The Community of Oxford is located in southwestern Chester County, one of Pennsylvania's three original counties established in 1682 by William Penn, and the fastest growing county in the state according to the 2010 census. When pioneering Scotch-Irish settlers arrived in the region of gently rolling hills, verdant forests, and rushing streams in the first decades of the 18th century, they quickly cleared the fields, planted crops and established homesteads.
By 1767, when the Mason Dixon line finally determined our region's southern border, several small villages had emerged among the farms and water-powered mills that dotted the countryside. Most prominent of these was the hamlet of Oxford, located at the intersection of three major roads: the old post road from Philadelphia to Baltimore, a former Indian pathway leading from the Chesapeake Bay north to Pennsylvania's mountains, and a major east-west route connecting Delaware with Lancaster and beyond.
Oxford slowly grew into a regional commercial, transportation, manufacturing and residential center, becoming one of the first communities in the county to be incorporated as a borough. Cotton milling, chrome mining and agriculture were chief industries in the surrounding townships when the railroad came to Oxford on the eve of the Civil War and led to a half-century of constant growth and prosperity. The town experienced a tenfold increase in population by 1900 and the development of new industries, most of which processed crops from the nearby farms. With prosperity came a frenzy of building activity as a collection of handsome Victorian homes, churches and storefronts appeared on Oxford's streets, giving the town the late 19th century flavor it retains and is enhancing by careful restoration today.
Education has played an important role in the development of the Oxford region for two centuries. Three nearby 18th century classical academies, at Nottingham, New London and Fagg's Manor, trained many prominent citizens, including several leaders of America's revolutionary struggles. In the ensuing years academies existed at Hopewell and at Jordan Bank, the farm of Dr. Evan Pugh, first President of Penn State University. The Dickeys, a prominent family of ministers, educators, and businessmen, established the Oxford Female Seminary in the 1830s, and it was largely through the efforts of John Miller Dickey that Lincoln University, the first degree-granting institution of higher learning for African Americans, was founded near Oxford in 1854.
When Pennsylvania mandated the creation of public schools in the 1830s the municipalities of the Oxford area were quick to respond; soon every township and the borough built school houses and provided free education programs for their children. When a high school curriculum was added in 1878, Oxford had become one of the first communities in the county to take that step. The pioneering tradition continued into the 1960s when the Oxford Area School District opened Pennsylvania's first middle school housing grades six, seven and eight.
Oxford Area School District is approximately 90 square miles in area and is bounded by Avon Grove School District to the east, Octorara School District to the northeast, Solanco School District, Lancaster County, to the west and northwest, and the state of Maryland to the south. The Borough of Oxford, centrally located within the district, is the largest population center. The school district also encompasses the townships of Upper and Lower Oxford, East and West Nottingham, and Elk. Agriculture remains the primary industry and major land use activity in the district. Herr Foods, Inc. is a snack company located in the community of Nottingham, one of the larger commercial employers in the district.
Located within commuting distance of cities such as Philadelphia and Lancaster in Pennsylvania; Baltimore in Maryland; and Wilmington and Newark in Delaware, the district is becoming more and more the home for people working in these locales. Just 60 miles southwest of Philadelphia, 30 miles south of Lancaster and 60 miles northwest of Baltimore, this quiet, rural region is being discovered and is growing.
The district's schools include Jordan Bank Elementary School, a full-day kindergarten facility; Elk Ridge Elementary School for grades one and two, Nottingham Elementary School for grades three and four; Hopewell Elementary School for grades five and six; Penn's Grove School for grades seven and eight; and Oxford Area High School for grades nine through 12. The school district administration office is located at 125 Bell Tower Lane and the telephone number is 610-932-6600.