. I am just from a meeting of the club tonight at which we proposed its continuance.
Susie Rawson was to leave for a tour through most of Europe and made me promise that I would come up to Atlanta to tell her goodbye. So I went and spent a week with her. Hally and Oddy [her younger brothers] went with me, staying two days. Oddy had never seen a city before, and when we reached Atlanta, he was all curiosity. Pointing to a larger building, he said, “Sister Tudie, is that the Kimball House?”* “No, Oddy,” said I, “Yonder it is though.” Well, the dear little fellow’s highest conception of its grandeur were so far surpassed that he almost fell backward with astonishment and awe. The street cars delighted him, and he thought Mr. Rawson’s house the finest dwelling house in the world. It rained the next day, but he and Hally took an umbrella and went to Tommy and Stewart’s Store, bought a tool chest for seven dollars for Harry, and Oddy brought him a nice knife, and some oranges.
New Year’s Day, 1877, brought sleet and snow with it. It continued to fall until about four inches deep. It was about the heaviest snow I ever saw. Pretty soon all the boys became carpenters, and from Tuesday to Thursday, Oxford was lively with seventeen sleighs and bells. Old and young ventured to ride. Uncle Toby took almost everybody to ride in his sleigh. I had six or more rides, and enjoyed it finely. It was truly delightful and novel to us southerners.