OXFORD — How did Andrew Craigie of Cambridge, Massachusetts, become associated with Oxford?
During and immediately after his time with the Continental Army — he was mustered out in 1783 — Craigie sold drugs and medicines wholesale with a partner in New York City. But he also became a financier and land speculator, buying and selling parcels in New England and Ohio and amassing a large fortune in the process.
He developed most of East Cambridge and was responsible for the construction of the Charles River Dam Bridge, first known as Craigie’s Bridge connecting East Cambridge and Boston.
It was during this time that Craigie, like many other Massachusetts men, came to Maine to purchase land. In the 1790s, he became the largest landowner in Shepardsville — nearly 14,000 acres — in what became Hebron, and later Oxford.
Much of the land was originally granted to Alexander Shepard Jr. by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the purpose of enticing others to the undeveloped land that was to become the state of Maine. As part of the grant, Shepard was to settle 10 families in 10 years on the land, according to “The Annals of Oxford” published in 1903.
“The Annals of Oxford” says Craigie invested in the development of local water power and built the original mill on what is known as the Robinson woolen mill complex on King Street. He built a huge farm for raising domestic animals. He dammed the outlet at Thompson Lake, built lumber and grist mills and created the village known for years as Craigie’s Mills.
He also hired an attorney to run his Oxford operations.
Craigie died in 1819 after overextending his fortune in land speculation and essentially hiding out in his Brattle Street mansion to avoid debtor’s prison. His widow later was forced to rent rooms in the mansion.
One of her tenants was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He later bought the house which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site.
In 1829, the heirs of Andrew Craigie offered to erect a meeting house in Oxford to honor him. A site selection committee chose a 3-acre lot and the meeting house was built the following year at Routes 26 and 121.
Craigie’s patriotic service is still recognized each year when an outstanding federal government pharmacist is presented the annual Andrew Craigie Award.