Oxford -- A Historical Sketch
By Miss Emma Lounsbury

Read at Old Home Day Celebration on the Oxford Green, September 7,  1914
As published in the Seymour Record
Thursday, September  10, 1914

Miss Emma LounsburyIt seems rather important, as we have taken this eventful date for our gathering, that it should be noticed, although you might say, these ideas are rather foreign to Oxford; but, Oxford belongs to the United States as much as any other township; it will be but a word though on the subject of each.  It was on September 6th, 1781 that Col. Ledyard was killed at Fort Griswold by a British officer on Groten Heights across the Thames river from New London, 133 years ago yesterday.

New London was set on fire the same night by Benedict Arnold, the traitor. It was discovered by Dr. Downes, 133 years ago this morning.  Gen. Lafayette was born Sept. 6, 1757. He was a very timely helper for George Washington in 1776 when he was in great need. He visited this country in 1824, starting on his return 89 years ago today.

In the war of 1812 to 1815, Francis Scott Key, a lawyer in Washington, was taken prisoner on a British vessel. He watched very closely, as late as he could see at night, after the battle of Fort McHenry on September 12th, and looked as soon as he could see in the morning, and the flag was up and from that circumstance he commenced to write the song called "The Star Spangled Banner" on the 14th of September, 1814.

The language in the first verse shows that he composed it from his own experience:
"O say, can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming!"

It will be 100 years one week from today since he wrote the two first verses of that poem.

His house is still standing where he lived most of his life, on the bank of the Potomac river, in West Washington, but he is buried in Frederick, Maryland.

A Brief Account of Oxford.

This occasion places one in a position very much like a school teacher, or a minister, or an editor; rather hard to please all the minds of the audience.

As some of the descendants of the old settlers will say, "I have heard that story long ago. I've heard my folks tell of it years ago."  But the old book says, "the strong must bear with the weak," and we must remember that there are a number of families who have settled here to live with us from out of town and form out of the state and from out of the country; such parties may be a little interested to hear what has preceded them.

Certainly records should be correct and as to tradition, that comes from pretty reliable sources.

It is a well-established fact with about everyone, that the Puritans arrived in this country and landed at Massachusetts in December, 1620.  In 1637 the Pilgrims came and stopped there about a year, but as the land was well taken up, they thought best to remove and make another settlement.  They arrived at Quinnipiac on April 23rd, 1638, but as it was Friday they thought it best not to land as they might meet with bad luck.

On Sunday, the 25th, the Rev. John Davenport preached to them under a large, spreading oak tree in the morning and Rev. Mr. Prudden preached in the afternoon.  This was the beginning of the settlement of New Haven.  Quinnipiac, as it was called, was all inhabited by a tribe of Indians of that name.

Haven is a Dutch word, and means the mouth of a river.  As this was a fine harbor or haven they fell into the habit of calling it the New haven until it finally became and established name.

Where the vessel stopped with them is what is now the corner of College Street and George Street.  The sea has been filled in and there are a great many streets below that point.

Milford was settled in `639, the same year that the first constitution of Connecticut was finished by the framers, who were Thomas Hooker, Roger Ludlow and John Haines -- men worthy to be remembered.

Woodbridge was taken from New Haven and Milford. It was first called the parishes of Amity and Bethany.
Rev. Benjamin Woodbridge preached in Amity 44 years.

The year before Mr. Woodbridge died, the parishes of Amity and Bethany were incorporated as the town of Woodbridge, named in honor of their pastor. This was 1784.

Derby was named in May, 1675. Charter granted 1720.  Derby was taken from Milford.

Oxford was taken from Derby and Southbury; incorporated October, 1798, which will be 116 years ago this coming October. Ebenezar Wooster was the first town clerk; later Doctor Hosea Dutton.

Dr. Dutton lived on Governor's Hill. The cellar is yet there. His wife was Elizabeth Trowbridge.

It is said that the Trowbridges once owned quite an extent of land and had a good deal of influence in the public.

Dr. Dutton and his wife raised 12 young Duttons, and as his old house failed they came down and built the house where I now live, in the year 1800, and that was called Dutton street.

The road lying parallel with it was called Perry road.

"Uncle Joel Perry," as he was called by all the neighbors, was the grandfather of the present one of that name; built the house next to where the present Joel Perry lives. His wife was Betty Riggs. They raised a moderate family of ten children.

Uncle Joel Perry's son, David Perry, built the house where the present Joel Perry lives in 1830, on the ground where his grandfather, James Perry, had lived.

David Perry's brother, Bennet Perry, lived where Mr. Beecher now lives, who built the house in 1840, and is yet owned by the Perry family.

The old which passes between that and the graveyard, which was once the main road to Quakers Farm, was called the Church road, as the Episcopal church stood at the right adjoining what is now the cemetery.

The land for the cemetery was deeded from Joseph Davis to the wardens of the parish of Oxford church.

Here is a portion of the deed.  There were no printed blanks to fill out at that time; each one had to write out their own deed.

Know all men by these presents that I, Joseph Davis, of Derby, in the Parish of Oxford, county of New Haven and Colony of Connecticut, in New England, do for a valuable consideration of current money of the colony aforesaid, paid by Abel Gunn and Benjamin Bunnell, church wardens of the Parish of Oxford and colony aforesaid, received to my full satisfaction and contentment, do give, grant, bargain, sell and confirm unto them, the said Abel Gunn and Benjamin Bunnell and to others of the professors of the Church of England in said Oxford (forever), one certain tract or parcel of land, lying in said Oxford, known by the name of the meeting house lot, lying near Oxford meeting house which is now in being, in the year 1766, being by estimation five acres, be it more or less; butted and bounded as follows.

(I omitted the boundaries as they were rather lengthy).

To have and to hold the above granted and bargained, with all the privileges, profits and appurtenances (forever) to the said Abel Gunn and Benjamin Bunnell, and to all the rest of the professors of the Church of England in said Oxford and that I, Joseph Davis, have set my hand and seal this 22nd day of December in the year Anno Domini 1766. 
Joseph Davis
Charles French
Joseph Osborn
Gad Bristol
(taken from Derby Land records Vol 8. page 355)

I do not find any statement in the deed of its being given for a cemetery but as the cemetery used to be adjoining the church that was of course understood. Now we know there cannot be any five acres fenced in there at present.

The old house which stood in the rear of the one where Mr. Beecher now lives was once owned and occupied (prior to Mr. Perry's owning it) by a family by the name of Weeks; a heavy snow came in the month of April, after the sleighs had been put away. They thought it would be fine to have one more sleigh ride, so they made ready and six of the family went for a ride and visit and came home on the snow so it was said Oxford could boast of six "weeks" sleighing in the month of April.
Of the present church edifice of the Episcopal order, I cannot give any date of the building of it, but must have been built since 1827. Rev. Mr. Morris, who preached here ten years, said he could find no record of it anywhere.

The Presbyterian church as it was called at that date was a small affair which stood in front of where the present store now is; prior to this they held meetings in people's houses.

"September ye 14, 1742, a society's meeting lawfully warned at ye house of Mr. John Twitchel cenyour in ye parish of Oxford, voted and passed in said meeting that Mr. John Lum shall be in with ye committee appointed to build a meeting house:
    "Voted and passed in said meeting too pray for a tax upon all the unimproved land within ye bounds of the parish of Oxford and that ye tax may be six-pence upon ye acre, yearly for ye space of four years, that we may go with building a meeting house and settling a minister."

"December ye 30th day, 1742, at a society's meeting lawfully warned and held at Mr. John Twitchel's cenyour in the parish of Oxford:
"Voted and passed in said meeting to levy a tax of nine pence upon the pound upon ye list of 1742, to defray ye charges of hiring Mr. Birdsey and Mr. Newton.
    "Voted in passed in said meeting that Mr. Zachariah Hawkins shall be collector and treasurer of said nine-penny rate, and said rate to be gathered by the 16th day of January next ensuing.
    "Voted and passed in said meeting the committee appointed by ye society to build the meeting house shall have the power to sign all bills relating to that affair."
Isaac Trowbridge
Society Clerk

The present church built in 1795, only a one story building at first, with no steeple or bell; later on raised to its present height and a bell procured.

Deacon David McEwen told the society that if they would get a bell so heavy that he could not life it, that he would give them $100, to help improve the church; they procured one that weighted 700 lbs. but he raised it with a lever and struck it with a hammer so that it rung, but as they came so near following his direction, the gave them the hundred dollars. Deacon McEwen died in 1842 aged 66 years.

When my grandfather Wm. Church came to Oxford to district school, from Chestnut Tree Hill, from the place where Frank Curtiss now lives, when he was 10 years old, the school house stood where the church now is.

That bell stayed till 1870 when it became broken and they procured one from New Haven where the church had been discarded.

Chestnut Tree Hill was so named because the whole hill was covered with chestnut trees when the country was new.

Riggs street had a family of the name of Riggs in about every house, until we reach the Uncle Sam Wheeler place where Mrs. Osborn now lives; her husband who died a few years ago, Orlando C. Osborn was a great-grandson of Squire Wheeler.

As we proceed and pass the Towantic Station and turn towards Naugatuck (which used to be called Salem) we pass a lane leading up to an old fashioned house, which used to be called The Old Parson Prindle place, has later been called the Reuben Hine place.

Here lived Mr. Prindle, who owned that farm, who spent 50 years in the ministry. About 30 years were spent in Oxford, Salem and Bethany. He rode to Bethany horseback and carried his robes in his saddle bags; he would go Saturday and stay overnight with some of the good brethren, preach at two services on Sunday, and return Monday, change his clothes and go to work on his farm like any other farmer. His wife kept cows, made butter and cheese, raised poultry and helped as well as any farmer's wife could. Mr. Prindle died in 1833, was 80 years old.  His wife died in 1840, was 85 years old.

The hill above this house is called Woodruff Hill and it is said to be the highest land in New Haven county. Christian Street was so named because at one time all the men in that street had Bible names for their Christian names.

The road to Quaker Farms was so called because it leads us to the parish of that name. The land was owned from the Housatonic rover over to this stream in Oxford center by a man who was a Quaker and because he lived over that side that parish was called "Quakers Farm."

He had a little cabin near the old Hawkins homestead. The junior Silas Hawkins showed me the location.

According to traditionary account he was a farmer, a hunter, a fisherman, a bachelor, a hermit, a Quaker, and his name was Griffin. It was said he procured the land of the Indians.

Here we can say like the poet Goldsmith:
"Far in a wild, unknown to public view,
From youth to age a rev'rent hermit grew;
The moss his bed, the cave his humble cell,
His food the fruit5s, his drink the crystal well."
(But not quite the well in this case.)
But, out of the wind in a quiet little nook
Close by the side of a clear running brook.

It is not likely that there is any record of this, but it is well established by tradition enough to give a name to the parish. Probably no records here at that time.

Mr. Zachariah Hawkins lived in the house which has since been called the Judge Meigs place; was a son of Robert Hawkins of Derby, who came from England in the reign of King George 3rd.

Zachariah Hawkins owned land quite extensively in Quakers Farm, even to the Housatonic river and owned an island in the river. He had four wives and 14 children with the three first wives.  He died in 1806.  His son Silas owned and lived in the old-fashioned red homestead called the old Hawkins homestead, and raised six children. His son Silas, Jr. lived there but never married. His brother Charles lived in the same street and his grandchildren now occupy the old place whose names are Roberts, they being the fifth generation in the old homestead.

The Quaker Farms church was built in 1814, by subscriptions.  Mr. Asa Hawkins who gave timber was a Methodist, Deacon McEwen who gave money was a Presbyterian, and all expected it to be kept a Union church, but for some reason the Episcopalians seem to have the whole charge of it.

It has been said that Esquire David Tomlinson was the first mover in having the church built; he lived nearby and only raised a moderate family of 14 children, had a farm and store, and quite a number of helpers of men and women, both black and white, and as he had to come to Oxford to church, when the old church stood up by the cemetery, he had to provide quite a number of vehicles to bring them.  He would drive up to Southford (Slap Jack as it was called then) and down the main street through Oxford center, and attend two services and return by the old Church road, or by the old Doctor Dutton Road.  The road from the Bennet Perry place to Governors Hill was not built until 1830 and as the "Colored Folk" had to go too, there was one load of them, which concluded the rear of the procession.  Esquire Tomlinson was once state senator. He died in 1822, aged 61 years.

When Oxford had several kinds of manufacturing in progress (which might be revived now as we have better facilities for travel and transporting than ever before), this was then quite a market.  The people of Danbury, Litchfield and Waterbury sold here their horses, cattle, corn and wine which were largely shipped form hence to foreign ports in exchange for foreign commodities.

Now people of the present generation, who look at Oxford as it is today, they will say that is rather a magnified account, but here is the authority for it.  This item was published in the "Hartford Daily Courant in February 1886, copied from Hon. David Tomlinson's account books:

"As late as 1840, there were no less than 14 places for manufacturing goods of some kind adjoining the main street between Southford and Seymour. "

At the old factory which has now fallen down, below Mr. Randel's, Samuel Wire made satinet said to be a very strong goods. When he left it, Mr. Ormsby carded and spun stocking yarn there.

At the place now owned by Miss Buckingham, formerly the A. B. Hinman place, was a cloth carding machine, operated by Nicholas Bidwell. Later on Mr. Cyrus Fenn operated a tannery there. He moved to New London, and Mr. Hinman succeeded him, but his was of short duration as he soon engaged in other business.

The region below here as far as the old church corner and below there was called Old Pumpkin Hollow.

Opposite where Miss Buckingham now lives was a sawmill run by the Perry's and Mr. Burritt Davis.

Where Mr. J. B. Sanford lives was a carriage shop and a blacksmith shop in the rear, which was burned.

Mr. Hoxie's house was a wagon shop run by Daniel Gillott.

Prior to 1840 there was a cloth carding factory in what is now called the "Crofut Inn." Judge Wilcoxson's second wife said she remembered when it was in operation.

Mr. David Clark's tailoring shop stood where the shop has lately been burned, which was also burned in 1868.

The hat shop on the opposite side of the street was run by Riggs &  Ransom, later on by Mr. Dunham.

Where the school house now stands was Mr. Dunham's store.

Just above there on the same side of the street was Mr. Daniel Tucker's cart and wheel shop.

In the same yard adjoining that shop was a brick yard and kiln.

Where the Babcock family have lately inhabited (formerly the Shelton Smith place) Mr. John Limberner lived (father of the late Robert B. Limberner) and had a coopers shop. His wife took in weaving. An old woman in the neighborhood did her washing in a half bushel measure. Mr. Limberner told her that she had better have him make a tub for her as she would spoil the measure using it so, but she was a little too close to pay him for making a tub, so he said she kept on awadling away in her half bushel.

Where Mr. Samuel E. Hubbell now lives, Mr. Harvey Smith lived, he ran a cooper shop.

Opposite Mr. Smith's was a sawmill called the Jordan sawmill, owned by Mr. Jeremiah Twitchel, in Christian Street.

Where the settlement of houses are as we proceed above the Quakers Farm it once was called Red City, as all the houses at one time were red. There was the manufacturing place for the frames of the daguerreotype likeness. One shop was burned in the winter of 1854-5.

Later on Mr. William Tucker made horse hay rakes there. A shop was burned there in September 1865.

Where Mr. Pope now lives Mr. William Morris lived and ran a cooper's shop.

Where Mrs. Elizur Whitehead lives, formerly Mr. Butler's, Mr. Ethel Blackman lived and made saddles and harnesses.

At the next place above where Mr. Fields now lives, there was a slaughter house across the yard, run by Buckingham & Wheeler.

Mr. Willis Smith lived where Mrs. Frasier now lives, and had a shop and did coopering.

The next house above Mrs. Frasier's on the opposite side of the road, which has lately been Rev. Mr. Adams', Mr. Asal Towner lived, who did blacksmithing and made edge tools of good quality, scythes, axes, bush-axes, butcher knives and various other articles. There were so many of the name in that district that it was called Towner Town, but now not one of the name is left in town, though we have a few of their descendants here of other names.

Dr. Hosea Dutton I think must have been the first doctor settled here.  Later his son, Dr. Thomas A. Dutton, whose full name was Thomas Albert Jefferson Bonaparte Dutton, but he very wisely abbreviated it.  Afterwards Dr. Stone. In 1840 Dr. Lounsbury came, later on Dr. Barnes. Now we are entirely without any Hippocratical aid except by sending out of town.

Oxford has always been famous as being a very healthy place. Several residents have lived to be 100 years old and over that, and several very near 100.   Dr. Lounsbury composed a little poem of their names.

Great cities oft can boast of wealth,
But Oxford is the place for health.
Oxford is noted for aged men,
Black Harry Lou was a hundred and ten.
He was survived by Katy his wife,
Who saw a hundred years, the extent of her life.
At Dinah's vineyard did Carter thrive.
And died at the age of a hundred and five.
Aunt Clara Wooster we have doubt
Was one hundred and four and very stout.
Clarissa Williams, one hundred and one,
Shook hands with General Washington.
Widow David Peck lived a hundred years
Before she left this vale of tears.

William Morris surviving his mate,
Died at the age of ninety-eight.
Samuel Bassett was ninety-five
And left quite a posterity alive.
His wife lived about ninety-one years
Was a good churchman and died without fears.
Lieutenant John Griffin was ninety-eight
And left Dinah alone who had been his mate.

Aunt Rhoda Bunnel was ninety-one, weaving had done
John Dutton, the old doctor's father was ninety we see.
And his wife Abigail was ninety-three
Mrs. Arad Skeels a good woman, of good will
Lived ninety-eight years and died on Good Hill.
Captain Zachariah Hawkins was ninety years old,
And raised a family of fourteen, as the records have told.

Mrs. Caroline Bronson, yet living here
Has already completed her ninetieth year.
And she has not been a lazy one,
For many years of nursing she has done.
And of other work, she was not afraid
On most any calling her hands were laid
And she is now as lively a widow in her march
As the younger widows where ever you search.

All the old people in this list have been hard laboring people. By their labor and exercise they formed a strong constitution which enabled them to hold out in body and mind, with much more vigor than the kings and queens who live in ease and luxury and fall at an early age.  Only one king in England has been known to be 80 years old; This was King George 3rd, his grand-daughter, Queen Victoria was in her 82nd year.

Here we can see that it is good to follow the advice of the "Old Book." -- "Do whatever thy hand findeth to do and do it with thy might.|
And now we will try and relish with content,
Whatever Providence has sent,
Nor aim beyond our power;
For if our stock be very small,
'Tis honest to enjoy it all,
And never waste a pleasant hour.


(Thanks to Mrs. Fred (Myrtle) Rowland for loaning us her copy of this newsclipping and to Mrs. Raymond (Audrey Cable) Linke for the use of the photograph of Miss Lounsbury)