Oxford and Lafayette County were formed from lands ceded by the Chickasaw in the treaty of Pontotoc Creek in 1832. The county was organized in 1836, and in 1837 three pioneers—John Martin, John Chisom, and John Craig—purchased land from Hoka, a female Chickasaw landowner, as a site for the town. They named it Oxford, intending to promote it as a center of learning in the Old Southwest. In 1841, the Mississippi legislature selected Oxford as the site of the state university, which opened in 1848. During the American Civil War, Oxford suffered invasion by federal troops under Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman in 1862; in 1864 Major General Andrew Jackson Smith burned the buildings in the town square, including the county courthouse. In the postwar Reconstruction Era, the town recovered slowly, aided by federal judge Robert Andrews Hill, who secured funds to build a new courthouse in 1872. During this period many African American freedmen moved from farms into town and established a neighborhood known as "Freedmen Town", where they built houses, businesses, churches and schools, eagerly embracing education. They exercised all the rights of citizenship. Even after Mississippi disfranchised most African Americans in the Constitution of 1890, they continued to build their lives in the face of discrimination.
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