Cultural Resources: Colonial Port of Entry, customs house, tobacco inspection warehouse 1780,shipbuilding, museum, steamboat landing.
Oxford is located on the southern tip of a peninsula formed by the Tred Avon River and Town Creek. Oxford was established as a port of entry in 1683. The town was laid out in 1684 and again in 1694. When Maryland instituted an official inspection system for quality of tobacco in 1747, a public warehouse for this purpose was established at Oxford. Robert Morris Inn incorporates parts of the 1774 Morris House where Robert Morris Sr. (1711-1750) lived from 1738 until his accidental death in 1750 from a cannon salute. Morris operated a cloth factory; he obtained a contract to cloth the Maryland troops with Manx cloth from his store at Oxford after the outbreak of the Kings George’s war in 1744 between France and England. A tobacco inspection station was established at Oxford at least by 1763. During the early eighteenth century Oxford boasted seventeen large warehouses, several of which were operated by Morris, factor for Foster Cunliffe & Sons of Liverpool, England. Oxford Museum located in the Town Hall (corner of Morris and Market Streets) contains history of Oxford. A Customs House is located along the waterfront west of the ferry terminal. Jerome Richardson operated a shipyard here from 1844 to 1849. Two oysterhouses, a steam sawmill, a marine railway and Benson & Bateman Shipyard were located along Water Street (Town Creek side of town), as well as a packing house and steamboat wharf along Front Street (Tred Avon [“Third Haven”] River) in 1877. At the entrance to Town Creek “Herrs” [or Lerrs?] Landing is indicated in the same atlas. Two smaller wharves were located on Town Point where the Tred Avon Yacht Club now stands. In the same area a tomato canning plant and a two-story ice house was built to store block ice shipped from as far north as Kennebec, Maine. A steamboat wharf was located at the foot of Morris Street. Steamers ran to Oxford at least by 1852. The Baltimore, Chesapeake & Atlantic Railroad Company steamboats used this wharf from at least 1906 until 1921.
A second area of commercial building was located at the northeastern end of the Strand, then called Front Street. William P. Benson and Nathaniel Leonard (see also Jamaica Point) established a shipyard here in 1866 in partnership with Henry E. Bateman. Three years later Leonard became the proprietor of the nearby steam sawmill. Benson continued the shipyard til at least 1892. He built at least five bugeyes (round bottomed, two-masted sailing oyster dredge boats).
A third center of commercial activity was located just south of Oxford on the west side of the Oxford Neck at the end of Pier Street. Here the Maryland and Delaware railroad wharf and terminal was established in 1781. The railroad ran parallel to the Oxford-Easton Road. An engine manufacturing plant and seafood processing plant were also located near the railroad terminal.
Side Bar: During the American Civil War, Oxford became the principal embarkation point for slaves who were willing to join the Union Army in return for their freedom. The slaveholders believed the federal recruiters were stealing their property leaving them with no men to care for their crops. On September 18, 1863 the steamboat Champion departed Oxford wharf for Camp Stanton on the Patuxent River where African-Americans were trained for war. Quaker James Dixon stated:
The owners and others stood silent and thoughtful upon the wharf and beach, and as the steamer moved off, the colored people on board, waving their hats in good bye, brook out into one of their jubilant hymns such as they were accustomed to sing in their religious meetings, for having no patriotic songs those hymns were converted into songs of deliverance from slavery.