OLD DARTMOUTH HISTORICAL SKETCH
Being the proceedings of the Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, Water Street, New Bedford, Massachusetts, on June 30, 1908.
THE KEMPTON FAMILY IN OLD DARTMOUTH
by Mary Kempton Taber
SOCIAL LIFE AMONG THE FRIENDS OF LONG AGO
by Mary Eastman Bradford
HEAD OF WESTPORT AND ITS FOUNDERS
by Henry Barnard Worth
[Note.—The “Old Dartmouth Historical Sketches” will be published by the society quarterly and may be purchased for ten cents each on application to the Secretary and also at Hutchinson’s Book Store.]
New Bedford, Massachusetts
June 30, 1908
The Old Dartmouth Historical Society held its twentieth regular meeting the evening of June 30 with a good attendance in spite of the very warm weather. The program for the evening comprised papers on “The Kempton Family in Old Dartmouth,” by Miss Mary Kempton Taber; and “Social Life among the Friends of Long Ago,” by Miss Mary Eastman Bradford. Both papers were listened to with much interest and cordial appreciation.
In introducing the first speaker of the evening, President Wood said: “In the history of Old Dartmouth no name is older than that of Kempton for it appears upon our earliest record.”
Among the many descendants of the family of Kempton now living, few of them bearing the name, there are a goodly number who are living in the very district set off to their progenitor, old Manasseh Kempton, 250 years ago.
“Our fellow member who is to speak to us this evening is now living, and I believe has always lived in about the centre of the largest tract that belonged to this worthy ancestor. She is well fitted to speak to you on the subject which she has chosen, for she has always been proud of the Kemptons. I introduce Miss Mary Kempton Taber, who will address us on the Kempton family in Old Dartmouth.”
The Kempton Family in Old Dartmouth
By Mary Kempton Taber
“Ephraim Kempton arrived at Plymouth in the ship Ann August, 1623. He was the first Kempton to come to this country. (The name was sometime spelled Kimton.) His two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, came with him. The father died in 1645, the sons were appointed administrators of his estate. Ephraim 2d married and settled in Scituate.
“Manasseh was a very [notable] citizen a man of great executive ability; was chosen deputy to the general court, surveyor of highways, and assessor of taxes, serving many terms in each office. In 1624 he married Julian, widow of George Morton, thus commencing what afterward became a very close relation with the Morton family, especially noticeable in the Christian names in both families, Ephraim and Manasseh being used over and over again.
“He was one of the original 36 purchasers of Dartmouth in 1652.
“He died without children in 1662. The records said, ‘He did much good in his place the time God lent him.’
“In 1714 there was a Manasseh Kempton in Southampton, Long Island, by occupation a gunsmith, who was formerly of Plymouth. He represented the Kempton landed interest in Dartmouth which he derived from his uncle Manasseh. There is considerable mystery how the Southampton Manasseh obtained title to the Dartmouth lands; as the original purchaser left no will his supposed heir would be his brother Ephraim, but this brother never owned the Dartmouth lands according to the records; and a still further problem is to decide who the Long Island man was; if the original purchaser was his uncle, it might be suggested that the Scituate Ephraim could be his father, but there is no record establishing this fact, and when later this gunsmith [transferred] his Dartmouth lands to Ephraim Kempton 3d, he calls him his cousin, which is an absurdity, if this Ephraim was his own brother.
“The confusion created by these different relationships given in the deed, leaves in considerable doubt the relation of the Long Island man to the families in Plymouth; one thing, however, seems certain, that as he died about 1736, Manasseh, the first purchaser could not have been his father.
“In 1733, Manasseh transferred most of his Dartmouth lands, consisting of extensive tracts of swamps, woodland, and shore meadows. Years before, the proprietors in the division of the common lands had allotted to the Long Island Kempton extensive tracts of upland, meadow and cedar swamps in Dartmouth. The first was 150 acres at the extreme end of Sconticut Neck; the second was a farm of 100 acres on the east side of the Acushnet River north of the terminus of the Coggeshall Street bridge; the third was a tract of 40 acres on the east side of Clarks Point, divided by Butler Street; the fourth was a tract of woodland comprising 300 acres in Smith Mills, lying between North Dartmouth railroad station and the road between Faunces Corner and Hixville; the fifth, known as the Homestead and designated by Thomas M. Stetson as ‘a magnificent rectangle,’ was bounded on the east by the Acushnet River, on the west by Rockdale Avenue, its south line 100 feet south of Spring Street, the north boundary 100 feet north of Sycamore Street, and its area over 400 acres.
“The distinguishing marks along the south side have been obliterated for over a century, except a curious jog in the west line of County Street in front of the residence of the late James Arnold, which may be observed as late as the Atlas of 1871.
“The north boundary of the Kempton farm can be easily traced: Rockdale Avenue at a point 320 feet north of West Maxfield Street, changes its direction; this point is the northwest corner of the Kempton homestead. The line extended about 100 feet north of Sycamore Street, at Pleasant Street crossing the Armory lot, and reaching Purchase Street 420 feet north of Maxfield Street. Within this domain the village of Bedford started. The county road traversed this farm as early as 1711, and later was called County Street; extending therefrom, east and west, were farm lanes which afterwards became the modern streets. On its water front was built 12 of the 15 wharves that were in existence in 1820. Here was built in 1794 the first school house, situated on Purchase Street; a meeting house, built in 1795, northwest corner of Purchase and William Streets; and dwellings of Bedford’s first merchants.
“While the Kemptons owned valuable interests in Dartmouth from the date of the purchase in 1652, yet for over eighty years none of them lived on Buzzards bay until Ephraim came to Dartmouth in 1736, being the first of that name to reside in this part of the province.
“The Long Island Manasseh in 1733 transferred the land on Clarks Neck, the homestead on the west side of the Acushnet River, and the Smith Mills woodland to ‘my loving cousin, Ephraim Kempton of Plymouth, shipwright’; in his will, probated in 1736, he devised the remainder of his Dartmouth lands to ‘my kinsman, William Kempton, ship carpenter, now living in the town of Plymouth.’ William and Ephraim were sons of Ephraim 2nd, and it is difficult to understand if the Long Islander was another son, why he should have described one brother as ‘my kinsman’ and the other as ‘my cousin.’
“This included the end of Sconticut Neck and the farm on the east side of the Acushnet River. In 1742 William Kempton transferred to Jethro Delano the Sconticut Neck land, the transfer describing it as ‘given me by my honored Uncle Manasseh Kempton, late of Long Island.’
“William occupied as his homestead the farm on the east of the Acushnet River. The Smith Mills property was conveyed to William Ryder.
“When the transfer was made of the great homestead to Ephraim Kempton there must have been a family arrangement that a portion of it was intended for Samuel Kempton, the brother of Ephraim, as a short time later Ephraim conveyed to Samuel the south third of the homestead; the north line of this section was 100 feet south of Elm Street. Ephraim occupied the remainder of the farm as his homestead; also the Clarks Neck lot until his death in 1758.
“Samuel Kempton never resided in Dartmouth, but in 1744 conveyed his tract of 150 acres to Colonel Samuel Willis; it is said that the latter built a house for his son, Ebenezer, on the west side of County Street at the head of William Street, and when, in 1748, Colonel Willis transferred the 150 acres to Joseph Russell, the latter occupied this house as his homestead.
“William Kempton, the owner of the Fairhaven farm, at his death in 1787 devised his homestead to his three sons, William, Stephen and James; it was occupied by these sons and their descendants for many years after. This farm lay in the hollow between the hills, one at Dahls Corner and the other at the terminus of the Coggeshall Street bridge, and extended from the river eastward a third of a mile; within its limits were the Tripp farms, Gould place, and the Woodside cemetery.
“The son, William Jr., moved to Acushnet Village, and at one time owned and occupied the house northwest corner of Lunds corner. He also established on the east side of the Acushnet River, the old tavern which is situated on the south side of the road and is the third building east of the bridge, for half a century this tavern was a famous resort for convivial persons living in New Bedford. In 1758 at the death of Ephraim Kempton the first Dartmouth resident, he gave by will his Clarks Neck lot to his children, Thomas and Joanna, the latter the wife of Benj. Drew, she sold her interest later to Esther Butler, her niece, and they divided the tract and Butler Street was opened on the division line. Some of this tract is still owned by the Kempton descendants.
“The homestead farm of Ephraim, the south third of which was between Sycamore and Elm Streets, he gave by will to his son, William, the same who lived on the east side of the Acushnet River, and the rest of the homestead to his son Thomas.
“The division line between William and Thomas was Kempton Street, which had been opened as a traveled lane in 1778 at the time of the British raid. In his will William Kempton gave the section between Elm and Kempton Streets to three other sons: Benjamin, Manasseh and Ephraim.
“During the years between 1760 and 1800 these three Kempton brothers were selling house lots. Thomas Kempton at his death in 1769, by will gave the sections of his homestead between Kempton and Hillman Streets to his son Ephraim, the other half of his homestead north of Hillman Street to his son Thomas.
“When the Clarks Point tract was assigned to Manasseh Kempton, a stream of fresh water flowed north into the river, south of where the Butler mill is now located. Fresh water was not abundant on Clarks Neck, consequently this stream was considered a public convenience rather than a private right, as in the northwest corner of the Kempton tract the proprietors laid out a watering place, which was a strip of land extending from the road to the brook over 600 feet distant; through this strip ten rods wide, animals could be driven to the water.
“When the Kempton watering place, comprising 4 acres, was found to be of greater extent than the needs of the public required, the town of New Bedford placed a school house at the west end and a powder house further east. Within a few years the old wooden school house bad given way to a handsome brick structure; but according to the terms of the original grant, any person today could drive a herd of cattle down by the school house to the ancient brook. In a division of the Kempton lands in 1850 among 15 heirs, they received the numerous tracts between County Street and Rockdale Avenue, and on both sides of Mill and North Street.
“The lot on the northwest corner of County and Mill Streets was assigned to Ephraim Kempton, the lot next north was allotted to Alfred Kempton, and they built their mansions that time on these lots.
“The land at the northwest corner of County and North Streets originally occupied by the first Kempton house, finally came into the possession of the late David B. Kempton.
“The first Kempton dwelling was on the northwest corner of County and North Streets, occupied by Ephraim 3d, who died 1758; this home was two stories and had a long sloping roof as houses were built in those days; was taken down by David Kempton 2d about 1800, and in its place he erected a dwelling, and this was demolished by the late David B. Kempton, who built a house on the same site.
“Col. Thomas Kempton’s house stood on the west side of Waldon Street, fronted south with a long old fashioned north roof.
“Manasseh Kempton living during the Revolutionary War, built his house in a field, and when streets were laid out it stood on south west corner of Second and Elm Streets. Manasseh’s heirs in 1806 sold this house to a descendant and it stands today on Elm Street, next west of the corner of Second Street.
“The numerous descendants of the Kempton family built their houses on different points of the great homestead.
“The Kemptons resided only in New Bedford and Fairhaven, and not anywhere else in Dartmouth.
“No Kempton ever owned a wharf or had a ship named for him; for over a century after the family settled in Dartmouth, only one engaged in the whaling business, the late David B. Kempton.
“The peculiar development of the whaling business seems to have resulted in this condition, the ships were built, manned, and repaired, by men who resided north of Union Street, but owned by men living south of Union Street.
“The Kemptons were farmers, traders, and many mechanics, not engaging in large enterprises very few met with financial reverses.
“The Kemptons were all Congregationalists, not one a Quaker.
“William Kempton owned half a pew in the meeting house at Acushnet, built 1744. There were 39 proprietors of the meeting house on the north west corner of Purchase and William Streets, built 1795.
“Eight were Kemptons; Ephraim owned a whole pew in that meeting house. Ephraim and Manasseh each owned a pew in the meeting house on the northwest corner of Union and Eighth Streets, built 1838.
“The singular fact is that the Congregationalists resided north of Union Street, the Quakers south of Union Street. The lines drawn between Quakers and Pilgrims in 1730 were very strong, and any persons of Puritan tendencies moving into Dartmouth after that date would not affiliate with the Quakers; and as Ephraim Kempton 3rd, had been an attendant at the Congregational church in Duxbury, none of his descendants were Quakers; they were not in any way dependent upon the Friends, as they were rich themselves.
“The Purchase street school house was built about 1794 by a number of men connected with the Congregational church residing in Bedford village. Among the proprietors were Ephraim, Manasseh and Thomas Kempton, also Benjamin Hill, whose wife was a Kempton.
“A modern school house, built in 1900, is named the Horatio A. Kempton school, a grandson of the Ephraim C. Kempton, one of the proprietors of the school house built in 1794.
“In the New Bedford Mercury of 1811 is a notice that Thomas Kempton ‘will open a school in Mrs. Lydia Foster’s house on the southwest corner of Purchase and Mill Streets,’ (she was a Kempton).
“In 1821, he was to open a school in the Purchase Street school house, which stood on the east side of Purchase Street about 90 feet south of William Street.
“Smith Mills road, now Kempton Street, had been opened for travel in September, 1778, because John Gilbert, a hired man of Joseph Russell’s, made his escape on horseback from the British by that road. Nine years later it became a town way.
“Windmill hill, so called on account of a grist mill which stood on the top of the hill 100 feet east of County Street, between Mill and North Streets. The mill was owned and run by a Kempton in the year 1792.
“Before the division of the lands, the lots west of County Street lying between Mill and North Streets were used as circus lots, and small boys and girls and children of older growth gave peanuts to the elephants, as they do at the present day. Also on the lot where the High school now stands, fireworks were displayed for the first time.
“Patience Faunce, wife of Ephraim Kempton 4th, lived to be 105 years, 6 months and 6 days; she lived to the greatest age of any person in this part of the province; she remembered seeing King Philip’s head on a pole at Plymouth, where it remained many years; she said, ‘there was a wren that “built a nest every year in the skull, and there reared her young.’
“She is buried at Acushnet.
“Her epitaph is:
In peaceful slumber of the dead
The aged saint reclines her head;
The paths of virtue long she trod
Revered of men, beloved of God.
“When Elizabeth, the wife of Ephraim Kempton, heard the British were coming, she with her children left her home [on the] north west corner of County and North Streets, and fled to the woods. The traditions that have come down in the family are that what silver they had she hid in the trunk of a tree. She carried with her one of the most cherished possessions of the family the brass warming pan; as she went through the woods the pan hit the trees and she was advised to drop it, as the British, hearing the noise it made might pursue them, but she would not part with it; it is now in the possession of her two surviving great grandchildren.
“Tradition again says that the British ransacked the house, eating everything that was cooked, and throwing numerous articles into the well which was north of the house.
“There is also in possession of one of the descendants of the family a picture of the Ephraim Kempton house which stood on the northwest corner of County and Kempton Streets; it was painted by his daughter, Sylvia, in 1780.
“The old Kempton clock is in the possession of one of the descendants.
“Manasseh Kempton of Dartmouth, served as first lieutenant in the Revolutionary War in 1775 and 1776.
“Another Manasseh Kempton of Dartmouth served as captain, then was made first major, in 1776.
“Col. Manasseh Kempton served in 1778. Thomas Kempton, captain in 1775, made lieutenant colonel in 1776.
“James Kempton of Dartmouth, sergeant, second lieutenant, then lieutenant in 1775, marched to the alarm of April 19, 1775.
“Thomas Kempton, colonel Revolutionary War; was also a master mariner in 1767, commanding the sloop Dare in 1779, and also the sloop Polly.
“Kempton—Daniel, William, Obed, Stephen, served in the Revolutionary war as privates in 1775, and are enumerated among the Minute Men.
“Among the effects of William Kempton, who died 1787, were the following books; Thought on Religion, Grace Defendeth, Annotations of the Bible and Ship Builders Assistant.
“Ephraim Kempton, who died 1758 had among his effects: One large Bible, one small Bible, four books of psalms, thirteen old paper books, two pewter platters, twelve pewter plates, one looking glass.
“Ephraim Kempton, who died 1802, had, among his effects: A Bible, a silver watch, six silver spoons, and a pew in the Bedford meeting house.
“It is fashionable in articles on the origin of New England families, to claim as belonging to them the coat of arms of an English family of the same name; it may seem to ambitious persons a matter of regret that no Kempton ever claimed the heraldic rank above a tradesman.
Kempton Family References.
- Pioneers of Massachusetts. Pope.
- Landmarks of Plymouth. Davis.
- History of Duxbury. Winsor.
- History of Scituate. Deane.
- History of Southampton. L. I. Howell.
- Mr. Charles E. Kurd, Yonkers, N. Y. (care of Mrs. M. W. Gaines, Deshon Ave.) has much data concerning the Kempton family and is glad to hear from anyone interested.
In introducing the second address of the evening, President Wood spoke as follows:
“The history of Old Dartmouth is almost identical with the history of the Quakers in Old Dartmouth. Very early in the settlement of this territory the inhabitants came under the influence of the principles of the Society of Friends. This is partly to be accounted for by the fact that Rhode Island early became the centre for all those who were termed dissenters and were driven out by the [severity] and narrowness of the powers at Plymouth and at Boston.
“Most of the Quakers who settled within our limits came from the neighborhood of Portsmouth and Newport, Rhode Island. Old Dartmouth lay fairly between the two earliest centres of Quakers in this section. It is a memorable fact that in the seventh month 1658, exactly 250 years ago, John Rouse, a young Quaker, lay in jail in Boston, imprisoned in the bitter [persecution] which Boston was meting out to the apostles of this sect.
“At that date John Rouse wrote a letter to Margaret Fell, in which he recounted the numerous sufferings and persecutions which were being experienced in this state, and towards the close of the letter he stated: ‘We have two strong places in this land, the one in Newport in Rhode Island and the other in Sandwich which the enemy will never get dominion over.’ It was only in 1657, one year before this letter was written that the first meeting of Friends in the new world was instituted in Sandwich. This was ten years before Wm. Penn was converted to Quakerism.
“Last year in October, the 250th anniversary of this event was celebrated in the old Friends Meeting House at Spring Hill in Sandwich. As a part of the exercises in connection with this celebration, Dr. Edw. T. Tucker, a member of this society, read an interesting historical paper.
“Although the first meeting house of the society in Old Dartmouth, that at [Apponagansett], was not built until 1699, still there was a monthly meeting of the society before that date which was held in a private house. This meeting house at Old Dartmouth was an enormous structure which was later torn down and built much smaller as we now see it, but the large house was needed when built in 1599 for the meeting became one of the largest in this country.
“We must remember at this time [they] were living under the government of Plymouth, church and state were identical and all our inhabitants were being called upon to support from general taxation an established ministry of the Puritan Congregational faith within their limits.
“The failure of the Quakers to do this was the cause of many severe arraignments by the authorities at Plymouth. This was the time of the severest persecution of the Quakers in Boston and vicinity, but they obstinately stood their grounds as defenders of the principle of the right of freedom of worship of religious belief and action, according to the dictates of their own conscience.
“It was not until 1708 that a state church was successfully founded in this neighborhood when the Congregational church at Acushnet was established. From this time on the strife was continuous between the state church, which stood for authoritative religion, and the Quakers who contended for freedom of conscience and independence in matters of belief.
“It is now less than a month since the First Congregational church of this city has been celebrating the 200th anniversary of the founding of Congregationalism in this locality at this first church in Acushnet. The several discourses connected with this celebration have contributed much that will be valuable to us in reviewing the religious history of these earlier times. The present pastor of the church, Mr. Geoghegan, in his address made a remarkably clear analysis of this noteworthy contention. Himself a Southerner with no Puritan blood he has seen clearly as from the outside this remarkable contention of the Quakers of Old Dartmouth against all manner of severe persecution to save to us the right of freedom of worship and Mr. Geoghegan comes out clearly with the statement that in this contention it must be distinctly remembered that the Quakers won. In 1729 the general court of Massachusetts passed a law exempting the Quakers and Baptists from taxation for the support of town churches.
“From this time the Quakers in Dartmouth increased rapidly in numbers, and in influence, and comprised a large part of the inhabitants.
“Daniel Ricketson in writing the history of this period almost apologizes for giving such large place to his sect. He says that the history of Old Dartmouth is, to his mind, so suggestive of the faith of the early settlers and so inseparably connected with it.
“Their quaint speech, behavior and apparel, and their tempered social life, created an interesting phase of society in the first part of the 19th century.
“We have already had two papers read before this society, by Mrs. Mary Jane Taber, which gave an illuminating picture.
“Tonight we are to have another paper prepared by one of our members, whose parents and grandparents had an intimate acquaintance with the noted Friends of the last century, not only in this neighborhood, but also those in other parts of our commonwealth.
“Miss Mary Eastman Bradford has prepared a paper on ‘Social Life Among the Friends of Long Ago,’ which will be read by George H. Tripp.”
Mr. Tripp stated that the duty of reading the paper devolved on him, owing to Miss Bradford’s inability to be present. The address follows:
Social Life Among the Friends of Long Ago
By Mary Eastman Bradford
“A little Quaker girl’s debut into the social life of her sect, was the journey to Weare quarterly meeting in Weare, New Hampshire, many years ago. In the language of Friends it was held in Tenth month, known to those of the world as October. For weeks she had packed and repacked a small hair trunk, which would hold her sedate wardrobe. How she longed for the day to come, she counted the very hours. The journey was to be made by carriages, and half the fun was on the long ride, where many other Friends joined in the caravan, sometimes sixty or seventy vehicles being in line. To one who has had the rare treat of participating in this delightful journey, the picture unrolls itself, the October landscape of yellow and red, so unlike the Quaker drab and brown, the delight of new scenes, the ripening of all nature (before its final decay), was at its greatest beauty. Then the social intercourse between Friends, who only met at Quarterly, or yearly meeting, was in itself a delight. A stop would be made at Lowell and at Nashua, called in those days taverns, where horses were put up and food put down, for be it known Quakers of the olden time lived well. To the little maiden of Friendly training the suppers of fried chicken, cold meats, all sorts of sweets, cakes, and pies, told to her by her older sisters, the big dinners of roast chicken and meats of all kinds, puddings, nuts, and the autumn fruits, made her idea of Weare quarterly meeting one large eating. The day came; long before sunrise the breakfast was eaten, the big roomy carriages, and strong pair of horses was driven to the door, the packing away of boxes commences, numerous parcels, the small hair trunk swung under the carriage, the family also packed in, and all was ready–at last; the long expected moment had arrived, and they were off. The first dinner was eaten in Lowell, then on to Nashua for the night, at the old ‘Indian Head Tavern.’ It was the first time this dear little Quakeress had ever seen lace curtains and red, actually red velvet furniture. She felt as if her life was too full of great experiences. The breakfast over, a new start was made on to fresh scenes. Then the discussion would begin between father and mother where they would put up for the night, at Eliza’s or Moses or Enoch’s, but one house appealed to the younger members, as apples, nuts and new cider were always brought out during the evening, and it was almost a party.
“The meetings were what they were supposed to attend, and of course all the older Friends did, but there was that quarterly meeting dinner, after the long first meeting; then the seemingly longer business meeting, and by this time real hunger held full swing with the younger generation, and the ‘queries and answers,’ were sometimes lost sight of as visions of the long table full to overflowing appeared. All the older people sat down at the first table, if there was room the children also; if not they had to wait for the second table, but there was always enough and to spare. So this little Quaker girl had her first quarterly meeting dinner away from her own home. There was the roast chicken for dinner, with all sorts of roasts besides, fried chicken for breakfast, and such fried chicken, then all sorts of new dishes her sister had never told her about. When asked on her return home if she had had a good time she replied with a sigh of satisfaction, ‘oh, yes, for we had chicken all the way through.’
“Into the past have faded the sermons, and meetings, but the hospitality, the hearts, and doors thrown wide open to receive new faces and old, still remain forever in heart and mind.
“The preparations for quarterly meeting were commenced weeks before, the families in town or city where the meetings were held usually filled their homes with visiting Friends, and as every room was needed the family used to vacate their own rooms, sleeping in the unfinished attic. In one Quaker home long ago, the entire family used to vacate their comfortable rooms, and depart for the big attic in the ell of the house, where temporary rooms were partitioned off. The house was large, and in the main part could take care of thirty people, the big ell held servants rooms and housekeeper on the second floor.
“These were never disturbed as the servant question then, seemed to be of tender nature as now. The big kitchen with its brick ovens, large set ranges, and a big stove did good work, pies, cakes, sweets of all kinds, hot and cold meats, were sent forth from the four walls. One huge kettle could cook a dozen pairs of chickens, and all this was none too much, as on quarterly meeting day at dinner, the long table which seated thirty was filled twice. Then came the supper at 3 o’clock, and again the table was loaded with old time prodigality, and twice thirty were again seated. The young grandchildren thought it a great favor to help the waitresses serve the guests. This Quaker host would remain at the meeting house until nearly all had gone to see that everyone was asked to dine, if any remained, whether he knew them or not, he would ask, ‘has thee accepted an invitation to dine?’ on their replying they had not (probably they had been over asked) he would quickly say ‘my wife has provided plenty of dinner and will be glad to welcome thee.’ Sometimes he would have to ask their names that he might introduce them to his family. Many Friends came for the day from nearby towns, so only required dinner. This was before the days of cold lunches at the meeting houses. Was not this true hospitality? John Adams has described his entertainment by a Quaker hostess of Philadelphia, who offered him at one meal, ducks, hams, chickens, beef, pig, tarts, creams, custards, jellies, fouls, [truffles], floating island, beer, porter, punch and wine. At another Quaker home he “drank at a great rate and found no inconvenience.’ Of course this quotation is long before the time of which I am writing.
“It is very hard to write of the social life and free it from its strong ally the religious, as the two go seemingly hand in hand in Quakerdom. One very beautiful custom of the old days was even in purely social gatherings they often had a little season of silence at the close, when someone would feel called upon to say a few words, or offer prayer. On these occasions as well as the purely religious, a seriousness was most pronounced, and while they enjoyed much it was in a restrained, and self controlled manner.
“On their faces as they sat on the high seats be sermon ever so affecting, not a face showed emotion. One story will illustrate this calmness. A little Quaker was taken by his mother to First day meeting; he had never been before, so it was with some fear he was allowed to go to a really long meeting. He sat very still for a long time; after a little he began to look around; the silence became more and more intense, until he could stand it no longer; he could hear himself breathe. Then he shouted ‘go it,’ ‘go it.’ ‘go it.’ Only his creaking boots broke the silence, that awful silence, as his mother removed him. Not an eyelid had lifted, not a muscle moved under the Friends’ bonnets, or on the faces of the sterner sex on the other side.
“As one looks back it is hard to remember emotions on faces in the dear old Friends meeting, but they were sometimes most beautiful in their calm placidity, and would we could see them once more. The American Friend of Tenth Month eleventh I think of 1906 has a very interesting article a ‘memory of times Gone By.’ I quote from it this extract: ‘Sometimes a little coterie of visiting Friends would stay a week and have appointed meetings in the neighborhood visiting families and otherwise occupy themselves; always coming home for supper and breakfast.
“‘In return for their company and prayers, they shared our best things. Some of these things, more especially the delicacies of the table were a surprise to our not overindulged juvenile relish, and the children wondered where mother had previously stored them away. She has kept all her secrets to this day God bless her. In return for the best we had, our guests gave us their best. How well I remember it; the Friends in the parlor while we girls with increasing dignity passed back and forth with china from the parlor closet. We were not so intent upon bringing the cups and saucers carefully, as upon the bits of conversation that fell upon us. The most solemn moments of my life were those at father’s table when a holy hush fell on the oblong group, for the table was an extension, on purpose for company.
“‘The Friend, on whom the burden to pray first fell, leaned forward with her hand on her face, as if she were indeed one of the cherubim leaning over the Mercy Seat in Moses’ time. In reverent and orderly turn each of our guests prayed for our parents, ‘the heads of this house,’ ‘the dear children, collectively and individually,’ most of it was individually. It was this personal appeal in prayer and exhortation, not forgetting prophecy that has so riveted me physically and mentally to these ‘family opportunities.’ The Reading meetings were another social recreation, someone read aloud from a Quaker book of biography, travel, or religion, for instance, The Life of Elizabeth Frye, The Works of Daniel Wheeler in Russia, who was sent for by the czar of that land for agricultural education among the Russian peasantry. From the works of Barclay and of later date the noted family of preaching Hoags, the father of whom Joseph Hoag, author of Joseph Hoag’s Vision, which he had in 1803—in which he [prophesied] the Civil War, and many events which seem about to be fulfilled, Another, Lindley Murray Hoag, son of Joseph, had this wonderful close to a sermon which had held a large audience, ‘And when, ten thousand times ten thousand years shall have passed away, eternity, a [boundless], endless eternity will have just begun, and Friends, have you ever thought this [boundless], endless eternity must be spent with the saints or with the devils damned.’
“Do you wonder the faces were solemn with such awful pictures before their eyes! These reading meetings were held in the homes once a week or every two weeks, and old and young mingled freely together. A strong element in the home life was the respect shown the old and infirm. Today this might be a lesson, taken into more than one home in our land. No young Friend would think of sitting if an elderly person entered the room, and all were expected to shake hands and say ‘how does thee do,’ when callers came. You remember Julia Ward Howe in one of her lectures said in all her going about she never saw such universal respect and deference from youth to age as in the Society of Friends.
“While the reading was taking place everyone was still, of course, but after came the purely social, then old and young talked freely, and, strange as it may seem among this rather prim gaiety, there were Quaker flirtations, and some found the place in which to declare that the little god Cupid was busy among the demure maidens and the male followers of George Fox.
“Friends were great lovers and writers of poetry, some had the gift of repeating for hours not alone poetry but from the Bible. One well known Friend repeated to Tennyson in the Quaker artist’s studio in London some thirty years ago portions of his Locksley Hall and In Memoriam, also from our beloved Whittier. She had the sing-song of the Quaker which you know Tennyson said was the only way it should be repeated.
“Here in our own New Bedford, ‘Old Dartmouth Historical Society,’ a name arises of peculiar significance, a writer of poetry, prose, a strong philanthropist, a man of noble aims, whose life was spent for others, Daniel Ricketson. The Society of Friends lost one of her most gifted sons when he, with others, left the old Quaker hearthstone. The question often arises with those not conversant with the past history of the Friends why a religious society with such a wonderful foundation here in New England should decrease in membership when elsewhere they are increasing, as statistics show. The answer is of so delicate a nature that one hardly dares venture on the debatable ground. The old Friends meetings were for the members and by the members. The Friends of the later years are ruled by the one man power.
“I think the Friends really must have had a love for music as well as poetry. Some voices for the ‘high seats’ as they grew to forget all but their inspired utterance were really almost a song, and its impression is a tender and sweet memory with us today. A dear old Friend, who would never allow a note of music to be heard in his house, used to take his children far from home into the wonderful land of nature, a dense forest, where bird and insect sang their glorious song to the Creator. Here, out in freedom, each child would feel at liberty, for father always sat down on a big boulder that the woods were filled with, take his broad brimmed hat off, hold it between his knees and say, ‘Children, you may sing your songs now as free as the birds,’ and sing those children did. The dear Quaker mother, who had a beautiful voice, would join in, simply humming the tune. The sweet soul didn’t dare to do more.
Newport Yearly Meeting.
“Back from the past comes the date of that wonderful time to the old and young of Quakerdom, held on the first Seventh day after the second Sixth in Sixth month continuing for a week. From all parts of New England, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, and the then far west came the elders and ‘the precious youth.’ The old Truro and Fillimore houses, then of later date the Atlantic and Ocean houses held this large number of attendants at the meetings. The older Friends solemnly and calmly attended the religious and business meetings, but alas, some of those ‘precious youth’ were found wandering by sea and show, and many matches were made ‘for better, for worse’ which were consummated by that beautiful, yet solemn Quaker ceremony of marriage which is familiar to some of us today.
“Near Newport is the famous old Friends school at Providence, known over our land with [alumni] scattered far and wide, now it has lost its old Quaker individuality in a new name ‘the Moses Brown School.’ Many men in after life distinguished look back with loyal and true hearts to their Quaker alma mater. The strong and high ideals were developed there which made them what they were. With the long line of principals of the old Friends school come names and faces that bring back memories some pleasant, others not. The highest development in the school’s life which was to prepare the Quaker boys and girls for social and religious life was under that colossal man in mind and body Augustine Jones, himself an author. In his long principalship of twenty-five years pictures and pianos were allowed where not thirty years before no sound of music was heard and the walls severely white or drab. His wonderful power of making friends among those noted in literature, art and travel brought to the school men who met the scholars in a social way, thus adding much to their outlook on life. With his departure went also the old name. So Augustine Jones was the last principal of old Friends school of blessed memory.
“These quiet Friends with the seemingly plain dress really showed much time and money, if they were costumed in the real English fashion. Elizabeth Frye was noted for her beauty of dress, and we who are fortunate to own miniatures of her prize them beyond words. The silk shawls, long or short, of white, brown or gray were very expensive. The bonnets here in America were made by Friend Hollingsworth of Philadelphia, who was, may I say it, very fashionable in Quakerdom. The muslin caps were never laundered, if worn by those who could afford to always wear new ones, as a cap was never so exquisite after ‘being done up.’ An old Friend as she pondered one day over her muslin caps and handkerchiefs, grew troubled as she feared her cap-maker would die before a fresh supply was obtained. So her daughter was requested to see how many she then had for present use. With twinkling eyes she informed the anxious mother of eighty-five years that eighty caps were in her possession.
“Some idea may be had of the old time Friend’s extreme conscientiousness. Members of the society of today may not know that their trust in the Divine power for good or ill was intense. For instance, if the Lord sent rain one should accept it without a murmur, or one had occasion to venture out of doors, no shelter from an umbrella should be used. A story is told of a member of the Salem monthly meeting who had a brother of rather a worldly turn of mind, a very naughty Quaker youth. On his return from Europe he brought his fair little sister a beautiful green silk umbrella with an exquisitely carved ivory handle. She, delighted to carry it, looked longingly for rain, not being really old enough to have severe convictions on the subject of green umbrellas. After she had had the intense joy of using it once, a committee was sent from the meeting to visit her. The Friends sat in silence almost as solemn as a real funeral. Then each spoke his or her warning to this wayward child. One dear old Friend, who felt all she said, spoke in this way, ‘Martha, if thou wast dying how wouldst thou like to have this green umbrella held over thy head?’ ‘I don’t know how,’ Martha answered, but that awful vision was too much for her youthful mind, and that green umbrella never saw light of day. This really is no exaggeration of the olden time ideas on the subject of adornment. One idea of religious belief which had a strong place in life was their views on insurance. They did not think it right, on the ground that it was taking out of God’s hands a power which mortal man should not usurp. If God saw right by his dispensation to send fire, destroying homes or property, why accept it with resignation, and they did so accept it. Life insurance was the same, one’s life was in God’s hands; if one died poor, he must ‘leave it all in a Higher power,’ trusting his loved ones should be taken care of, and they were in those days. The equality between the rich and poor, the care of those dependant upon the society was most tender and unostentatious, so that never a Friend was allowed to go to any public institution for support; this all done so quietly that no one knew who was assisted except the committee. This applies to the past. One of the ‘Queries’ read three months ago was ‘Are the circumstances of the poor and of such as appear likely to need assistance duly inspected and their necessities relieved; are they assisted in obtaining suitable employment; and is proper care taken to educate their children?’
“The greatest oversight was given the Quaker youth in education and home training. Friends were most careful who their children associated with, usually keeping them within their own society, and they always attended Friends schools. Coeducation was very early introduced and proved most successful. Quaker colleges now extend all over our own land and are of high order.
” ‘Social Life’ depends on its location. Western and eastern life is as varied as its climate. Quakerism extends from Alaska to Florida, California to Maine. Of course its social life partakes of its environment. Sweden and Norway claim their Quakers, England and Ireland, besides far off Palestine where at Ramalla near Jerusalem is one of the finest foreign mission posts founded by Eli and Sybel Jones. The society of Friends has borne and is bearing the burdens of the world’s advancement. The changes have come to the society in which many of the very beautiful customs are being forgotten, but to us of Quaker birthright their inspiration is strong as life itself, and proud are we of their memory, though we may have left the old home of our Quaker ancestors.
“No longer do we hear of the old time Quaker hospitality that belongs to bygone years; only memory keeps us in touch with that period. So good-bye to the dear old life, gone with its plain bonnet, muslin kerchief and cap; lay them all away in the old chest of the dim past, but lift the lid once in a while that the memories of so many tender experiences may bless our hearts today.
Head of Westport and Its Founders
By Henry Barnard Worth
At 3 o’clock a very interesting historical address was given by Henry B. Worth of New Bedford, his subject being The Head of Westport and Its Founders. Mr Worth spoke as follows:
Before Dartmouth was a town the western section was called Coaksett. For their protection and defense the English settlers selected their farms in the southern portion near Horse Neck and the Point, so that in case of an uprising of the Indians they could escape to the bay, where the red men could not follow. During the King Philip War two important results occurred. In the first place a large number of Dartmouth Indians surrendered, were removed and sold into slavery in foreign lands. Those that remained were so effectively subdued that they never after manifested any warlike tendencies. As soon, therefore as the struggle had ended the inhabitants began to occupy the regions further north. During this period Acushnet, Smith Mills, the Head of Westport and other places similarly situated and remote from the bay were settled by the English.
While the lands on the Noquochoke River were well suited to agriculture, the principal natural advantage was the water power about a third of a mile to the north. This attracted enterprising men from other parts of the town. The region was well covered by paths selected and used by the Indians, and later adopted by the English settlers as the location for their roadways. The great east and west thoroughfare crossing the present bridge was one section of the system that joined Plymouth and Cape Cod to Newport, and in the early days was frequently designated as “the Rhode Island way.” At the junction of the roads at Lawtons Corner, near the west line of the town, stands an ancient guide-stone on which are two inscriptions:
It suggests the period two centuries ago when travelers from Barnstable, Rochester and Dartmouth passed along this way to the place now called Stone Bridge where the ferry transferred them to the north end of the island of Rhode Island. The other inscription pointed the wayfarer from the west to the road to Westport Point. This road became the great cross-country highway, famous and important in the days of the stagecoach. On each side of the river, following the lines of ancient paths, were other town roads, which starting in the wooded regions to the north extended to the Necks that projected into Buzzards Bay.
Before the King Philip War it would have been venturesome to think of settling eight miles from the seashore, and so far as known only one made the attempt. If the information furnished by the records is complete, the first man to locate at the head of the Noquochoke River was Richard Sisson, and he was bold and hardy enough to locate his home, as early as 1671, on the west side of the river, and on the south side of the main highway, for in that year he was elected surveyor of the town roads. He is next mentioned in 1681 in a suggestive record. The question arose as to the proper notice to be given to the inhabitants of the town meetings, and it was voted that a notice should be posted in three places, “at William Spooner’s; at the mills and at Richard Sisson’s.” It is now known that William Spooner was located at the head of the Acushnet River. The second place, at a later date, was designated as Smith Mills, and the third must have been at the Head of Westport at Sisson’s place, probably just west of the landing, and near both the road and river.
At an uncertain date, ten or fifteen years later, Samuel Mott purchased a farm on the east side of the river about a third of a mile south of the main road, which in 1709, he conveyed to Nicholas Howland. There is no indication that before this transfer there were any other families located in this vicinity.
It was in 1712 that three enterprising men formed a combination to utilize the water power north of the present village, and naturally one was a miller. A few years previous George Lawton moved from Portsmouth and acquired a large farm at Lawtons Corner, the most of which has remained in his family ever since, and is now owned by a George Lawton of Fall River. He had both means and experience, having learned before he came to Dartmouth how to conduct a mill. But no man was allowed to secure to himself, alone, any such valuable public utility. It was necessary that it should be shared by several. In the old house with a stone chimney north of Central Village, owned by Perry G. Potter, lived a carpenter named Benjamin Waite, who afterward built the house on the west side of the main road, owned in recent years by Mrs. Joseph T. Lawton.
Northeast of the Potter farm, between the Drift Road and the river, and near the brook, is an ancient house, recently repaired, with an overhang gable. It was probably built by John Tripp, who owned this farm in 1720, and the same has later been owned by the Waite family and Thomas Preece.
Lawton, Waite and Tripp formed the association. When the entire program had been arranged by vote of the Proprietors of Dartmouth, which was very much like a town meeting, the different owners had received layouts according to their ownership, of undivided lands.
Beginning at the landing on the west side of the river the Sisson farm, then owned by James, extended west to the Central Village road and along the river over half a mile south to the property owned in modern times by Abner Kirby. On the east side of the river, east from the landing, was a small tract set off to Robert Gifford which extended to the Pine Hill road; next south Mary Hix had a strip of twenty acres; she was at that time proprietor of Hix Ferry which was conducted by her and her sons until in 1745 her son William built the Hix bridge. She must have been an energetic woman, and seems to have been determined to locate where there was business. She never lived at the Head of Westport, but a short time later disposed of the property. It included the farm, which in 1895 was owned by William R. Brightman. Next south was the Samuel Mott farm, then owned by Nicholas Howland. To the eastward, bordering on the road which has since become the division line between Westport and Dartmouth, was the extensive farm of Joseph Peckham. The northeast corner of this tract was at one time owned by Paul [Cuffe], a slave owned in the Slocum family, who received his freedom about 1765. The Giffords were land kings of Coaksett, and in all land allotments demanded a satisfactory share. In the 1712 apportionment at the Head of Westport they received nearly four hundred acres. One tract lay on the north side of the main road, and extended north to the Forge Road corner and from the river eastward over half a mile to the brook. Between this section and the present Dartmouth line were several small tracts, set off to various persons, and at one time owned by Jonathan Mosher, and the same now comprised in the farm owned by Joseph Smeaton.
Then they laid out a public landing on both sides of the river at the main road. In the vicinity of the Forge Road corner was the water privilege sought by Lawton, Waite and Tripp, and this they secured with seventy acres of land in the vicinity, along the river.
On the north side of the main highway, and on the west side of the river is the Beulah Road; west of this Lawton and Waite received a tract which extended west to include the lot where fifty years ago stood the Friends’ meeting-house. Next west the Giffords received seventy acres more, and this was later transferred to Stephen Packham and in modern times, wholly or in part, owned by Giles E. Brownell. Next west was the farm of Beriah Goddard, a man of considerable prominence in Dartmouth in the days when there were only a few scattered houses in this region. The farm was owned in the Davis family for several generations, and comprised the places now or lately owned by Richard S. Tripp and George L. Cornell. Still further west, as far as the brook, was a farm set off to John Sowle and now owned by Philip T. Sherman. At the corner was the homestead of Zoeth Howland and later of his son Philip, and in recent times owned and occupied by George H. Gifford, trial justice and country squire for whom the corner has been named.
Such were the layouts around the Head of the River. The Giffords lived near Horse Neck and Westport Point, and were not concerned in the early development of this section. Before the Revolution they had transferred all their tracts to other parties. Some of their descendants later become prominent in the affairs of this village, but they did not receive by inheritance any of the original layouts.
As soon as Lawton, Waite and Tripp secured the water privilege they built two mills. That on the west side of the river was known for a century later as “Lawton’s Mill,” and was owned in recent times by Benjamin Cummings, Thomas J. Allen, A. T. Sisson and C. E. Brightman.
George Lawton died in 1727, leaving an estate large for those days, and included in his property was a Negro man valued at forty pounds. Among his effects was a gun. In the house at Lawton’s corner is a Queen Anne musket of great length, on the stock of which are cut the initials “G. L.” If the tradition is trustworthy this gun belonged to the first George Lawton, and may have been used by him at his mill on the Noquochoke River.
On the east side of the river the partners built what was called “Waite’s Mill,” which was located a third of a mile east of the Forge Road corner. Later it was known as Tripp’s or Chase’s Mill, names derived from subsequent owners.
During the years before the close of the Revolutionary War there was very little increase in the wealth or population of this locality. The millers sawed the logs and ground the grain that was brought to them by the neighboring inhabitants, and there was no business from outside localities demanding the attention of the Westport mills. The farms as originally laid out remained undivided, and the principal activity of the locality consisted of people passing to and from the mills.
Soon after the Revolution a decided change ensued; ten miles away New Bedford was starting on a prosperous maritime career; ships were being built and iron and wood were in demand. This was the opportunity. In 1789 William Gifford and Lemuel Milk purchased the site now occupied by the lower Westport mill, for the purpose of building a forge. Most of the early iron mills in New England were established by some member of the Leonard family of Lynn and Taunton. In this case Gifford and Milk secured the services of Josiah Leonard, and gave him one third share in the forge. After operating this industry a few years, another important change took place, due to the removal from Nantucket to New Bedford of the Rotch and Rodman families. It was their policy to control every line connected with the whaling business. The merchant not only superintended the business of the ship, hired and paid the crew, sold the oil, and distributed the proceeds, but he had a sawmill in some forest to prepare timber, and an iron factory to make anchors, chains, and other appliances; a factory to manufacture cordage and another to make sail cloth. Also a refinery to change oil into candles, and frequently large inland farms where he could prepare meat and other food supplies. In fact the success of New Bedford merchants grew out of the system by which they started with the original material and prepared and constructed them into vessels, controlling every line of business concerned in the fitting of the ships, and at the end of the voyage prepared the product for the consumer. In this way they secured to themselves every profit, and no wonder they became millionaires. In pursuance of this policy, in 1795 William Rotch Jr. purchased all the mill property once known as “Waite’s and Tripp’s Mill,” including twenty acres of land, a grist mill, sawmill, forge, utensils, coal house, storehouse, blacksmith shop, and a dwelling house; at an entire cost of three thousand dollars. Mr. Rotch operated these mills for half a century. Soon after the purchase he built the house on the west side of the road at the corner south of the lower mill. This property afterwards passed into the hands of Anthony Gifford, and the old Forge became a hoe Factory. In 1884, and subsequently, the property was purchased by William B. Trafford, who transferred it to the Westport Manufacturing company. And in recent years the spot where the old forge stood has been occupied by the lower stone mill. It is well to keep in mind that much of the material used in constructing those ships that a century ago were adding to the fortunes of New Bedford merchants, largely came from those little mills at the junction of the Forge Road and the Noquochoke River.
It was in those days that the village at the Head increased in size; the mills were working not only for Westport people, but for the centre of the whaling business of the world. A community must result with a meetinghouse, school, store, tavern and dwellings. During the half century of ownership of the Westport mills by William Rotch the Head of the River was established and reached its height.
The slow growth of the village may be illustrated by the manner in which the meeting-house was managed. Coaksett was strongly Quaker and has held tenaciously to that form of belief even to modern times. They had a meeting-house 7 years before New Bedford at Central Village. In 1761 there was a demand for a place of worship in the north part of the town, so a building was erected at George H. Gifford’s corner, and called “The Centre meeting-house,” which was maintained until 1840, when it was removed to the north side of the road about a quarter of a mile west of the bridge. This was discontinued about 30 years ago.
Just what happened in 1840 to induce the Friends to move their meeting-house nearer the village may be inferred from some hints to be found in the records. In 1830 George M. Brownell purchased from Dr. J. H. Handy a lot of land which in 1845 was conveyed by John O. Brownell to the First Christian Baptist society. There had then been a meeting-house on this lot, which, in 1859 is described as “The old meetinghouse.” There is some reason to infer that it may have been built soon after 1830. Evidently the Quakers felt that it was necessary to have a meeting-house nearer the dwellings of their members or they might attend the other meeting.
In 1856 Isaac Rowland sold to the Pacific Union church the lot where their meeting-house stands, and at the present time the village has two churches.
It would be interesting to know how the inhabitants arranged their school affairs, but there is an exasperating absence of record relating to this subject. Land was cheap, and the owners donated lots verbally, without delivery of deeds, and when the schoolhouses were discontinued there was no necessity for a conveyance from the town. The same was true when the district system prevailed, and previous to 1840 it is not possible to find the record of any purchase of land for school purposes in Westport. Thus the schoolhouse east of the village on Wolf Pit Hill, now used as a library, was in existence in 1848 and belonged to District 19, but the records of the district cannot be found and no deed has ever been recorded. On the other side of the river west of the Landing, the lot for the school was purchased by District No. 14, from Abner B. Gifford, in 1841.
In every New England community the village store was an important institution. It is not possible to determine how early one was established at the Head of Westport. When John Avery Parker located in New Bedford he engaged in the grocery business, and when in Westport in 1801, he may have engaged in the same line. The first certain record is that Isaac Howland, in 1801, purchased a lot east of the bridge and built a store building, and the successive owners of the same have been Adam Gifford, Jonathan Peckham Gifford, John L. Anthony and Joseph M. Shorrock.
In the days when liquor selling was respectable and dealers sold respectable liquor, the tavern and inn were necessary and reputable institutions. James Sisson and his son Richard from 1725 to 1730 had licenses, and may have had a country store. For years after there was no license granted to any local resident, a certain indication that there were not in the place a sufficient number of people to support that trade. At the time that the forge was started, Lemuel Milk had a license to keep an inn. In 1801, John Avery Parker had a license for some building west of the Landing, and near the river. Parker sold his property to Isaac Rowland who for a number of years continued to keep an inn, and probably built the house which stands on the south side of the road next west of the Landing. Adam Gifford owned the store on the east side of the bridge, and occupied a house further east where he had a license for an inn. The house now occupied by Dr. J. B. Parris was built in 1828 by Eliphalet Tripp, and when he sold the same he called it “my tavern stand.” It was later owned by A. B. Gifford and Charles Dana, and was used by some of its occupants for the same purpose. When the stage coach yielded to the railroad the village tavern disappeared.
In the immediate neighborhood of the village there was only one house built before the Revolution; in fact when the Center meeting house was built at Gifford’s corner, there was no village at the Head. On the road to Westport Factory, opposite the cemetery, is a gambrel roofed house built by Benjamin Mosher, about 1760, and owned in recent years by Bradford Coggeshall. With this exception all the houses in the vicinity of the bridge were built after the date when William Rotch bought the mills near the Forge pond; but within a radius of a mile from the bridge are several dwellings that have an interesting history.
The Zoeth Rowland house at Gifford’s corner was built between 1720 and 1730 and later owned by Philip Rowland and Squire George R. Gifford. It is the last house in Westporthaving the long north roof of the early Colonial type.
On the farm next east is the dwelling of Philip T. Sherman, the west end of which having a gambrel roof, was built in 1740 by Ann West, a single woman and seamstress. Apparently it cost her over two hundred pounds. She was one of those important artisans of that period who spent days and weeks in the homes of well-to-do families performing the duties of dressmaker and tailor. Personally she must have been successful to build such a fashionable house, which was a sure index of affluence. It was later owned by William and Jonathan Devoll, John W. Gifford and Lydia T. Earle.
Another house of the same type so popular in this section is east of the village near the town line, on the north side of the main road, and is owned by Joseph Smeaton. It was built in 1742 by Jonathan Mosher, and was owned and occupied later by Benjamin Gifford and his son Stephen.
Between this house and the village, at the head of Pine Hill road, is the house built by Charles Baker for himself in 1792, when he was only eighteen years of age, and is still ownedby his descendants. It is one-story center-chimney dwelling, of a style that became a great favorite throughout Westport shortly before and after 18OO.
East of the Landing and at the foot of the road from Westport Factory, is the substantial dwelling built about 1818 by Thomas Winslow. In recent years it has been owned by C. E. Brightman.
East of the Shorrock store is a house built before 1830 and occupied at one time by Abner B. Gifford and his son Jonathan Peckham Gifford. A. B. Gifford died in 1847, having been one of the most prominent men in the community. His wife’s father was Jonathan Peckham, a wealthy man, and this placed the son-in-law in high social and business relations in the village. He was justice of the peace, trial justice and transacted much of the local probate business of his day. In these legal functions he was succeeded by George H. Gifford.
West of the bridge, on the south side of the road, is a large house built by Isaac Howland soon after 1801, and probably occupied as his inn. It was later owned by Stephen Howland, Henry B. Gifford, Rufus W. Brightman, George F. Lawton, and R. D. Wicks.
A house that always attracts attention is the stone mansion on the west side of the river and immediately south of the Landing, with its unusual stone fence. It was built by Humphrey Howland about 1830, according to tradition, at a cost of $11,000, and the material came from a large boulder on the farm a quarter of a mile to the southwest. Howland’s widow, Rhoda, gave it to her nephew, Charles H. Hathaway who in 1848 sold it for $2,500. It has since been owned by Nathan C. Brownell, Captain Michael Comisky, and Albert C. Kirby.
In this hasty sketch of the village at the Head of Westport, the aim has been to present only the salient features of its development. Starting in an attempt to develop the local water power, it lay dormant for nearly a century, and then shared in the great prosperity of New Bedford and reached its height at the date of the advent of the steam engine and railroad. Since that time its growth has been interrupted, the mills to the north have developed independent villages which exert very little influence on the affairs at the Head, and in the future it must rely, as in the beginning, upon its natural resources. Its water power has ceased to attract business, but there still remains unimpaired, the peculiar charms of location and environment, and in coming time, as at present, the Head of Westport will be known as a village of delightful homes.