Lafayette County property seen as historic Jewish site

djournal-lafayette-county-stockBy Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – Lafayette County supervisors learned Monday that site of a potential jail expansion may have unappreciated importance to both Civil War history and Jewish history.

Asher Reese asked the Board of Supervisors on Monday to consider preserving the site on the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Jackson Avenue.

“This was the headquarters of Grant when he was here in Oxford from Dec. 2-17, 1862. He took that spot in that home, which I believe was the home of James Brown, a planter,” Reese said. “I think he was here because he just wanted to have a quiet Christmas with his family.”

Reese, who is Jewish, said it was in that home that Grant, on Dec. 17, 1862, issued Order No. 11, which he said “was the first and only time when American Jews were expelled from their homes.” He added that the order was later rescinded, and Grant, even as president, “bent over backward to help the Jews, whatever their problems were.”

Reese said he was encouraged while researching the site and its historical significance to learn that it was county-owned property until he also learned that it is viewed as a likely expansion site for the jail or the Sheriff’s Department offices.

“It puts that property, in a sense, in jeopardy unless it was clear to everyone concerned … that this is a property that has tremendous historical significance – not just locally, not just for Civil War or Grant historians, but it has a major chapter in American Jewish life,” Reese said.

“I would love to see that piece of property designated for a Jewish family center.” He noted that Lafayette County has more than 100 places of worship, including a mosque, but does not have a synagogue.

“I think the people of Oxford would bend over backward to see something established there, which I believe should also include a permanent exhibit that would highlight this point in history,” Reese said.

Board of Supervisors President Jeff Busby was noncommittal about the site but noted any jail expansion is probably still a few years away.

“We’ll certainly take your history of the premises into consideration as we move forward,” he said.

errol.castens@journalinc.com