Historical Documents

Many town officials through the decades and centuries have saved and protected some documents relating to the history of the town and the area. Many documents have not come down to us. As a result, there are many gaps. In some cases, such as for tax records and the original town records, the earliest years are available to us but even for these there are gaps. The Town Clerk, Marlene Sampson, played an important role in this effort in recent years by approaching the Community Preservation Committee to recommend to Town Meeting the funding for the preservation, microfilming, and digitizing of the documents in the town vault. A preservation specialist, Robert Hauser, examined the conditions in the vault and found it to have the proper environmental conditions for preservation. Betty Slade, working with Marlene Sampson, Carol Borden, and Sharon Potter, became the manager of the resulting CPA historical preservation project. She has been assisted by Paul Pannoni, Lenora Robinson, and Jenny O'Neill. The CPA project has over the past few years provided for preservation of three of the oldest town books, microfilming and digitizing of all the earlier historical documents in the town, wrapping the documents in special buffered paper and putting them into archival boxes. The original documents are generally in the vault in the town hall basement. The microfilms (which are for disaster recovery) are in the library in the specially designed history room, and the digital records are now being made available on the Town of Westport's website. In addition, private papers of the Paul Cuffe collection, the two volumes of the Early Dartmouth Proprietors, maps of accepted roads in Westport, the collection of annual reports up to 2003, Almshouse records from 1865 - 1875, and vital records can be found on this website. The project is ongoing so more documents will be found on this website in the future.

In addition, this website will provide links to other historical materials of local interest such as those of the Westport Historical Society, the Massachusetts Historical Commission Macris which provides detailed information on historical resources which are on the list of state register of historic resources such as buildings, structures, areas, objects, and burial grounds, and the website for the Westport historic public and private burial grounds. We have organized the material into 23 categories and have listed these alphabetically. We have placed the relevant files into these categories. To simplify research, we have given explanations of what is found in the files when not evident, and have placed files in more than one category when useful. Indexes and tables of contents are rare in the originals and have not been developed. Much of the information is in script and reading the handwriting can be a challenge. Use of modern search tools more often does not work. In many cases, the researcher should be prepared "to read the book" to find out what is in it. Despite these difficulties, it is possible to learn a great deal about Westport history, about the people who were born, lived, served the town, paid their taxes, served in the military, married, and died in Westport.

Almshouse - Town Farm - Assistance to the Poor

Care for the poor, indigent, disabled, and aged was an important service that towns were set up to do. These documents allow for an understanding of this work through the years, recording names of those helped, overseers, communications between towns, and more. There are overlapping of years, but the data are not necessarily the same. Many years are missing.

Anniversary of the Town of Westport 1787-1937

This is a historic documentation from 1937 of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Westport's incorporation in 1787.

Annual Reports

Annual reports, earlier known as Auditing Committee or Board of Auditors reports, include information which enables researchers to chronicle the growth of a town. They include differing information through the years, including vital records, school attendance, town meeting records, town officers, and the like. Annual Reports after 2003 are digitized and available on the Board of Selectmen website.

Cemeteries

Linden Grove, Maple Grove, and Beech Grove are the three public cemeteries in Westport. These files cover a variety of information about these cemeteries as well as about permits to move bodies from private burial sites to the public cemeteries and movements within. Purchases of burial plots are also included. A full coverage of private and public cemeteries and their interred are given online, which you can view by clicking here. Town Records are included in this category because of the relevant information that might be found. Annual Reports also include burial and cemetery information.

Cuffe, Paul Personal and Family Papers

Paul Cuffe (1759-1817) was probably the most illustrious citizen of Westport, well known in his time, and remembered in several books and articles. The original of the Paul Cuffe family documents resides in the New Bedford Public Library. These were microfilmed many years ago but not digitized. These files are the digitized versions of all of the original papers and notes.

Dartmouth, Early Town Records

Dartmouth and Westport were separated in 1787. The information from early records is therefore relevant for Westport of today. Indexes are provided.

Deeds

Deeds and land records for old Dartmouth and Westport are found in the New Bedford Registry of Deeds going back to the 17th century. The Westport records found in the archives are included here.

First Christian Church

These files provide an early and long history of the First Christian Church in Westport.

Handy, Dr. Eli Medical Journal

Dr. Ely Handy (1764-1812) was an important medical doctor in Westport who lived in the Handy House at the corner of Drift Road and Hix Bridge Road. He kept a journal of his patients for many years which is the property of the Westport Historical Society. This journal was digitized and the resulting files are provided here.

Historical Maps

These are the maps found in the town vault and in the Town Clerk's office. A different set of historical maps can be found in the Town Library and at the Westport Historical Society.

Licenses - Permits - Certificates

This is a hodge-podge of information which throws light on the type of interesting permits through the years.

Militia and Military Related

A variety of documents in the town vaults give names of those who were eligible for military service and those who served.

Naturalization Applications

This list is a very small proportion of those Westporters who were naturalized and whose record remained in the town vault.

Proprietors Land Records

These records, known generally as the "Proprietor Records" include the sale of shares from Native Americans (Wasomeguin and Wamsutta) to the white settlers in 1652 (pp. 1-2 and claims of others on the "proprietors" from earlier periods beginning mid 1600s). These claims are followed by journals of Benjamin Crane's surveys of Proprietor property. Many claims are recorded much later than the agreement. In 1872 these records were copied from the originals of the Land Records of the Proprietors of Old Dartmouth and are found at the New Bedford Registry of Deeds in two volumes. Those two volumes were digitized and the resulting files are provided here. Some indication of the information on each file is provided. These are complicated and in some cases somewhat difficult to read.

Road Layouts

These scans are of the road layout maps in the Town Clerk's office. The numbers are from the official list. The Planning Board has added important information to these maps which will become available on the Planning Board website soon.

Tax Records

Tax records through the years have differed considerably from each other. Fortunately there are records from most years between 1787 when Westport became a separate town and 1923, the last year for which tax documents have been scanned.

Tax Records - Other Information

These documents include related information to valuations, taxes, and other fiscal matters.

Town Meeting

Town Meeting is the legislative branch of the Town and thus very important. These files record Town Meeting from 1787 to 1974.

Town Office Appointments

Information about appointments and the types of jobs filled in two periods of Westport history.

Town Records

1787-1827 Town Records No1 gives births, publishments (marriage intentions), and marriages, etc. from 1764-1829 with gaps and not in order. Some indexes given at the beginning.

1787-1831 Westport Town Records contain incorporation, town meeting records, appointments, expenditures, support for the poor, roads, etc. There is no organization or indexes in general.

Westport Town Records B. 1788-1879 has records for later dates than 1879 but not in a consistent order, e.g., 1929 and 1943. Includes fence (boundary) disputes, acceptances of "ear mark" designs for "creatures," layouts of roads and some properties. No indexes.

Town Treasurer and Audit Report

Records of some of the operations of the town treasurer.

Vital Records

This series includes births, deaths, and marriages recorded by the town from 1845 to 1951 which have been transcribed by the Town Clerk's office from the original books. Other available information from the vault is also included.

Voters

Various aspects of voting are included in these documents.

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