History of OXFORD
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History and Engraving by John Warner Barber 1845
OXFORD. 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 Black well, 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 Charlton and 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 thou- sand 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 em- powering 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., vho, 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 set- tlers 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 Benja- min Faneuil.* * Other settlements of French Protestants were made in different places in America, (principally in New York, Virginia, and Carolina.) Some of the descendants of these people have rendered distinguished services to our country. Of the nine presidents of the old congress, who conducted the United States through the revolutionary war, three were descendants of French refugees who had emigrated to America in conse- quence of the revocation of the edict of Nantz. These were Henry Laurens of South Carolina, John Jay of New York, and Elias Boudinot of New Jersey. 594 OXFORD. Site of the French Fort on Mayors Hill, Oxford, Mass. 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, ex- cept 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 fort to the westward of this, on the first elevation, seen beyond the re- mains of the fort. It is probable the church and bury ing-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 : Track'd by the vengeful native ; yet to rear Their temple to the Eternal Sire, and pay Unfetterd 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." " 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 rnark'd The everlasting forest's gloomy shade, The uncultured vale, the snow invested heath, At the abdication of the Huguenots, the lands of the township reverted to the pro- prietors, 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.