It has been broadly accepted for some years that Paul Cuffe played a major role in overseeing construction of the Westport (Acoaxet) Friends Meeting House in 1813-14 as well as providing as much as half of the funding for that project. A recent biography of Paul Cuffe written by me and published on both the website <paulcuffe.org> and a book that I co-authored, contains this same claim.
New research in the records of the Westport Friends Meeting tends to confirm the first half of this proposition – that he did play a major role in the project – but raises some serious questions about his financial contribution. A new source of information that had perhaps not been reviewed by other researchers and definitely not by me, namely the (Acoaxett) Westport Monthly Meeting Treasurer’s Report 1807-1903, contains specific details on receipts and expenditures and, in particular, those relating to the construction of the new meeting house, that provide a new perspective on this subject.
This paper sets forth the information discovered in our recent research and then seeks to present a new description of Paul Cuffe’s role in connection with this project that is less certain but, we believe, more accurate.
by David C. Cole, Richard Gifford and Betty F. Slade
Paul Cuffe is clearly the most widely known historical resident of the Town of Westport, Massachusetts. An impressive number of books and articles have been written about him, he has been cited in many books, papers, and newspaper articles, and his deeds and achievements have been celebrated in diverse places, especially those relating to black history and the struggle against slavery here and in Africa. A park in New Bedford memorializes his life and there are schools named in his honor in Providence, R.I. and Chicago, Illinois.
However, there has remained an unresolved issue for half a century as to the correct location of Paul Cuffe’s homestead and shipyard in the Town of Westport.
We, the authors of this paper, recently published a book that explored several matters relating to Paul Cuffe, one of which was the location of his homestead. In this paper we attempt to put this issue to rest by clearly demonstrating the correct location of Paul Cuffe’s homestead at what is now 1430-1436 Drift Road. We also trace the historical ownership of the 1504 Drift Road property and show that it was never owned by Paul Cuffe as claimed by some and recorded as such in the National Registry of Historic Places.