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Most Oxfords in America today can trace their ancestry back to John Oxford who immigrated in 1652 from England to America to the Northern Neck of Virginia, the narrow peninsula between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. Although John lived in the same area in Virginia for all of his life in America, Virginia was creating new counties and the county lines kept changing. John’s home in Virginia was first in Northumberland County (formed in 1645), then Westmorland 1653), then Rappahannock (1656), then Stafford (1664), then Richmond (1692), and finally King George County (formed in 1720 just after the death of John). Transcriptions of the records of these counties can be found in the Virginia State Library in Richmond, Virginia.
Searching these records is further complicated in that John Oxford was not literate and signed all documents such as his Will and Testament with his mark. The court recorders tried to spell the name phonetically using the spellings: Oxford, Hoxford, Auxford, Hauxford, Hawksford, Axford, and Haxford. All of these spelling make sense knowing that the beginning “H” is silent and the “o” or “a” is pronounced like the “a” in father. After John’s death, the Oxford spelling was standardized by his widow and children. In this paper the standardized Oxford spelling will be used throughout for simplicity.
Birth in England.
John Oxford was born on 29 April 1639 in Potton Parish in Bedfordshire on the
Cambridgeshire county border in England. The birth is recorded in the Potton Parish Church Register. Transcriptions of the parish church registers in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire can be found in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. John’s parents are listed as Wendy Oxford and Elizabeth (whose maiden name has been later determined to be Welbore). John’s next siblings were born in Potton and in Foxton just across the county border in Cambridgeshire on the road from Cambridge south to London. John’s youngest brother was born in London but he died young. The Oxford brothers with their birth dates and locations are: John (1639, Potton), Thomas (1641, Potton), Wendy Jr (1647, Foxton), Philip (1649, Foxton), and Alexander (1651, London).
These parish churches are located in small farming communities with populations of about 200 or less. The most well known of these villages is Foxton due to the book “The Common Stream, Two Thousand Years of the English Village” by Rowland Parker. The archaeology and history of this village where John lived for a time as a child shows Celtic occupation, ruins of a Roman villa, a Saxon cemetery, Norman land grants, and the establishment of a manor system in which the village and land are owned by a Lord of the Manor and the villagers pay to live there by giving part of their time, farm produce, or money to the Lord of the Manor. Most of the villagers were farmers. However, John’s father was not a farmer but was rather a military officer raised to the rank of captain in the royal army of King Charles I in 1642.
Reason for Leaving England.
Immigration is usually caused by both a push and a pull. The pull for John to
immigrate to America was for the economic opportunity. However, the push was as a direct result of the great English Civil War (1642-1651) raging in England at that time between the armies of Parliament against the royal armies of King Charles I of England. John’s father Wendy Oxford was a captain in the royal army in the Garrison of Sir Samuel Lukes and led his army unit throughout the war. The royal armies were losing and on 3 January 1649 King Charles I was captured and executed. The war finally ended in the victory of the Parliamentary army at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651. Captain Wendy Oxford got caught up in the aftermath revenge and retribution against royalist supporters and officers. In this aftermath, the Oxford family in England was disrupted and the final result was the immigration of John Oxford to America.
John’s father, Captain Wendy Oxford was arrested, charged with a crime of perjury in his support of his fellow royalist Lord Howard of Escrick, and was tried and found guilty by Parliament. The minutes of the English House of Commons outline the trial. The punishment is recorded on 25 Jun 1651. The entry in the “House of Commons Journal”, Volume 6, 25 June 1651, pages 591-2 is as follows:
“It was resolved that the Parliament doth adjudge and declare that Wendy Oxford is guilty of perjury and subornation of perjury. Resolved that the said Wendy Oxford be fined five hundred pounds. Resolved that the said Wendy Oxford be adjudged to stand in the pillory in the new palace yard in Westminster and at the Exchange in London. Resolved that the said Wendy Oxford be imprisoned in Newgate for three months. Resolved that the said Wendy Oxford be, from and after the end of the said three months, banished from this commonwealth, and not to return upon pain of death.”
On 20 January 1652, the minutes of the House of Commons show that the punishments of standing in the pillory and the jail sentence were removed, but the huge fine and banishment punishments were confirmed. The family was ruined and destitute. Wendy went into exile in the Netherlands. His wife Elizabeth and youngest sons were given refuge in Foxton by a royalist friend who arranged for Elizabeth to continue dwelling in the house where she was living for a rent of only one penny per year and for the young sons Wendy Jr and Philip to enter an apprenticeship. Wendy’s oldest son John Oxford at the age of 13 found a way to immigrate to Virginia and start a new life in 1652. Soon afterward, the second son, Thomas, also immigrated to America.
Immigration to America.
In 1652 the young John Oxford arrived in Virginia. He, like most poor immigrants to Virginia, had contracted to come as an indentured servant in which his ocean transportation was to be paid by five years of service to the person paying for his transportation. The book, “Cavaliers and Pioneers”, Patent Book No. 3 on page 275 lists John Oxford as being transported by the Mrs. Jane Harmer who had a tobacco plantation of 2,000 acres along Potomac Creek in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Mrs. Harmer was the wife of Ambrose Harmer, the Speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses who lived in Jamestown. It can be assumed that John Oxford worked his five years of service on the Harmer Plantation along the Potomac and Passapatanzy Creeks in what is today Stafford and King George Counties. For John, this service would have been somewhat like an apprenticeship learning the tobacco growing business first hand.
On 10 September 1661 John’s brother Thomas (b. 1641) also immigrated to Virginia. The “Bristol Register of Servants Sent to Foreign Plantations” by Peter Wilson Oldham reports “Thomas Oxford to John Smith, 5 years, Virginia, 10 September 1661.”
Thomas is apprenticed in Bristol England and transported to John Smith in Virginia to serve as an apprentice. Thomas arrived in the Northern Neck of Virginia where his brother John had earlier landed but in 1671 he moved across the bay to Somerset
County Maryland with his wife Susan. By 1675 he was listed as selling tobacco. In 1683 he purchased land. He died 26 May 1721 in Somerset County Maryland. Thomas had two daughters, Comfort and Ann Mary, and one son who did not marry.
Intermediate Years (1657-1687) for John Oxford
Most young indentured servants after fulfilling their service requirement became tenant farmers to earn enough money to purchase land. There is some indication that John Oxford worked on the William Heaberd plantation on Passapatanzy and Poultridges Creeks near the Harmer Plantation as John was later called to testify in court as to the legal heir of the Heaberd land indicating that John knew details of the Heaberd family.
John Oxford might possibly have been married in this intermediate period as there are four Oxfords with unknown parentage (James, William, John, and Higgin) with approximate birth dates in this period who lived in northern Virginia, but there is no written documentation for a marriage of John Oxford in this period.
Marriage and Plantation.
On 1 July 1687 John Oxford at age 48 married Sainty Jay, widow of Josiah Mason. On 2 May 1688, the Rappahannock court records show that John sued the executors of the Josiah Mason estate on behalf of his wife Sainty for her share of the inheritance. On 4 January 1700, a boy was apprenticed to John Oxford and his wife Sainty. The last mention of Sainty Oxford is in 1709 when she relinquished her dower rights to land being sold by her husband. In 1709 the elderly John Oxford seems to have married Elizabeth (surname unknown) and had two additional children. It is Elizabeth who is listed as his wife on the sale of part of his plantation in 1717 and it is Elizabeth who is his wife at his death in 1719.
On 7 October 1691 John Oxford registered a deed for 100 acres of land purchased from his fellow indentured servant Robert Vincent on the west side of Poultridges Creek in the Northern Neck of Virginia. This land was originally part of a 1700 acre grant on the Potomac River made on 1 June 1664 to John Washington, great-grandfather of President George Washington.
On 12 December 1704 John Oxford bought the adjacent 100 acres on the east side of Poultridges Creek from the estate of his friend Robert Vincent. (Richmond County Deed Book #3, page 67). John’s total tobacco plantation of 200 acres was in Hanover Parish in what is now King George County, Virginia. In later documents, John is called John Oxford of Hanover Parish.
John Oxford established a tobacco plantation on his land on Poultridges Creek. There are several references in the Richmond County records of tobacco transactions related to John Oxford. In 1699 a suit was brought against John Oxford for supplying “trash tobacco” in one instance. A special exhibit of tobacco labels at the History Museum inside the Air and Space Museum in Hampton, Virginia, displayed a label “Axford’s Best Virginia Tobacco”. The exhibit stated that each plantation in early Virginia had a label for shipping hogsheads of tobacco to England. This label probably relates to John Oxford’s tobacco plantation.
On 23 December 1717 (Richmond County Deeds 1714-1720) “John Oxford of Hanover Parish in the County of Richmond, Planter”, leased to Henry Wood for five shillings of lawful money of England for one year that parcel of land being 100 acres of land situated in Hanover Parish on the eastern side of Poultridges Creek. The creek divided the land from the remaining land of John Oxford. On 4 June 1718 John Oxford sold the land to Henry Wood for 7,000 pounds of “good sound leaf tobacco”.
Last Will and Testament.
The entire handwritten Will of John Oxford is recorded in the Richmond County
Will Book #4, 1717-1725. It was recorded on 4 March 1719. John died on 1 March 1719. The Will is indexed under the name “John Hoxford of Hanover Parish, Richmond County, Virginia”. Here are some excerpts from the Will:
I, John Hoxford of the Parish of Hanover in Richmond County in Virginia … bequeath unto my loving wife Elizabeth fifty acres of land … upon the uppermost side of the main branch of Poultridges Creek being that part of my plantation whereon my house now stands. … The other half or remaining part of my plantation … I have lately sold. … It is also my will and desire that the said fifty acres of land given to my wife Elizabeth Hoxford that she may have … liberty and full power … to sell and dispense of the same … to pay my debts and for the support of herself and family. … I appoint my loving wife Elizabeth Hoxford my whole and sole executor of my last Will and Testament. (Elizabeth’s name is spelled Hoxford in the Will, but all later documents concerning the estate use the standard Elizabeth Oxford spelling.) John Oxford signed the Will with his mark.
On 4 March 1719 Elizabeth Oxford sold, for 6,000 pounds of tobacco, land on Poultridges Creek including the plantation, orchards, water courses, and the house where Elizabeth lived. After Elizabeth sold the plantation she and her younger children moved a few miles north to St. Paul’s Parish in Stafford County. The St. Paul’s parish register records that on 3 June 1725 Elizabeth Oxford, widow of John Oxford, married Richard Thomson.
Children of John Oxford and Sainty Jay:
1. Sarah (Born about 1690) (Married William Willis and then Rush Hudson.)
2. Roger (1692-1759) (Married Margaret Kirtley and lived in Culpepper County VA, just upriver from the John Oxford plantation. In 1727 Roger Oxford “of Hanover Parish in King George County” bought 400 acres of land in Culpepper County. In 1758 Roger
Oxford was listed in the Will of Robert “King” Carter as an overseer of one of the Carter properties. Roger’s Will was recorded in Culpepper County where he died on 15 March 1759. He had children Hannah (1714-1781), John (1716-1785), Mary
(1720-1757), Winifred (1724-1755), and Thomas (1728-1792).
3. Samuel Oxford (Sr.) (1696-1773) (Married Mary Brown.) In 1752 Samuel Oxford (Sr) migrated with two of his sons John (1731-1778) and Samuel (Jr.) (1742-1811) to North Carolina. Samuel Oxford (Jr) is the most well known of the Oxfords. He was the Samuel who married Bathsheba Barrett, operated a ferry at Oxford Ford NC, and had nine children most of whom moved west to Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas. One son of Samuel (Jr) was James Oxford (1768-1846)
who married Hannah Barnes (1778-1849) and was the only Oxford son to remain in North Carolina.
4. Sarah Elizabeth. (Born about 1701). (Married Joel Terrell.)
Children of John Oxford and Elizabeth:
1. Elizabeth (Born about 1710) (Married Samuel Boling.) Their marriage was recorded in the St. Paul’s Parish register in Stafford County along with the re-marriage of her mother Elizabeth and the births of the children of her brother Samuel (Sr) Oxford.
2. Jane (Born about 1711) (Married Thomas Waring.)
It is hoped that future articles may be written about the ancestors of John Oxford, about his grandson Samuel Oxford (Jr) who married Bathsheba Barrett, and about his great grandson James Oxford of NC who married Hannah Barnes.
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