Influential Covington Women in the Civil War
During March we are celebrating Women’s History Month and putting an emphasis on the women in the Civil War. Newton County had several women in the Civil War who influenced or documented events offering boundless opportunities to learn history tourism in our area. By studying the women described below, we can understand the myriad of connections and complexities during the Civil War era, and celebrate their achievements which helped pave the way for where we are today.
Catherine Andrew Boyd
Catherine “Miss Kitty” Andrew Boyd was a slave of James O. Andrew, a Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop who was chair of the board of Emory College in 1844. Some wonder if Miss Kitty was an innocent pawn in the political struggle of slavery, or maybe she was a coerced mistress who was loyal to the bishop. Either way, controversy erupted at the national Methodist Conference of 1844 because the bishop owned slaves. Miss Kitty was thrown into the controversy that led to the division of the church into northern and southern branches. A plan to separate her from the bishop was created, but she didn’t want to go back to Africa. Bishop Andrew then built her a cabin behind his house where she could live “as free”. Eventually, she left her home after marrying. In Newton County, she is known in women’s history as a symbol for national divisions over slavery and for differing understandings of race relationships in Oxford.
As we celebrate women’s history month, plan a visit to her home, “Kitty’s Cottage”. The home is roughly 15 paces behind the Old Church in Oxford and arrangements can be made to view it through the Welcome Center or by calling 770-787-3868.
Dolly Lunt Burge
In 1918, Dolly Lunt Burge published A Woman’s Wartime Journal under the name Dolly Sumner Lunt. The journal is a collection of diary entries as Dolly witnessed General Sherman’s March to the Sea while living at Burge Plantation during the Civil War. Dolly was left to manage the plantation after her husband, Mr. Thomas Burge, died in 1858 of tuberculosis. The journal details her experiences and begins with her describing the anxiety she had from the approach of the Union Army on January 1, 1864. The plantation was raided by Union soldiers, who set fire to massive cotton bales in her barn but didn’t destroy the house. You’ll want to add this landmark to your history tourism destinations. Today this beautiful landmark, known as The Burge Club, is a private hunting, shooting, and family club that has first-class dining and serves as an event venue.
Sara Branham Matthews
Born in Oxford in 1888, Sara Branham was raised in a family with women in higher education. She followed in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother as a graduate of Wesleyan College, which was unusual for women during that period. Although one of the only careers she could pursue with her degree was teach; she persevered in medicine and health studies. At 40 years old, she was appointed to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland where she discovered a successful treatment for spinal meningitis, which was a new and untreatable disease at that time. She died in 1962 and is buried in the Oxford Historical Cemetery in Newton County. As we’re celebrating women’s history month, we recognize Sara for her impact in medicine and public health.
Although she wasn’t from Newton County, Margaret Mitchell was a major influence in building awareness about history tourism for the Civil War era and drawing attention to one of our biggest tourist attractions. The Twelve Oaks is one of our most popular film locations in Covington. It’s well-known for its inspiration as the home of Ashley Wilkes in the epic award-winning 1939 film, Gone With the Wind. Along with recognizing Margaret Mitchell during women’s history month, we also recognize the sassy southern character, Scarlett O’Hara, who challenged the role of women during and after the Civil War. The Twelve Oaks is now a bed and breakfast with tours to be planned in the near future. According to The Twelve Oaks website, the Frankly Scarlett Junior Suite will have you feeling like Scarlett from Gone with the Wind!