Posted on July 23, 2014 by Jenny ONeill
Marion Reed was interviewed by Mary Giles on November 11, 1976. She spoke of her experiences with Fall River’s Native Americans, her childhood, and her time teaching.
I’m eager to learn all I can about Marion Reed’s life here in North Westport, about her work as a teacher, and about her travels.
I was born in Fall River on the Fall River side of Blossom Road. At that time, my father was about to become superintendent of the reservation; the Watuppa Waterworks is what I mean by reservation. The Indian Reservation there is separate. It’s on Watuppa Pond Road and it’s due to a grant of 100 acres of land near the shore of Watuppa Pond. The D.A.R. put up a plaque. You go up Blossom Road and down Indian Town Road just about one-quarter mile. The plaque has been stolen and the D.A.R. can’t afford to put up another one. There’s an Indian Cemetery there, and I think the Reservation men keep it fairly clear.
When I was a little girl, I used to go down there and pick walnuts. You go way down near the pond. I think there’s some sort of a rustic wooden fence. It might be a stonewall, I forget, and there are a lot of headstones. There was a Perry buried there. He was an Indian and a Revolutionary War hero. That’s why the D.A.R. put the plaque up, not for the Indians. He was of Indian descent and there are Perrys now on the 100 acres that was given them in exchange for the land by the pond. There’s one girl, she’s the granddaughter of the old Indian lady that I remember. She’s the last one. She works in the State House in Boston in the Customs Department or something like that. Her name is Violet and she’s married to a fellow more Negro than Indian. Her name was Perry, her mother was Valerine Perry. There were five children. Two of her brothers were named Paul and Victor. Paul worked on the Reservation. I used to see Paul’s father skating on the north pond when they allowed it. He’d jump over a pair of oxen. Paul was tall and Indian-like in appearance, but Victor wasn’t. He used to walk to Plymouth from here on the King’s Highway.
I’m still wondering what’s going to happen to that 100 acres. They’ve had such a problem up at Mashpee…we’ve had a few problems too, and it cost us a lot legally. We lost a few good clients for an antique business and some other investors because of that land.
Well anyway, they have a right to cut wood, fish and hunt on the land. There’s just this Perry family here now, and Mrs. Perry would be the grandmother to this Violet. There was a sister, Valerine, who kept house for this distinguished lady in Fall River, who was on the School Committee. The old Indian grandmother, whom I just barely remember, was called ‘the medicine woman.’ She was more Indian than her husband. He was some half-breed. I think he had died when he came over here, and there was just old Mrs. Perry and the four sons. They’d be eight or ten years older than I am. The City of Fall River gave them a fairly nice farm house when they exchanged this land. It was a Pretty farmhouse, and they lived as nice as anyone does nowadays. Violet’s an educated girl. I remember her brother, Victor, coming to our church once or twice when we had something like an anniversary. He was a little drunk each time he came, he wouldn’t have the courage (otherwise), and everybody over here accepted the Perrys. He had that dedication. I don’t think Violet, well, she was working in Boston, but her mother came. We had a nice little reception. They had an Indian from Gay Head. Mrs. Waldo Sherman arranged it.
I’ve got the clippings from the papers upstairs. This is a Congregational Church. This church over here at Brownell’s Corner wasn’t originally a Congregational Church. It was a Christian Church. There was a Dan Hicks, Elder Dan Hicks, who was a Circuit Rider, and he started these little churches. In those days, they needed them within horse and buggy riding distance. Another one was the Hixville Congregational, which was at the end of this road in Dartmouth. He started the Second Christian Church that the Historical Society uses, and Brownell’s was the Fourth Christian. We were the first in North Westport. Our Church had its 120th anniversary. Some of the others are ten or twelve years older, and there is quite a large one in Fall River. They weren’t really affiliated. They then merged with the Congregational. Then we became the First Christian Congregational Church of North Westport. It’s been only thirty or forty years we’ve been the Christian Congregational. Our facilities were poor, the place needed painting, and we didn’t have room, so we tried to merge and, of course, when you do anything like that, you make ill will among some people. Some people, well, right up to the day of the voting, I thought they were all with us. Through the Congregational Board, we hope to get the assets of the Second Christian. We voted, and that night we lost the two-thirds vote by six votes. I’ve always felt very bitter. I shouldn’t.
There were people whom I thought were very good friends of mine, they went and got relatives from New Jersey and from Wareham, who hadn’t been here for years to come up, and vote, because they were still on the Board. I have several friends down there who were for the merger, but when it didn’t go over, like Mrs. Roby Burt and Mrs. Tillson, and my friend, Hazel Tripp, who taught with me, and Mr. Gracia Zembo, it split families. Freida Tripp goes down there, but her sons come to our church. I’m not proud of our new building for looks. It’s just functional. We hope to put a spire on it. Inside our church, on Route 177, is very attractive. We were most fortunate. We got two beautiful stained glass windows from a Lutheran Church in New Bedford. One is ‘I stand at the door and knock.’ When I was in England, I saw that at Westminster. And, one day our minister gave a sermon on it. He’s supposed to give me a copy of his notes, because I want to put it in the record. He tells about the original. I think the artist was Holbein, but I can’t remember.
And, inside it’s very nice. We had to build it on two levels to save money. We have nice Sunday School rooms and a Parish Room downstairs. We only have about one hundred and six or seven book members, and some of them are quite old. We have quite a few that don’t come regularly. Three or four of our best families do not come, although they contribute generously.
Brightman is our treasurer, but he has a business in Fall River that just has to be open on Sunday. Mr. Gracia and his family, they don’t come. If we have around fifty, that’s it. We don’t get the summer people. We’re a little too far up.
I want to change the subject and find out about when you came to Westport.
Well, I was only about twelve when we came. I went to Durfee High School in Fall River, but you see, I lived on Blossom Road. The church was all Westporters, but about a mile up the road from the church, Fall River begins.
When I was young, I loved to ride a bicycle and pick blueberries. I love nature and I belonged to the Camp Fire Girls in Fall River, and I kept it up. I always went to Camp Fire and we had some very good leaders. Virginia Charlton of the Charlton Estate was one of ours, and we camped down there. We had good leaders and nice activities in Camp Fire. I liked hiking and bicycling, and I loved the woods. My father taught me a lot about nature study. When I got to high school, I learned to cook. I was the oldest of four girls, and when we got home from school, I cooked. The church was the main thing (for social activities). There was a Village Improvement Society here, and they had banquets about once a month, and to get to wait on tables for that was a thrill. Now you can’t get waitresses.
We had a social at the church. I belonged to a Young People’s Group. We had dances, but I’m very, very awkward. I love to see people dance. The Grange had square dances. I love to watch. I didn’t dance too much myself. Until World War II came and people couldn’t get gas, this was a very thriving Grange. Then, people got older and people had more activities, bowing, etc.
I liked to read a lot. When I was in Girl Scouts, we would read ten biographies for badges, and for homemaking, you would preserve something. And, we’d have to clean a chicken.
My husband died when the children were nine and eleven. We lived down here where the 195 (highway) is. Children from school used to come down here on their bicycles, and when the children came home, they told me about these English boys from the city, and they brought them home and they wanted to make pigeon pie and they wanted to shoot. Their father was not well, but he said, ‘If you want, I’ll make a pigeon pie for you.’
After Durfee High School, I took a two and a half year course to learn to teach, and when I got out, I went to Kingston, Rhode Island. I taught in the village school, and I boarded with one of the professors, and tutored another professor’s little girl.
My husband’s father had a horse stable, and sales place in the Post Office at the Narrows, back of where White’s (restaurant) is. My husband’s grandfather sold horses. He did teaming and trucking. He built John Reed Road, and then the Reed Road over in Dartmouth was some of his (work). They move an old school from Dartmouth to the Narrows, and when my husband’s father got married, they had the downstairs for the store and the living upstairs. I’ve heard my mother-in-law tell how she’d go out on the shed roof upstairs and shot ducks from that roof.
The Westport farmers would bring all their turnips and Mr. Reed was like a promoter. He would arrange for a carload to go to Providence or Boston. Then he had cows, sold cows, and sold horses. He had no farm.
I was in a bad accident before I knew my husband very well. They had a fellow train horses and this horse had never been in a harness. We were in a two-wheeled gig, and this horse came right on top and killed our horse. The fellow lost control. It was a big draft horse from the West.
Sometimes we used to go in a wagon to the trolley car, and we got off and rode on the trolley to school (Fall River). Some days, coming home late from ‘activities,’ I’d stop at the store (at the Narrows) and buy gingersnaps or bananas to eat on the walk home. My future husband, who was going to Bradford Durfee Textile School (later went into the Navy), was six years older than I. My mother thought it was just a schoolgirl crush, that when I went to college, we’d write. I know when I’d come home, well, his father had nice horses, and we’d like to take them out. In those days, they’d take the order for the grain and things like that, in the morning. They’d only have a horse and buggy maybe, but in the afternoon; they would have a dray with all the things. So, lots of times, my husband would come with the horse and buggy and take me out for a ride. It was a real old buggy, not a surrey. I can remember Mr. Frank Pettey, whose son was married to one of the Blossom girls; he would pick us up Sundays in his beautiful old carryall. It was a four-seated buggy, all upholstered nicely. Most everybody over here had one of those for Sunday. We had a two-wheeled gig. You had to get in from the back, and you had to step over and turn around. I was always afraid of animals. If there were geese on the road, I’d turn around and come back home. Up on Davis Road, I’d see foxes and deer. A few years ago, they had some land bulldozed off to square up a field, and Henry Sampson found quite a few artifacts. When they made the auto theatre, the deer used to run through there. There was like a path. I like to see animals in the woods, but that horse, it frightened me. I never liked cats or dogs to touch.
When I went to school, my study was of elementary education. Much later, when my youngest son was married, I decided I was going to take a year’s leave of absence from teaching to travel, but when I went to the doctor for a checkup, he said, ‘You’re not going to travel; you’re going to the hospital for an operation.’ So the next year I took the year’s leave. I had written out to Washington, Wyoming and Arizona for bulletins. I wanted to make it a pleasure trip as well as school. I went to Wyoming. They had weekend trips, and in the summer, weeklong trips to Bryce Canyon or something like that. I enrolled then and went to summer school, and I had told Miss Audrey Tripp, who was the supervisor then, that if I liked it, I’d stay out there for a year.
I’d been teaching at the North Westport School, which is no more; then in a school that is now the American Legion Hall, and one that is now Gerry Grondin’s furniture store; at the Factory School, now a gift shop, and I taught at Greenwood Park. Most of the schools were two-room schools. They didn’t have names. My sister-in-law taught at South Westport on Horseneck Road in the little school that’s going to ruins now. The Bell School we call Alumni Hall. I remember substituting for Gladys Kirby, who wrote a little history of Westport. She taught seventh and eighth grades, and was a wonderful teacher for those who wanted to learn. She couldn’t tolerate non-learners, and we had a lot of them. She was a very biased person when it came to being nice to children who needed some affection, some of the Portuguese children with no background. She was like someone else whom I like very much, whom I have heard say, ‘Surely you don’t invite people who don’t really have a Yankee background?’
There’s an element of North Westport that’s really trash. My father-in-law sold little house lots that was just rock piles, and nothing to people who came over from Fall River, mostly Polish, some French. The same way up at the top of Sanford Road on the side streets, there people would buy these lots and would only pay $50 down. The Depression came and a lot of these people up on Sanford Road, Milk Avenue, Bower – they’re pretty bad through there. When the Depression came, these people from Fall River, who had little gardens there, enlarged their tool sheds and came and lived in shacks off Sanford Road. When I taught at the North Westport School, we had the most poverty stricken pupils.
When the Traffords and the Lewises had the factory, they had those factory houses and they were rather nice. When that (the factory) went out of existence, some of the people could afford to buy the houses, but there’s kind of a rough element in there. Yes the factory gave them Union Church and the money to help it our each year. It’s nondenominational. I used to help with the young people when George Young was minister there. We had a nice group. I’d chaperone. We’d have Union Christmas and Halloween parties, nice groups. Then that church, well these people, I call them ‘way out,’ came and got them involved in Bible Study, and they’re not my line of thinking. They don’t believe in dancing or cards. Calvary Baptist, that’s it, right up o the State Road. They soon had quite a split; some went over to Hixville because they didn’t believe in the way the money was spent. They believe in tithing. Churches have changed. Well, right in Fall River, we had a very liberal Baptist Church, and then we have another that’s ‘hard shelled.’ Right in Fall River there’s a definite split between liberal and conservative Baptists.
You asked me about Wyoming. After that summer, I thought I’d want to stay there at Laramie. I had a hard time finding a house, but I stayed. My principal, and the other teachers, had horses, and this Indian girl, well, she would buy a steer; they had eight or ten of them, so they would close the school on round-up day when the train came through. They’d put temporary chutes in the corals, and they would brand the cattle and send them to sell.
We would go in town to Lander, where there was just a store and café. Then, I went to another town in Wyoming, which was a very wealthy place. They came to school in Levis and big Stetson hats and drove Cadillac’s.
I came home for vacation and I had a year’s leave of absence. My sister came home. Well, I was bored. I found I couldn’t rely on substitute work, and I found I could enroll in Rhode Island College, so I went back to school in the summer, and with some extension courses, I got my Bachelor’s Degree. I was still in elementary education. For eight years I did remedial reading at the Macomber School.
I’ve always wanted to travel. Well, I’m 74, and through one of the teacher’s bulletins, I found out about this tour that was going to be taken. I didn’t think I could go with so many of them, but I went on one of those grand tours of six countries. We went to England, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. That was about thirteen years ago.
When I retired, Ella Philpot and I went to Hawaii. Ella is very good at photography. Then I came back and Mrs. Sanberg, who lives near the Infirmary, and I went to Portugal and Madeira, and my sister and I went to the Scandinavian countries. I get homesick when I’m away long, so I come home and don’t go as long as my sister goes. On a tour that was cheaper, after September, I went to Portugal and the Azores. On another, we went to England and Scotland and Wales. Isabel (Sanberg) has all kinds of travel magazines, and she’s traveled all around the world. Compared to me, I think Blanche Brackett’s been a lot. I think she limits it more or less to England.
When we went to England, Scotland and Wales, we didn’t stay in deluxe places. We stayed in more English-type inns. This was on an English tour. Then, last year, we went to Greece. That’s where Isabel fell and hurt her hand. This spring we went to Vienna. We went to the Opera House and saw ‘Madame Butterfly.’ It (the tour) was just a week. I don’t want to go on any more long trips. I get too tired.
On, I forgot to tell you, I went to Africa two or maybe three years ago. My nephew’s thesis was about the impact of the Quakers on Africa, and he went back to Africa and taught at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. His mother was very anxious to see him, so we joined an Africa Cultural Society to get charter rates to Africa. It was very had for my sister. We stayed three days in London, coming and going to rest up and not have jet lag. The theatre in London wasn’t so good that time. There’s a Veterans group in Fall River we go to the opera with. Anne Archambault and Marie (Carder) and Isabel and I all go.
Well, we went to Africa, and we were on the plane for sixteen to twenty hours. We stayed with my nephew, who had a wonderful houseboy, Peter, who made the most beautiful bread and cookies. We went to tea plantations and parks. I don’t care for Africa. It’s dusty and dry, and the roads….
Tell me more about the roads in North Westport when you were young.
They weren’t paved. I can remember when this road down where the Old Wordell Cemetery is, was so bad that even in a horse and wagon, we’d get stuck. When I taught down at the Point, I’d take the streetcar over to the Factory and meet Catherine Trafford, and we’d go in her car over to the High School (now the Milton E. Earle School). Catherine married Milton Earle. She taught French at the High School. We’d get on the regular bus that started dwon at the little store at the Point (now Point Market). The store was across from one called Charles Gifford’s. He had that. We’d go on the school bus to the Point, where I was substituting for a little while. In those days, there were only twenty or twenty-five children at the Point School.
Back to my marriage. I was married at home in a house, which burned six or seven years ago. That was almost identical to the Pettys’ up on Blossom Road. George Pettey, who was an old bachelor, a cousin to Mrs. Sampson, died and left a million dollars. This surprised everybody. It was a great big old house. After his sister died, he only lived in about two rooms. Mr. Crapo and Mr. Pettey had built their houses with native lumber. We had great big double parlors. For the wedding, we decorated with native wild flowers. We had cooked six or so chickens and had chicken salad and homemade ice cream and cake, and coffee and punch. My sister played the piano. Our minister was a cousin to Lizzie Borden. She left him $2,000. My husband’s father hired a Hudson car for us to go away with. We didn’t have a car. Unfortunately, the week I was married, my mother took sick, so we just went over to the New Bedford Hotel and then a friend with a cottage at Horseneck, loaned that to us, and we just went over and stayed at Horseneck. It was before the schools were out for the summer. It was too cold to go in the water. My husband, of course, went fishing, and we stayed down there, and I’d come up to the hospital and see my mother. She came out of it, but it was kind of a sad time in some ways. My husband’s mother was a Borden from the Borden Homestead up on the hill, so we had all the Bordens to the wedding.
The Borden Homestead on the hill? Well, there were Mildred Borden and Jonathan and Rupert and Christopher. Rupert owned the mansard-roofed house. I don’t know what’s there now; it used to be a beverage company. They owned where the Auto Theatre is now. The Borden Homestead is up on the hill at Sanford Road. There used to be a sign up, ‘The Homestead.’ She used to take tourists. Well, that house, staying in the same place, was, they say, once in Tiverton, once in Fall River and now in Westport. The boundary lines kept changing. It’s a real nice old house with two parlors.
The Bordens, Petteys, Wordells were all old Westport families from way back. Mr. Waldo Sherman, who has died, he knew all about this house. He had this book, which was privately printed, about everybody on Blossom Road. It’s in the Fall River Library, a paper covered book. It tells how this Gersham Wordell was granted land from an Indian (Punkatees). They spelled it ‘Wodell’ then. It (the land) went all the way to the Watuppa. Clara Lockhart, who’s about 92 and lives in Fall River, is a descendent of the early Petteys. They’re not related to the Sodom Road Petteys.
When Mr. Sampson, the potato farmer on Blossom Road, went out West to get an idea of Western farming, he visited various cousins. Quite a few of them were Tripps. Then, he went out to Iowa. Just this fall, I had a letter from this old cousin, who had tried to write a genealogy of the Tripps. They are another branch. I imagine that Mark Gifford of Horseneck Road would be related to Alice’s cousin, Charles T. Gifford, who was on the School Committee. When you’re going down toward Westport Point, before you get to the Almy farm (Horseneck Road), there’s a Charles T. Gifford, and I think he’s related to that Mark Gifford. This Gersham Wordell was accused of murdering his second wife, and he was acquitted, and he had this book privately printed, and he wrote a lot about the scandals of Blossom Road (for revenge).
There were two other names, and I know one woman spent her life in the insane asylum, because she’d been accused of poisoning her husband. I can remember when she died. Then there was an Abnell Snell, who was married into the Petteys, who told of certain families of whom were a drunkard, and another horse thief. This man was quite a philosopher. He acknowledged his faults. He’d had a rough life. He didn’t accept his responsibilities. He became an atheist. This book, telling all this scandal, will go into the State Historical Society. Its Eli Wordell, a friend of my mother, had a copy. Waldo Sherman’s cousin had a copy.
The Fall River Historical Society is in a delightful old building. It was moved, stone by stone, and it has the most beautiful wrought iron fence. There are three floors. They have a nice collection. They have costumes and jewelry and lovely glassware on the second floor. It’s like a home. They have quite interesting meetings. It’s on Rock Street, north of the Durfee High School. Mrs. Gifford (Curator) used to be a little upset because everyone who went there, first thing they asked about was Lizzie Borden. The dining room is round with beautiful, old black walnut doors. They have costumes, lovely glassware and children’s toys on the second floor. It’s like a home, and when we have our meetings, we have coffee in the dining room. Our meetings are in the evening. We don’t have them too regularly. I didn’t go the last one. They were going to have the auctioneer for Dr. Hadfield’s estate (as speaker). I know him because he went to church in Fall River where I did. It’s (Fall River Historical Society) open ‘til 4:30 most days.