Westport Historical Society Programs

The Giffords of Westport presented by Richard Gifford

The Giffords were among the earliest settlers in Westport and, even today, the name “Gifford” remains a common surname among local residents. Local historian and genealogist Richard Gifford discusses the English origins of the Giffords, their early Quaker experiences in Sandwich and traces their first settlements and houses in Westport.


This program will highlight the importance of colonial land surveying and the historical significance of original stone walls, using the Ellis Brightman Farm, 533 Division Road, as a case study. Professional land surveyor Sean Leach will explore how land surveyors utilize the survey of original parcels of land and how they construct the deeds and ownership. This program will also explore the evolution of stone walls and highlight their important role as endangered historical land marks. 

A Walk Down Old Horseneck Beach presented by David Jones

Postcard collector David Jones presents a visual walk down old Horseneck Beach, featuring a newly discovered collection of historic photographs by Clarence Williston, music teacher, photographer and East Beach summer resident. David Jones has conducted extensive research to reconstruct the pre-hurricane beach using old photos, postcards and maps. This program will provide an opportunity to view rarely seen images of East Beach and to rediscover the history of a community that was wiped out by the hurricane of 1938.


Sea Stories with Richie Earle and Jonathan Paull

Retired harbormaster Richie Earle shares memories of his career as Westport’s harbormaster. For over 25 years Richie responded to unpredictable challenges such as medical emergencies, lifesaving rescues and beached boats. In conversation with assistant harbormaster Jonathan Paull, they share photos and stories as well as a historical perspective on earlier harbormasters such as Bob Sykes and Harry Tripp and Ab Palmer. Presented August 16, 2018.



Westport History 101
Part 1 Westport’s geological formation, the early Native American inhabitants, first European contact, Plymouth Colony and King Philip’s War. We then discuss the early settlement of Old Dartmouth and end with the American Revolution. Hand-out and slides available HERE

Further reading available HERE



Wampanoag Families of Westport




Westport’s Founding Families


The Black Ships Rum Running in Westport


Treasures from Elvira’s Attic

Guest curator Blair Walker provides a tour of the exhibition of clothing from the Elvira Smith collection.This exhibition can be viewed at the Handy House, 202 Hix Bridge Road, Westport June – October 2016.

Some Architectural Descendants of William White

This is a video of a program exploring the many houses in Westport, Little Compton, and Tiverton that were built by descendants of William White and Elizabeth Cadman White. Presented by Richard Gifford as part of the Westport Winter History Forum, November 2015.

The End of the Old Point Bridge and the Construction of Route 88

A discussion led by noted author Dawn Tripp with panel of guests including Richie Earle, Tony Connors, Howie Gifford, and Carmen Maiocco.
What was the defining moment in the 20th century for Westport? For many, it was the day that the old Westport Point Bridge was torn down. Shortly after Hurricane Carol struck in 1954, the state of Massachusetts took Horseneck Beach by eminent domain, and made plans to build an 11 mile highway straight down through the center of Westport. Route 88 was laid and a new bridge was constructed over the Westport River to replace the old pile and timber structure built in the 19th century to connect Westport Point to Horseneck. How did the demise of the Old Point Bridge reflect the coming of the modern era to a rural fishing and farming community in the post war years? How has the construction of Route 88 impacted the geography and character of our town?

The Adventures of a Westport Farmer

How Westport Became a Town

This program was presented by Tony Connors, President of the Westport Historical Society, on May 18 2015.

Historic Film Footage

Foot Prints in the Sand

This movie created in 1991 is a history of the changes that took place at East Beach and Horseneck Beach during the 20th century, a well as an account of the history of Plante’s Pavillion. Unfortunately the quality of the image is poor as the original was transferred from an old VHS tape. However, it remains a “classic” visual history of Westport.