Introduction to the Westford Wardsman


The Westford Wardsman was published on Saturdays as part of Turner’s Public Spirit, the Ayer weekly newspaper. The Public Spirit began publication in 1869; the early issues have very little information on Westford. The Westford Wardsman began using that name in January 1906, although a “Westford” section of the Public Spirit was inserted about November 1905. It was the seventh such local paper published as part of the Public Spirit, which in addition to columns covering Ayer and Westford, eventually also had columns for Groton, Pepperell, Littleton, Harvard, Shirley, Townsend, Brookline & South Brookline, N.H., Hollis N.H., Mason, N.H., West Acton, Boxborough, Still River (a section of Harvard and Bolton), and Lunenburg.

The J. V. Fletcher Library in Westford has five scrapbooks of selected clippings from The Westford Wardsman weekly newspaper dating from July 28, 1906 to December 30, 1916. Earlier and later editions of The Westford Wardsman are available on microfilm at the Ayer Public Library. The Westford Historical Society acquired microfilm of Turner’s Public Spirit from 1908 through 1921. The Westford Historical Society had this microfilm converted to pdf files, and the Groton Public Library has posted those files online here.

The Westford Wardsman contained various sections, written by different correspondents, covering various parts of town. Nearly every issue had sections under the following subheadings: Center, About Town (correspondent from the Brookside [Nabnasset] area), Graniteville, and Forge Village. Additional subheadings were used for such items as weddings, deaths, funerals, entertainments, church services, sporting events, and similar special events. Correspondents who have been identified include Samuel L. Taylor who wrote the “About Town” section, Mrs. Wilbert E. Parsons (nee Mary A. Thompson) who wrote the “Forge Village” section until she and her husband moved to Vancouver, Wash., in September 1910, Mrs. Annie Precious who wrote the “Forge Village” column until October 1918 when she was replaced by Miss Marion E. Lord, and Mrs. Leonard W. Wheeler (nee Mary H. Williams) who was writing the “Center” section in 1921 when she was temporarily replaced while on vacation by Miss May E. Day, the town librarian.

The transcriptions from The Westford Wardsman were started in 2000 by Bob Oliphant. His transcriptions were made primarily from the copies available at the J. V. Fletcher Library with some additional use of the microfilm at the Ayer Public Library. In the fall of 2007, when the Westford Historical Society decided to use the Wardsman for the February 2008 book discussion, Ann Cullerton and Beth Shaw supplemented Bob’s text with additional items from the 1906-1908 timeframe, and Bob transcribed a number of new items for 1917-1919 from the Historical Society’s microfilm.

In January 2008 Bob began including excerpts from the Wardsman of a hundred years ago in the weekly “Museum Musings” column in The Westford Eagle newspaper. To prepare these columns, Bob began transcribing the complete Wardsman, and to date the complete Wardsman has been transcribed from January 1908 through the present. Bob continues to transcribe the complete Wardsman weekly. In 2016 Lynn Cohen began posting these full transcripts to the Westford Historical Society and Museum website.

The first two decades of the 20th century were momentous years for Westford–indeed, for our country. It was a time of great change. Westford’s population increased 48% from 1900 to 1920 (from 2,148 to 3,179 persons), largely from immigrants who arrived prior to World War I to work in the mills. The horse and buggy was being replaced by the automobile. The electric cars (trolleys) were introduced and then began to fade away, and trains ran through town daily on three different railroad lines stopping at eight different railroad stations. Modern utilities were introduced — town water, electricity, and the telephone. We entered the great World War, and supported the war effort and the subsequent relief efforts in many different ways. The great influenza epidemic struck Westford in 1918 taking several prominent citizens, closing schools and churches, and impacting daily lives. All this and much more was chronicled in The Wardsman. Here are some of the subjects discussed:

  • Town Government – town meetings, town officers, town elections, taxes
  • Family Events – births, birthdays, christenings, marriages, anniversaries, obituaries, funerals, reunions, …
  • Church Activities – First Parish (Unitarian), Union Congregational, Methodist, St. Catherine’s (Catholic), St. Andrew’s Mission (Episcopalian), Baptist
  • Schools – Westford Academy, Frost, Sargent, Cameron, Parkerville, Stony Brook, teachers, activities, graduations, …
  • Social Clubs – Tadmuck Club, Fortnightly Club, I.O.O.F., Jolley Club, F. of A., C.F. of A, M.C.O.F., Grange, Spaulding Cavalry Assn., …
  • World War I – enlistments, draft, send off, casualties, heroes, burials, Mass. State Guard
  • Veterans – Civil War, G.A.R., formation of American Legion, Memorial Day
  • 1918 Influenza Epidemic – deaths, impact on schools, churches, …
  • Sports – village athletic clubs, baseball, basketball, football, soccer, bowling, hunting, clay pigeon shoot at Whitney Playground
  • Industry – Abbot Worsted Co., C. G. Sargent’s Sons, mills, farms, orchards, construction, smiths, quarries, …
  • Agriculture – apples, peaches, currants, berries, hay, potatoes, truck gardens, fairs…
  • Livestock – cattle, pigs, horses, poultry
  • Transportation – horse, electric cars, trains, automobiles, races, accidents, first airplane sightings
  • Utilities – town water, electricity, telephone
  • Fire Department ­ village hose companies, officers, fires, equipment, competitions
  • Entertainments – Dances, dinners, minstrel shows, movies, lectures, debates, concerts, company and church outings, …

The Westford Wardsman provides a rich source of information on the day-to-day activities within the town of Westford at the beginning of the 20th century. We have retained the original spelling of names and have put correct spellings in brackets after misspelled surnames in several places. We have retained the original spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar, except for the correction of obvious typographical errors. When only part of a paragraph has been transcribed, an ellipsis indicates the location of untranscribed text. Text in brackets and footnotes has been inserted for clarification, correction or amplification of the original text. A list of abbreviations is .

A Note on Early 20th Century English
English writing of a century ago was different in some significant ways than our writing today. Here we discuss some of those differences for the edification of the reader.

A number of words were spelled differently a century ago. Among those seen commonly in The Wardsman are Nabnassett instead of Nabnasset, cosy instead of cozy, and Francis hill instead of Frances Hill. We have corrected typographical errors when they are obvious, but commonly misspelled words like these we have left without the traditional indication of “.”

Words like street, county, pond, park, society, library, hill, and church when used in proper names usually were not capitalized. Examples of such proper names from The Wardsman include: Main street, Middlesex county, Forge pond, Ladies’ Aid society, J. V. Fletcher library, Francis hill, and St. Catherine’s church. Suffixes in personal names like Jr. and Sr. were usually not capitalized. Titles of plays, books, songs, and talks usually just used an initial capital, such as the hymn “All hail the power of Jesus name” or a talk on “Public parks and playgrounds.” The words Bible and Christian were usually not capitalized.

Nouns representing multiple persons, which today take a singular verb, were usually followed by a plural verb a century ago. For example: The W.C.T.U. have started the school savings bank in the schools of the town. The committee hope to present another lecture next month on “Hiawatha,” by Rev. A. T. Kempton of Cambridge. The Abbot Worsted Co. have granted an increase to its employees, commencing Monday, March 18. The reader can think of the subject noun being represented by the pronoun they a century ago where we would use the pronoun it today.

Abbreviations were given with periods after each letter and a space between the letters, as W. C. T. U. and N. H. The periods in such abbreviations have been retained in this transcription, but spaces have been removed between the letters, as W.C.T.U. and N.H. Spaces are retained in the abbreviations of personal names, such as O. R. Spalding.

When the time of day was given in The Wardsman, a period was usually used to separate the hour from the minute where we use a colon; e.g., 7.30 instead of 7:30. This transcription uses the colon for all such time designations.

Some words that are compound words today were not joined in The Wardsman; e.g., some time and worth while. Others were hyphenated, such as week-end. Other words that are not compounded today often were written as compound words a century ago, such as sleighride, postoffice and icecream.

Some medical terms that were in common use a century ago have been replaced in current usage, such as grippe instead of flu or influenza and paralytic shock instead of today’s stroke.

Occasionally the word come is used as a transitive verb meaning “to take on the aspect of.” For example, After dinner Mr. Bailey will come the witty toastmaster act on whosoever listeneth. This usage was more common in the 19th century and is found, for example, in the works of Charles Dickens, such as Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. It is rarely used in this sense today.

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