January 6, 2014
Westport History 101
10 AM Tuesday March 4, 11, 18 at the Paquachuck Inn, 2056 Main Road, Westport Point
This program is SOLD OUT. WE ARE NOT ABLE TO ACCOMMODATE ANY ADDITIONAL PARTICIPANTS.
We hope to repeat these programs sometime in the future, so please check back for updates.
Besides Westport's incorporation in 1787, how much do you really know about our sleepy little town?
Lexington, Concord and even New Bedford may have grabbed all the historic headlines, but Westport has a rich past of whaling and fishing, farming, manufacturing, immigration and even tourism that has contributed to the fabric of the SouthCoast region. Beginning March 4 on three consecutive Tuesday mornings, Westport Historical Society President Tony Connors will lead us on a fascinating journey through Westport's history. He'll begin with the glaciers that influenced the town's development then travel through time until the decline of the town's manufacturing base in the early 20th century.
Join us at the Paquachuck Inn for three discussions beginning at 10 a.m.
March 4 includes Westport's geological formation, the early native American inhabitants, first European contact, Plymouth Colony and King Philip's War. We then discuss the early settlement of Old Dartmouth and end with the American Revolution.
March 11 covers the incorporation and organization of Westport in 1787, but also includes early roads and transportation, the whaling and fishing industries, and early industrial development.
March 18 starts with Westport in the Civil War, the rise of cotton manufacturing and Westport Factory Village, the introduction of railroads and trolleys, and the development of Route 6. The course ends in the early 20th century with a look at major changes and trends.
Coffee and pastry from Westport's new gluten-free bakery, Goat Cottage Farm, will be served.
Suggested donation per session $5.
Please PRE-REGISTER for Westport History 101 by contacting the Westport Historical Society at 508 636 6011 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information please visit our website www.wpthistory.org
November 24, 2013
Annual Appeal 2013
If you would prefer to mail in your donation please use this form here annual_appeal_return.pdf
Engage, inspire, connect - the mission of the Westport Historical Society - places YOU, our supporters, at its heart. While 2013 was an extraordinary year for the Society thanks to its members, we can't wait to show you what's in store for 2014!
First, some 2013 history:
- Our new manager of education opened up our offerings for families and children.
- We continued to celebrate the personal stories -- such as rum-running tales and the memoir of Elvira Smith, who celebrates her 100th birthday in 2014.
- Our collection of historical furniture, photos and books continued to grow through generous donations.
- We began revamping our web site to make it more user-friendly.
- We hosted the tremendously successful "Splice the Main Brace!" end-of-summer party at the Point, which placed the Society on the path toward long-term financial sustainability.
Also in 2013, the first stage of the Handy House's structural stabilization was completed. Exploration funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation has already begun the innovative process of "opening windows" into the interior of the historic Hix Bridge Road house to reveal the secrets of its construction.
We look forward to opening the doors of the Handy House next spring and revealing the untold stories of its early settlers. We will celebrate the architectural treasures of Westport and cast new light on local, regional and national history.
But we cannot move forward without your help. We are deeply grateful for the public's on-going support of the Society over the years. Now we are asking you to join our 2014 Annual Giving Campaign with an overall goal of $25,000. If you are a previous donor, please consider moving to a new gift level. If you are a new donor, please understand that your participation is key to our success. Would you consider a scheduled monthly gift? Donations can be made securely online through our website www.wpthistory.org.
Please join in supporting the Society as we seek to preserve the historical culture of Westport and connect all of us to our extraordinary heritage.
Tony Connors, President
Jenny O'Neill, Executive Director
November 22, 2013
A Handy House Thanksgiving
Not much is known about how the holidays were celebrated at the Handy House, however we've uncovered that Thanksgiving 1927 was a real hair-raising time!
Abbott Smith, who purchased the Hix Bridge Road home in 1911, hosted 48 of his nearest and dearest at one large table out on the front porch, according to Smith's grandson, also named Abbott, who wrote about the event in the Millbrook (N.Y.) Round Table in 1993.
"The logistical and culinary planning and execution of such an affair was delegated to the family butler (Maurice), who proved stunningly up to the task," wrote Smith, the husband of Round Table columnist Betty Smith.
"Pots, pans, china, silverware and high and low chairs were volunteered and delivered by various families," said Smith. "And such food as turkey and pies that could be all or partially precooked was done that way in various family kitchens, and delivered to our family cook, Anna."
Young Abbott wrote that he particularly recalled the noise level "being quite high as impatience and hunger stirred up the volubility and some crying and screaming by hungry young" as well as the adults who competed to be heard above the crowd.
At 3 p.m., after his grandfather led the crowd in a prayer of Thanksgiving, dinner was served.
"Various 'borrowed' maids and Maurice scurried hither and yon feeding the tribe," wrote Smith. "The gargantuan turkeys were carved at both ends of the table, one by Grandpa and the other by Uncle Arthur Delano, a senior-in-law.
"The maids did yeoman service keeping everyone's plate full, following Maurice's quiet directions from the house dining room where he could observe everything by opening the door just a crack.
"The major event - an accident, really - happened as the gravy was being served," wrote Smith. "Maurice appeared with a large gravy boat and started down the outside of the table. Suddenly he lost his footing on the unfamiliar floor, the gravy boat crashed, and a river of gravy started to flow down the wooden porch floor.
"At the same instant, some of us could see a strange object scudding along on the top of the gravy river," he recalled. "It was Maurice's perfect toupee, upside down in the stream of gravy (and) at the same time, stretched out fully was shiny pated Maurice, swimming face down in the flow."
"Once he grabbed his toupee and stood up to expose his soiled tux and shamed face, some people (like me) just couldn't keep from laughing briefly," he said. "Finally, we all bushed and stored up our laughing for some later and more private time."
The red-faced butler would not be seen again that day, said Smith, although his "trembling voice could be heard from behind the door instructing the maids on whom to serve next, and we also heard the occasional restrained tittering of the girls as they passed him going in and out."
Smith said no one had a clue that the butler's "perfectly-coiffed headpiece was not his own hair. "His humiliation was felt by all."
After the Maurice incident, the family agreed "such a massive family meeting was not to be attempted again...the strain was just too great."
Abbott Smith's grandson's Thanksgiving memoir appeared in the Round Table's Nov. 25, 1993 feature "My Side of the Street," a weekly column written by his wife, Betty.
Photographs of the interior of the Handy House during the time that Abbott Smith owned the house:
November 14, 2013
Just how old is the Cadman-White-Handy House?
The Westport Historical Society has received a $10,000 National Trust for Historic Preservation grant to help answer a $10,000 Question: Just how old is the Cadman-White-Handy House? This project is part of an innovative process of "opening windows" into the interior of the house to reveal its evolution.
Just how old is the Cadman-White-Handy House?
The Westport Historical Society has enlisted the expertise of Historic Deerfield's architectural conservator William Flynt to answer that very question when he performed a dendrochronology study at the Hix Bridge Road property.
Dendrochronology is better known as "tree ring dating." It is used to narrow down the age of a building through the trees' rings as well as other variables such as environment and climate.
During his recent visit to the Handy House, Flynt took samples from timber under the floorboards and in the ceilings in all three phases of construction, as well as in the attic.
While the Society is aware that the Handy House was built in three phases over more than a century -- starting in what is believed to be 1710 -a vast amount of research on the historic property hasn't turned up more definitive dates for the additions.
By enlisting the help of experts, the group hopes to narrow down the dates of construction to help the Society interpret as well as preserve the interior of the house. The more information gleaned from studies stimulated by the grant will help boost the "visitor experience" when the Handy House opens to the public next year.
When the house opens its historic doors in the spring, adult and children will be invited to get a first-hand look at the dendrochronology process and check out the "core samples" taken at the house as well as learn more about the usefulness of tree-ring dating.
Flynt's work is associated with a $10,000 National Trust for Historic Preservation grant which the Society will match to conduct research and develop programs to "open windows" into the interior of the house to reveal its evolution.
November 5, 2013
Harbinger Fall 2013
October 24, 2013
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without"
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without"
Born in 1914 and still going strong, Elvira Smith reflects on her childhood and what it was like growing up on a Westport Farm located on Horseneck Road, down a long lane.
Growing up on a farm was a lot of hard work but remains one of my fondest memories.
There was always a lot of work to be done on the farm. I often worked with my Pa outside, cutting and storing hay, cutting and lugging green feed for the calves and heifers, planting potatoes, and beets, etc. It was also my job to take the horses and cows to the spring brook for a drink and drive them back to their pasture or to their barn. Something important that I learned was to always be careful where I was to place my feet! If you could not find me out in the fields with my father, you could find me feeding the chickens, collecting their eggs, or shutting them up in their hen coops at night.
Except for one summer, I remember I did all the canning by myself. Of all things, that was the year the canning closet fell over and a lot of my work was for naught. The jars ended up draining through the dirt floor of the cellar.
Esther also did a lot of needlework, and with my mother, made most of our clothes. We were very frugal. For example we would use the cotton from the flour sacks to make our aprons. I remember that instead of throwing our old sweaters away, we would unravel the yarn, then wash and clean it to take out the wrinkles. I still have two vests that I knitted from old sweaters. My mother had the expression "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without". We lived by that slogan then and I still do now.
That slogan definitely helped us through the Depression. Because we lived on a farm and had plenty of vegetables, fruit and even chickens, we were self-sustaining through the depression. Although, I did become very tired of chicken! We ate differently on the farm. For instance, we never ate raw peppers. They were always fried. Rice was used mostly for rice pudding. Corn was a meal, not added to a meal, and with the first crop of strawberries, we had strawberry shortcake for our dinner, and said a "hurrah" the garden season has arrived! We had plenty of raspberry and blueberry bushes on the farm. I had great fun picking several buckets with my sister and it was a good change from being in the fields with my father; not to mention how much we looked forward to blueberry pie! A relish that always accompanied our bean supper was raw onion sitting on the table in a saucer with vinegar, and, always a piece of salt pork could be found in the baked beans. Our cows provided cream, milk and cottage cheese which were stored in my Uncle John's spring house which was located over a spring brook in between our farms. We also had a root cellar to store our winter vegetables.
We only had one farm dog. His name was Breame, a Scottish name. Our horses were part of the working force on the farm. Bell was our best work horse; Bess was the friskiest, while Kate just plodded along. Later on, we had Donald and Billy. We always had cats as they kept our grain room free of mice. "Buffie" was our best mouser. I can envision him now sitting in the grain room watching my father move the grain bags. When my father saw a mouse he would point it out to the cat and the cat would pounce on the mouse and catch it for us. The cats were not just farm animals; they were our pets and friends as well. Ambrose was a favorite cat. I remember one night she came to the front door and kept calling and calling. I finally went downstairs to pet her and to find out what the ruckus was all about. There she was a proud as could be showing me a mouse that she had just caught. I petted her and went back upstairs to bed but she did not leave and continued calling and calling until I went back downstairs. I took the mouse by the tail and dangled it in front of her, praised her, and gave it back. She was then satisfied and went on her way. She just wanted to be sure that I knew that she had brought me a special gift.
One memory I do not cherish is that the back of our "out house" was situated to the North. Boy, that North wind could get mighty cold! Oh, and I would rather not be reminded of having to use a chamber pot in the winter time, then empting it in the morning.
I remember one day my sister Esther and my cousin Jane and I were wandering around the ruins of the old George Edward Handy house, which was the property next door to us, and found a working still. Janie, who was quite a few years older than us, came up with the idea to toss an old water kettle into the still to show her protest and to let whoever was making the moonshine, know that they had been discovered. Those were the times we would often hear the rum running wagons go by in the middle of the night.
When I was sixteen my father told an auto dealer in town, Mr. Davis, that if he could get me through acquiring an automobile license, he would purchase a car. As a result, my father bought a 1930 Chevy. He then gave up driving. At the age of sixteen, I became the driver for the family. One day I remember my mother and I were driving to Swansea for a high school football game and came to a stop sign. One of my fellow students, Wordell Sampson, drove up next to me getting ready to pass. My mother baited me and said, "You aren't going to let him pass you, are you"? That was all I needed. I took the challenge and left him behind! I was the only one in the family with a license for years. Currently my license shows a hundred year span, from my birthday, 1914, to 2014, the expiration date. On my hundredth birthday I hope to drive one last time. Watch out everyone!
When my high school graduation came around it was very exciting to go into the city and be able to buy two dresses, new shoes, a handkerchief, stockings and undies. One dress was for the school dance, and one for the graduation. It was also a special day to celebrate because I was chosen as Salutatorian for my graduating class of 1932. For an extra special treat my parents purchased some flowers, and also let me get a "finger wave", which was one of the first developed permanents. My friend Hazel, who worked at the Star Store, made the arrangements. My father would not let my mother ever cut my hair so when I had my "finger wave", it was quite a job for the hairdresser as my hair had grown so long I could sit on the ends. The year after I graduated I noticed an article in the newspaper of the "Sewing Circle" column where someone had written in and commented how costly it was for a graduation. I wrote an article in response listing all the expenses for my graduation showing that it did not have to be so costly.
Some of my fondest memories are working with my father on the farm. I believe all that hard work contributed to my physical strength and character lingering throughout my long life, even to now, at my age of 99. My parents were very loving and wise and taught me how to get along in this life by hard work, minding my own business and keeping my mouth shut! We lived on the farm until I was 24. Upon my father's passing, we sold the farm and move to Dartmouth in 1938, just prior to the infamous '38 Hurricane. However, home for me will always be Westport and is closest to my heart!!
Wouldn't you like to live on a farm like in the old days!
Our thanks to Elvira Smith and Emily Edwards for this article.
Elvira with her sister Esther
Elvira with her sister Esther and 1930 chevy
Elvira's finger wave
Moving from Westport in 1938
Horseneck Road school
Elvira's graduating class of 1932
Elvira as a ballerina
The school where her mother taught and where Elvira attended school