Sherman Collection: A North Westport treasure trove of history
After crisscrossing the country from Westport to Alaska and back again, an extraordinary collection of materials relating to the history of North Westport has arrived at the Westport Historical Society. The Sherman family collection includes deeds, correspondence, photographs, maps, and journals that will significantly enrich our understanding of the far northern parts of Westport in the 19th century.
According to Michael Labossiere, Superintendent of the Watuppa Reservation and local history expert, this collection is the “Rosetta stone” that connects many missing links in tracing the evolution of Blossom Road, Old Bedford Road, Watuppa Reservation and the former Indian reservation.
Genealogists will find a treasure trove of information about the Sherman, Blossom, Young, Borden, Pettey and Macomber families. These families are connected by marriage as well as by proximity, many living in neighboring houses along Blossom Road. As was typical in 19th century Westport, children grew up to marry neighbors and lived next to or near their parents, building a closely interconnected community with strong familial ties to each other and to their properties. The collection also sheds light on the presence of Native American families such as the Perry and Mingo families.
There are also some unexpected treasures among the documents such as the license plate for a Model M Cadillac purchased in 1907, kept in a file along with a photo of the car and sales receipt for $950.
According to Philip Rulon, the donor of the collection, the Shermans were “meticulous journalists and conservators.” This collection demonstrates an awareness and appreciation of their own heritage as farmers as well as a reverence for the pedigree of land ownership.
“At first glance, the materials are unassuming and ordinary, but taken as a whole, this collection is extremely valuable and comprehensive,” Jenny O’Neill, Westport Historical Society Executive Director commented. “It is fortunate that the donor recognized the historical value of this collection. We do know that often these kinds of collections find their way to the dump rather than to an archive.”
Descended from Philip Sherman who settled in Portsmouth, RI in 1634, the Shermans were a prominent Westport family, notable for “living a life of usefulness, industry and purity.” They are remembered as being well educated, active in town government and involved with the Watuppa Grange and North Westport Christian Church. However, like many other Westport farmers of the 19th century, they were also adventurous and well-traveled mariners. The collection includes a first-hand account by Albert Sherman of his voyage on a clipper ship “Around Cape Horn.” His son, Waldo Sherman, made 22 Atlantic crossings, four of them on square rigged vessels.
The collection will be catalogued and made available to researchers either by in person visits or through the historical society’s online database, www.wpthistory.org/collection.
The mission of the Westport Historical Society is to engage the public in the exploration of the town’s rich history and culture, to inspire a spirit of discovery through educational programs and encourage active participation in the preservation and interpretation of our past. The Society collects and shares this history. Its goal is to foster the imaginative process of connecting to the past, making it relevant to our present and vital to the future of our community.
Donor, Philip Rulon, reflects on the process of organizing and preserving the Sherman Collection
The journey that put the Sherman legacy in your hands began a very long time ago. I suspect that the first person to take the records seriously was Wilson Sherman, who lasted long enough to have a photograph taken. A copy of that photo is with you now. Wilson built the house at 122 Blossom Rd. In the late 1820s after living, for a while, in a small cabin, that is still standing behind the big house. Wilson was married to Mary Davis, of the Davis family that farmed in North Westport about a mile from the Sherman homestead. They had three sons, Jonathan, Abiel, and Albert. Jonathan and Abiel died young, one in his teens and the other in his early twenties.
Albert went to sea for several years in his early twenties. He was frugal in his lifestyle and saved enough to return to Blossom Rd. and build the house at 111 Blossom Road. Albert was a significant player in the retention of family records. Albert’s wife was also named Mary and hailed from the Russell clan of South Dartmouth. They had two sons, Wilson, who died in infancy in 1872, and Waldo, my Great Grandfather, 1880-1964.
Waldo was an early graduate of the Mass Maritime Academy. He gained a commission in the Navy and made many trips on square rigged ships. Waldo was also a committed archivist. He married Mary Ella Blossom, daughter of Eli Walter Blossom, a dairy farmer (187 Blossom Rd.) They had two sons, Wilson and Wendell, my grandfather.
You have the journals of Albert and my Great-Grandmother, Mary Blossom Sherman. She was known as Mame in the family. She was a school teacher.
When 111 was sold after Wilson’s death my mother had all the records moved across the street, into the barn at 122. They suffered quite a bit there, for many years.
Before moving to Alaska, I did a major re-sort and reduction in that barn. I was certain that my mother would be unable to do it. She made a point of intending to do it for decades, but it was clear that she didn’t have the ability.
The barn clean out went on for weeks in the summer of 2001. I was working alone on it. I examined every leaf of paper I encountered, some of it strewn about on the floors in half rotten cardboard boxes. There was also significant intermingling with records from my father’s family, also a considerable cache.
I refined everything into two large file cabinets. These were stored in the basement of my brother’s house for many years.
I spoke to an old friend, Bob Melody, from my Westport days. He agreed to retrieve the cabinets and pallet them for shipment to Alaska. I had a trucking company pick them up at Bob’s place of work and haul them to Fredericksburg, Texas, where the company I work for has a station. They then went on a jet to Fairbanks.
After they arrived here, I was busy with other things so they sat for a while in storage. A year or two ago Charley Appleton emailed me about recounting some of my memories about the farm and my family. I agreed to, but didn’t make much of a priority of it. After more pestering from Charley, I concluded that the best thing to do was to sort the file cabinets again. There were records from both sides of my family in the cache, so a separation needed to be done.
Fortunately, I had rented a small hangar on the airport where I live. Lots of folding tables were set up and the files were again sorted, leaf by leaf. Westport on one side and Cambridge and San Jose on the other. I was working on it nights and weekends, so it took some time. I have to admire Charley’s patience, though he did remind me about it several times.
After a while, there were, again, two file cabinets, a Westport cabinet and a Rulon cabinet. You now have the Westport cabinet.
I did retain a few mementos of the Sherman legacy for my own interest. When I go, you will likely get those too. As it is, you have over 90% of the material already.
We owe thanks to Bob Melody for the rescue mission. As for my own contribution, it was mostly sorting, but also adding whatever meta-data that I could from my 60+ years of listening to family lore.
Collection finding aid
- Very front – 5 studio portraits inc. Wilson & Wendell, Mary Elizabeth, Church group
- Notes & clippings about talks & lectures by Waldo A..
Notes on Indians, Assonet, Sherman Homestead Farm, Swansea, Col. Peleg Sherman
- “W A Sherman” – cemetery papers,Eliz. Russell, letters
- 1907 Caddy – 1907 touring car, license plate, 3 photos
- Harbor Master
- Sherman Farm History
- Old Sherman Wills
- Old poetry and songs
- Obits/death notices
BOX 2 – FOLDERS
- Lorenzo/Edwin/Abiel Sherman – Journal 1862
- Mamie Sherman
- Mary E. Sherman
- M/M Waldo Sherman (correspondence)
- Funeral Mary Ella Sherman 1973
- Waldo A. Sherman Naval Militia 1916-1920
- A. Sherman 1919/Reserve/Retired
- Westport Plans
- Westport Treas. Defalcation
- Apponegansett Meeting Houses
- Horseneck Beach Street RR
- Account Book: “Waldo A. Sherman farm account, 1925 Account, also P&L 1920 –1924 Account (back of box)
- Journals of Mary Ella Blossom Sherman
- Five year diary (black)
- Five Year Diary (green) 1956-1960
- Five Year Diary (brown with gold detail) 1967-1971 (binding torn)
- Five Year Diary (green) 1961 (binding torn)
- Five Year Diary (brown with lock) 1972
- Five Year Diary (green) 1962-1966 (binding torn)
- Five Year Diary “Every day” 1951-1955 (binding missing)
- Diary 1927
- Journals of Albert Samson Sherman
- 2 small Christmas cards
- 11 Red Leather Standard Diary (small 1 book) Albert S. Sherman
1905, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16
- 2 plain red leather standard diary 1902, 03
- 2 Red Leather standard diary 1904, 1906
- 1 Standard Diary 1898
- 1 Standard Diary 1901 (green)
- 1 Standard Diary 1900 (red)
- 1 Notebook 1860’s
- School Atlas published 1858
- Genealogical: Large Envelope “Sherman Genealogy”
- The name & Family of Sherman, compiled 2 copies by Media Research Bureau, Washington, D.C. (no date found)
- The Sherman Family 2nd sheet
- Sherman Lineage 09-3-1948, 9 pages plus extra Pl.
- Assorted pages, notes, clippings, envelopes
- Small tan envelope with “genealogy of the Shermans”, signed on last page Curtis ? 1856
- Large envelope – Blossom Genealogy
- Large envelope Milk Genealogy
- Large envelope Davis Line
- Large envelope Young Line
- Manila folder – Genealogy with assorted papers
- Plain folder – Genealogy with assorted papers
- 4 brown notebooks “Genealogy of the Sherman Family. I-II-III, IV, V,VI no date found
- “Sherman Farm History”
- Account book W. Sherman & M. Sherman 1835-1847
- Very old Sherman Farm records folder, 6 items.
- 1939 Assessor’s Maps Blossom Road, #1 & 2
- Old map showing Alice M. Blossom land on Blossom Rd. (27 acres)
- Old map showing 122 Blossom Road & several other old maps
- Folder: Notes re Toby lot, Buffinton lot, Reuben Lot 6, Sherman 1765 Blossom Wood lots.
- DEEDS: E. Walter Blossom to Mary E. Sherman. In folder: Wilson R. Sherman, John A. Sherman , deed to Toby Lot.
ACRES: Eliz Wordell, guardian X, Wilson Sherman & Mary Eliz Rulon 1987
1800 to Thomas Sherman etc., to be further identified.
Total + 30 deeds plus 1812 appt to Lt. in Tiverton Army.
- Folder – Cedar Swamp & West Pasture info – 1960’s inc. Interstate Row
- Folder Building the Farm Lots
- Folder (misc)
- White Envelopes
- A.Sherman letters
- Horseneck House Accounts 1735-1954
- A. Sherman trip to California in 50’s
- Letters to and from W.A. Sherman – St. Petersburg, Russia
- A. Sherman
- A. Sherman
- Folder – Misc.
- 2 Large books
- Harbor Master, Fall River contains notes 1931-1960 plus 6 loose pages.
- Account Book 1946-1951 Blueberries, cranberry bog, chickens 1950
- Red Book: “Steam Ripper” – W.A. Sherman, USS Enterprise
- 1 very small book “Hymns for use of Methodist Episcopal Church revised edition 1854
- 1 looseleaf notebook – Key to Wordell Genealogy
- 1 Yearbook – Durfee Record 1925 BMC Durfee High school including folder, commencement exercises, class of 1925. Name Wendell Blossom Sherman inside front cover. Framed baby photo, Wilson Howland Sherman 1872.
- 3 rolls paper
- Genealogy record 1652-1850, first names
- Blueprint 1929, land, No. Westport, belonging to Thomas E. Borden et. Eli
- Plan of part of road Westport August 1893
- Waldo A. Sherman Folders
- Checkbook, cancelled checks est. Eli Walter Blossom
- Envelope: Est. Hannah A. Davis
- Envelopes: Hannah A. Davis 1912 & Est.
- Envelope: Will of Mary E. Pettey 1906
- Envelope: Papers, Barzillai Sherman
- Envelope: Farm Account
- Envelope: cemetery clippings
- Envelope: Newspaper clippings
- Envelope: Executors letter, Lorenzo Sherman
- Envelope: California trip 1938 W.A. Sherman
- Book: Seashore Chats Waldo A. Sherman from Aunt Fanny 1887
- Book: Funeral service for Waldo Albert Sherman 1964
- Folder: A. Sherman Obits & Tributes
- Folder: W.A. Sherman Roster officers & crew USS No. Carolina (2 copies)
- Folder: Family Administrators etc. 1873-1951
BOX 5 4 Photo Albums
BOX 6 Assorted photos
BOX 7 Assorted photos