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Warren County Cultural and Heritage Mines Metal and Men

The Oxford Furnace Incident

by Kathryn Ptacek

Restoration work in the furnace in the fall of 2001.

What most strikes the first-time visitor to the Oxford Furnace is how tall the stone structure is--over two stories high--and how utterly intact it remains, despite time and weather taking its toll. Here there are no tumbled-down walls, no half-forgotten timbers slowly surrendering to the seductive decay of the forest floor. No, this relic of the eighteenth century stands for the most part intact, in no small way indebted to a recently-completed stabilization project undertaken by the Warren County Cultural & Heritage Commission.

"The job is 97 percent done," says Susan Morgan, Executive Director of the Commission and History Coordinator. "The contractor has to finish one small detail this summer--we ran out of decent weather last fall so the masonry work had to stop."

The project began in 1997 with a $315,000 grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust. Phase I, in the fall of 2000, involved Selective Demolition and Archeological Investigation, while the Phase II ­ Stabilization, was completed in the autumn of 2001. Some 70-75 tons of debris (firebrick, sand, stone, along with bottle caps, nails, ceramic shards, rusted nuts, bolts, and washers, a plastic comb, a toothbrush, and broken beer bottles) was removed from the bosh, the central cavity of the furnace, where charcoal, lime, and iron ore were placed during operation. Other work included repointing the stone walls and installing a new wood roof.

Morgan describes the Oxford Furnace as "a state and county treasure," and the entire district surrounding the Furnace is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The distinctions that the Oxford Furnace holds are many. Built in 1741, it was the third furnace in Colonial New Jersey and the first where iron ore was mined. Prior to that time, ore was scooped out of bogs in South Jersey. And if all the above were not enough, the Oxford Furnace operated the longest of any of the Colonial Furnaces. The two furnaces that pre-dated it, Tinton Falls and Mount Holly, no longer stand, and furnaces at Ringwood, High Bridge, and Waterloo came later--with Oxford being "blown out" in 1884. It was also the site of America's first successful "hot blast" in 1835. Before that time unheated air was pumped, by bellows or other method, into the furnace. A hot blast sent pre-heated air into the furnace, and cut production time.

Arches or "tuyeres" on three sides of the furnace can still be seen, and it was through these apertures that air was blown into the furnace; molten iron was removed through the fourth opening. The Furnace produced 200-500-pound firebacks and pig iron in its early days; later it cranked out railroad car wheels, nails, and other prosaic objects. "In spite of popular legend, there is no proof that Oxford supplied cannon balls for any American war," Morgan says.


The Oxford Furnace in the 1870s. The grist mill next door is now the Methodist Church

Somewhere along the way nine feet of fill was added around the furnace, so that today only part of the arches can be seen. When it was built, the Furnace stood 31 feet high; sadly now it is only 22 because of the built-up grassy area surrounding the structure.

Immediately next to the Furnace stands the Engine House, dating from 1850. Morgan says the next stabilization project involves the "stone and masonry building that housed the apparatus for the steam-powered air blast to the furnace. We are in the midst of a fundraising effort to raise the cash match for a third grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust."

The Methodist Church that stands only yards away from the Furnace was originally the grist mill. Among structures still standing in the area are the Company Store and Car Wheel Factory, both circa 1850; rows of workers' homes; the mansions of the Scranton brothers; lime kilns; and a railroad tunnel, which starts in Oxford and heads under the hill toward Washington. A plaque commemorating the completion of the Van Nest Gap Tunnel in 1862 rests in the wall alongside Shippen Manor. That path the visitor walks along was once the roadbed of the Warren Railroad.

Shippen Manor



The transformations of Shippen Manor: Top: Image from a postcard in the 1920s Above: Neglected in the 1960s Below: The current state of affairs Bottom: The Manor’s interior reflects finery of the past

On a hill overlooking the Furnace and the village of Oxford Furnace (its historical name) sits Shippen Manor, once the home of the ironmaster and now a Museum. The Georgian-style stone mansion was built in 1753 by Joseph and William Shippen, owners of the Oxford Furnace, and at one time the estate consisted of 4000 acres. Here, at the home of the ironmaster, the Shippens stayed when they visited their investment; the house also had a basement kitchen where the ironworkers ate.

Jonathan Robeson, an experience ironmaster, and Joseph Shippen, Jr., both of Philadelphia, built the Furnace. Later Shippen's brother, Dr. William Shippen, Sr., became a partner, then eventually the sole owner. Dr. Shippen was a member of the Continental Congress and counted among his worthy patients Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, George Washington, and Generals Gage, Howe, and Lafayette. His grandfather had been the first mayor of Philadelphia, and Dr. Shippen was related by marriage to the Lees of Virginia and the Livingstons of New York. His grandson was the personal secretary of Thomas Jefferson.

The Shippens provided the furnace workers, many of them indentured Scots-Irish servants, for the nine months of operation during the year. The Furnace went "out of blast" during the winter because the water, used for the water wheel, froze. By the time of the Revolutionary War, the Furnace operation was large enough to support on-site workers who lived in small log cabins built on the property.

The Furnace passed into the hands of the three equally prominent brothers in the 1840s--Charles, George, and Selden Scranton, for whom the Pennsylvania city is named. The Scrantons ensured the longevity of the Oxford Furnace. Iron furnaces were changing to the use of coal as fuel (rather than charcoal), and the brothers invested in railroads. Thus, the Furnace never lacked for anthracite coal from the mines of Pennsylvania.

In 1935 the Warren Foundry & Pipe Co. donated the Furnace to the State. In 1984 the state sold the Furnace, as well as the Manor, to Warren County.

The Shippen Manor Museum opened in 1995, after the house was restored, and is furnished in colonial and Victorian periods. Morgan is also curator here, as well as the museum program director and docent supervisor. "Costumed docents lead tour groups and demonstrate open-hearth cooking," Morgan says. "We always have some kind of period musical performers present on Sundays, also."

Originally the Manor had eight rooms (with an additional four in the cellar), but in the early 1800s an addition provided four more rooms (three more in the cellar). Two of the original rooms were combined into a formal parlor, to make a total of eleven rooms.

The Museum is open the first and second Sundays of each month, 1-4pm, except on holiday weekends. Mid-week tours can be arranged by appointment. The suggested donation is $3; students and young children are free. For more information, call (908)453-4381. Or check the website.

Events at Shippen Manor

Comments

Vicky
18 Aug 2014, 04:43
My 6th great grandparents Neeltje (ELinor) Van Aaken and Jan Emans. Neeltje'es 2nd husband was Edward Robeson. I ofund this record and wonder how he is related to the Oxford Furnace Robeson's. A blacksmith from Oxford Township, Sussex County, NJ. Wrote his will on 25 Nov 1762. It was proved 17 Jan 1765 (liber 12, page 241). "I have this day given a quit claim to John Lowry of the plantation that lays on the west side of the Delaware River, on the banks thereof, above the forks, which contains 250 acres, and is the same that I had from James Quick; and Lowrey is to pay my wife, Eleanor, 6
pounds yearly as long as she lives. Daughter Mary, now wife of Cornelis Albertson, the plantation where I live, on the east side of the Delaware, of 200 acres; but if she die without heirs, then it is to go to the children of my daughter Sarah , now the wife of John Lowrey, and they are to pay my wife 8 pounds yearly. Executors--my wife, Eleanor, and my 2 sons-in-law, John Lowrey and Cornelis Albertson. Witnesses- -Peter LaBarr, Sr.; Peter LaBarr, Jr., Richard Shackleton."
I read the Robeson/Albertson home is still there.
John Birutta
24 Mar 2014, 02:37
Dave C is it possible to private message you?
Lori Belden Pope
23 Mar 2014, 23:18
In regards to Dave Jarret's post: I am a great great grand daughter of Charles Scranton who lived in Shippen Manor with his wife and family. His wife, Jane Ann Henry Scranton had also lived there as a young girl when her father, William Henry was the ironmaster of at Oxford Furnace. Caroline Scranton Hill was the sister of Charles Scranton. Her husband was Samuel Hill and her second son was Selden Brown Hill. She is wrong about his birthday being the same as Charles' because Charles' birthday was June 23 not May 21. His daughter, Ellen Henry Scranton Belden also had the same birthday. To the best of my knowledge, "Aunt Alice" is the sister of Elizabeth Warner, Caroline and Charles Scranton's mother. I have in my possession a 1879 letter from Caroline who says that Aunt Alice is comfortable and sends her regards. I am not positive that this is the same Aunt Alice because I do not have a death date for Alice Warner. Caroline supposedly lived at the old Scranton homestead in Madison, CT and her husband was a seaman if I remember correctly. I believe that Selden Brown Hill worked in Oxford at one time under the tutelage of his Uncle Selden Scranton. I would love to have a copy of the letter.
John Birutta
21 Feb 2014, 20:55
As a kid in the 50's I recall the story of a tunnel from Shippen Manor to under the car repair shop across from the Furnace. The story also went on to include the fact that George Washington used it to escape from ??? Shippen Manor.
I may have just been that, simply a story , anyone know of this "tunnel"?
Shirley Shoemaker Beene
20 Jul 2013, 10:01
I'm very interested in George and Seldon Scranton. They had the farm, house and barns built on Free Union Rd and I would love more infomation. I was born and grew up there! Does anyone know about this! Would really appreciate and info. The area was called the Ash Swamp Tract. This would have been in the mid 1800's.
sally wasielewski
22 Jun 2013, 12:29
need information on construction of original oxford furnace RR tunnel by Wiestling and others.
Jeanne Newton
17 Jun 2013, 19:46
Just discovered that my gggrandfa died at Oxford Furnace, blacksmith 1855. Where would I begin to look for a death certificate? From the above I guess cemetery would not be known. Thanks
Pamela Stackhouse-Huff
05 Jul 2012, 07:38
I have posted before regarding which cemetary out of the two in Oxford, was/ or is actually "Oxford Yard?" It is very sad that they are staking bodies and removing headstones...that is just WRONG. My great-grandfather Jonah Stackhouse was buried there in 1881 and I want to find out where he is buried. If anyone has information on which cemetary is actually "Oxford Yard" I would greatly appreciat it. Thank you
Dave Balliet
14 Jun 2012, 14:52
I metal Detect for a hobby, Well recently found some iron casted ingots along the delaware river in falls township PA and one of them seems to have casted in it oXFord.\r\nWill be contacting museum.
Ernest Shippen
22 Apr 2012, 18:17
For Barbara H.'\r\n\r\nI, too, am a descendent of Joseph W. Shippen of Oxford Furnace, Nj. Specifically, I am a descendent of Joseph and Martha Axford Shippen's son, William I.Shippen. I would like to chat with you about what you know about the family for purposes of corroboration.\r\n\r\nPlease contact me at peggyernieshippen@yahoo.com
G Rosseland
06 Jun 2011, 09:41
I suggest if you are interesting in learning info about ancestors, to find "History of Warren county New Jersey" by George Wyckoff Cummins (NY, Lewis Historical Publishing Co, 1911) as he covers the area, Shippens, Scrantons, etc, as well as the furnace quite well. In the back of the book are families instrumental to the development of Warren County. :)
Dave C
27 Feb 2011, 19:16
also the Cemetary on Jonestown road on the left right was the only one around at the early part of the Furnace. the second cemetary is down the road. earliest body in there is 1860's death. i am sad to say though, over the last few years they have been staking bodies and removingg old headstones, feeling that their families are gone.
Dave C
27 Feb 2011, 19:12
Kappler: Did you have family living in Oxford up until 2007 or so? I went to school with a Kappler.\r\n\r\n also i'm looking for any information anyone may have to be copied then sent to 31 Maple Place, Oxford, NJ 07863. i'm still always looking for information.\r\n\r\n Benidict owned the house that sits behind shippen manor, well his wife did, but in that time when she got married it became his. the Scrantons owned all 4 of the mansions that line rt. 31.
Elizabeth Kappler
10 Nov 2010, 04:29
To Larry Mike Kappler\r\n Your comment did not complete the picture of the last family that lived in the Shippen Manor. Lawrence M. Kappler, Sr. helped build an Army base on Trinidad island during the War, built gov. sponsored Dams, tunnels on the Pa. Turnpike, and was a scout masters for many years.He was also an Oxford Township committeeman. Evelyn Kappler taught school for 25 years. Mary Alice Kappler Bockman took care of 1000s of children as school nurse for over 20 years and raised 7 wonderful children. I, Elizabeth Kappler ( who lived at Shippen Manor for 20 years not 2 years like you),am a US Navy Vietnam who served during the Cuban Crisis, Kennedy's death, and the beg. of the Vietnam War as a Hospital Corpsman. I also took care of the county's mothers, fathers, sisters,and brothers as a Reg.nurse and raised 3 successful children. How do you get a " slam dunk" election win when no one runs against you? Get your facts correct and complete...\r\n
Barbara McGavock
27 Sep 2010, 09:19
I joined DAR on my ancester "Aunt" Peggy Warne. I want to add to my family tree. I live in TN, but will be in NJ in mid October. Any cousins out there?
Ted Shippen
14 Sep 2010, 21:00
Hello im interested in the family history of the home and further, if you have on the Shippen family if you could share this with me i would be greatful sincerly Ted Shippen
vanessa
14 Sep 2010, 16:22
im watching the show taps and taps are investigating the house\r\n
anonomys
14 Sep 2010, 11:55
This inn is featured on Ghost Hunters! Very beautiful!
Sue
10 Sep 2010, 09:46
Hello all,\r\n\r\nI am a descendent of Jonathan Robeson who built the Oxford Furance. I found a wealth of information about the furnace and the manor by contacting the curator of Shippen Manor (just do a Google search). He was extremely wonderful to talk with and was able to furnish me with documentation as well. You might try contacting him.\r\n\r\nBlessings!
hank garris
08 Sep 2010, 20:57
where can i get floor plans of the manor so i can see how it was laid out
Bobbie
17 Jun 2010, 20:14
;
William M.
21 May 2010, 11:40
Can anyone identify the subjects of the two portraits in the photograph? A school class posted a webpage that identified the male portrait as "G. Garrett Vliet 1812." Is this an error?\r\n\r\nGarrett Vliet (1761-1839) was a drummer-boy in the Revolution and became a General in the NJ Militia during the War of 1812- as a Major-General he led the military reception of Lafayette in Trenton in 1824. He lived in Belvidere and served as a Judge. Several relics of his are in the Museum, and of his sister Peggy Warne- the Doctor on horseback.
Andrew Huzar
05 Apr 2010, 18:29
Does anyone know where I can find the production totals for war materials produced between 1775 and 1783 at Oxford Furnace?
Barbara H.
29 Oct 2009, 22:41
To Mr. Kepplar:\r\nPeggy Shippen's father (she who married Benedict Arnold) was an Edward Shippen, a Judge in Philadelphia and a Torry, never owned the Shippen Manor. It was William Shippen, the Elder (a brother of Edward Shippen, and Uncle of Peggy Shippen in Philadelphia) who owned the Shippen Manor and the Oxford Furnace. His son Joseph ran it at the time of the Revolution. This Dr. William Shippen, the Elder, was in the First and Second Continental Congress and one of the founders of the University of Pennsylvania. So, now, your worry can be assuaged. You can check the Philadelphia Historical Society for all the details and facts.
Larry "Mike" Kappler
07 Sep 2009, 12:55
Isn't it ironic that the first family of\r\nShippen Manor married the traitor Benedict Arnold, only to have the last\r\nfamily that lived there, the Lawrence\r\nKapplers, have a son Larry Mike that is\r\nretired from the U.S. Navy intelligence\r\nservice. Mike travelled throughout the\r\nworld, as a morse code and voice intercept operator,and during the Cuban Crisis was serving aboard the USS Oxford AG-159. Mike learned morse code\r\nwhile a member of the Oxford BSA Troop 111, and advanced his studies in the navy. State Representative L. Mike Kappler is currently serving in the New Hampshire State House, dedicating his\r\nretirement to conservation and rivers\r\nprotection.
Janet Gorski
11 Jun 2009, 05:49
Where is Oxford Yard or any other cemetary related to Oxford Furnace located?
Jewell Friedman
31 May 2009, 19:46
A book entitled "Steel The Diary of a Furnace Worker" by Charles Rumford Walker, published by The Atlantic Monthly Press, Boston, c. 1922 was written by a Yale graduate who worked at an open-hearth furnace near Pittsburg to learn the steel business. He worked in the cast house, became a member of the stove gang and eventually was hot-blast man on the blast furnace.\r\n His description of the iron workers at work,I think, must be descriptive of the workers at a hot blast iron furnace anywhere. The Franconia Iron Furnace is 200 years old and needing preservation. With $400,000 the Franconia Area Heritage Council could buy it and seek grants to preserve it. \r\n
Barbara H.
13 May 2009, 16:47
TO Answer Jennifer Eldson's comment: Arnold absolutely did not have a house built at the Oxford Furnace. Joseph Shippen ran the furnace during the Revolution, his wife and family lived there. And, Dr. William Shippen the Elder (Joseph's father who was in the first and second Continental Congresses and a founder of the University of Pennsylavania and a Revolutionary) built it with a brother (not Peggy Shippen Arnold's father), then later bought all of it, and his son Joseph and his family lived there. Later Dr. William Shippen the Elder lived there himself after Joseph died.\r\nPeggy Shippen (who married Benedict Arnold) was a daughter of Edward Shippen of Philadelphia: Edward was a judge...a whole other Shippen family subject.\r\nAll this info is at the Philadelphia Historical Society. Lots of interesting historical information for you to read and become correctly informed.
Jennifer Elsdon
10 May 2009, 17:50
I lived in the house above Shippen Manor in my childhood. My understanding is that Arnold had that mansion built for Peggy Shippen, his wife. If anyone has any additional information about the next house up the hill, I would greatly appreciate it!
stu
09 Apr 2009, 19:33
I have a old fireback..antique..has a unicorn on right side and a lion on the left with a crest in the middle..do not know what "crest" this is and is it from oxford furnace?..thanks! minkman
emily
03 Apr 2009, 18:53
does anyone know of any books or other info on people who worked at the mines? some of my great-uncles (sadlons) worked in the mines, my great-grandfater (galcik) was in charge of dynamite/blasting, and my grandfather (hotchkin) was an electrician... are there any photos anywhere of workers, etc?
Barbara H.
30 Mar 2009, 17:42
To James C.\r\nAll I know is that William Shippen, Sr.'s\r\nbrother's (Edward) daughter, Peggy Shippen, was the 2nd wife of Benedict Arnold. I know nothing about a family named Scranton. \r\n\r\n
Dave C.
25 Mar 2009, 18:48
Barbara, do you by have any proof that one of the Scranton daughters married Benedict Arnold(yes the traitor)? \r\n\r\n if anyone else wants some history of the town, i'm probably the most knowledgeable, with maybe only 1 other person knowing Oxford's history better.
Pamela Stackhouse-Huff
25 Mar 2009, 16:08
My ggrandfather, Jonah P. Stackhouse worked as an iron worker and died at Oxford Furnace. I just received his death certificate and it states that he actually lived and died there in 1881. He was buried at Oxford Yard as it states on the death cerfitifate also. Does anyone know of my ggrandfather or know where "Oxford Yard" is located.\r\n\r\nPamela Stackhouse-Huffr
Paul M.F.
14 Mar 2009, 12:16
Related to George Jepson (see below posts), I have some further info regarding James F. Kean & Mary Anne Worrall Kean, who lived in Oxford, NJ. George Jepson's brother, Reuben Wright Jepson, married Isabel Kean. Isabel Kean was one of five children born to James Frelinghuysen Kean and Mary Anne Worrall Kean. The Keans originated in Beaufort, SC during the late 1690s and spread to New Jersey and Massachusetts just after the Revolutionary War.\r\n\r\nIn 1865, James and Mary Kean moved from "Squaw Betty," Taunton, Mass. to Oxford Furnace, NJ to take a position with the Oxford Iron & Nail Company. He was "a staunch Republican and a member of the Oxford Lodge No. 127 A.F. & A.M., Knights Templar Commandery of Washington, and of Harris Lodge No. 157, I.O.O.F., Oxford, NJ. James died on 4/3/1905 at the age of 81 years, with funeral services at the Presbyterian Church of Oxford. Mary Anne Kean died on 6/16/1924 at the age of 99 years. Funeral services were held at their daughter Clara's (Mrs. Frederick Fowler) home in Hackettstown, NJ.\r\n\r\nJames, Mary, and their daughter Ellen (died at age 22 in Oradell, NJ) are buried in Hillside Cemetery, Oxford, NJ.\r\n\r\nIsabel Kean was one of the five children of James Frelinghuysen Kean and Mary Anne Worrall Kean. She married Reuben Wright Jepson in June 1879. Their children were Ella Marie Jepson Cahalane and George Blaine Jepson, my great grandfather.\r\n\r\nSome of that might be of interest to local Oxford, NJ folk. I have further info on the other children of James and Mary if needed. Good luck!
Barbara H.
10 Mar 2009, 17:41
I am descended from Dr. William Shippen, Sr. through his son Joseph who ran the Oxford Furnace, and his first son William. I will be interested to read future comments. Very nice website.
Dave Jarret
31 Dec 2008, 08:09
I have a letter dated Aug. 10, 1848, and written to Mr. Charles Scranton from his sister Caroline. She speaks of her son, "little Selden Browne" and how he has the same birthday as "Charles" (21st of May), her husband Samuel Browne, Aunt Alice in Illinois, etc. Does any of this mean anything to you?
daryle silverthorn
01 Nov 2008, 16:45
just trying to find out how and if there is any tours or events that allow you to see inside the shippen manor
Paul M.F.
01 Nov 2008, 10:54
Janet:\r\n\r\nI went through some records... Although George and Margaret were married at Oxford Furnace, they had a seasonal home near Princeton, NJ but primarily lived and retired in Bennington, VT.\r\n\r\nGeorge Jepson, b. 1843, North Pownal, VT, m. Margaret Foley, b. 1845, in Ireland. SGT and CPT in the Civil War; Ironworks railroad boss in Oxford Furnace, NJ. Member of the Union Leagues of Princeton and New York.\r\nChildren:\r\ni. Ellen, b. Sept. 29, 1869, m. Joseph Hewes.\r\nii. Charles W., b. June 11, 1871, m. Ella Stevens. No children.\r\niii. Henry James, b. 1879, m. Nellie Stevens.\r\niv. John, m. Jennie Smith.\r\nv. Edward, m. Emma Drury.\r\nvi. Willie J.\r\n\r\nGeorge's brother, Reuben Wright Jepson, was my grandmother's grandfather. Therefore, most of the later history I have concerns his descendants. Further info about George and Margaret stops about there. All of their children, discounting Ellen Jepson Hewes, were males and would have had Jepson last names. I'm not sure if that helps you at all. Good luck with your research!\r\n\r\n-Paul
Janet Eileen Gorski
28 Oct 2008, 09:02
Hi Paul\r\nI don't know because the only siblings of my grandfather, that I know of, although I am fairly sure that there were more, were Kathrine and Mary who were born in 1896. My grandfather, William Paul Foley's parents were John and Mary McGrath Foley, who were both born in Ireland. The name Margaret is a family name I know that my grandfather's and my grandmother(Eleanora Marion Foley) used family names for their children-Harold, David, Eleanor, Georgiana(my Mother), Margaret, and William, Jr.\r\nAny information that you have that seems pertinent would be greatly appreciated\r\nJanet
Paul M.F.
24 Oct 2008, 14:49
Janet:\r\nWould you happen to be related to a Margaret Foley who married George Jepson at Oxfard Furnace? George Jepson was born in 1843 but without referencing family records I cannot recall the marriage date. Do you have any connections with the Jepson, Kean, Atwood, and Nolan families?
Thomas
11 Oct 2008, 15:10
My Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather George Maxwell Robeson visited The Oxofrd Furnace and lived in Shippen Manor as well.
Janet Eileen Gorski
05 Oct 2008, 08:04
My great grandfather,John Foley, worked at Oxford Furnace in the 1870's. My grandfather,William Paul Foley was born at Oxford Furnace in 1877. Does anyone have any information about this family
Geoff Bullock
20 Mar 2008, 10:30
My great grandmother's brother Joseph McManiman worked at the furnace in the 1870s. Are there any lists of workers or photographs? I have photos of him and his family if anyone is interested.
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