The Westford Wardsman, 1905 – 1923
As Published in Turner’s Public Spirit, Ayer, Massachusetts
Original Westford Academy building, now the Westford Museum,
Remodeled in 1916-17 for use as the Westford Center Fire Station
The Westford Historical Society
Transcribed and Edited by Robert W. “Bob” Oliphant
Copyright 2011, 2018 & 2022 Westford Historical Society
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 began December 2, 1905, while the “Forge Village” section dates from Nov. 11, 1905, and the “Graniteville” section from Nov. 18, 1905. The Westford Wardsman 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 (Landmark), Pepperell (Clarion-Advertiser), Littleton (Guidon), Harvard (Hillside), Shirley (Oracle), Townsend (Tocsin), Brookline (Beacon) & South Brookline, N.H., Hollis (Homestead) N.H., Mason, N.H., West Acton, Boxborough, Still River (a section of Harvard and Bolton), and Lunenburg. Activities in West Chelmsford are often mentioned in the Westford Wardsman, particularly in the “About Town” section.
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. The Westford Historical Society acquired microfilm of Turner’s Public Spirit from 1908 through 1921. The Society had this microfilm converted to pdf files, which were used to make the complete transcripts of the Wardsman for these years in this document. The transcriptions from 1922 were made from scans made at the Ayer library of the Westford sections of the newspaper, including references to Westford made in the “Recent Real Estate Transactions” and “District Court” sections that appear in the Ayer part of Turner’s Public Spirit. Earlier and later editions of Turner’s Public Spirit are available on microfilm at the Ayer Public Library. In the fall of 2022 the library had the Ayer papers from 1869 to 1948 scanned and put on line at ayer.advantage-preservation.com, where they can be searched, although the search engine does miss some items.
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 area), Graniteville, and Forge Village. Additional subheadings were used for such items as weddings, deaths, funerals, entertainments, church services, sporting events, and 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 Graniteville correspondent in 1906 was a man, who is mentioned as losing a “little boy,” probably by stillbirth, but no names are given.
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 a few 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 weekly newspaper. To prepare these columns, Bob began transcribing the complete Wardsman, and to date the complete Wardsman has been transcribed from January 2008 through Nov. 18, 1922, the remaining issues for 1922 not being available. The Westford Museum had copies of the Public Spirit newspapers for Sept. 2 & 16, 1939, and transcriptions of the Westford Wardsman from those two newspapers are included at the end of the 1922 transcriptions. In 2017 Lynn Cohen began posting these full transcripts to the Westford Historical Society and Museum web site, museum.westford.org. That has continued through all the 1922 transcriptions.
In 2022 Bob began reading audio podcasts of The Westford Wardsman at the WestfordCAT studios. As of the end of 2022 he has read the transcripts of The Wardsman for the years 1908 and 1909. Typically, these podcasts include the complete transcription for every weekly issue, or nearly the complete transcription, and run about 20 minutes each. They are available through the Westford Museum website at museum.westford.org, or on Youtube.com as “Bob Oliphant’s Westford Wardsman Podcast.”
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 European 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. Twenty-five died in September and October 1918 during the peak of the influenza epidemic. Of these 25 deaths, 15 were young men, mostly in their 20s and 30s, as was typical throughout the world. All this and much more was chronicled in The Wardsman. Here are some of the subjects discussed:
- Town Government – town meetings, town officers, party caucuses, town elections, taxes, tax lists
- Family Events – births, birthdays, christenings, marriages, anniversaries, deaths, funerals, illnesses, 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, Wright, teachers, activities, graduations, programs, …
- 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, Abbot Worsted Co. teams, 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, …
- Immigrants –primarily from Quebec, England, Scotland, Grodno Russia/Poland, and Sweden to work in Westford industries
- Agriculture – apples, peaches, currants, berries, hay, potatoes, corn, truck gardens, fairs, …
- Livestock – cattle, pigs, horses, poultry
- Transportation – horse, electric railway, trains, automobiles, races, accidents, first airplane sightings
- Utilities – town water, electricity, telephone
- Fire Department three village hose companies, officers, fires, equipment, competitions
- Entertainments – Dances, dinners, minstrel shows, movies, lectures, debates, concerts, husking parties, company and church outings, …
- Appendix A provides a list of abbreviations found in the Wardsman
- Appendix B provides a list of the images that were used with many of the Wardsman articles that appeared in the Westford Eagle “Museum Musings” columns from 1912 to 1922. Most of the images can be found in the records of the Westford Museum.
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. The following selections from The Wardsman are given in chronological order. Text is presented in two-column format to more closely replicate the narrow columns of the original newspaper. 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. Text in brackets and footnotes has been inserted for clarification, correction or amplification of the original text.
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 “[sic].”
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. The word center is often spelled centre, particularly in proper nouns like Westford Centre.
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. We use 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 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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 John Henry Turner, founder of Turner’s Public Spirit, was born Dec. 15, 1835, in Montreal, Canada, and died in Ayer on May 28, 1917. His obituary, with photograph, appears in Turner’s Public Spirit on Sat., June 2, 1917, p. 5.
 Sam Taylor, who was Reuben Taylor’s father, was a local writer for the old Westford Wardsman. He would bring his wife up to the Congregational Church, and then he would go over to the Unitarian Church. That was a funny thing. I always thought that was funny: bringing his wife up to one church and then going to the other. After Mrs. Taylor died, she had a sister who kept house for Mr. Taylor; Miss Schellenger was her name. She was kind of a particular old lady—she liked things clean and nice. Once, when I got there in the morning, taking orders around seven o’clock, Mr. Taylor came out of the barn with a lantern and put the lantern down on the piazza. She came out with a newspaper and put it around the handle, so she wouldn’t get her hands on it, and picked it up. After she went in the house, Mr. Taylor said, “You know, when she dies they are going to put on her tombstone: ‘Died of the fear of germs, otherwise perfectly healthy.’” Quoted from “Austin Dana Fletcher (1899-1992)” Interview in June W. Kennedy’s book Westford Recollections of Days Gone By (2006), p. 135.