Accessibility Tools


Oxford station

Pre-settlement Era

The Town of Oxford acknowledges that we are in Mi’kma’ki , the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) People first signed with the British Crown in 1725. The treaties did not deal with the surrender of lands and resources but in fact, recognized Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) titles and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations. 

The three-river confluence (MAP)  upon which Oxford was founded —the River Philip, Black River and Little River — is known as a historic seasonal hunting and fishing area used by the Mi’kmaq People, as evidenced by accounts of encounters between the indigenous peoples and the settler community. Some evidence also exists of long-term usage, in the form of discoveries of arrowheads and other artifacts along the local river banks.


In 1774 one of the first bands of Yorkshire settlers sailed to the new world from Hull, England on the ships “Albion” and “Two Friends.” A Yorkshire-born farmer named Richard Thompson, whose reason for leaving home was simply that “Lord Bruce had raised the rent” was among them.

On March 14, 1774, Thompson arrived at Fort Cumberland (now Fort Beausejour) in Nova Scotia. Dorothy Patton (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, when Richard Thompson purchased 1500 acres of land where the Town of Oxford now stands. 

Other family names of early settlers included Wood, Wells, Oxley, Black, Chapman, Taylor, Bulmore, Carter, Johnson, Ripley, Robinson, Baker, Atkinson, Purdy, Dixon, Brundage, Fillmore, Tait and Manil (information on these early settlers can be gained via the links below).

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 the Black River. The three rivers surrounding the town provided food, transportation and an easy source of power.


The early industries were farming and lumbering.  In the 1880s, the community 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 is derived from early settlers discovering that the shallow river was easy to navigate with oxen carts. Thus it followed that the area became known as oxen crossing and a settlement arose on 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 on Main Street,  in the Pioneer Cemetery, there stands a monument to the Town's founder — Richard Thompson. 


The 1900s saw enormous changes, decade by decade. The introduction of electrification, widespread automobile adoption and new patterns of resource extraction fundamentally changed the use of forests, mineral deposits and river usage. By the mid-century, Oxford was a central destination as well as crossroads for the communities in Cumberland County. This was also the period when waning demand for domestic textiles resulted in the Oxford Woollen Mills closing its doors in 1953 after 86 years of production and employment for local residents.

In the 1960s, the completion of the Moncton, NB to Truro, NS leg of the Trans-Canada Highway resulted in a drastic change in the way people came to —and passed by— the community.  New, faster access to other communities led to changes in shopping and other activities. Cargo traffic began a slow changeover from rail to transport trucking, with far-reaching repercussions for communities as passenger rail travel gradually came to almost completely disappear. 

This was also the period when the Oxford Frozen Foods company was formed, bringing a large commercial enterprise to the town and providing hundreds of new job opportunities. From the 1970s–onward, there came an increasingly rapid generational change as family farms saw their children take up new opportunities for education, with many leaving for the “bright lights of the big city” or joining the westward migration to the oil fields and lucrative jobs, a phenomenon that affected all of Atlantic Canada. Countless farms went fallow, and many others changed over to blueberry production, which increasingly relied less on physical labour and more on mechanization.


The turn of the Century saw Oxford a smaller town, but still a town. In Cumberland County, the once-vibrant towns of Springhill and Parrsboro found themselves unable to sustain their own municipal government and merged with the County municipality. While nearby Pugwash maintains its status as a village, only Oxford and Amherst operate as Town governments.

Helpful Historical Links:

*The Town of Oxford is not responsible for the content of external websites