Jeff Harvey

This week, one building in Athens will be the focus of our look at Athens circa 1969 via the notes of Ella Holroyd as printed in the second (1987) Mercer County Historical Society’s “History of Mercer County.”

That building, the J.S.H. (John Sanford Hopkins) Bird home, was one of two homes, the other being the Harrison Oxley home, which Ella knew of on the hills past the Beckett home. The Bird home was the farthest out.

Elizabeth Bird, John’s wife, was the daughter of James R. Vermillion, an Athens pioneer who was a doctor.

The farm wasn’t the most prosperous being on a hillside, but the Birds raised a large family, 16 children in all, plus one of their grandchildren. They had two sets of twins.

Ella said Mrs. Bird inherited some of her father’s skill, nursing her children on mother’s milk and other home remedies and raised all but four to adulthood, with one dying at 18 from a kidney ailment.

Their oldest child, a daughter, had the name Nommy, short for Anonymous. That came about because the family couldn’t find a name suitable for her and Captain French suggested Anonymous. She married Miles Hoye and died after the birth of her second son, Vesper, whom his grandmother raised.

The 1984 MCHS History of Mercer County detailed the family history more.

The Harrison Oxley home was a little closer to town. The Oxleys had four children whom Ella knew. Nannie Bird married Robert Easley and Etta Oxley married Elliot Easley. Robert and Nannie Easley are buried in the Vermillion Cemetery.

The descendants of Harvey “Doc” Oxley live in the Happy Valley area. Some of their children married into the Lockhart and Mann families.

The area has built up over the years. Meador and Nellie Bird; Claude Bird, John and Marjorie Peck (she was the daughter of Meador and Nellie Bird) all lived in the area with more information about the Peck and Oxley families being in the 1984 book.

John and Marjorie’s son Jerry owned the Deli-Mart in Athens, while Marjorie and daughter-in-law Rosalie founded the still-active Trading Journal.

Jeff Harvey is a freelance reporter and columnist for the Princeton Times. Contact him at

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