WESTPORT POLISH FARM FAMILIES 1915 TO 1950
Research compiled by Russell T. Hart
Polish Families of Westport, Massachusetts research by Russell Hart, presented at the Westport History Group, 2008
The history of the Polish families in Westport is a subject that should be recorded for the future generations of Westport. Some incentives for the project were fond childhood memories of mine and my wife’s, Jean. We grew up as neighbors to Polish immigrants and their families. We recognize the fact that the Polish families were quiet, hard-working, patriotic, law-abiding citizens who very quietly contributed to make Westport a better place to live.
Some of these contributions to our town I will spell out as we go through the individual families. We refer to the Polish community but many of these folks came from other European countries such as Austria. Much of the information that follows was from the Assessor’s records and from 2nd generation family members.
Many of these families worked in the mills and other occupations in Fall River and New Bedford as transportation and roads improved. The majority of the families had a horse a cow or two, pigs and hens. This group of 19 families owned 918 acres of land in Westport.
Benbeniek – Fisher Road
Mr. Benbeniek purchased the farm in 1949 14 plus acres and had a sizeable poultry farm. The farm was located North of White Oak Run on Fisher Road in Westport. I was unable to contact any of the family members,
Chelluck, Matthew – Cornell Road
Purchased the farm in 1934 35 acres known as the Gifford lot on the North side of Cornell Road. They had 5 children, 4 boys and a girl. 3 o the boys were World War II vets.
The Chelluck family of Cornell Road was my personal contact with a Polish farm family. The father and mother were learning English but spoke mostly Polish in the home. The children were good students in school and enjoyed baseball. We took turns shaking a quart jar of cream until it turned to butter and Mr. Chelluck insisted that we only make butter if the tide was rising. After chores, we played baseball and an occasional cup of delicious cabbage soup really cemented the memories
The farm was self-sufficient with a horse, couple of cows, a few pigs and hens and a large vegetable garden. Mrs. Chelluck was always busy cooking, canning. This was in the 1930s near the end of the depression. Some of the boys joined the CC camps and then the Army. Teddy was at Hickon Field, Hawaii with Russell Manchester of Westport Point on December 7, 1941. The family moved to Long Island, New York after the war and we lost contact.
Gajda, Thomas – Kirby Road
Thomas purchased what was known as the Mosher farm at Booth’s Corner and Cross Road in 1927. The farm consisted of 80 acres of land and 2 houses. A description today would be Main Road and Kirby Road. In 1928 he had 2 horses and 9 cows. In 1935 he sold the farm to Rezendes.
Gancarski Edward T. – Drift Road
Mr. Gancarski purchased the farm in 1932 8 acres. In 1932 the Assessor’s record showed a horse and a cow. Mr. Gancarski was a shoemaker in Fall River and as in the case of most small farms helped the family to be self-sufficient. The Gancarski’s had 2 sons both serving in WWII. Sadly Frank lost his life in the war. His brother Edward was one of the charter members of the Head of Westport Fire Association and later spent 38 years as a fireman in Fall River. Thanks to Eddie for his help in this project.
Gwozdz John and Mary – Division Road and Cross Road
John and Mary purchased the farm in 1918 consisting of 42 acres. In 1929, he was taxed for 2 horses, 8 cows, 25 pigs. I 1942, John was taxed for a Case tractor, a horse and 18 cows and 500 hens. In 1944, he didn’t have a horse. John and Mary raised a large family of 13; 9 girls and 4 boys and John lived to 106 years of age. 8 members of the family were weavers in the mills in New Bedford and worked the farm. Son Stanley was Building Inspector in Westport and Korean War vet. Transportation to the mills was a Model T. Thanks to Helen for the help.
Jarous, Stanislaw – Mouse Mill Road
Purchased the farm January 26, 1927. It contained 26 acres. 1928 he was taxed for a horse and a cow, 30 fowl and an auto. He was the only farmer in this era to be taxed for an auto. Hs son, Wladyslaw was a WWII vet.
Lekom, Agnes – Mouse Mill Road
In 1938 they purchased the farm that contained 30 acres and a subsequent purchase brought it to 111 acres. A son, Joseph ran a successful gas station on Route 177, his brother Bill was a reserve policeman in Westport for many years, sister Beatrice was Nurse. Both Beatrice and Bill served in the military during WWII. This farm was affected by the Route 177 land takings and construction as were many others in the Mouse Mill and Gifford Road areas. Typical of these family farms, they were taxed for 2 horses, 3 cows and 50 hens.
Micezkowski, John – Sanford Road
John and Victoria Mieczkowski purchased the farm 7 acres in 1929 and raised 3 children. John Sr. was a WWI vet and signed his monthly pension over to the bank to purchase the farm. This family lived across the street from my wife, Jean, and her memories of the family will be expressed later. The farm was sold to the Roman Catholic Church and Our Lady of Grace Church was constructed on the corner. The homestead is now the rectory. Son, John, first attended Westport public elementary school speaking no English. A teacher at the school soon visited the family and convinced his parents to speak English at home. John graduated from Westport High School as valedictorian. John graduated from Duke University and Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program. He served in the U.S. marine Corp during WWII as a 1st Lt. He was known to his friends as “Mike”. He earned this nickname while playing football at Duke. In 1984 John and Ruth Makowski returned to Westport by building a home in the Harbor area. John was the former Chairman and CEO of the Atlantic Companies, a mutual insurance company headquartered in New York which he joined in 1951. Mr. Makowski throughout his career advanced issues of corporate fiscal responsibility, business ethics and community service. In 2006 he endowed the John J. and Ruth W. Makowski Professorship I Organizational Ethics at Duke University.
Jean Hanson Hart recollections: As a native of Sanford Road, I remember growing up across the street from the Mieczkowski family. They were hard working people and excellent neighbors. John Sr. worked at the Newport Naval Station. Victoria was a wonderful cook who excelled in Easter preparations and polish food. Her curtains had to be “just so”. They had to be starched stiffer than a board and pinned to frames to dry. There 3 children, Vanda, John and Victoria. We played “kick the can” after school nights for excitement provided that the chores were done and the garden hoed. John Sr. joined my father, Henry Hanson, for a beer or two when the women weren’t looking. It was a wonderful atmosphere to grow up in.
Osga, Pauline – Corner of Old County Road and Mouse Mill
Pauline Osga purchased the farm in 1926. It contained 39 acres and was located on the corner of Old County Road and Mouse Mill. This was known as Crapo’s corner. Mike Osga raised cows and other livestock through the 1970’s.
Pietryzk, Stanislas and Mary – Briggs Road
They purchased the farm on Briggs Road in 1926. They raised 4 girls and a boy. Son, Walter still runs the farm. I attended High School with Walter and Wanda. I graduated with Wanda. Walter owns the vegetable stand at the corner of Sanford Road and Briggs Road. Good neighbors and a hard working family. Thanks for Helen for her help on the project. 25 acres
John purchased the farm in 1937 consisting of 25 acres and he had livestock. The farm is located off of Route 177 then called Old County Road down what is known as Pettey Lane.
Rusin, Michael and Catherine – Mouse Mill Road
Purchased the land in 1918 with 20 acres. The family developed a greenhouse business and was successful. Son Stanley served in WWII and Walter worked the farm.
Sekonda – Drift Road
Mr. Sekonda purchased the farm in 1921. The farm consisted of 20 acres, known as the Kirby farm. They raised 3 children, son Walter served in WWII. In 1930 Mr. Sekonda was taxed for 1 horse, 6 cows and 8 pigs.
Sieminski, Stanislaw and Weronika – Gifford Road (then called Beulah Road)
They purchased the Borden farm in 1918 consisting of 33 acres. In 1938 they purchased the Kirby farm of 213 acres for a total acreage of 246. Son Walter worked the farm through a large part of the 20th century. Son Edward was a WWII vet and very successful in the construction business. Ed won the bid and constructed the current Westport Police Station. A personal note – when we were reconstructing Old Bedford Road, the large box culverts at Bread and Cheese Brook were too heavy and too large for any town equipment. Ed provided and operated a crane and would not bill the town, an example of a quiet way these folks contributed to the town.
Szaro – Main Road
The Szaro family purchased the farm known as the Dunham farm consisting of 63 acres in 1918. Sons Henry and John were WWII vets and younger brother Frank was a classmate of mine in High School. In 1929 they were taxed for a horse and a cow and 25 hens.
Szala – Mouse Mill Road
In 1918 Jean Szala purchased the farm known as the C.F. Tripp land consisting of 47 acres.
Zajac – Davis Road
Stanislaw Zajac purchased the farm in 1929 consisting of 68 acres. When purchased, the farm was known as the Hanlon farm and the Benevides farm. In 1938 they were taxed for a horse 13 cows and a bull and a cooler. This was the first indicating of cooling equipment for the farmers at least, on the tax rolls. Sons, Henry &n Thadeus served in WWII.
Zembo, Joseph V. – Gifford Road then Beulah Road
Joseph purchased the farm at 103 Beulah Road, February 19, 1909 and it consisted of 8 acres. He raised a family of 7 boys and 5 girls. Joseph was born in Austria 1878, migrated from Rotterdam, Holland, arrived in New York, June 1901. He worked in the mills in Fall River. Mrs. Zembo ran a boarding house on Rodman Street in Fall River for polish families migrating to the United States. Josephine was the first born in Westport and wrote a family history in detail which is attached. Thanks, to Josie and her niece, Jean Gracia her family history is saved.
I had the pleasure to meet Walter Zembo and Albert Zembo. Albert was a Charter member of the Head of Westport Fire Association. Albert and his son-in-law, Tony Gracia, were very active in the construction of the Head of Westport Fire Station. His brother, Walter, a soft spoken gentleman would drop by my house occasionally with fruit from his orchard. Stanley, Walter & Louis Zembo served in the military in WWII.
Zerbone, Albert – Blossom Road
Albert purchased the property in 1935 and consisted of 67 acres. It is now part of the Sampson farm.
History of Josephine Goulet
First of all I have been asked to write some history of my life and family.
Today, (date) it is about 79 degrees. Tomorrow it will be frost time.
My birth date is July 8, 1913, I came from a family of 7 boys and 5 girls. I was the first to be born in Westport. Pa and Ma lived in Fall River on Rodman Street. Pa took out his declaration of intention of citizenship: He was 33 years old at the time.
The papers were dated 11 April 1911. They say he was born in Wazwiny, Austria, 15 January 1878. He was listed as living at 827 Rodman St., Fall River, MA. He emigrated from Rotterdam, Holland on the S.S. Rotterdam. Francis Joseph was Emperor of Austria and Apostates was King of Hungary. Pa arrived in New York on 25 June 1901. Ma kept a boarding house at 827 Rodman St. for Polish people who came to the country. Pa worked in mills in Fall River and New Bedford most of the time.
The first boy was John. He worked as a second hand I the Borden Mill. Pa was a slubber tender.
Albert was next in line. He graduated from Vocational School New Bedford as a mechanic. He worked as a car mechanic in various places.
In 1907 Julia was born and she worked for Margaret Howarth, a lawyer in Fall River. She was secretary and general clerk. She was Pa’s favorite and we had to give up our place on the rocking chairs for her.
After that Mary was born in Fall River and then they moved to Westport. First Mary died early in 1903-4. Sister Mary the second was born in 1911 in Fall River. How come Fall River??
Pa read Polish and also wrote it. I was surprised at the spelling of remembrances he used when he wrote to Eddie.
The folks bought the farm on 103 Beulah Road on 2/19/09. We all worked hard on the farm. We weeded onions on hands and knees using kitchen forks. When they were ready to sell Pa took the horse and wagon and went to the city. He took the produce to people he knew.
One thing I remember was that he was coming home and got struck by Stanley Gypsy from Somerset. The horse pulled away and was running home when the police came. Pa got a broken jaw and internal injuries. Walter was with him and saved the bag of onions that was left over.
At our church, Mary and I taught catechism for a couple of years. We also walked through the woods and came out where the houses are located that were built by the Westport Mfg. Company.
When the church was being built, the priest was killed on rt. 6. His name was Father Couloumbe.
At school we were asked to take part in a show. Pa said “I am sending you to school not to be an actress.” This is what I appreciate as I ended as Valedictorian and achieved the Best Attendance award for my years in High School. My sister Mary and I donated the organ swells section. I and Raymond donated towards the South part of church refinish. We also gave for the installation of the air conditioning system.
Frances arrived in 1916. We gathered at the homestead where Frankie kept us together. She always served meals whenever we stayed there.
A Dark Side of Nature was presented in June 1997. Mrs. Paula Smith, teacher and students took part in the story. Jamie Botelho, Mike Cabral, Charles Davis, Derek Silva and Jay Souza also took part.
The publication was made and we have plenty of copies for sale. Josie Goulet provided scrapbooks that she had collected.
The Westport River Alliance asked to get the brooks named. In 1990 I named the brook near our house Beulah Road Brook. The article that was written in the paper.
Josephine Goulet remembers a time when we stopped to water the horse at the brook that is near her house and flows under Gifford Road which was then called Beulah Road. Nevertheless, it provided hours of entertainment for Josie as she likes to be called, and her 11 brothers and sisters. The Zembo family has owned the house on Gifford Road since the beginning of the century. Josie now lives with her husband, Raymond and a mile away lives her brother Stanley. He still lives in the white farmhouse with his family. They both remember throwing sticks down the steam and followed their course through the woods, crawling through the culvert. The brook isn’t on any map, but when Josie saw the blue and white signs, WRWA she elected to mark Westport Streams. She wanted the stream recognized too. She got in touch with WRWA and now thanks to Josie, Beulah Brook has a sign along with all of the others. This was published in River News dated 1990.
When the Pope was chosen as Pope on October 16, 1978 I remember we had an audience with him. He talked in Polish and Ray taped it. The only words the Pope said in English were. “Wish you a good trip back home.” I have a copy of the tape. I was able to send it to the Museum in Michigan. The head director was named Ziemba. I found out that his mother was from Tarnow (Deki Dolne near Debica). They came to USA in 1910. The director signed his name Walter Ziemba. This is why I wrote to him. The envelope read John Paul Center, Orchard Lake, Michigan.
Audience with Pope John Paul II:
When we were in Poland we had an audience with the Pope in church. He talked with the group in Polish and made us laugh with his comments. He wished us a safe trip home.
The newspapers from Standard Times had much news on his visit. I saved the papers and got in touch with the Museum in Michigan. I was surprised that the Director of the Center was named Walter Ziemba. Immediately I wrote to Fr. Ziemba and told him that I had a cassette of his entire speech with us. I told him I would be glad to send it to him. He also said his folks were from (Leki dolne near Debica). The came to USA in 1910. His mother;’ name was Sosnowski.
On June 18, 1986 Fr. Ziemba wrote and thanked me very much for the tape and copy of Cardinal Woutyla’s audience with the pilgrims from St. Stanislaw’s Church. The tape and printed material was greatly appreciated.
Since then we received a portrait of our pope from our priest Father Gerard A. Hebert. It is on the south wall of the parlor.
This is what Lincoln Tripp wrote to me. I really appreciate the fact that you have thought of the Society over the years. I wish other Westporters would be as generous. I have many books and I will list some here now: 1938 Hurricane and 1944 hurricane, clippings from Hurricane Carol and Gloria 1 copy of Hurricane Bob August 19, 1991.
In May 1974 I had my big accident. The woman driver dropped her cigarette and bent over to pick it up and struck me as I left my yard. I had to cross the road to get the mail and paper. From May 1974 to August, I was in the hospital. I had 2 broken legs, fractured ribs and a posterior head concussion. I did not open my eyes from Tuesday until Friday. My husband, Raymond composed and played this song when I got home. I have it, as he asks for me to please open my eyes.
Here are the words:
Although the stars are shining thru the night,
The nights are lonely without you, my love.
We wish our dreams would come true very soon
So, Josie, please open your eyes.
And soon you’ll be better at home again.
You’ll watch the flowers bloom and garden grow
You’ll hear the birds singing in some melody
So Josie open your eyes.
*This song was written by me for you while you were in the hospital. I hope you like it.” Love, Raymond
Although we went on many trips, we had never been on a cruise. This happened in 1999 and already Ray was in a wheelchair. The Norwegian Cruise line was to St. George, Bermuda and we signed up to go.
In 1968 we went to Hawaii and enjoyed the trip to California and Nevada. I have many remembrances of that trip. Then when 1973 came along we flew to Poland on Polish LOT Airways. Too bad Ma was already gone as we met her brother and his family. I have many pictures to show. Poland was a really nice trip. We also saw Czechoslovakia where they had already converted their churches into a library. We just stayed there overnight.
Maybe I can add to this another time. I am working on my 50 scrapbooks. This is going to take time.
I also forgot to mention about the bell at St. John’s Church in Central Village. From my notes on the hurricane, I found out that the bell was on the Chapel Rose De Lima, and was washed away into the ocean. The priest checked it out and he had a stand made for it. I had my picture taken with Father Sharp. It is not in the same stand. It is a little smaller and lower to the ground. Father Fitzgerald said it was Father Sharp. When I was at brother Louis wake, I asked him and he told me it was indeed Father Sharp.
The plaque on the Homestead is dated 1850. Back in 1850 a mechanic named Charles Coggeshall settled in this area. Actually in 1841 a person by the name of Adam Gifford sold 101 rods of land to Charles Coggeshall. In 1875 Thomas Lapham of New Bedford and his wife Olivia along with Mercy B., Annie R. and Richard H. Coggeshall of Battle Creek MI sold this lot to Charles Gifford. They inherited this property. In 1911 Malvina Davis sold this property to Joseph and Victoria Ziemba. This information was by Dick Wertz of the Historical Society.
While working in Newport, I designed the anchor that was on the lawn of Quarters “A”. After getting a Singer sewing make over, it was accepted as the arm on front of the steward frock. I have the designs in my scrapbooks. I believe they wear it to this day.