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Picnic at the Fort; Native Americans to celebrate heritage.

Byline: Ellie Oleson

OXFORD -- The annual town picnic and concert at the fort will be held at the Huguenot Fort site on Fort Hill Road from noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 14, with a rain date of Sept. 21. All are invited to bring lunch and enjoy a picnic, with free desserts provided.

Jean M. O'Reilly, president of the Huguenot Memorial Society of Oxford Inc. and chairman of the Oxford Historical Commission, hosts of the event, said new this year will be a celebration of local Native American heritage.

"Native Americans have promised to construct a lodge, do a hide-tanning seminar with handouts, and to display artifacts, including typical weapons.''

There will also be a display of trade blankets, which are known for their striking geometric patterns and colors.

A concert by Jericho Road, funded by the Oxford Cultural Council, with other local vocal talent will provide entertainment.

Attendance prizes will be awarded, and there will be other activities. Some society and commission members will be dressed in period costumes to celebrate the history of the town.

Ms. O'Reilly said it is important to remember the 50 Huguenot men, women and children who first established a settlement in Oxford shortly after fleeing religious persecution in France.

The Huguenot Protestants, who were driven out of their country, settled in New Oxford in 1686 or 1687 on land granted to wealthy Huguenot businessman Gabriel Bernon.

The original settlers included Daniel Bondet, Oxford's first Anglican priest. Originally from France, he fled to London and came to Boston in 1686, then to New Oxford the following year. He returned to Boston in 1695, then settled in New Rochelle, New York, where he died in 1722, according to Huguenot Society of America records.

His successor, the Reverend Jacques Laborie, was originally from Cardaillac, Guyenne, France, then later lived in Zurich, Geneva, London and Boston before coming to New Oxford in 1699. He moved to New York City five years later, then to Fairfield, Connecticut, where he died in 1731.

"They built homes, a church, a wash leather mill, a grist mill, a saw mill and a fort. Anytime Europeans came here, they built a fort,'' Ms. O'Reilly said.

The Huguenots remained in Oxford until shortly after the Johnson Massacre of 1696, when Oxford farmer John Johnson and his three children were killed by marauding Indians from Canada, who were not connected to local Nipmuck tribe members.

By 1713, English settlers had taken over the community and formally incorporated the town, but the original Huguenot families and their fort are still remembered.

Andre Sigourney, originally from La Rochelle, Aunis, France, fled to England and then Boston, arriving in New Oxford in 1687; he returned to Boston four years later.

Original 1687 New Oxford settler Charles Germon moved to Boston in 1696, as did several of the settlers, including Daniel Johonnet, Jean Papineau and Rene Grignon. Mr. Grignon and Mr. Papineau returned to New Oxford in 1699.

Several other original Oxford settlers moved to New Rochelle, New York; Milford, Connecticut; or New York City.

Jacques Dupont moved to Milford, Connecticut; Jean Baudouin left New Oxford for Virginia; and Jacob Alard lived 10 years in New Oxford before moving to Curacao in the southern Caribbean in 1697.

The Huguenot Monument, a memorial cross, was dedicated at the site on Oct. 2, 1884, just 130 years ago. In July 1988, the Huguenot Fort site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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Title Annotation:Weeklies
Author:Oleson, Ellie
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Sep 5, 2014
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