Newton County has many historic sites, both big and small. One example is a modest, yet incredibly significant, structure built in 1842 and located in the town of Oxford. This building is famously known as Kitty’s Cottage, and its deeply rooted in Oxford’s history.
The history of Kitty’s Cottage begins with a young Bishop named James O. Andrew and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Powers. When Mrs. Powers passed away in 1834, her will contained specific instructions regarding one of her slaves. The slave in question was named Kitty Andrew, a 12-year-old girl from Liberia who would be given to Bishop Andrew per Mrs. Powers’ request. Upon turning 19 years old, Kitty would be given the option to stay in Georgia or return to Liberia and live in a colony dedicated to freed slaves. Ultimately, she wished to stay with the Bishop and his family, but could not be legally emancipated at the time, since it was illegal under Georgia’s state law. Bishop Andrew decided to build her a personal cottage on his estate, and she would be free to live on this property for as long as she wanted. Kitty eventually married a freeman named Nathan Shell, and they both raised three children together, before her death in 1850s.
At the time, Bishop Andrew’s decision to “keep” Kitty on his property was noticed by many members of the Methodist Church. In 1844, Bishop Andrew attended an annual conference for the Methodist Episcopal Church where heated conversations about Kitty quickly arose. The conflict emerged because many representatives believed that a bishop “connected with slavery” was objectionable. The opposition consisted of many Emory faculty and trustees who argued in favor of Kitty’s decision to stay with Bishop Andrew’s family. They believed that Bishop Andrew was an “unwilling” slave owner since Kitty was not bought but rather inherited through Mrs. Powers’ will. In the end, 136 delegates voted for the church’s separation into two branches, and it became known as the “The Methodist Civil War”. The split lasted until May 10, 1939 when the branches reunited at a conference in Missouri.
The cottage was moved from Oxford and taken to Salem Campground in 1938. After remaining on the camp-meeting grounds for 56-years, the town of Oxford reclamined it and relocated the structure behind Old Church, where it proudly stands to this day.
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