Exhibit touches many aspects of life in the last 150 years

May. 20, 2013 @ 05:58 PM

OXFORD — For 150 years, photographers, both amateur and professional, have snapped pictures of the people and places that make up the essentials of living in Granville County.

Many of those pictures are on display in Harris Hall of the Granville County Historical Society Museum, providing a graphic history of the area.

A quick look shows:

• A farmer holding his young son in his arms as he stands in a tobacco field.

• A sailor in downtown Oxford, a lady friend wearing his sailor cap.

• The 1908 art club of Oxford College made up of female students sporting the “Gibson girl” hair style of the era.

• Trains, schools, stores and scenes from out of the past.

Titled “Visions of Yesteryears: A look back at days gone by,” the exhibit includes photographs of much of the history of Granville County and Oxford, including wars, familiar places, well-known and not-so-well-known people, farming and small-town living. The exhibit will continue through the summer months.

Museum Director Pam Thornton said she hopes teachers will bring their students to the exhibit during the last few weeks of school. She and Dr. Richard Taylor, president of the Granville County Historical Society, offered an informal tour of the exhibit on a recent weekday afternoon.

Near the entrance to the exhibit, a section titled “Doing Business in Granville County” pictures the variety of stores and businesses that served the area over the past century.

Next, “On the Farm” shows photographs of farmers in tobacco fields, farm machinery and farm products.

Many of the historic schools of Granville County are displayed in “Places of Learning.”

In an alcove are photographic portraits of Granville County men who served in the Civil War. A list of their names contains many surnames that are still found in Granville County.

A time line of World War II walks the visitor from the beginnings of aggression by Germany, Japan and Italy through the major battles until the conflict ended with VE Day and VJ Day.

Within the great events of the conflict are local connections. Stopping in front of a picture of the USS Granville, Taylor explained how the transport ship got its name. “Granville County sold more war bonds than any other county,” he said, “so they named a ship after the county.”

Launched in October 1944, the USS Granville carried troops to various bases in the Pacific and earned a battle star, the award issued to Navy warships for meritorious participation in battle.

Sections of the exhibit depict America’s conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.

“I don’t believe we called them wars,” Thornton said.

The Korean conflict was called a United Nations “police action.”

Photographs taken in Vietnam during America’s involvement there were contributed by former Vance-Granville Community College President Ben Currin.

On a more peaceful theme, a section on “The Famous and the Infamous” pictures presidents, sports figures and other celebrities.

“On the Move” tells the story of transportation and its effects on Granville County. A train is shown on a trestle that no longer exists in downtown Oxford. Classic automobiles are pictured. A three-wheel delivery vehicle called “Thrif-T” was manufactured in one of two buggy factories Oxford once boasted.

“I don’t believe it ever caught on,” Taylor said.

In addition to the special photographic exhibit, Harris Hall displays a variety of books on the history of Granville County and the region. Four books by local historian Lewis Bowling add to the Granville County lore that is available.

“Upon these Steps” by Henderson native David Reavis tells the story of two brothers who left their Vance County home, which still stands, to serve in the Civil War.

Harris Hall is located behind the original Granville County Museum, which is located in the old Granville County jail. The museum houses permanent collections, including displays on the early Native American Tuscarora tribe, the colonial and revolutionary war periods, the Civil War, the tobacco industry, memorabilia from Oxford College and Horner Military Academy, military uniforms of residents who fought in America’s wars, and even Granville County’s contributions to the art of moonshining.

Harris Hall is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Tours for groups can be arranged by calling (919) 693-9706.


Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.