Museum Musings ~ June 2019

Unheard Voices~ Slavery in Westford by Linda Greene

At the dawn of the American Revolution, 20 percent of the population in the thirteen colonies were of African descent. The legalized practice of enslaving blacks occurred in every colony and was first legalized in Massachusetts in 1641. During the Revolutionary era, more than half of all African Americans lived in Virginia and Maryland. In fact, the first official United States Census taken in 1790 showed that only eight percent of the black population was free.

Urban and domestic slaves such as Peggy, a slave owned by the Hildreth family of Westford, were usually dressed better, ate better, and had greater opportunity to move about in relative freedom. They lived in loft areas over the kitchens, laundries, and stables. They often worked seven days a week, even though Sunday’s chores were reduced. Their work days were not ruled by the sun, instead, they were set by tasks. However, there was considerable fear and angst caused by an environment of constant uncertainty and threats of violence and abuse.

Unheard Voices, Slavery in Colonial Westford was a one-person play about Peggy, a of Westford. The play was written and performed by Gwendolyn Quezaire-Presutti. Gwendolyn is an award-winning living history performer who, for the past twenty years, has engaged audiences with performances giving voice to real-life accounts, struggles, self-determination, and triumphs of women. Her work is deeply researched and was based on Westford archival materials.

I’d like to thank Westford Family FunFest, the New England Foundation for the Arts, and Freedom’s Way  for their support, Westford Historical Society’s historians, Bob Oliphant, Marilyn Day, and Penny Lacroix for their research on slavery in Westford and their commitment to preserving our town’s history

More Museum Musing

New on our Website

Leeny Del Seamond’s stories from the Town 225th Anniversary:

Prince Henry and the Westford Knight
Freddie’s Quest

Vintage Hand Fans

In mid-May, WHS Board member Penny Lacroix attended the Weaving History Conference at the Thousand Island Art Center in Clayton, New York. Among the presenters was Abbey Cash, President of The North American Fan Association. As Abbey had offered to appraise any fans that people brought to the conference, Penny took the Westford Museum’s fans for assessment. Most are in poor condition or have little provenance.

One in particular, however, sparked Abbey’s attention. W.2001.98 (3) is one of five fans donated to the Westford Historical Society by Marion Frances Winnek (1883-1977.) According to Abbey, it is an oriental paper and balsa fan with nautical theme of junques, hand painted on one side, spatter paint on the reverse. Being just 7-1/4″ long folded, it is classified as a child’s fan, made ca. 1900-1910. As a collector, Abbey appreciated the particularly beautiful detail in the hand painting of the ships and seagulls. We are grateful to people like Abbey who contribute to our knowledge base of our own collections!

Work begins on our new permanent exhibit!

The exhibit will be in the Museum’s entryway. It will be called, How we have Changed. A Timeline of the Westford Museum Building From a Schoolhouse, to a Fire Station to a Museum Our first step is the paper mock up of the panels to see how it is going to look, pictured at left.  Jeff Henry did the research and Deb Banerjee designed it. This exhibit is funded by Freedom’s Way.

Early Westford Immigration By Dan Lacroix

Westford owes a large part of its character to the immigrants who came here for work in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The federal census records give places of birth and years of immigration over this same time period.  Bob Oliphant has analyzed these records in detail from 1850 to 1920 and in a recent presentation told us what they revealed. Bob’s presentation was a real revelation, and adds a great deal to our understanding of how Westford was changing during that time.

Westford Notable of the Month~ Andy Norander
By Josh Wright, 2019 Westford Museum High School Intern

Mr. Norander is a former Westford Academy graduate from 1987. He played soccer all 4 years during his time at Westford Academy. He is currently a history teacher at Westford Academy. He teaches a freshman honors history class and a Westford History class at both CP and honors level. He is well admired by almost all of his students because of his fun nature and relaxed teaching style. On top of this, he has spent almost his entire life living in Westford and graduated from Westford Academy himself. He also coaches the Nordic Ski team in the winter and he is open to having any student, whether they are highly skilled or not so much, participate on the team. On top of this, he helps out with the museum club at Westford Academy and he also helps with the Westford Historical Society and Westford Museum outside of school hours.

(Picture from Westford Academy yearbook, class of 1987)

Save the Date: Declaring Independence
Sunday, July 21 at 2:30 pm at the Westford Museum

On July 17, 1776, Town Clerk Zaccheus Wright recorded the Declaration in the town’s records. What does the Declaration of Independence mean today and what did it mean to citizens throughout the Heritage Area when it was conceived and debated during their lifetime? This thought-provoking public performance piece explores these questions by integrating a reading of the Declaration of Independence with first person accounts. As the 18th century words and ideas are performed, the narrator explores their meaning to challenge the audience to consider their relevance and power today.

Look for us!

Be on the lookout for us!

June 15: Strawberry Festival 

The 44th Annual Strawberries ‘N Arts Festival, hosted by The First Parish Church United of Westford, will be held on the Westford Town Common from 10:00AM to 4:00PM. Look for our table with the opportunity to learn more about us and to purchase items from our Museum Shop! Selfies with the Westford Knight 11am to Noon.

Help support the historical society at the Festival,  We need 2 WHS members per shift to man our booth. Can we count on you? Email Linda if you can help!

WHS Volunteer Booth Schedule 
8:30-10am Set-Up
4-5pm tear down

image of book cover with sword and shadow of Columbus
David S. Brody’s 8th “Templars in America” book


Looking for the perfect Father’s day gift?
David Brody will be autographing copies of his books at the Strawberry Festival 11am to Noon

Autographed copies also available through our on-line store. 




We had a wonderful time marching in the Apple Blossom Parade! We’ll be sure to bring some coconuts for our Knight next year! 😉