In 1930, William Faulkner purchased what was then known as “The Bailey Place,” a primitive Greek revival house sitting on four acres of hardwood and cedar.
Colonel Robert Sheegog, an Irish immigrant planter from Tennessee, built the home when he settled in the tiny frontier settlement of Oxford in the 1840s. Faulkner renamed it Rowan Oak in 1931 after the rowan tree, a symbol of security and peace. The house was unoccupied for seven years before the Faulkners purchased it in 1930.
Soon thereafter, he optioned the surrounding acreage (Bailey Woods) and settled in with his wife, Estelle, and her two children from a previous marriage, Malcom and Victoria. Within a few years, their own daughter, Jill, was born. Rowan Oak was the family home of the Faulkners until 1962, the year of William Faulkner’s death. In 1972, Jill Faulkner Summers sold the house to The University of Mississippi to secure it as a place for people worldwide to learn about her father and his work.
Rowan Oak was William Faulkner’s private world, in reality and imagination, and he was fascinated with its history. His writings were inspired by local stories of Indians, runaway slaves, old colonels and spinsters who gave china-painting lessons and are interwoven into his own memories of coming of age in a South torn between traditional ways and modern development. Faulkner’s years spent at Rowan Oak were productive as he set stories and novels to paper, ultimately winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949, and the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1954 for A Fable. William Faulkner remains one of the most celebrated and studied authors in the world, with conferences, societies and journals dedicated to his life and work.