In 1774 one of the first bands of Yorkshire settlers sailed to the new world from Hull, England on the ship “Albion”. Among the passengers was a Yorkshire-born farmer named Richard Thompson, whose reason for leaving home was simply that “Lord Bruce had raised the rent”.
On March 14, 1774, Thompson arrived at Fort Cumberland (now Fort Beausejour) in Nova Scotia. Dorothy Patter (who settled in the area, originally from Ireland) became his wife in the same year. They settled in Jolicure (near Sackville, NB) and had nine children. They farmed in this area for several years until February 1st, 1792, Richard Thompson purchased 1500 acres of land where the Town of Oxford now stands.
Joining the Thompsons as early settlers were the Woods, Wells, Oxley, Black, Chapman, Taylor, Bulmore, Carter, Johnson, Ripley, Robinson, Baker, Atkinson, Purdy, Dixon, Brundage, Fillmore, Tait and Manil.
A grant of $60 enabled Richard Thompson to build a sawmill, the settlement’s first industry. The dam which powered the old sawmill was located near what is today the Black River Bridge on Black River. The three rivers surrounding the town provided food, transportation and an easy source of power.
The early industries were, predictably, farming and lumbering. The community in the 1880’s became known as “Slab Town” because of the many sawmills in the town. Squire R. Thompson started the Woollen Mills in 1867. Around 1858 George D. Hewson started a store on the bank of the Black River. It was he who suggested finding a less cumbersome name for the community. A meeting was arranged and an old farmer from Leicester named Jessie Bent proposed a “good old English name” – Oxford. By now some of the families included Gilroys and Lawthers from Maccan, Reids and Dunsmores from Scotland and Macintoshes and McPhees from Pictou. The population was growing.
The name itself is derived from the fact that early settlers discovered that the shallow river was easy to navigate with oxen carts. Thus it followed that the area became known as an oxen crossing and a settlement arose in the site. The rivers continued to play an integral part in Oxford's early history. While the area established itself as a major lumbering centre, sawmills and river dams were in abundance.
In fact, the rivers were used to power the sawmills which built the homes, to grind the grain in Oxford's early grist mills and to power the woollen mill which was built on the banks of the River Philip. Situated directly behind our century-old United Church, in the Pioneer Cemetery, there stands a monument to the Town's founder - Richard Thompson."