October 2020 Museum Musings

Renew your Westford Historical Society MembershipOnly a click away!

Life has changed so much since COVID-19 began spreading in the United States, your assistance is needed now more than ever to help preserve Westford’s history. Support the Westford Historical Society, renew your membership!

Our LogoFor WHS Memberships of Bronze level ($100) or higher, you receive the North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Membership. Members from one of the NARM institutions who present a validated membership card are entitled to the following privileges at participating museums: Free/member admission during regular museum hours, member discounts at museum shops, and discounts on concert/lecture tickets. Please note: Some museums restrict benefits. Please see notes at the bottom for more information. Click here for a printable version of the list. This is a great benefit if you travel or love to visit museums!

Some of the member museums in Massachusetts include: Fruitlands Museum, Concord Museum, the Mount, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Peabody Essex Museum, and the Worcester Art Museum.

Westford Historical Society’s Membership Levels

Individual membership                    $40
Family membership                          $60
Student / Senior membership        $25
Bronze* membership                       $100
Silver* membership                         $250
Gold* membership                          $500
Benefactor* membership              $1,000

Renew your membership on-line 
or mail a check to:
Westford Historical Society
P.O.Box 411
Westford MA 01886

Visit the Westford Museum!

The Westford Museum is now open Sundays 2-4pm. We are offering 2pm and 3pm guided tours. *Face masks are required.

Book a tour and enjoy new multimedia educational History Pods throughout the Museum! History pods are short 3-5 minute videos recorded by many of our historical society members on our museum artifacts or a tidbit from Westford History.

Capture the Monent Photo Contest 

We are living through a historic moment, the first time in 100 years the world is under the threat of a global pandemic. Coming generations will want to know what life was like at this time. The Westford Historical Society has created a time capsule to be opened in May 2040 showing what life was like during this period. We are collecting images for the time capsule through a series of monthly photo contests. We will be asking each month for your photo submissions that reflect the things you are doing in Westford during this time. We will be judging photos submitted each month and posting the top three winners for the adult category and top three winners for the youth category. Judging will be based on originality, quality, and subject.

Photos must be taken in Westford, MA.
Each photographer may enter a maximum of two photos.
All submissions must list the location where the photo was taken, descriptors such as the subject photographed, and a title.
Photographers consent to allowing the Westford Historical Society to use their photos on our website, across social media, in publications, and other materials.
Your photographs will be added to our Digital Time Capsule to be opened May 2040.
Submit photos as a high-resolution JPG/JPEG file.
Categories : Youth 6-18, Adults 19 and up
Submit entries via email to: director@museum.westford.org
Photo Contest submissions are due by 15th of each month.

The theme for our October Contest is “Autumn in Westford, Apples, Leaves and Pumpkins”. Submit your photos by October 15th.

See all photos and contest details here.

While you are out and about, our November theme will be  “Oddities in Westford”, Strange, Odd and Peculiar!

September Phot0 Contest Winners  

Tour the Historic Town Farm Building

Saturday, October 24, 2020 @ 1 pm – 4:00 pm
Town Farm
35 Town Farm Rd
Westford, MA 01886

Ever driven down Town Farm Road in Westford and wondered what the history was behind that unusual and large brick building at number 35? Perhaps you remember the school and recreation departments using the building, but wondered what this structure seemingly in the middle of nowhere was all about? On Saturday, Oct. 24 from 1-4, you will have a wonderful opportunity to tour this building and learn about Westford’s Town Farm, or poor farm, the building that was built in 1838 to house Westford’s “deservedly” poor and needy. Many times whole families were taken in for short periods of time, others stayed for years. Those that were able, were expected to help with farming and housework. And if you are looking for the sensational, yes, there was a murder at the town farm. Have we got your attention? You won’t want to miss this event! *Face Masks Required

The Town farm is located at 35 Town farm Rd, lies on a part of the 170 acres of land purchased by the town from John Reed (1775) in 1824. The large two story brick building was completed in 1838 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. The town farm has also been referred to as the Almshouse, Poor Farm and Westford Home, Town Home and Infirmary, and it also served as the town jail.  The Town Farm closed in 1959 when the last of the residents was transferred to the Tewksbury Hospital. It has been used in recent years for the public school administrations offices and for the recreation dept. (Robert W. Oliphant, The Westford Gazetteer, 2013)

Notables of the Month

The Town Farm was home to many Westford Residents in their later years  

True Bean (1822-1905) 

True (Trueworthy) Bean came to Westford as a day laborer for the Stony Brook Railroad which at that time was being constructed. He was a wheelwright by trade but preferred to hunt and fish. Mrs. Bean (Mary Ann Blake) was a daughter of a former Minister  (Rev. Caleb Blake) of the Congregational Church of Westford. Mrs. Bean was thought to have married beneath her station in life. He was a good-natured handyman and upon the death of Mrs. Bean was without financial resources and well along in life. He died at the Westford Poor Farm.

“I remember one day my cousin and I drove over to the Town Farm to visit True Bean. We were only 19 years old, “recalls Allister MacDougall. “He pulled his old fiddle out from under the bed and entertained us with old-time songs. We enjoyed the visit and I’m sure he did, but I still remember how barren his room seemed compared to his cozy cottage on Depot” True Bean is featured a home (Fred Fisher place 14 Depot Street) ( A MacDougall photo from the WESTFORD RECOLLECTION Series)

Catherine O’Toole celebrated for 103rd Birthday at the Town Farm 

 When Catherine [McMahon} O’Toole was born in Ireland in 1799, John Adams was president of the United States.  At 50 years old, during the Irish potato famine, Catherine along with her husband Patrick and six children decided to emigrate to America. The family was located in Acton, Massachusetts where Mr. O’Toole’s first job was helping to build a monument to Revolutionary War hero Issac Davis who had helped defend the Old North Bridge in 1775.

 After living in Acton for 10 years, the O’Toole’s moved to Texas Road in the northern part of Westford where Patrick took up farming. It was during these years that the O’Toole family suffered their most difficult and tragic times. All the family’s children perished which left the elderly couple to tend to their farm by themselves.

 It was during these challenging and tragic years that the Town of Westford intervened and offered aid to Catherine and her husband Patrick.  The O’Toole’s now in their nineties were taken to the Westford Town Farm where they were given comfortable quarters.  Mr. O’Toole only lived two years after moving to the Town Farm.

 Catherine lived on and celebrated her 103rd birthday at the Westford facility.  By all accounts she was well preserved in every respect. She had good hearing and never had to wear glasses. Mrs. O’Toole spoke the pure Irish language. At the end of her life she had only two surviving family members, a niece who lived in Lowell and another niece who resided in New Bedford.   According to reports, Catherine O’Toole was a favorite at the farm and well-liked by town officials and inmates alike. She was described as a hard-working farmer’s wife.

Mrs. Catherine {McMahon} O’Toole died there  April 17, 1902 and is buried at St. Patrick’s cemetery in Lowell.

WHS Annual Meeting and Program
Wild Women of Westford A Virtual Event

Wednesday October 21, 2020 @7pm

During our Business meeting we will be telling the story of four women from the Museum’s Westford Women Doll Collection.

The Westford Remembered Doll project began as a fundraiser by Jean Downey and other needlewomen of the First Parish Church in 1985. They created doll likenesses of 12 historic Westford women. The needlewomen researched and wrote biographical papers of all twelve women, and credited the program with launching the study of Westford women. 

As we continue this year to celebrate Women’s Right to  Vote (1920-2020) and the 100 anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, what better time to recognize a few of these remarkable women from Westford’s history.

Make a reservation and Join us for a Virtual Annual Meeting https://museum.westford.org/events/2020-whs-annual-meeting