Rev. Isaac Oxford – Man of God

Isaac Oxford – Reverend and Man of God

Sketch of Isaac Oxford
Sketch of Isaac Oxford

© Hugh W. Barnes, All Rights Reserved, 2015 Click here for bio.  Publisher:  Barnes-Oxford Genealogy Research Foundation. Inc.

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Isaac Lafayette Oxford was born 23 June 1810. He was the son of James Oxford and Hannah Barnes Oxford. Hannah’s father was the centenarian James Barnes, who at 115 walked five miles to and from church. That fact is noted by Isaac in The History of the Oxford Family. James is related to the author in two ways. As the father of Hannah, he is my third great grandfather. He is also the brother of my fourth great grandfather, making him my fourth great uncle. Isaac was born in Burke County now Caldwell County, North Carolina. The Oxford’s have no French DNA. Isaac’s middle name was probably chosen for General Lafayette, who as did Isaac’s grandfather fought in the American Revolution.

On January 4, 1829, at the age of nineteen, he married his first wife, Loretta ”Lettie” Harrington. Lettie was born April 2, 1812 and was only seventeen at the time of her marriage. Lettie was the daughter of Sion H. Harrington and Rebecca Brown. Isaac and Lettie had three sons: William C., (1830-1903). William C. married Martha Reid, and they had thirteen children. Son James (1831-1894) was the manager of the Caldwell County Poor’s Home. Son Sion Harrington (1835-1917) married Elizabeth Reid. Isaac and Lettie had one daughter, Rebecca Mariah, born in 1834.   Se married Jacob M. McCall of Gamewell. Lettie died January 4, 1888. Isaac and Lettie were married fifty-nine years.

In 1836, at the age of 26, Isaac fought in the Cherokee War, as did his younger brother, my great grandfather Elisha “Lish” Chambers Oxford. Isaac was granted a pension for his service. Concerning the War states:

In 1830, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Acts which gave the federal government power to remove all Native Americans from their lands east of the Mississippi River to territory west of the river. The Indian Intercourse Act, which passed in 1834, prohibited white men from settling on Indian territorial lands. It also made provisions for establishing agencies and schools.
Some Indian tribes, especially the Cherokees, refused to leave their homelands east of the Mississippi. In 1838, U.S. troops began forcibly removing the Cherokee Indians from their homes in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia.”

Many of the Indians died of disease, starvation, or exposure. Because of the tragic nature of this journey it was called the “Trail of Tears.” By 1850, most of the Indians had been removed to the area that is now the state of Oklahoma.

Isaac joined Union Baptist in 1847 and kept his membership there throughout his lifetime. He was licensed to preach in 1848.  He was ordained in 1850, as a young 40-year-old Baptist minister. He had little formal education, but sources contend that he had a “splendid library.”
During his forty-nine year ministerial career, he pastured sixteen churches: two in Catawba, six in Caldwell, four in Alexander, two in Wilkes, one in Iredell and one in Burke. He helped found seven churches. He traveled over seven states preaching the gospel. He aided in the ordination of fifteen ministers and assisted in the organization of four associations.
Claude A. Oxford, Sr. tells the story that while Isaac was riding by horseback to preach a revival, he faced a serious problem. It was sleeting and freezing rain. Oxfords seat was frozen to the saddle, and he had to be cut loose. Scheduled to preach the next day, he was advised that past revivals had not been successful because young men sat in the church and threw tomatoes at the minister.
As he came to deliver his sermon, he stepped into the pulpit and announced, “I am a man of God. I have come here tonight to preach the Word of God.” He placed his Bible on the pulpit, reached into his coat and pulled out two pistols, showed them to the congregation and placed one on each side of the Bible. He then said ‘now I am hear to preach and the first one of you@#@#@#@# that stands up to throw something at me, I will drop you in your tracks.
A successful revival resulted with many being saved.
In 1897, two years before his death, The Biblical Recorder ran a lengthy article entitled “Sketch of the Life and Labors of Elder Isaac Oxford”. The article stated that:

“The temperance fight led to a rupture in many of the Baptist churches. Many of the reformers were excluded. Bros. Oxford, being a little more far-seeing that some of his brethren got his church to allow him to withdraw. Hence, he evaded exclusion and fondly said he had never been excluded from a Baptist church. The reformers constituted themselves into churches on strictly temperance principles, and Bro. Oxford united with the Taylorsville church. These churches form the Taylorsville Association, which co-operated with the Western Convention.”

The book Labor through with God: The History of the Caldwell Baptist Association, 1885-2005, regarding the first session of the Association states:

“On October 22, 1895, sixteen churches met at the Rocky Springs Church in Collettsville to organize the Caldwell Baptist Association. The meeting began with a sermon by Isaac Oxford from Union Church on the text:

‘For we are laborers together with God.’ After the message, Oxford called the meeting to order.
Reverend Oxford was elected the first moderator and served in that capacity for several of the early years.”

In an interview on November 12, 2015, the Reverend R. Dale Fisher, Executive Director of the Caldwell Baptist Association stated:

The moderator presides over meetings of the Association. In some organizations, they have appointive powers, appointing people and also serving on various committees. He further stated that it would be difficult to know the exact role of the moderator at the time the association was organized.

Oxford served as moderator of the Brushy Mountain Association before his service in Caldwell.

Too old to serve in the regular Confederate Army, he was 51 when the war broke out. Isaac served as a Captain in the Home Guard. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, states that:

“The term ‘Home Guard’ generally refers to a somewhat loosely organized militia that was under the direction and authority of the Confederate States of America. Referencing the “Home Guard” one needs to be more specific–though the term in most cases refers to Confederate sympathizers, there are exceptions… The Confederate Home Guard (1861–1865) was working in coordination with the Confederate Army and was tasked with both the defense of the Confederate home front during the American Civil War, as well as to help track down and capture Confederate Army deserters. The Home Guard was a type of militia for the Confederacy. It had a rank structure and had certain regulations.
Home Guard units were, essentially, the last defense against any invading Union forces. They also were used at times to gather information about invading Union troop movements, as well as to identify and control any local civilians who were considered sympathetic to the Union cause. They received no military training, although they could be drafted into Confederate service if needed. There are only a few cases in which that happened, due to the Home Guard being recognized as a type of service in itself to the Confederacy.”

Elected as Captain, Isaac Oxford, in May of 1865 is credited with at least one capture of a Union deserter, in an incident at Ft. Hamby in Wilkes County.

Isaac was Chairman of the Caldwell County Board of Commissioner. During his term, the Lenoir to Hickory railroad was built. He also served as deputy sheriff. Family tradition records him as being a Democrat. The July 16, 1874, issue of the Piedmont Press noted that he Chaired the County Convention of the Conservative Party, and served as its candidate for Commissioner. The Centennial Edition of the Lenoir News-Topic referred to him as “a Democrat of Democrats”.

On November 5, 1892, four and one-half years after the death of his first wife, he applied to the Caldwell County Register of Deeds to marry Mary C. Frazier, daughter of Jonathan M. Frazier and Rose Ann Frazier. She was 49; he was 81. They had no children.

He died January 10, 1899. He is buried at Union Baptist Church, as are his mother, father and both wives. He had lived in view of the church where he pastored. According to his obituary appearing in The Lenoir Topic, he died at his home in Little River township from a short-term illness characterized by paralysis of the bowels. The obituary goes on to state: “he was a hard worker up to a few weeks before his death at 88. Late in November, he was seen with a three-horse team pulling shingles. He sowed a considerable crop of wheat this season, plowing the ground, drilling it largely himself.” In its obituary, The Biblical Recorder stated that he was the oldest Baptist preacher in North Carolina. The Topic obituary stated that he had desired to be laid to rest in a ceremony by his Masonic, brethren, but the weather prohibited this. According to Wikipedia the free encyclopedia, the masons are a secret society. The symbol of the Mason is the square and the compass and it appears on Isaac’s tombstone, as it does his brother Lish.

While I have presented unpublished information in this blog, to continue to do the Oxford line would be an injustice. For the want to be Isaac Oxford biographer, there is much left to document. produced an unmanageable list of articles. Many of these only mentioned the teaching of a sermon. There is much left in his political career and his involvement in the temperance movement that is yet to be reported.

Robert Lewis “Bob” McNeely will assume duties of blog author in August. He is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and Historian of the Oxford Family Reunion. In the meantime, we challenge our reader to contribute to the blog. Guest posts are greatly welcomed.

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Links to external sites appear in the text below. Links are underlined and appear in blue. If you choose to visit a link, be sure to right click on it and then click “Open link in a new tab”. This allows you to return to this article., 2015. ‘Biblical Recorder Microfilm Online – North Carolina Baptist Historical Collection – Research Guides At Wake Forest University.’ Accessed November 11, 2015.

The Biblical Recorder. Obituary notice, on January 18, 1899, issues of and Elder I.W. Thomas’s “Sketch on the Life and Labors of Elder Isaac Oxford”, May 12, 1897. (Reprinted in Lenoir Topic, June 29, 1897)

Caldwell Baptist Association.
Interview with Rev. R. Dale Fisher, Executive Director; regarding the role of moderators, November. 2015.

Labor through with God: The History of the Caldwell Baptist Association, 1885-2005, 2005.
Minutes of the First Annual Session, October 1885.
Minutes of the Second Annual Session, October 1886., 2015. ‘Cherokee Disturbances and Removal, 1836 To 1839’,_1836_to_1839 Accessed November 10, 2015., Numerous member of the Oxford family.

Lenoir News-Topic, Centennial Edition., September 12, 1941.

Lenoir Topic, The
Obituary: “Elder Isaac Oxford: Dies at Age of Nearly Eighty-nine”, January 18, 1899.

Isaac Oxford, “Letter to the Editor”, December 1895.

McNeely, Robert Lewis, Ph.D. Oxford Family Genealogy. Salt Lake City, Utah: Family Heritage Publisher, 2010.

Oxford, Isaac. The History of the Oxford Family,, 2015. Accessed November 10, 2015.

Oxford, James Franklin. Descendants of Sarah and Thomas Oxford of Hadleigh England from the Late 1600’s.

Piedmont Press, July 16, 1874, “Caldwell County Convention”.

Reid, Dale. The Oxford Clan: A History of the Oxford Family from 1700, Compiled from Personal Knowledge, Writings, and Research, May 15, 1999.

The United States Federal Census:
Burke County, 1810.
Caldwell County, 1850-1880.


Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Wake Forest University, Special Collections and Archives of the Baptist Collection, with special thanks to Rebecca Petersen May.

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