Take a journey through time along our local waterways to discover a place far from the serene retreat that we experience today - a river that was a bustling workplace, a secretive place of hiding, and a resource that was harnessed by an entrepreneurial spirit. Next time you spend a day on the river or on the beach cast your thoughts back a few generations to a time when these flowing waters signified livelihoods, fortunes won and lost, commerce, risk, adventure, danger, and the watery route- to exotic lands. Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to Westport in an staying for several weeks with his close adviser Louis Mnry Howe in a cottage nestled on the edge of the dunes at the far end of West Beach. In the afternoon FDR entertained friends with stories whilst sipping an orange blossom cocktail. WHS Boasting a Catholic church, a post office, hotels, stores and many summer cottages, this community was wiped out by the hurricane.
This was a perilous undertaking, and visitors were often trapped when the tide came back in. A newspaper report dating from describes the predicament of a farmer:.
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Thomas Allen in Westport, with his team, consisting of a yoke of oxen and a horse, attempted to cross from the main land to Gooseberry Neck, when he was overtaken by the waves and tide, and placed in a most perilous situation.
The oxen by some maneuver turned their yoke and got rid of the wagon or cart, and finally swam ashore. The horse was drowned by having his head held under water by Mr.
The cart went to sea. WW2 Military Buildings. The government built an observation tower and barracks, disguised as farm buildings. Navy, encountered a dense fog, compounded by smoke from nearby forest fires in Buzzards Bay. In USS Yankee was determined to be a navigational hazard to shipping and was demolished with dynamite by the U.
Navigating Westport harbor was not an easy feat for many of the whaleships, particularly the larger vessels.
Ships kedged their way out of the harbor by throwing out the anchor and then pulling in the line, repeating this operation so that the ship moved slowly out to the open sea. Tidal islands such as Liniken Island were used as pasture for cows and sheep. Liniken Island contained 12 acres in all, 6 acres of upland portion used to grow crops such as corn and pumpkins and 6 acres of marsh.
An unconfirmed story of unknown origin records that Captain Kidd buried his treasure on this island! The Prelude Lobster Corporation adopted a revolutionary approach to lobstering which enabled fishermen to fish in deep water far off shore and to tap into the abundant population of lobsters in the Continental Shelf. This peaceful international incident sparked the move towards the mile zone around domestic shores that protected U.
rry and Webb Conservation area named after one-time owners Oliver rry and Frederick Webb of the department store fame. Seaweed was a sought after commodity, as it was used as fertilizer and as insulation.
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The town issued permits for seaweed collection. This letter to A. It was moved to its present location on East Beach in Today it is preserved as a significant survivor of our maritime heritage and is now open to the public.
The boatyard moved to Horseneck in Both brans of the river are often referred to as the Acoaxet River. Fortifications along the West Branch. Water quality at Westport Harbor varied. After the hurricane residents complained of salt in the water as well as solid items.
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One resident claimed to have found owl feathers in the water! The map depicts this pond as an open embayment connected by a channel to the West Branch. The map shows the pond closed off from the inlet but referenced as a salt water pond. This area was probably highly attractive to Native American populations. Built at the southeast corner of Cockeast Pond inthe Casino hosted Saturday night dances, theatrical performances, Sunday morning church services, clambakes and summer socials.
Located on the same site as Elephant Rock Beach Club, the Pavilion was a popular bath house, built in and destroyed by the hurricane of The water system at the harbor was made of cypress wood. P oint of Rocks or the Knubble. The Point of Rocks marks the entrance to the Westport Harbor. The spindle was erected by Hale Remington. The charismatic leader of a French Canadian religious sect found his way to Westport in the s, settling on the remote Great Island. Here they erected a meeting hall and an apartment building for members on the shore.
Although the sect asserted that ultimately it would rule the whole United States, the society remained benign in nature.
Fortunately, its presence in Westport was short-lived as the leaders, facing accusations of fraudulent behavior, quickly moved on to other parts of the country. By the early 18th century Philip Taber operated a water powered grist mill.
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A saltworks is reported to have been in operation at the Head of the West Branch near the tidal wetlands. Over the years the pond has also provided the community with both the ice to preserve their food before the advent of refrigerators and a wintertime recreation area perfect for skating. Harvesting pond ice was big business from the s to mids, although skaters were very unhappy when ice harvesting interrupted their wintertime fun on the pond. A community defined by its location, the Point was the center for maritime activities.
Beginning with the codfish industry in the 18 th century, the Point was transformed by whaling activities of the 19th century. Blacksmiths, coopers, ship carpenters, sail and rope makers, saltworks and sawmills converged at the Point to service the needs of incoming and outgoing ships.
The Point also served as a temporary storage area.
In 1, barrels of sperm oil and barrels of whale oil were stored at the docks. The Point Bridge was completed in However, as traffic jams plagued the Point and with the construction of Route 88, the bridge was torn down in The Point, a pristine historic district, has since become a secluded and sought-after location to live.
Salt manufacturing supported the commercial fishing fleet. It was essential for the preservation of fish and meat. These sites included evaporative works and windmills that moved water from the harbor through a system of pipes to large drying areas.
It is also thought that saltworks may have been located on Horseneck Beach and at Adamsville. About a century ago there were a number of hunting and fishing camps at various waterside locations in town.
One such was subsequently converted into a dwelling. The names of the buildings at the camp may prove of interest. Both brans of the Westport River served as major transportation corridors.
The town built and maintained fords, ferries, driftways, landings and bridges to improve these networks. Through the centuries, waterways brought supplies such as coal, molasses, and seaweed upriver and carried produce and materials to urban markets along the east coast. Built inthe bridge replaced what may have been a chain ferry across the river. Tradition has it that one of the chief forms of entertainment for young men used to be to race their horses down the hills on either side of the bridge, both being steeper than at present, and at such a rate of speed that the gatekeepers at either end were afraid to keep the gates closed for fear of a terrible accident.
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Thus, the gatekeeper would open the gate and the travelers would pass over the bridge without paying a toll. This small promontory of land edging into the east branch of Westport River was once a hub of activity, a place where thousands of people would gather to participate in religious camp meetings.
Early industrial entrepreneurs were drawn to the waterpower generated by the foot natural fall line. By the 18th century the Head of Westport boasted a proliferation of mills including saw mills, grist mills, shingle, foundry and cotton mills. By the 19th century, a variety of mills existed to manufacture hoes, process textiles, turn lathes and grind corn. A leather tannery was located on Wolf Pit Hill drawing water from a pond and brook that was probably destroyed by the gravel pit.
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