The Shippen Family
The Shippens were a powerful and affluent Philadelphia Quaker family that played an integral role in both colonial and industrial history of colonial America.
The patriarch of the family was Edward Shippen, Sr. (1639-1712), who became the first elected mayor of Philadelphia and also served as a member of the Provincial Congress. He married three separate times– Elizabeth Lybrand (m. 1671-1688), Rebecca Richardson (m. 1689-1705) and Esther Wilcox (1706-1724). In total, he had twelve children that included Joseph, Sr. (1678/79-1741).
Philadelphia merchant, Joseph Shippen, Sr. (28 Feb 1678/79 in Boston, MA to 28 July 1741 in Germantown, PA) married Abigail Grosse (25 Oct 1677 in Boston, MA to 28 June 1717 in Philadelphia, daughter of Thomas & Elizabeth Grosse) in 1702 and they had eight children including Joseph II (1706-1793) and Dr. William I (1712-1801). He was the son of Edward Shippen and Elizabeth Lybrand Shippen. Sometime prior to 1741, Joseph I purchased a large tract of land in Oxford from William Coxe (son of Proprietor Dr. Daniel Coxe). He was an absentee owner, having retired early from his successful mercantile business in Philadelphia and moved to a plantation in Germantown, PA. He leased his landholdings to Jonathan Robeson who was probably an acquaintance from a distinguished Philadelphia family who was living in neighboring White Marsh. He and Abigail had at least eight children, including Dr. William Shippen, Sr. (1712-1801) and Judge Edward Shippen II (1703-1781).
Dr. William Shippen, Sr. (1 Oct 1712-4 Nov 1801) was a self-trained physician who was elected to the Continental Congress in 1778 and re-elected in 1779. He was also a member of Benjamin Franklin’s “Junto” and elected vice-president of the American Philosophical Society. In addition, he was a physician to the Pennsylvania Hospital (1753-78) and one of the founders of the University of Pennsylvania and the College of New Jersey (Princeton). William Coxe, son of Proprietor Colonel Daniel Coxe, and entered into a partnership with his brother, Joseph Jr., and Jonathan Robeson. In the 1750s and 1760s, William I continued improvements at the Furnace and was more of a gentleman landowner than an iron magnate and much of his land was rented out to tenant farmers. He and his wife, Susannah Harrison, had five children that included Dr. William Shippen, Jr. (1736-1808) and Joseph William Shippen (1737-1795).
In July 1776, Dr. William Shippen, Jr. became the chief surgeon of the Flying Camp in New Jersey during the American Revolution. By that October, he was appointed as head of all hospitals west of the Hudson River. He married Alice Lee, daughter of Colonel Thomas Lee of Virginia in 1762 and had eight children. He did take active interest in the furnace and visited it several times as well as sent provisions from Philadelphia for the workers. Shippen died suddenly of anthrax on 11 July 1808 in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
During the American Revolution, Dr. Shippen was known to have corresponded several times with General Washington pertaining to the inoculation of the Continental Army against small pox.
Joseph William Shippen (1737-1795) a modestly successful man in his own right. During the American Revolution, he served as a paymaster in the Bethlehem Army Hospital, serving the same time as his brother, Dr. William Shippen. He settled on his father’s estate at Oxford Furnace in the early 1760s and was made manager for thirty years until his death in 1795 at age fifty-eight. During that time, he and Martha Axford (d. c. 1798/1801), who was hired by his father to be housekeeper at the Manor, cohabited and had seven children out of wedlock (some genealogical resources referred to them as married, but no documentation exists at this time to prove that). Joseph W. incurred the ire of his father due to his intimate relationship with Martha (who was daughter of early Oxford area pioneer, John Axford).. Joseph William died intestate (without a will) and his father came to the Manor to “administer his son’s estate and oversee furnace operations.” He also leased the furnace to Jacob Starn (“Shippen and Starn’s furnace”). Although he disapproved of his son and Martha’s relationship, he provided for all of his grandchildren in his will.
According to William Clinton Armstrong’s book, The Axfords of Oxford, New Jersey, a genealogy beginning in 1725 (Morrison, IL: Shawver Publishing Co., 1931), Joseph William Shippen and Martha Axford had seven children who were all born at Oxford Furnace, NJ. (pages 69-70) (Also see the NJGSBC.org page for more genealogical information. Please bear in mind that at times there are inconsistencies, hence “c.” before dates.)
- William Shippen (c. 1774, Oxford Furnace to c. 1812), married Ann ___ (1); Mary Castlebury (2)
- Joseph Shippen (d. 14 Oct 1811), unmarried.
- John Beach Shippen (1774 to 22 Feb 1824, Hamburg, NJ), he died on a business trip in Hamburg, Sussex Co., NJ.
- Ann Shippen McMurtrie (c. 1776 to c. 1854), married John (Hancock) McMurtrie (1776 to 1851) on 15 September 1803, six children.
- Maria Shippen Blair, married Samuel Blair on 5 Oct 1803, son of John Blair and uncle of John Insley Blair.
- Susan/Susanna Shippen Crisman (1784 to 16 April 1856), married Isaac Crisman and lived near Blairstown. They had six sons and one daughter.
- Abigail Shippen McTeir (1786 to 10 Oct 1868, Easton, PA), married James McTeir on 4 July 1807 at Bartleyville, NJ.
Note: Many have asked about Mrs. Margaret “Peggy” Shippen Arnold (1760-1804), wife of Benedict Arnold V (1741-1801), the disgraced, traitorous former American General of the American Revolution. She was a cousin of the Oxford Shippens through Judge Edward Shippen (1703-1781), who was her grandfather and also the brother of Joseph Shippen (1706-1793) and uncle of Dr. William Shippen, Sr. (1712-1801). We do not have any information in our records to show that the Arnolds visited Oxford.
Jonathan Robeson, Iron Master
Jonathan Robeson (1690-1766/67), of Philadelphia, began to erect a furnace at Oxford in 1741 due to the accessibility of ore in the area. The first pig iron was turned out on 9 March 1743, and weekly production ranged from 13 to 15 tons. Initially, Robeson entered into a partnership with Joseph Shippen, Sr., and upon his death, Robeson agreed with Joseph Shippen, Jr. to share the furnace’s profits equally. He continued to buy land around Oxford through the 1740s, hoping to eventually acquire the furnace from Joseph, Jr., who was more of a playboy than a landowner. Between 1743 and 1751, Robeson purchased tracts of land in and around Oxford that would eventually amount to more than 3000 acres of land. The individual tracts, enumerated in a series of Sussex County deeds, date between 1749 and 1762 including his 1745 purchase of one-half interest in the 578-acre “furnace tract” from Joseph Shippen, Jr. This allowed for Robeson to have partial ownership of the land on which he would build his furnace and for which he had been playing rent to the Shippen family for about four years.
For the first few years, Robeson was considered the ironmaster and proprietor. The exact business agreement between Robeson and Joseph, Jr. is not known, but after 1745, the men were considered co-owners of the furnace tract and most likely the iron business as well. Neither lived in Oxford full-time. Robeson had practical expertise in the iron business and spent more time in Oxford than his partner as his principle residence was in Whitemarsh, PA, where he was a judge in Philadelphia County. In addition, Robeson also owned a home in Kingwood (Hunterdon County), New Jersey. Due to his commitments as just, Jonathan employed his son, Maurice (1724-61), along with Richard Shackleton, to manage the furnace and attend to the day-to-day business affairs.
In 1749, Robeson sold part of his interest to Dr. William Shippen, Jr. in order to obtain capital for a new force being built in Changewater, along the Musconetcong River. The Changewater Forge was not producing as much as the one in Oxford, and along with a disagreement with the Shippen Brothers (Joseph and William) over the building of the manor in 1754, Robeson sought to leave the partnership. Joseph and William Shippen bought the bulk of Robeson’s Oxford properties, including all of his interest in the furnace in 1757. The consideration consisted of two payments of £350 in cash or pig iron, as well as the right to purchase 100 tons of pig iron for the Changewater forge at £6 per ton annually for three years. It was also believed that as a Quaker, Robeson, could not participate in the manufacture of ordinance to supply the British and Colonial troops during the French and Indian War. Five years later (1762), Robeson sold the remainder of his interest in the Oxford properties to Dr. William Shippen, II.
Known Genealogy of Jonathan/Johnathan Robeson (1695-1766/67), original builder and original iron master at Oxford Furnace
Robeson, Susan Stroud and Caroline Franciscus Stroud, An Historical & Genealogical Account of Andrew Robeson of Scotland (1653-1916). Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1916. (Link for free e-book)
Andrew Robeson, Sr.
b. 1630 in Scotland
d. 1694, Philadelphia, PA (buried in “Friends’ Burying Ground” where he was listed as “not a Friend” or not a Quaker)
Migrated to West Jersey around 1676; moved to Philadelphia Co., Pennsylvania where he purchased “Shoomac Park“.
Married (after arrival in West Jersey): Elizabeth ___ (d. Sept 1695, Philadelphia, PA; buried 30 Sept 1695 in Friends Arch Street Meeting House burial ground– not as a Quaker, recorded as “such as are not friends.”).
1. Samuel Robeson (d. before 23 Sept 1699, Philadelphia, PA)
2. Andrew Robeson, Jr. (1654, Kelso, Roxburghshire, Scotland to 19 Feb 1720, Douglassville, Berks Co., PA), their nephew (adopted?)
Andrew “Andreas” Robeson, Jr.
b. 1654, Scotland
d. 19 Feb 1720, Douglassville, Berks Co., PA
Buried at St. Gabriels Episcopal Church Cemetery, Douglassville, Berks, Co. PA
* Robeson settled in Gloucester Co., West Jersey, where he lived until 1702 when he moved to Philadelphia, PA.
Married: Mary Spencer Helm Robeson (1666, Delaware Co., PA to c. 12 Nov 1716, Bucks Co., PA), buried in Gloria Dei Church Burial Ground, Philadelphia, PA
- Andrew Robeson, 3rd (bc. 1696 to 1750), married Magdalen Rudman
- Israel Robeson (bc. 1688 to 1774), married (unknown)
- Jonathan Robeson (bc. 1690 to 1766), married Elizabeth Morris
- Magdalen Robeson Potts (bc. 1693 to 1764), married Thomas Potts
- David Robeson (bc. 1697 to 1764), married Elinor Lane
- Thomas Robeson (bc. 1698 to 1773), married Sarah Singletary
- Samuel Robeson (bc. 1699), married Hannah Lane
- Elinor Robeson Leech (bc. 1703), married Captain Jacob Leech
- Mary Robeson Hulings (bc. 1705 to 1736), married Michael Hulings
- Peter Robeson (bc. 1707 to 1742), married Sarah Farmer
- Margaret Robeson Yorke (bc. 1710 to 1742), married Thomas Yorke
*There are no definite dates of any of the children of Andrew Robeson, Jr. and their ages, according to An Historical and Genealogical Account of Andrew Robeson, page 15.
bc. 1690, Gloucester Co., West Jersey
d. before April 1766, Upper Dublin PA
Married Elizabeth Philippine Morris Robeson (22 Feb 1695), daughter of David Morris of Pa.
- Robert Robeson (b. 1722), unmarried
- Maurice Robeson (1724 to Nov 1761), married Anne Rockhill
- Jonathan Robeson, Jr. (1726 to 1783), married Catherine Farmer
- Mary Robeson (b. 1728), unmarried
- Rachel Robeson Rockhill (1729 to 27 Jan 1773), married Dr. John Rockhill
- John Robeson (1731 to c. 1799)
- Elizabeth Robeson Robeson (1735 to before 1766), married Edward Robeson
According to An Historical and Genealogical Account of Andrew Robeson… (pages 31-32), “Jonathan Robeson was born in Gloucester Co. New Jersey, but his early manhood was spent in Phila. Co. Pa. at the homestead ‘Shoomac Park:’ he probably went with his father and the family to the Manatawny region in 1718, and engaged in the iron business, as his interests were always in the iron industry, and his investments throughout his life were in furnaces and forges which he worked extensively.”
Jonathan and Elizabeth lived in the Manatawny region of PA and later spoke of Whitemarsh and Wrightstown, PA. Afterwards, he moved to West Jersey and is known to have lived in Kingwood (Hunterdon Co.). He served in several capacities such as a member of the Colonial Assembly of PA (1730-1738) and member of the Court of Common Pleas (1738). Even though Jonathan never moved to the Oxford area, he retained his residence in Pennsylvania for a time as well as his Kingwood residence. In 1760, he advertised his Kingwood properties for sale, where they transferred from Kingwood Meeting (Hunterdon Co., NJ) to Greenwich, NJ, to live near his son, Maurice. Both locations were Quaker-related establishments.
Jonathan began to construct the Furnace in Oxford around 1741 and the first pig-iron was turned out on 9 March 1743. The weekly product was 13 to 15 tons (as compared to the output by Empire Steel & Iron Co. in 1906, which was about 700 tons) (Robeson and Stroud, 33). The Robeson Furnace was the only blast furnace in Warren County (at the time, this was Sussex Co.) for over a hundred years. It was still in good condition during the 19th c., with the last date of its use as 1881 where it was blasted out and made inoperable. Even today, the remaining parts of the Furnace stand tall and a monument to the industrial past of Oxford, NJ. As a result of the construction of the Furnace, the town of Oxford was formed around 1753 (33).
Around 1756, Jonathan sold all of his interest in the Oxford Furnace, along with stock and land, to Dr. William Shippen, Sr. The homestead was sometimes called the “Robeson” or “Scranton” house, and later the “Fowler” (boarding) house. The structure was built by Dr. Shippen soon after purchasing the Furnace from Robeson (see “The Manor” below).
b. 1724, Upper Dublin, PA
d. Nov. 1761, Green Pond, Warren Co., NJ
Married Anne Rockhill (d. 26 Feb 1774) on 25 April 1750. She was the daughter of Anne Clayton Rockhill and Edward Rockhill of NJ. (Robeson & Stroud, 51).
- Elizabeth Robeson (15 June 1751 to 2 April 1833), unmarried
- Mary Robeson (1 Feb 1753 to before 1781), unmarried
- John Robeson (22 Jan 1755 to 5 May 1835), married Martha Boyle
- Achsah Robeson (21 March 1757 to before 1781), unmarried
- (David) Morris Robeson (19 May 1759 to 31 Jan 1823), married Tacy Paul
- Anne Robeson (14 Feb 1762 to before 1781), unmarried
Maurice worked with his father, Jonathan, in the construction of the Furnace in Oxford, NJ. After he married Anne Rockhill Robeson, they settled at the lower end of Green Pond Greenwich Twp., near Oxford Furnace (51-52). He was the Sheriff of Sussex (Warren) County, NJ in 1754. The next year, he purchased land in Orange Co., NY and moved his family there. He build one of the first furnaces in that region along Dean Creek, five miles west of Fort Montgomery (52).
Due to ill health, Maurice and family moved back to his old home in NJ in 1761 and died soon after. He was buried in the Friends Burying Ground in Quakertown, Hunterdon Co., NJ. He was about 37 years of age upon his death and left behind a widow and six children (the oldest was age ten). Maurice owned three valuable tracts of land: 1. two miles from Oxford Furnace, NJ (300 acres), 2. five miles from the first tract (250 acres), and 3. a tract of about 200 acres on the north side of the “Paulins-kiln River” at a place known as “White Rocks” (52).
George Maxwell Robeson (via Anthony B., John, Maurice, Jonathan, Andrew)
b. 20 Oct 1854, Belvidere, NJ
d. 27 September 1897, Camden, NJ
Buried in Belvidere Cemetery, Belvidere, NJ
Married Anna M. McConnell on 27 June 1876. She was the daughter of Lydia Ring McConnell and John McConnell of Richmond, VA.
They lived in the Maxwell-Robeson-Cummins House (202 Mansfield Street, Belvidere, NJ), which currently used by the Warren County Board of Elections.
- Rev. John M. Robeson (b. 30 June 1877), married E. Meredith
- Ellen Maison Robeson (19 Dec 1878 to 7 July 1880)
- George Chapin Robeson (4 Jan 1882 to 20 March 1912)
- Frank Leigh Robeson (b. 24 June 1884), married M. A. Matthews
G.M. Robeson was a notable member of the Robeson Family. He was related to both Gen. William “Scotch Willie” Maxwell (1733 to 4 Nov 1796, buried in Greenwich Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Warren Co., NJ) of American Revolution (through marriage) and Jonathan Robeson, the builder and first iron master of Oxford Furnace. George M. Robeson graduated from Princeton College (now University) in 1847, was admitted to the bar in 1850, and practiced law in both Newark and Camden, NJ. In 1858, Robeson was appointed as prosecuting attorney for Camden Co., NJ. He actively organized State troops for service during the Civil War and was commissioned brigadier general by Governor Parker. In 1867, he was elected attorney general of NJ and served until he resigned on 22 June 1869. From 25 June 1869 to 12 March 1877, he was appointed as Secretary of the Navy in the cabinet of Pres. U.S. Grant. Following this appointment, he resumed his law practices in Camden, NJ. From 4 March 1870 to 3 March 1883, he was elected as a Republican to the 46th and 47th Congresses as well as chairman on the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of the Navy during the 47th Congress. After Robeson ran an unsuccessful bit for reelection in 1882 to the 48th Congress, he resumed his law practice in Trenton, NJ where he died on 27 Sept 1897. He was buried in the Belvidere Cemetery with his family (US House of Reps).
Photographs of Oxford Furnace
Images from the Historic American Buildings Survey (1930s) at: https://www.loc.gov/resource/hhh.nj0869.photos
Archaeological excavations at Shippen Manor have produced a wide range of information about the past inhabitants of the site, and about the various changes that the manor house and grounds have undergone in previous years. Numerous subsurface features (including wells, builder’s trenches, refuse pits, middens, and various architectural elements) and thousands of 18th-19th century artifacts have been recovered. Information about the Manor was also obtained through primary sources such as inventories, letters, wills, and diaries. The site of the house emphasizes the position of the Shippens in the local society. They were “masters of all they surveyed” and then some. The estate contained over four thousand acres including land on the Delaware River and a grant from the King of England to operate a ferry. This iron plantation was basically self-sufficient, surrounded by tenant farms, various mills, a store as well as the iron furnace. The Manor is Georgian in style, constructed from local stone, two foot thick stone walls, and three immense chimneys. The ground floor consisted of six rooms. Upstairs there were two bed chambers and four garret rooms (now offices and museum storage). When the Manor was built, it was designed to be functional rather than luxurious. Three colors dominated the interior of that portion of the house restored to the colonial period: white, blue-gray and red. Through analysis of paint chips, taken from throughout the Manor, we have been able to reproduce the colors used in the restoration of the Manor. The baseboards in this portion of the house were painted black, this prevented dirt from showing on the lower section of the white walls. Where you see breaks in the black baseboards, this indicates a contemporary addition. The pine floors in the Reception room, Dining room, and Victorian parlor are original. The floors in the Robeson study and Shippen kitchen needed to be repaired or replaced.