150 people gathered on Saturday September 16 2017 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the passing of local hero Paul Cuffe. The town of Westport declared September 16 as Paul Cuffe Day and proclamations from Governor Baker and other citations and recognitions were presented to mark this occasion. The symposium covered many new perspectives on Paul Cuffe and his business partner and brother-in-law, Michael Wainer, and their families.
An overview of images that have been used to represent Paul Cuffe by Carl J. Cruz
This Portrait, oil on canvas was commissioned in 1989 by the Hall of Black Achievement at Bridgewater State University. The Artist is Larry Johnson an African-American illustrator. Mr. Johnson used the 1812 silhouette as his model and brought this realistic image to life.
View slides from this presentation HERE.
View video of this presentation HERE.
Physical Description of Paul Cuffe:
“he was “both tall and stout” spoke good English, and dressed “in the Quaker style” that is, he adorned “a drab-colored suit” with a large “flapped hat”. Thomas Clarkson, The History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade 1808
“His person is tall, well formed and athletic; his deportment conciliating, yet dignified and serious.” Liverpool Mercury 1811 “Memoirs of the Life of Paul Cuffee, the Interesting Negro Navigator” 1811
Presented presented by R. Andrew Pierce Saturday January 13 2018 at the Westport Free Public Library, 408 Old County Road, Westport
A video of this program can be watched HERE.
R. Andrew Pierce presented research into the Wampanoag families of the Westport. 19th century New England genealogists largely ignored Native Americans, who despite centuries in the area, had been marginalized and forgotten. This missing history inspired Andrew Pierce and co-author Dr. Jerome Segel to compile comprehensive genealogies of Wampanoag families. The resulting massive two volume set “Wampanoag Families of Martha’s Vineyard” is a definitive work presenting over 20 years’ research at dozens of archives using vital statistics, census, land, probate, court missionary, military and maritime records.
Wampanoag Families of Westport by R. Andrew Pierce
By Tony Connors, President of the Westport Historical Society
We see her name on the street sign in the center of Westport: Charlotte White Road. She is mentioned in local history books as a healer, a midwife, a poet. But what do we really know about Charlotte White?
Let’s start with her name. The typical pronunciation of the name Charlotte is “Shar-lot” but there is a local oral tradition that it was pronounced “Sha-lot-ee.” How did Charlotte herself pronounce her name? The first clue was found a few years ago when the late Bill Wyatt, former president of the Historical Society, was researching the 19th-century account books of the Westport physicians Eli and James Handy. Bill found an entry for “Charlotty White,” a phonetic spelling of her name that indicates a three-syllable pronunciation. The second clue can be found in the town records regarding early poor relief in Westport. Several town records from 1812-1813 refer to her as “Cholata” White, which drops the “r” (as most locals from Massachusetts and Rhode Island do) and flattens the final “e” to “ah,” but clearly shows the three-syllable form. Based on this evidence, it is most likely she was called “Sha-lot-ah.”
by Richard Gifford and Tony Connors
The best-known citizen of Westport is Paul Cuffe, a master mariner with African and Indian roots who rose to prominence as a captain, ship-builder, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and advocate for civil rights and school integration. Less well known is Pardon Cook, also an accomplished master mariner from Westport, who commanded more whaling voyages than any other person of color in the nineteenth century, and whose life intersected with that of Paul Cuffe through maritime ventures and marriages.
Pardon Cook’s heritage begins in slavery. His ancestors were slaves of the Almy and Cook families of Tiverton, Rhode Island—some of whom were not only slave owners but also engaged in the slave trade in Newport. Many of the slaves and free blacks of this area intermarried with Wampanoag Indians. Both groups were socially and economically marginalized and found refuge and community with each other.