OXFORD – When Charlotte Stafford was first asked to fill the post of Village Historian, she didn’t know what she was getting into. “I accepted, but I didn’t know what would be involved,” she said.
Now, 31 years later, there isn’t much about the Village of Oxford’s history that Stafford doesn’t know. But then, she came to the position uniquely qualified to document its history.
The 89-year-old Oxford native still lives in the stately white home in which she was born – built by her grandfather Richard Lewis Stafford in 1870.
Her father, George Lewis Stafford, installed one of the town’s first printing presses in an upstairs bedroom of that same house and began publishing the Oxford Review. In 1915, he acquired the Oxford Times and joined the two newspapers into the Oxford Review-Times. He owned the paper for more than 40 years.
Though Charlotte recalls proofing copy for the paper in her youth, her aspirations were not of a journalistic nature. She earned an undergraduate degree in history and French from Elmira College in 1941 and a master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Albany two years later. It wasn’t until she retired as the Norwich Junior High School librarian that she began delving into Oxford’s past.
Shortly after her retirement she worked with Richard Ryan, then town supervisor, on a book commemorating the 175th anniversary of the United States. After completion of the project, Ryan asked Stafford to become historian.
When she accepted the appointed position, there were no records to be passed down from her predecessor. Stafford has accumulated all of the information in the archive herself, much of it at her personal expense, including using her own pencils and paper. “I didn’t even have census records,” she said.