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July 30, 2003

Harbinger Poetry

There are a number of poems (or parts of poems) in the logs of the ship Harbinger, and we thought it might be a good idea to print them here. The final one, as you will observe, is incomplete: we hope that some of you will be minded to complete it (or indeed write a completely new one on the same or a similar theme).

1842 How hard is a poor sailors lot
He is fore ever gorn from home
Thru varios climes boath cold and hot
He is ever domed to rome

1845 Our bark wile on the ocean bound
Conveys me far from the
And all that ever dear to me
Alas I have left behind

1847 The promises you have mad to others
Per haps you will deny
But ther is a day acoming
The judg he will not lie.

And when you pass deaths cold icy arms
I m sure tis there you will see
The vows to other you have mad
But never mad to me

The book of life it will be brought
The judg he will unfold

Perhaps nascent or latent poets will want to complete this final stanza, which may or may not be a concluding stanza to the other two.

Posted by Bill Wyatt at at July 30, 2003 8:12 PM

July 28, 2003

What's newest? Old records!

"I have notified and warned the Inhabitants of said town by posting up notifications one at the store of Thomas W. Mayhew one at the store of Church and Winchester one on the Town house and one at the store of Frederick Brownell purporting; to meet at the time and place and for the purposes within mentioned. Signed Jireh Brownell,Constable of Westport."

That's how Westporters got their news in 1844 - or so it is recorded in the official town records. Now thanks to the efforts of Claude Ledoux and others you can get your news of Westport down through the ages by reading the copies of the town records on this Web site. Right now we have only the first 50 years or so, but the entries are growing weekly and soon we will have all records posted here from the town's incorporation in 1787 to the present.

Just click the "town records" link at the top of the home page, or choose "town records" from the links on the right side of this and other pages under the heading "Westport History Web."

Believe it or not, the records make for fascinating reading with all sorts of little tidbits that admittedly raise more questions than answers sometimes. But that's what makes them fun - not to mention useful as historical documents. Take a look. Do a search for your road, your organization, or a familiar name. No telling what will turn up! Start here!

Posted by Greg Stone at at July 28, 2003 9:25 PM

Archaeological Survey

We are happy to report that our appeal for assistance has been answered to the tune of $25, 985. We shall utilize the excess over our goal to provide publicity for the Public Day. In addition to those thanked in the last Harbinger, we thank now: Robert & Louisa Coughlin, Richard Fitton, Ralph Guild, John & Ruth Jennings, Harold Lash, Constance Lee, John & Carla McDermott, John & Sylvia McDonough, Joseph & Rosemary Mullaney, Pfizer Foundation, Franklin H. Pond, William & Elsie Prentice, Thomas & Katharine Schmitt, Keith & Susan Watson, Wiley, Rein & Fielding LLP.

Posted by Greg Stone at at July 28, 2003 11:10 AM

New Members (July 2003)

We welcome the following to membership in the Society: Andrew & Gail Davis, James and Wendy Nicholas Dorsey, William Fanning, Jr., Robert and Beatrice Gormley, Steve Ouellette, Antone & Shirley Vieira, Benjamin & Elizabeth White.

Posted by Greg Stone at at July 28, 2003 11:09 AM

Hadfield Exhibit

The Society held an exhibit of Herb Hadfield’s work on June 14 (River Day) and June 15. Jean Walters curated the exhibit, and it was a great success: upwards of 150 people visited the building, many of them with recollections of Hadfield, and some of them in fact possessing examples of his work. All the items in the exhibit were on loan from private collections. Among these items were realistic paintings (of a pet dog), landscapes, a painting of Hadfield himself with a number of objects of importance to him; magnificent carving on whale bone (scrimshaw) and carvings of dolphins; as well as a few satirical works, the one a map of Westport Point and its environs, the other cabana doors depicting a male naked from the waist down (rear view) and a female naked from the waist up. Others contributed pictures of Hadfield at various ages and engaged in various activities, and also pictures of his log cabin in the woods on Cornell Rd.

We are very grateful to those who contributed items for the show, and to Jean Walters for organizing it. Helga Nichols was of great assistance in receiving and returning materials, and Sharon Wypych did a magnificent and much-needed job in arranging things and being present throughout the event. The show was so successful that we may want to stage another, similar, one in future.

Posted by Greg Stone at at July 28, 2003 11:07 AM

Volunteers sought

We need volunteers to help in various activities, and also solicit names of people interested in serving on the Board. If you have an interest in assisting the Society either as a volunteer or as a Board Member, please contact the office at 508-636-6011.

Posted by Greg Stone at at July 28, 2003 11:06 AM


Through the Herculean efforts of Claude Ledoux and students at Westport High School under the supervision of Mike Davis, many of the videos of Claude’s “Westport Matters” TV show have been converted to CD’s and DVD’s. A complete listing of the disks available can be obtained from our website: www.wpthistory.org. Any persons interested in viewing these disks can contact us here at the Historical Society, or can obtain them through the Westport Free Public Library. Furthermore, if any members have videos of material of historical interest, they can bring them to us, and we will make DVD’s of them. One DVD will go to the owner, others will remain here and go to the Westport Library.

Posted by Greg Stone at at July 28, 2003 11:04 AM


This winter and spring the Society provided instruction on Westport history to third graders at the Westport Elementary School. Andrea Powning went to the school on two occasions in January and February and discussed town history with the children, and with great success. She produced a small booklet on the town's history that the children might keep, and had them address postcards to themselves that she subsequently mailed them to reinforce their recollections of her visit. In early May the children came down to the Bell School in six groups of about 30 children, and Barbara Moss demonstrated items from our collection that they could touch and handle. Andrea was there as well, and at the end of the visit she gave the children a small snack of miniature cornmeal muffins and apple cider. It was a cheerful experience to see the children enthusiastically involved in the activity, and we are most grateful to Andrea and Barbara for making it possible.

In late April a group of 22 students, second graders from the Paul Cuffee Charter School in Providence, came to Westport for a visit. They went first to the Quaker Meeting House on Main Rd., with its memorial to Paul Cuffee. There Sharon Wypych, our Administrative Assistant, told them about Cuffee and the Quakers. Rosalind Wiggins, author of the book Captain Paul Cuffe’s Logs and Letters, 1808-1817, spoke to the children about Cuffee and showed them his grave. They then came to the Bell School where they learned about schools in the 19th century.

We hope that these field trips may become annual events, and are delighted that our volunteers are willing to undertake this pleasant and important activity.

Posted by Greg Stone at at July 28, 2003 11:03 AM


The April 10, 2003 issue of Shorelines contains two articles on alewives. These small fish typically return to Westport in the Spring, and are of interest to humans (for bait) and birds (for food). Because of pollution in the rivers they have been long absent, but are now returning to spawn. They are to be counted at the fish ladder at Adamsville Pond, from which they cannot be taken till further notice. Further down the river, on River Rd., there is a sign proclaiming “Herring Run”, and there is a cut that passes under the road and enters Cockeast Pond. There is also a sign reporting (in capital letters): NO FISHING FOR NOR TAKING OF ALEWIVES HERRING FROM ANY WATERS OF THE TOWN ON SUN TUES THUR PER ORDER FISH COMM. I have no idea why this restriction exists, but assume it is arbitrarily selected so that some at least of these little fish may make their way successfully into the pond.

It is of some interest to report that alewives have been in the news before. At a Town Meeting in the Fall of 1871, the Town voted: “to empower the Selectmen to take such action necessary to procure the right of the Fisheries belonging to Cock East Pond.” And the New Bedford Republican Standard of 2/8/1872 (p. 4, col. 1) reported on action taken by the Massachusetts House of Representatives: “Also to enable the town Westport to control the fishing in Acoaxet pond.” And (p. 6, col. 2): “The Legislative Committee of Fisheries gave a hearing 31st ult., on a petition of the town of Westport for authority to control the fisheries of Acoaxet pond in that town. It appeared that a man living on the borders of the pond has cut a ditch from it through his lands to Westport River, by which means alewives seek to enter the pond during the season. The proprietor of this private fishery is supposed to have reaped quite a harvest at the expense of the community at large, who object to his setting nets.”

Some problems seem to have a long history. Incidentally, the same Town Meeting voted to authorize the Selectmen to petition the next Legislature for a charter for a bridge across the river from Westport Point to Horseneck. The bridge was finally started in 1893 and completed in 1894, but not without controversy (cf. Carmen Maiocco’s The Bridge at Westport Point).
Bea Gormley, W. F. Wyatt

Posted by Greg Stone at at July 28, 2003 11:01 AM

Mission of the Holy Spirit

It is always well to know where you are. I learned this some seventeen years ago when I decided at last to look for a vacation or summer house. My mother’s family stemmed from John Dyer Rd. in Adamsville, RI, so it was there that I began my search. I was first shown a wonderful five-acre lot overlooking Adamsville without a house on it; and then a newly built and tastefully decorated house with views of the river. Neither appealed to me because I did not want to build a new house and did not want a “finer home”. The real estate agent apologized for the next property, but took me to see it anyway. We drove up a winding dirt lane and into a clearing where we came upon a tumble-down but most attractive old house. I was hooked and bought it, even though I knew that it would require considerable fixing up. (In fact my architect told me my best course was to flatten it.)

It was during the negotiations attendant upon buying the property that I received my first surprise: I was buying a house in Westport, MA, and not in Adamsville, RI. I had barely had time to recover from this surprise when I received the second, this in the form of a ramshackle automobile that came up the drive and stopped just before coming onto my property. From this vehicle emerged some six to eight francophone people, three or four adults and several children. They asked if it was all right with me if they had a look around. They were members of a French-Canadian religious group that had been located for a number of years in this area, and wanted to view its former home.

I had heard that such a group existed, and that the apartment house on the road below my house – the Eurila apartments (pronounced Yurilla) – had housed a religious group that had disintegrated some time before my arrival. The name of the apartments consists of the first syllables of the name of the group's leader: Eu(gene) Ri(cher) La(Fleche). I of course had no objection to having these people look around, and did not inquire of them much about their history. They told me of the former location of trees, and were most interested in changes and continuities on the property.
Several years later an Old Testament figure appeared, a man with a white flowing beard who had lived on the property and who then resided in Bourne, MA. He informed me that we were living on holy ground; that the Messiah had lived in the house we occupy; and that he was taking legal steps to regain the property. He assured us, however, that we would not be evicted or inconvenienced. He left, and only one man and his wife have appeared on the property since then. This couple had vacationed in the area for some years, and had done a certain amount of research into the group, and wanted to investigate the property farther up the hill. My wife, having heard of such, opined that they were after buried treasure. Buried treasure, so far as I know, there is not. A good deal of rubbish, yes, but no treasure. If ever there was any, it either had long since been found, or left the premises without ever being buried.

There is treasure, of course. Human treasure. The group still exists in Montreal and on the west coast, and is known as the Mission of the Holy Spirit. Its religious beliefs are still unknown to me in detail, but the bearded prophet told me that the “Third Person of the Holy Trinity” resided in that old house that I had purchased in 1986 (from two lawyers). One authority, a member of the Mission (Gustave Robitaille) writes (in an English version of what must originally have been in French): “Jesus having promised in turn, like Jehovah, the forthcoming of a Consoler, the unique and true Consecrator, in order to reveal to the world the secret of his own birth, Christ’s birth, here it is now that after twenty centuries of Darkness and of Mortality appears, at last, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Saviour of mankind proven by his deeds and his Doctrine and recognized in the most august Majesty of the Lord-Master, EUGENE RICHER DIT LA FLECHE, whose wisdom and Word unsealed to us the EUGENISM as much spiritual as carnal in the unique and wholesome manner to be born CHILD OF GOD by the MINISTRY of the HOLY SPIRIT applied to the womb of the Procreator.”

The group was not well understood, and were known locally as Holy Rollers. They had houses on Great Island in the west branch of the Westport River, as well as the house I bought; it became more widely known in 1925. I quote the caption under a picture of the island from the Fall River Herald of Tuesday, March 17, 1925: “This picture shows the more prominent buildings in the somewhat mysterious Holy Ghost colony established for some time on Goat [sic, it is Great] Island in the west branch of the Westport River, which can be seen from the road leading from Adamsville to Westport Harbor. Adelard Giasson, known as the apostle of the colony, has been arrested on a charge of conspiracy and search is being made for Eugene Richer, said to be the founder and self-styled Holy Ghost. Some Fall River men residing in the eastern section of the city have lost considerable money through the operation of the colony, it is said, and it is on their complaints that the police have finally acted, after long investigation.

(to be continued) W. F. Wyatt

Posted by Greg Stone at at July 28, 2003 10:59 AM

Westport Archaeological Survey Nears Completion of Phase One

The Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL) is nearing completion of the first phase of the town-wide archaeological reconnaissance survey of Westport. The Westport Historical Society contracted with PAL to complete the project, and is funding the survey with support from its membership and town residents. The survey is designed to collect information about land-use patterns in Westport ranging from 10,000 years ago to the mid-twentieth century, and to use this information to identify archaeological sites and locations where items of archaeological importance may be present. The research gathered during the survey will be used by the WHS and the Town to help protect important archaeological resources, through existing and potential public permitting and approval processes and ongoing public and private efforts at land acquisition and preservation.

During Phase I of the survey, the PAL project team has been gathering background on known archaeological sites in Westport. While the Town boasts nearly a dozen National Register Historic Districts and more than one hundred inventoried historic buildings, there are currently only seven “pre-contact” Native American and one historic period site in Westport recorded in the official state files at the Massachusetts Historical Commission. One major goal of the survey is to record additional sites through background research and interviews with local residents and artifact collectors.
The first phase of the survey was also designed to familiarize the PAL team with the physical environment and history of Westport. This has been accomplished through the review of environmental data such as wetlands and soil maps; regional and town histories and historic maps; and driveover visits throughout Westport’s villages and outlying areas. We have used this information to produce preliminary archaeological sensitivity maps of the town as well as predictive models as to the types and locations of archaeological sites that could be present within Westport.
Phase II of the survey will focus on refining the preliminary data collected by PAL. This portion of the survey will rely heavily on input from members of the WHS, local residents and historians who can provide information on archaeological sites or areas that may contain sites. Examples of these include Native American artifact find spots, shell middens, burial grounds and village or camp sites. Historic period archaeological sites could include building ruins, old roadways, abandoned commercial and industrial sites (e.g. mills, saltworks, taverns), military camps and battle sites, meetinghouses, and farm complexes. The PAL archaeologists will combine the Phase I background with informant information to produce the final report on the survey, record new archaeological sites, and provide the WHS with a tool to help protect and preserve Westport’s unique history.
A Public Day has been planned for Sunday, June 29 from 1 to 4 PM at the Bell School to allow members of the community to share their knowledge about artifacts and sites with the PAL archaeologists. Anyone who cannot attend or who would like to contribute to the town-wide survey can contact Holly Herbster, Project Archaeologist, at (401) 728-8780 or Hherbster@palinc.com. Holly Herbster

Posted by Greg Stone at at July 28, 2003 10:54 AM