The first bishop of Mississippi, the Right Reverend William Mercer Green, visited Oxford in 1850 and found several individuals willing to do what they could to establish a church in the village of Oxford. An organizational meeting was held in the courthouse on May 12, the following year, with “between twenty and thirty of the most intelligent and respectable citizens of the town and vicinity.” The congregation was organized, on that day as St. Peter’s Church, with a Vestry and wardens elected in canonical form. The following day, May 13, 1851, the Vestry officially requested admission into the Union with other congregations in the Diocese.
The Rev. Prof. Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard, the first resident clergyman, was ordained in 1855, and under his leadership, the congregation successfully built the stunning structure still in use today. Completed in 1860, Barnard delivered the first sermon on Easter Sunday, 1860. A copy of his sermon remains in the archives of the church. St. Peter’s was spared the destruction of the Civil War and remains the oldest religious structure in Oxford, MS.
Barnard was also president (later called Chancellor) of the University of Mississippi. An early relationship was formed between the two institutions that continues to this day.
First resident clergyman of St. Peter’s, 1855-1861.
For those interested in additional information, copies of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Oxford, Mississippi: A History 1851-2011, c. 2011, Brenda J. West, may be found in the church office or Square Books, Oxford, MS. You may call the church office at 662-234-1269, or order a copy online by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.