In the beginning. . .
Originally part of Derby, Oxford was first settled as a collection of farms, establishing itself as a separate "parish" in 1741 and becoming incorporated by the General Assembly in 1798. The desire to separate was a practical one. Residents from the Oxford district traveled about nine miles each Sunday to the Derby Meeting House. According to the Litchfield-Hoyt History of Oxford, "The going to meetings so far away, each Sabbath Day, and staying there for two services, one in the morning, and the other in the afternoon was so difficult that it is small wonder that a demand arose among the people living in the Oxford district to be 'set off' as a separate parish." And so three groups of people petitioned the General Assembly. They included:
- those dwelling in the "northwest part of Derby".
- those from "the southwest part of Waterbury Woods" in the old society of Waterbury.
- those from Southbury.
Making a Living
In addition to agriculture, Oxford was known for its variety of mills along its waterways. A number of mills, including a sawmill, grist mill and paper mill, were located at the site of what is now Southford Falls on Route 188, north of the Quaker Farms section of town. Hospitality was another industry in town since the main thoroughfare, established in 1798 as The Oxford Turnpike and now known as Route 67, was used to transport agricultural products from Litchfield County to markets in New York. Two of the stops along the way were the Oxford House, still a restaurant in the center of town, and the Washband Tavern, a notable building overlooking the southern end of Route 67. Dairy and chicken farming were chief industries for many years, also. Eventually, a large part of the population went to work in factory towns stretching from Bridgeport to Naugatuck and Waterbury.
Schooling Our Children
Many Oxford residents remember attending neighborhood schoolhouses. In 1837, there were reportedly 15 schools in the town.
A new era in Oxford education was born with the dedication of Oxford Centralized School (for Grades 1 through 8) in 1948. Today, the school known as Oxford Center School, houses Grades 3, 4 and 5. Quaker Farms School has students in Kindergarten through Grade 2 and Great Oak School is for students in Grades 6, 7 and 8. Over the years, Oxford had agreements with Seymour, then Southbury, and back to Seymour for students to attend high school in those towns. Today, the town has its own Oxford High School.
One of the Fastest Growing Towns in Connecticut
Oxford has had its ups and downs in population trends. In 1800, shortly after the town was incorporated, it had just over 1,000 residents. The number increased slightly and then decreased, followed by some fluctuation until an all-time low of just less than 1,000 residents in the 1890s. In the 1950s, Oxford's population reached 2,000 and has been rising substantially ever since. Today the population is greater then 12,000.
There’s a Lot More to the Story . . .
The information compiled here is to provide a brief overview of the history of Oxford. There are many more stories, details and statistics. For more historical information, please visit these Web sites:
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