OXFORD FURNACE LAKE PARK
Oxford, Warren County, NJ
711 acres


Directions:

It is located west of Route 31 in the town of Oxford.

There was construction in the town center so I had to take a slight detour. Route 46 west; Route 31; in Oxford, left turn onto Kent; left turn onto Washington Avenue; right turn onto Jonestown road; right turn onto Kauffmann Drive; and drive .8 of a mile to the park entrance. All the driving distances from turn to turn involve only small distances, since the lake is not far from downtown.


History of the Area:

1690 -- Jonathan Robeson born in Gloucester county in the vicinity of Clonmel Creek.

1702 -- Jonathan moves with his father to Philadelphia.

1716 -- Jonathan lives near Amity in the vicinity of the Manatawny Creek.

1730-38 -- Jonathan is a member of the Colonial Assembly. Moves to Hunterdon County while still retaining his residence in Pennsylvania.

1741 -- The Shippens were a socially prominent and wealthy Philadelphia family. Joseph Shippen, Jr. acquired title to the site of what was to be Oxford Furnace, New Jersey around 1741.

1742 -- Oxford Furnace built by Jonathan Robeson of Philadelphia.

Here is a charcoal-blast iron smelter that produced cannonballs for the French and Indian Wars. Operations continued at Oxford until 1884.

1749 -- three-quarters of the furnace worth purchased by Dr. William Shippen, Sr.

1754 -- The Manor was built in 1754, by William Shippen II and his brother Joseph Shippen II.. Shippen Manor emphasizes the position of the Shippens in the local society. The estate contained over four thousand acres including land on the Delaware River and a grant from the King of England to operate a ferry. The estate was basically self-sufficient, surrounded by tenant farms, various mills, a store as well as the iron furnace.

The Manor is Georgian in style, constructed from local stone, two foot thick stone walls, and three immense chimneys. The ground floor consisted of six rooms. Upstairs there were two bed chambers and four garret rooms (currently unrestored and used for storage). When the Manor was built in 1754, it was designed to be functional rather than luxurious.

The mansion was located on the old stage coach road running from Scranton to New York. Joseph W. Shippen entertained in lavish style some of the most prominent families of New York and Philadelphia. His brother Dr. William Shippen, Jr., (Chief Physician of the Flying Camp and Director General of Hospitals of the Continental Army) frequently visited as well as Benedict Arnold, who married Joseph's cousin, Peggy (Margaret) Shippen. She also visited the Shippens at Oxford.

1756 -- Dr. Shippen places his son, Joseph W. Shippen, in charge of the estate. Dr. Shippen leases the furnace to Jacob Starn (Shippen and Starn's furnace).  An iron forge was established by Col. Mark Thomson at Changewater Forge (now Village of Changewater) and during the 1750s it was managed by Jacob Starn.

Dr. William Shippen, Jr. and Nicholas Biddle of Philadelphia gain title to the property.

In the early 1760's Joseph W. Shippen was installed by his father, William II, to manage the property. He secured the services of a local farm girl by the name of Martha Axford as "housekeeper". During their period of "housekeeping", they had seven children. To date no evidence has been found of a marriage taking place. Joseph W. died intestate (without a will), in 1795 his father, William II, came to live in the Manor to "administer his son's estate and oversee furnace operations." William is said to have grown fond of his grandchildren in spite of his disapproval of Joseph W. and Martha's (d. 1798) relationship and provided for all his grandchildren in his will. William II owned the Manor until his death, in 1801, in Germantown, Pennsylvania.

1764 -- the furnace offered for sale with about 4,000 acres of land by Joseph and Dr. Shippen.

Next lessee = firm of Roberdau, Showers, and Campbell.

1806 -- succeeded by Conrad Davis.

1809 -- David Morris Robeson, grandson of Jonathan Robeson, purchases the works from the Shippen estate. Later permanently moves to Oxford.

Furnace out of blast for 20 years.

Next owners = William P. Robeson and John P. B. Maxwell (his brother-in-law).

1831 = leased to William Henry, John Jordon, Jr, and John F. Walle.

1839 = sold out to George W. and Selden T. Scranton.

1882 = the furnace went out of blast. Later rebuilt and ran again.

1925 = final blast.

Information from: Charles S. Boyer. 1931. Early Forges and Furnaces in New Jersey. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Shippen Manor

Shippen Manor (8 Belvidere Avenue, Oxford, NJ (908)453-4381). This is a restored 240 year old manor serves as museum/cultural center for Warren County. Oxford Furnace was the site of the first hot blast furnace in America. Visit the ruins of longest continuous iron producer in the United States from 1741-1884. Guided tours, by costumed docents, first and second Sundays of each month from 1:00pm-4:00pm. excluding holidays; Wednesdays for groups by appointment. Special events are scheduled throughout the year. Donation The Methodist Church was built from a gristmill which was part of the ironworks.

Shippen Manor, an 18th. century iron master's residence associated with the operation of the Oxford Furnace, is listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The Manor was in either in private or corporate hands until 1974 when the property was purchased by the State of New Jersey. However, lacking funds for restoration the structure was left to deteriorate until 1984, when efforts of the Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission culminated in the transfer of both Shippen Manor and Oxford Furnace to Warren County. It was at this time that the restoration effort began. (From http://www.wcchc.org/tour.htm; Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission; Self-Guided Tour of Shippen Manor.)


Facilities:

Here there is a lake with swimming facilities. A dam sustains the attractive lake (which is set in a bowl of surrounding mountains/hills). There are also soccer fields and picnic tables.


Trails:

This is only a lighted wooded area with some picnic tables available. You can walk along the stream that flows out of the dam, but there is no official trail here. There is a car/truck path that goes through the woods. Given mistaken directions I first started investigating the area near Washington Avenue. According to one of the residents of Oxford, they used to have a slagheap some 75 feet high, but they finally took it away to use for road building. The plants there have grown up only since the slag heap was taken away. It is a very dry area with lots of left-over slag and trees such as red cedar and cottonwood. (In one area of the woods there is a sign saying No Trespassing, Semi-Game Area, Ducks Flat Gun Club.)


PLANT LIST:
Dr. Patrick L. Cooney


Trees:
Acer negundo (box elder maple)
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood) 5/03/00 lots and lots
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
Populus deltoides (cottonwood)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Prunus sp. (Kwanzan cherries) 5/03/00
Pyrus malus (apple) 5/03/00
Quercus palustris (pin oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak) 5/03/00
Salix sp. (willow)

Shrubs:
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry) 5/03/00
Cornus amomum (swamp dogwood)
Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive) 5/03/00
Lindera benzoin (spicebush)
Lonicera morrowii (Morrow's honeysuckle)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Salix discolor (pussy willow) 5/03/00
Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum) 5/03/00soon

Vines:
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)

Herbs:
Achillea millefolium (yarrow)
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) 5/03/00
Allium vineale (field garlic)
Anemonella thalictroides (rue anemone) 5/03/00
Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the pulpit)
Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)
Barbarea vulgaris (common wintercress) 5/03/00
Centaurea maculata (spotted knapweed)
Coronilla varia? (crown vetch?)
Datura stramonium (jimson weed)
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace)
Dipsacus sylvestris (teasel)
Erigeron annuus (daisy fleabane)
Fragaria virginiana (common strawberry) 5/03/00
Glechoma hederacea (gill over the ground) 5/03/00
Lepidium campestre (field peppergrass) 5/03/00
Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife)
Plantago major (common plantain)
Podophyllum peltatum (may apple)
Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed)
Potentilla canadensis (dwarf cinquefoil) 5/03/00
Stellaria media (common chickweed) 5/03/00
Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) 5/03/00
Trifolium pratense (red clover)
Tussilago farfara (coltsfoot) 5/03/00
Verbascum thapsus (common mullein)
Viola sororia (common blue violet) 5/03/00

Rushes and Sedges:
Eleocharis acicularis (spikerush)

Grasses:
Anthoxanthum odoratum (sweet vernal grass)
Phragmites australis (giant reed grass)

Ferns and Fern Allies:
Equisetum arvense (field horsetail)
Equisetum hyemale (common scouring rush)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)