Oxford, Maryland

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Oxford is a waterfront town and former colonial port in Talbot County, Maryland, United States. The population was 771 at the 2000 census.



Oxford is one of the oldest towns in Maryland. While Oxford officially marks the year 1683 as its founding because in that year it was first named by the Maryland General Assembly as a seaport, the town began between 1666 and 1668 when 30 acres (120,000 m2) were laid out as a town called Oxford by William Stephens, Jr.. By 1669 one of the first houses was built for Innkeeper Francis Armstrong (see Talbot County Land Records, A 1, f. 10/11).[1] Oxford first appears on a map completed in 1670, and published in 1671.[2] In 1694, Oxford and a new town called Anne Arundel (now Annapolis) were selected as the only ports of entry for the entire Maryland province. Until the American Revolution, Oxford enjoyed prominence as an international shipping center surrounded by wealthy tobacco plantations.

Early inhabitants included Robert Morris, Sr., agent for a Liverpool shipping firm who greatly influenced the town's growth; his son, Robert Morris, Jr., known as "the financier of the Revolution;" Jeremiah Banning, sea captain, war hero, and statesman; The Reverend Thomas Bacon, Anglican clergyman who wrote the first compilation of the laws of Maryland; Matthew Tilghman, known as the "patriarch of Maryland" and "father of statehood"; and Colonel Tench Tilghman, aide-de-camp to George Washington and the man who carried the message of General Cornwallis's surrender to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

The American Revolution marked the end of Oxford's glory. Gone were the British ships with their variety of imported goods, and tobacco was replaced by wheat as a cash crop. Businesses went bankrupt, cattle grazed in the streets, and the population dwindled.

After the Civil War, Oxford emerged from its "long slumber" to nearly 100 years of a new prosperity signaled by completion of the railroad in 1871 and improved methods of canning and packing which opened national markets for oysters from the Chesapeake Bay's bountiful beds. Business was booming, houses were going up everywhere, and tourists and boaters were arriving in droves. But it was not to last. In the early part of the 20th century, the oyster beds played out, the packing houses closed, other businesses went bankrupt, and the railway and steamships eventually disappeared. Oxford became a sleepy little town inhabited mainly by watermen who still worked the waters of the Tred Avon River.

Oxford today is still a waterman's town, but is enjoying a new resurgence based on tourism and leisure activities. Its quiet charm, fresh air, summer breezes, and clean water provide a haven from the hustle and bustle of city life for boaters, weekend visitors, and summer residents. The film Failure to Launch was filmed in part here.

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