Warren County Cultural and Heritage Mines Metal and
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
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.
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
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.
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 ???
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.
22 Jun 2013, 12:29
need information on construction of original oxford furnace RR tunnel by
Wiestling and others.
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
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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. :)
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.
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.
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
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
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
14 Sep 2010, 16:22
im watching the show taps and taps are investigating the house\r\n
14 Sep 2010, 11:55
This inn is featured on Ghost Hunters! Very beautiful!
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!
08 Sep 2010, 20:57
where can i get floor plans of the manor so i can see how it was laid out
17 Jun 2010, 20:14
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.
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?
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
11 Jun 2009, 05:49
Where is Oxford Yard or any other cemetary related to Oxford Furnace
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
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
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!
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
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?
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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?
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
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
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?
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
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.