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THIS town was a grant made by the government, in 1682, to Joseph Dudley, Esq., governor, to William Stoughton,
Esq., Lieut. governor of Massachusetts, to Major Robert Thomson, Messrs. Cox and Blackwell. and associates. It
was styled a tract of land lying in the Nipnet or Nipmuc country,” (the Indian name of which was Mauchaug.) The
grant expressed 8 square miles, but according to the survey and boundaries it comprehended 12 miles in length from
east to west, and about 9 in width, comprehending the whole of Chariton ans a part of Dudley and of Ward.
It was surveyed by Mr. Gore of Roxbury, and a return thereof being made to the general court, they accepted the
same, and on the 16th of May, 1683, they granted the plantation and gave it the name of Oxford. The original proprietors
of Oxford, in the year 1686, took on to the grant 30 families of French Protestants, who were driven out of France
in consequence of the repeal of the edict of Nantz by Louis XIV., in the year 1684. According to a MS. delineation
of the town of Oxford, it was laid out in lots in the names of the original proprietors. Between eleven and twelve
thousand acres at the east end were severed, granted, and set apart for a village, called Oxford. for the said
families.” Some of these people were from Rochelle, in France, or vicinity. They had with them a French Protestant
minister, Mr. Daniel Bondett. They built a meeting house, (which stood near the road leading to Norwich, Conn.)
and near this was their burying ground. They built two forts for defence against the Indians, one of which was
near their meeting house, at the foot of Mayo’s hill; the other, the larger fort, stood on the summit of the hill.
A well in each of the forts is to be seen, though they are both nearly filled up. These settlers set up a grist
and a malt mill, and planted vineyards and orchards, the remains of which are yet to be seen. They acquired the
right of’ representation in the provincial legislature. Of this fact the public records preserve the evidence;
for, in the year 1693, an act was passed empowering Oxford to send a representative to the general court. The French
plantation can be clearly traced down to the year 1696, at which time it was broken up by an incursion of the Indians.
It appears they killed a Mr. John Evans, and John Johnson and three of his children, Mrs. Johnson was saved by
her brother, Mr. Andrew Sigourney, sen., who, hearing the report of the guns. ran to the house and pulled her out
of the back door, (with a child in her arms,) and took her over French river, which they waded through, and fled
towards Woodstock. Conn., where there was a garrison. The Indians killed the children, dashing them against the
jambs of the fireplace. Mr. Johnson, having been to Woodstock, returned as the Indians were massacring his family,
and was shot down at his own door. Upon the dispersion of the French settlers from Oxford, it appears that most
of them went to Boston. It is believed that, after the fear of the Indians had subsided, a few families returned
to Oxford, but most of these went back again to Boston, in about 19 years from the time of their first settlement
of Oxford, about the time of the erection of the first French church in Boston, in 1704-5. Among the French Protestants
who emigrated to Boston and lived for a time in Oxford, were Montel, Jacques Dupen, Capt. Jermon, Peter Cante,
Bereau Caeini, Elie Dupeu, Ober Jermon, Jean Maillet, Andre Segourne, Jean Maillet, ant., Peter Canton, Jean Jeanson,
Mr. Germaine, Jean Beaudoin, — Boudinot, and Benjamin Faneuil.
The above shows the situation (as viewed from the south-east) of the principal fort of the French Protestants,
which they erected as a defence against the Indians on Mayo's Hill. The pile of stones seen near the center of
the engraving, by which a person is standing, shows the precise spot of the cellar of the fort or fortified house.
Mr. Samuel Mayo, on whose farm this interesting relic is situated, has shown a laudable spirit in preserving the
remains of the fort from being obliterated. The well (which is filled up, except a small depression,) was situated
at the feet of the person standing by the stone wall. On the left of the engraving, about four rods south of the
cellar of the fort, is seen a grape vine which was originally planted by the Huguenots. They had another fori to
the westward of this, on the first elevation. seen beyond the remains of the fort. It is probable the church and
burying-ground were near this place. In the distance is seen, to the north-west, the village of Oxford, about one
mile and a fourth in a direct line. This village contains about 40 houses, 2 churches, and a bank. French river
is seen flowing to the eastward of the village. When standing on the site of the fort, the observer has a commanding
prospect, especially to the westward. Wachusett mountain is seen rising in the distance far to the north-west.
The following is an extract from a poetical tribute to the memory of the Huguenots of Oxford, by Mrs. L. H. Sigourney:
"On visiting a vine planted by the Huguenots,
at the ruins of the French Fort at Oxford.
-Not by rash, thoughtless hands.
Who sacrifice to Bacchus, pouring forth
Libations at his altar, with wild songs
Hailing his maddened orgies, wert thou borne
To western climes-but with the suffering band
Of pious Huguenots didst cross the wave,
When they essay'd to plant salvation's vine
In the drear wilderness. Pensive they mark'd
The everlasting forest's gloomy shade,
The uncultured vale, the snow invested heath,
Track'd by the vengeful native; yet to rear
Their temple to the Eternal Sire, and pay
Unfetter'd homage to his name with joy,
Though on their hymn of praise the desert howl'd.
The savage arrows scath'd them, and dark clouds
Involv'd their infant Zion: yet they bore
Toil and affliction with unwavering eye,
Fix'd on the heavens, and firm in hope sublime
Sank to their last repose-Full many a son
Among the noblest of our land looks back
Through time's long vista, and exulting claims
These as their sires."
At the abdication of the Huguenots, the lands of the township reverted to the proprietors, who, on the 8th of July,
1713, granted them to others for a settlement, on condition that their number should amount to 30 families at least.
The requisite number of associates was obtained. The town was incorporated in 1713: about a year and a half from
the date of the grant a distribution was made by lot to the 30 families. The following is the list of persons as
they drew their lots:
Daniel Eliot, Jr.,
Jos. Chamberlin, Jr.
Daniel Eliot, Sen.,
John Chandler, Jr.,
The town of Oxford is not very hilly or uneven. In the center is a large plain, of a mile and a half in length
and about a mile in width, which is nearly all under cultivation. Near the north end of this plain stands the Congregational
meeting-house, and about a mile south of this the meeting-house of the Universalists. The village is mostly built
on one long Street, running nearly north and south. From the plain the land rises on all sides, but not very high.
French river, passing through this town, affords it a fine water power. There are extensive cotton and woollen
manufactories. Oxford Bank has a capital of $100,000. Distance, 10 miles from Worcester and 45 from Boston. Population,
2,047. In 1837 there were 4 cotton mills; cotton spindles, 6,226; cotton goods manufactured, 653,500 yards; value,
$92,685; males employed, 66; females, 67. There were 5 woollen mills, 12½ sets of machinery; cloth manufactured,
184,820 yards; value, $371,915; males employed, 122; females, 78. There were 4,165 pairs of boots and 33,522 pairs
of shoes manufactured; value, $36,794; males employed, 66; females, 45.
The first church was gathered in this town January 18, 1721, and the Rev. John Campbell (a native of Scotland)
was ordained their pastoi ifl March the same year. He died in 1761, and was succeeded by Rev. Joseph Bowman, who
was installed in 1764. Mr. Bowman lived in great harmony with the people until 1775, when the war occasioned differences
among them, which led a number to profess themselves Quakers, and then they "declared themselves to be of
the sect called Universalists." These difficulties led to the dismission of Mr. Bowman in 1782. The following
ministers have succeeded Mr. Bowman: Elias Dudley in 1791, Josiah Moulton in 1805, David Batcheller in 1816, Ebenezer
Newhall in 1823, Loren Robbins in 1832, and Horatio Bardwell in 1836.
The resettlement of the town at first proceeded slowly from fear of the natives, but it is not known, except what
has been related, that any person in Oxford was killed by them. Concerning the Indians, Hutchinson gives the following
"On the 6th of August, 1774, four Indians came upon a small house in Oxford, which was built under a hill.
They made a breach in the roof, and as one of them was attempting to enter he received a shot in his belly from
a courageous woman, the only person in the house, who had two muskets and two pistols charged, and was prepared
for all four, but they thought fit to retreat, carrying off the dead or wounded man. It is a pity the name of this
heroine has not been preserved, that it might be handed down to latest posterity."
Historical Collections Relateing to the
History and Antiquities of
Every town in Massachusetts with
By John Warner Barber.
Published by Warren Lazell.