Lincoln Tripp was interviewed by Mary Giles on November 21, 1976. He spoke about his childhood and his work with the Historical Society.
This will be my third year as president of the Historical Society. I’ve been a member since the beginning of the Society, and I am a charter member.
It’s very interesting to be president of the Historical Society. I’m very enthused about having the opportunity to be president. I really have a great love for Westport, and I can’t think of any other place where I would rather be permanently and therefore being president of the Historical Society just goes along with my general feeling toward the town.
Now you asked me whether I feel that we have good officers. Yes, I feel that we have very competent officers, people whom I feel are seriously interested in the aims of the society and persons whom I feel are very easy to work with and do work. We have approximately 350 members; this would include people who have family membership and couples, etc. Our mailing list is something around 240 persons, both of which I consider good statistics.
I wasn’t too active in the first few years of the society. I think approximately six years or so ago, we had a membership drive, which I won’t say doubled the membership, but it must have increased the membership by 25 percent or more. Some of those members have not continued however, but we gain steadily each year. I’d rather gain steadily a few members than a large number and have them fall by the wayside within a couple of years.
I’m a schoolmaster. I’ve taught for, oh, about 19 years now. I’m teaching in Fairhaven presently and working in what is almost a ‘self contained’ classroom situation. You think that is progressive? I really think it’s the ideal type of education and I feel that I prefer this much to departmentalization.
I was born in St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, but I came to Westport as soon as I could leave the hospital. I lived in a different house than the one I live in now (Drift Road). I lived in a house on Old County Road occupied by the Hawes family, the home of my grandparents. This was a house that was owned by Nancy Parris, who was wife of a former minister at the inception of the Pacific Union Church. He was one of the first clergymen, then the house later went into the Botelho family and then my grandparents bought it. He was a doctor, I believe, and I think the house many years before that, had been owned by Peleg Cornell.
I had all of my elementary schooling here in town, went to the Head School and at that time there were combination grades, two grades in a classroom. There was one teacher. I believe the year that I was in the first grade we did have two teachers in the classroom, that was in 1938, after the hurricane, and Hix Bridge, of course, had washed out during the storm and therefore bus routes had to be changed and children had to be transferred to the Head School and I think because of the large number of youngsters in the school at that time, they had to have an extra teacher. I don’t remember much about this. I don’t remember that it even bothered me or seemed confusing or anything like that. I do remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Aborn. She was very affectionate, I think particularly to the little boys. She’d pick everyone up and smothered them with kisses, you know. I don’t know whether I enjoyed that too much at that stage of my life, but it was very interesting. She was a very nice person and died not too long ago. Well, for high school, I went to what is now the Milton Earle School and I think that mine was the last class to graduate from the Earle School, and after that it moved up to the new high school. Harold Wood was Principal.
Even in elementary school I was always a great reader and I was interested in dramatics. In high school I was in both class and plays, and I was interested also in writing, in newspaper work. I worked on the school paper. I really think my interests are very verbal actually and continue to be.
I hadn’t decided on teaching as a career until my junior year in college, although I did go to a teachers’ college, Bridgewater, as a freshman. I had majored in English, but, oh, for a number of reasons decided to work with elementary children. I think I like the variety of subject matter; I think that sometimes you get too fragmented, not fragmented but stifled if you limit yourself to one subject. I’ve sort of limited myself to one grade level.
I was not athletic, I was the proverbial little fat boy, nobody wanted me to be on their team, but that didn’t bother me too much, because I did have a lot of other interests. One of my interests, even at that age, was my collection of ‘antiques.’ I can remember exhibiting these at Grange Fairs. I had some very large, old-fashioned wooden clothespins. I had a couple of really old wooden skates, one with a little scorn on the finial of the up curve, and I had a little blacksnake whip, which I had traded something for and I had a neighbor, a young fellow, who attended the same auction, and I can’t remember just what it was that I traded for that blacksnake whip, I felt that I should have that for my collection. I think I paid fifteen cents for a_____________ , which was part of my collection, and a powder flask, a copper one, which I also paid fifteen cents for at an auction.
This was an interest, which my mother particularly had, and I’m sure she helped instill this in me. I was also interested in whaling at that time and have some, well not priceless books, but very valuable books that I acquired when I was eleven years old. ‘The Yankee Whaler’ and ‘Whaling Masters,’ which is indeed very hard to find now. So really, those were some of my most intense interests.
In college, believe it or not, I played in the college orchestra, the violin, which I played as a junior high school and high school student, not very well, so when I got to college, I was seated in the back row so no one could see that I was bowing down when I should have been bowing up, that was fun and I really enjoyed it.
I think I kept more of an interest at home when I was going to college because I would come home most weekends and I was active in church (Pacific Union), and I enjoyed singing in the choir, in fact, I continue that interest today and I really enjoy music, in fact, I think it was in college that I developed quite a deep interest in classical music, which continues of course. I wasn’t involved in too many extracurricular activities in college. I guess that was because of my home ties. I didn’t happen to follow my dramatic interest into college.
You said I might be called a ‘loner.’ I don’t think that is the correct term, because I enjoy people and enjoy working with people. I find that I can sometimes get an awful lot done by myself and prefer sometimes to be in solitude, but where I work with people all day long, I think this is just natural.
I was what you would call a ‘depression’ baby, so my parents were very much impressed with the necessity to be careful. Fortunately my father was in a business, the insurance business, which was inclined to be rather steady despite the economics of the day and we never were in a situation where we were without or really impoverished, but I remember that there were times when I felt that I needed a new suit of clothes and I just had to make do with something that I didn’t think was quite what I thought it should be. Some of this was due to the fact that I was so overweight that it was awfully hard to get clothing for me. Things needed to be made special for me, but I got along and I don’t think it left any indelible scars.
As for food, we have always had turkey for Thanksgiving as long as I can recall, with all the fixings, and mashed potatoes and white turnips, Macomber turnips, never yellow. I think my mother always did her shopping in New Bedford. We were quite New Bedford oriented.
In the house on Old County Road that I lived in until I was five years old, there was no indoor plumbing. I should correct that, yes, there was one cold water tap downstairs. There was a large cistern in the house and that was used for laundry purposes. The cistern was actually in the house, underneath an ell, I believe, and of course, there were not inside toilets at that time. The privy was attached to the barn. We drank the well water; the tap water, however, I believe my grandmother didn’t like that particular water, and for years would send across the street to Mrs. Allen’s to get water for drinking purposes. But my mother and dad didn’t do that; we used our own water.
Old County Road was narrower than it is now, but it was blacktop, not much of a change there.
At the Head there was a grocery store, which was run by Louis Codere, presently owned by Al Grundy. Then there was Miss Stacy’s across the street. Miss Stacy’s was located in what is now the ‘Yankee Stripper,’ and her’s was a little candy and ice cream store, which I felt was actually a great privilege to visit. I liked Miss Stacey; she was kind of an interesting old lady to visit. Once in a while, when I would be visiting my grandmother, she would say, ‘Would you like to go down to Miss Stacey’s to get an Eskimo Pie?’ and of course, it was a big treat. And I liked Miss Stacey’s also because, in the back of her store, there was an antique shop run by a Mr. Montell, and so on very rare occasions, Miss Stacey would let me go back into the shop. I never remember seeing anyone else in there buying anything in the line of antiques.
About my antiques, very few of the whaling things that were on display at the Bicentennial Exhibition were my things. They were other persons. However, I do collect paintings, and one of the unfortunate things is that I file most of my things rather than display them. Sometime, hopefully, I will have more display space. I have a collection of whaling books, and I’ve started collecting Mulberry Ironstone and do have quite a number of pieces of that, and more recently I’ve started collecting cup plates. They’re very interesting. They represent such a variety of styles and designs and so on, and they are kind of convenient for me to store because they are so small, and then I have quite a number of items which pertain to Westport, which I’ve collected over the years, and postcards too. That’s something that I’ve recently gotten into. I’ve collected Westport cards and also cards from New Bedford and Fall River. That’s about it. I’ve not had time to do with them what I’d planned and I feel that someday, someone or some institution will have some rather interesting things that I’ve put away and this has sort of been my intention, I think. I hope that I will have several things for the Historical Society and so on.
As far as food is concerned, I think I eat far more simply now than I did when I was a youngster, bacon and eggs, etc. I remember breakfasts at my grandmother’s quite vividly. It was a big treat to go over there and eat on a morning, because my grandfather worked at night and he’d be coming home, oh probably about 7:00 in the morning, and if I were there at that time, I could have Johnny Cakes and sausage and that was a time when I could eat a raft of pancakes. On Sunday mornings, once in a while, my grandmother would have steak and beans. I’m not too clear whether she would have pie, I think sometimes she might have had apple pie, this would be back in 1944-1945 or something like that.
The progenitor of the Tripp family was John Tripp, who came from England, Northumberland I believe, in 1630 to Newport, and I am about the 10th generation of Tripps in this area descended from John Tripp. I’ve done very little research, that’s another interest that is just coming to light. However, I believe that shortly after coming to Newport, John or his son, Joseph, or possibly both of them came to what was then Old Dartmouth and that was probably somewhere in Westport here. There are two main lines of Tripps in the country, one that stems from Joseph, the son of John, and the other from James, John’s son, and I am descended from Joseph. I would say that probably all Tripps in the country are descended from John and his two sons, I think, well; I’m just not familiar with other areas.
John was a carpenter, as I said, I just haven’t had time to research, this is something that will come when I have a little more time, also something that is very time consuming.
I really shouldn’t neglect my other ancestors. On my mother’s side, I am descended from some Irish immigrants and also from some French Canadian immigrants. We really haven’t followed this through, but we believe that we’re descended from John Rogers, who was a Mayflower passenger. This would be on my mother’s side. He came from England to Plymouth, but I say I really haven’t looked into this facet. My mother’s maiden name was Lambert. No one has worked on this recently, but there are printed genealogies on both sides. Actually, it’s very simple, because my father is listed in the genealogy. For information, I would go to New Bedford. I don’t believe the Fall River Library has, oh yes; they have the genealogy for James Tripp’s descendents.
As far as the acting goes, I’ve thought about it for when I have more time, whenever that will be. In the Bicentennial Exhibition, I was sort of pantomiming Benjamin Franklin.
One of my problems is just sort of finding enough time to do all the things I’m interested in, but I think I would like to see a Little Theater group in Westport and when the Bell Schoolhouse has been completely restored, hopefully we will have a stage area with a very charming backdrop, with an asbestos curtain and so on, and this would make an ideal spot to have home town theatricals as it were. I’m thinking of it as a museum. I think that will ultimately have some sort of vault in the building. We will hope to have it protected with some sort of alarm device and we will hope to have it as secure as we can possible make it, because I’m sure that these will be things we will want to display as in a museum. But my ultimate goal for the building is not as a museum, I want it to be sort of an active building, which will sort of continue to display other things. I have another sort of a pipe dream; I have a number of pipe dreams. One is to have the town use the present Alms House property for some sort of a living farm museum, and certainly if we were to do that, this would be an ideal spot to display old farm implements. Here again, I wouldn’t want it to be the sort of museum situation where you would just look at inanimate objects. I would hope to have animals and people and crops and all in their proper perspective as they might have been 150 years a go on that particular spot, and I think the location is an excellent one for such an endeavor, because the nearest farm museum would be Sturbridge Village, and I think that with the set-up in Westport, we’re on the way to the Cape, I think it would be a very simple matter for persons to come on 88 and down to that particular spot. We would really be preserving something that I think would be very valuable to Westport, because after all, Westport, in addition to its seafaring, certainly one of its mainstays was farming, and it’s one of the last farming strongholds in the state of Massachusetts.
I think the town infirmary property would be an ideal location to house either a ‘Living Farm Museum’ or an ‘Arts and Crafts Center.’ Really, I think one would be an adjunct to the other.
I’ve also toyed with the idea, of course, maybe location wouldn’t help this, the Westport Factory, ‘Upper Mill’ so called, now used as a boat storage warehouse, also strikes me as a very good place for craftsmen to locate. It’s quite an attractive building once you get the façade free of the billboards and so forth, there is plenty of space there for such and I think this would be an ideal spot for individual craftsmen to work, classes to be held and its location between the two large cities would be good too. They could certainly have enough space there to have a craftsman’s show that might include 50 or 100 craftsmen. I think once it was established, we could look back to a fairly large attendance. I think this is the problem of the show on Route 177, it hadn’t been established.
The idea of having an arts center and room at the wharf has been suggested. The question of whether the ‘Point’ would not like the traffic has been raised.
Well, of course, I don’t think it would be objectionable traffic. You’re thinking of what is now Lees’ Wharf. No, I think that would be a very ideal spot for a crafts location. After all, there’s a town landing there. Certainly there’s parking available on that and I don’t feel the parking would be that amount.
John Tripp was a carpenter and his son, James, was probably a farmer. Almost every man who came over was a farmer, although there have been quite a number of mariners in the family too, but John apparently was a carpenter I believe.
There haven’t been many definite tales of early Tripps in my family. Of course, my grandfather, Alexander Tripp, was quite a large landowner here in town, had two farms and a dairy, what was Tripp’s Dairy, later acquired by Charles Nelson. He had one farm on Gifford Road and he had one farm on Horseneck Road where Louis Tripp lives today, and the dairy was also up here on Gifford Road, and he was, I really would say, quite a successful farmer for that particular period in time. Ah! That would have been in the latter part of the 19th century and, well, I would say, the first quarter of the 20th century, although the dairy continued under the management of one of my uncles up until the 1940’s and then of course Willis (Tripp) continued farming on his Horseneck Road place up until his retirement a few years ago. It’s located at a bend in the road where you can look down and see the river and the islands and so forth. Oh! I’d say two and a half miles south of Hix Bridge Road on the west side of Horseneck Road. It’s a beautiful spot, a fantastic spot. I’ve been told stories of having to drive cows across the river, having to swim across the river where they would be pastured and then they would drive them back in the fall.
Another kind of interesting thing, my father was inclined to enjoy West Indian cooking. This I think was rather unusual for an old Yankee to enjoy; however, I think he got used to that kind of cooking from one of the cooks that was employed for the farm on Horseneck Road, who used curries and so on. Surprisingly enough, my father enjoyed that sort of thing. I’m sure other members of the family would not enjoy anything but good old plain Yankee cooking.
For keeping food, we have always had an electric refrigerator, but my grandparents (I never knew my paternal grandparents, by the way), my mother’s parents used an ice box, and of course, this always was rather amusing, because there were some very interesting times that occurred when the ice box was to be filled with ice or when the drip pan was overflowing underneath. Someone would have neglected to notice this and pretty soon the water was running all over the floor. When my grandfather would arrive with a piece of ice that was too large to fit into the ice compartment, of course, there had to be a lot of chipping. I’m not too sure where he picked it up. I do remember that usually there would be an iceman who would be traveling and delivering ice in the area. Because we didn’t have this at my house, I don’t remember too clearly. I do remember it used to cause some amusement at times, and, of course, the ice business was a very big one I believe, and there was an ice house up on the North Watuppa Pond and this used to, well, I think that one of my uncles worked there. It’s kind of an interesting phenomena that they could cut the ice and maintain it all summer long in the icehouses.
As to temperature differences during my lifetime here, I don’t have any specific recollection in that regard. I feel that some years we seem to have colder winters than others. As far as any specific period when the winters were colder, I don’t recall this.
John Hart thinks that this will be a cold winter because the husks are so thick on his corn and someone else said that the caterpillars’ fur was thick, so I guess this winter’s going to be cold. (It turned out to be the coldest in over 100 years.)
I think because I was not terribly involved in raising vegetables and husbandry of any sort, I didn’t pay too much attention to that sort of thing and I wasn’t impressed one way or the other.
If it were possible for me to change anything in Westport, I think I would try to change some attitudes that seem to be part of the philosophy, that seem to be part of the long time residents of the town. I feel that Westport is a very beautiful place in which to live. There are still many areas that are almost unspoiled. I feel that we should strive to retain the natural character of the area and the historical character of the area as much as possible and we really will benefit the town a great deal by doing that rather than by bowing to ‘progress’ and losing a lot of this. Once we do change people’s attitudes, then it becomes far easier to retain some of these things.
One of the ways of trying to change attitudes is to publish a newsletter for the Historical Society, which I’m doing completely on my own. This is one of the best vehicles for helping Historical Society members form attitudes. To reach those who don’t get the newsletter, I think our Historical Commission could become a very potent force in changing attitudes and I’m looking forward to Christopher Gillespie as Chairman of the Commission because he is young and very interested in the Commission’s work, and I think the Commission in a number of ways, can help people become aware o the need for historic preservation. I can’t give specifics now.