Friday, April 10, 2020

Bloody Flux of 1775, Looking at the Little Picture

We think of history in terms of the big picture of names and dates, of battles and facts. That big picture obscures our view of the little picture, the one that didn’t change the outcome of history but rather changed the people who were part of that history. The Bloody Flux in the late summer/early fall of 1775 didn’t change the outcome of the war but forever changed the lives of some people.
The OED defines dysentery as a disease characterized by inflammation of the mucous membrane and glands of the large intestine, accompanied with griping pains, and mucous and bloody evacuations. It is believed the Bloody Flux was caused by shigella, a type of dysentery found in overcrowded conditions with poor sanitation such as refugee camps or in 1775, army camps.

“The Dysentery soon prevailed in the American Army & extended itself more or less through the country. Although it prevailed most in the Town near camp, my Parish partook largely of this calamity. We buried about 50 persons in the course of the season. Some families were dreadfully bereaved. One in particular a Mr. Joseph Daniels buried an amiable wife & 6 very promising Children in about 6 weeks—we often buried 3 or 4 in a day. My time was wholly devoted to visiting the sick, attendance on the dying & the dead.”  Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel West, Pastor (1764 – 1788), First Parish, Needham Massachusetts

“Death has so long stalked among us that he is become much less terrible to me than he once was…Funerals are now so frequent that for a month past you meet as many dead folks as live ones in Boston streets, and we pass them with much less emotion and attention than we used to pass dead sheep and oxen in days of yore when such sights were to be seen in in our streets”
                                                                            Jonathan Sewell, Summer 1775

Some resources to let you learn more about the epidemic are below. Digitized vital records make locating information for your town much easier as you can search “1775” (alt-f)

CDC Yellow Book Shigellosis:
18th Century Medical Texts:
Every Man His Own Doctor or The Poor Planter’s Physician:
List of Victims Westford 1775:
Additional years can be found by checking the index
Vital Records Massachusetts:

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Resources-The Art and Mistery of Spinning

The Art and Mistery of Spinning

Resources for the History Camp presentation of March 2019

Fiber festivals are great places to find fibers and spinning supplies. Historically correct spinning wheels are a little more difficult to find as no one seems to be making wheels with distaffs. Occasionally, dealers with reconditioned antique wheels come to festivals. If you are unable to attend a festival go to their website for the vendor list as many sell items online.

The best way to learn about spinning is hands-on, find your local spinning group! 


April last weekend of the month Waltham, MA: Gore Place Annual Sheep Shearing Festival
The festival features sheep shearing, fleece sale and vendors specializing in fiber products.  
Sheep shearing, fleece sale, vendors throughout the site feature fiber of all types, fiber tools, dyes, finished goods, soaps, herbals, local CT cheese, maple syrup and a variety of other quality items produced by small farms and businesses from the North East.

May Deerfield NH: NH Sheep and Wool Festival
Sheep, fiber, knitting, weaving, sheep dog trials, Alpacas, 80+ vendors for all things fiber. Used equipment sale, food vendors, spinning and weaving demos.

May Memorial Day Weekend Cummington MA: Massachusetts Sheep and Wool
Large fleece sale, fiber vendors, classes, wool craft contests, photo contest, sheep dog trials and lots of vendors, pot luck supper or stop by the Webs yarn sale on the way home

August Spencer-Pierce-Little House Newbury MA: Fiber Revival
Come and enjoy a day-long exploration of the fiber arts. Shop the vendors, learn a new skill, bring your knitting, your spinning wheel or your sock machine and enjoy a day of community with your fellow fiber enthusiasts.  This is a BYOC (bring your own chair) event, so please remember to bring portable seating of your choice.

October Rhinebeck NY: NY Sheep and Wool Festival
The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival is one of the largest annual gatherings of fiber-arts enthusiasts in the United States. Shopping, foods, seminars...and so much more~
November 2 9-5, Nov 3 9-3 Springfield MA:
More than 150 New England exhibitors will be showcasing their products including clothing, quilts, blankets, rugs, looms, spinning wheels and more. Workshops on felting, spinning, punch needle, Tunisian crochet, rug hooking and more will be held both days.

January 10, 2021 Westford MA: St. Distaff Day in Westford  An annual gathering of spinners hosted by the Westford Spinners and Westford Museum for fiber enthusiasts from around the region. Bring a wheel or spindle and enjoy some socializing time and silent auction of fiber related items.

The Spinning Wheel Sleuth The Spinning Wheel Sleuth is the only periodical devoted exclusively to spinning wheels and related tools. Our goal is to collect, exchange, and share information about spinning wheels before the wheels and the material about them are completely lost.
Spin-Off Magazine Spin Off feeds our deep curiosity about the art and craft of making yarn. Each issue connects you to new and familiar voices in the handspinning community and is packed with information about fibers, tools, and traditions to inspire your creativity


Using a spindle and distaff:

Monday, November 7, 2016

Multiple Facebook posts are showing the grave of suffragist Susan B. Anthony covered in “I Voted” stickers.   For those of us who live in Massachusetts and won’t be travelling to Seneca Falls, I have compiled a list of local suffragists.   If you are not up for searching through a cemetery to find their grave, you can leave your sentiment on their Find a Grave memorial page.  

Angeline Emily Grimke Weld   Mount Hope Cemetery, Mattapan

Sarah Moore Grimke  Mount Hope Cemetery Mattapan

Julia Ward Howe  Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mary Morton Kehew Mount Auburn Cemetery

Josephine St Pierre Ruffin  Mount Auburn Cemetery

Lucy Stone Forest Hills Jamaica Plain

Alice Stone Blackwell  Forest Hills Jamaica Plain

Ellen Battelle Dietrick Forest Hills Jamaica Plain

Pauline Agassiz Shaw  Forest Hills Jamaica Plain

Jennie Collins Walnut Hills Cemetery Brookline

Abby Kelly Foster Hope Cemetery Worcester

Mary Livermore Wyoming Cemetery Melrose

Sarah E. Wall  Worcester Rural Cemetery

Florence Hope Luscomb  died in 1985 in Watertown

Maude Wood Park  died in Reading MA

Margaret Foley died at Carney Hospital

Inez Haynes Irwin Scituate

List of Suffragists in the US

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Now God is trying us with another terrible judgement"

"Now God is trying us with another terrible judgement that is the feavour & bloody flux & several have Died of it"   Journal of Experience Wright Richardson, Sudbury Massachusetts August 29, 1775 privately published 1978.  

That summer of 1775 was a sad time in Westford Massachusetts when the town experienced an epidemic of dysentery known as the Bloody Flux.   27 died, most were children and uncounted others were sick.   The town lost over 2% of the population based on a census from 1776 the year after so the percentage lost was likely higher.  I'll be posting a little more of the history over the next few days.  To start this is a list of those who died in Westford with the name of the burial ground so that we may remember them.   All but 2 are buried in one of the Westford burial grounds and are listed on  if you are not local but want to virtually visit them.  

July 25 Amos Wright son of Amos and Dorcas aged 4y 5m 15d.  Fairview Cemetery
August 3 Mary Wright daughter of Thomas and Mary aged 7y 4m 28d.  Hillside Cemetery
August 4  Thomas Wright son of Thomas and Mary aged 3y 1m 13d. Hillside Cemetery
August 14 Thomas Greenough Jr.  late of Boston aged 38.   Fairview Cemetery
August 19  Isaac Cummings  son of Isaac and Elizabeth aged 1y 6m 8d. Fairview Cemetery
August 20 Jacob Wright son of Ephriam and Abigail aged 3y. Hillside Cemetery
August 22 Jotham Wright son of Ephriam and Abigail aged 7y. Hillside Cemetery
August 23 Dorothy White daughter of Samuel and Dorothy aged 2y 2m 13d. Fairview Cemetery 
August 23 Hannah Wright daughter of Ephriam and Abigail aged 5y 6m 23d. Hillside Cemetery
August 30  Joseph Keyes  son of Joseph and Ruth aged 4y 3m 23d. Hillside Cemetery
August 30 Stephen Keyes son of Joseph and Ruth aged 2y 8m 19d. Hillside Cemetery
August 30 Betty Robinson daughter of Col. John and Huldah aged 5y 3m 27d. Westlawn Cemetery
August 30 Sarah Robinson daughter of Col. John and Huldah aged 3y 3m. Westlawn Cemetery
August 30 Molly Rogers daughter of Thomas and Molly aged 1y 3m 9d. Fairview Cemetery
September 1  Rebecca Keyes  daughter of Joseph and Ruth aged 10m 26d.  Hillside Cemetery

September 5 Sgt. Jonathan Read aged 45  Fairview Cemetery
September 7 Aaron Keyes son of Jonathan and Betty aged 15m. Hillside Cemetery
September 9 Rebekah Fletcher daughter of James and Rebekah aged 2y 1m. Westlawn Cemetery
September 9 Mehetibal Robinson daughter of Col. John and Huldah aged 8y 28d. Westlawn Cemetery
September 11 Joel Fletcher son of James and Rebekah aged 8m 24d. Westlawn Cemetery
September 13 Elizabeth Keyes widow Joseph aged 78.  No record of interment.
September 13 Jonathan Spaulding aged 45. No record of interment.
September 13 Thomas Smith son of Thomas and Molly aged 3y. Hillside Cemetery
September 14 Ephriam Wright son of Jacob and Abigail aged 50. Hillside Cemetery
September 14 Phebe Read daughter of Lt. Samuel and Hannah aged 3y 11m. Fairview Cemetery
September 19 William Smith son of Thomas and Molly aged 1y. Hillside Cemetery
September 20 Huldah Read daughter of Lt. Samuel and Hannah aged 7y 7m 1d. Fairview Cemetery
September 23 Eunice Dutton daughter of David and Esther aged 2y 3m 2d.  Hillside Cemetery

Friday, October 12, 2012

St Distaff Day in Westford

Sadly we will not be able to host St Distaff Day in January 2022. 

Hope to see you January 8, 2023.

In England, as well as other countries the days from Christmas through Twelfth Night were considered a time of rest from the labors of spinning. The maidens returned to their work on St. Distaff's Day, January 7th. This day was also known as Rock Day, which is derived from the German word rocken, which means both distaff and woman's.

Although the maidens resumed their work on St. Distaff's Day, the ploughboys did not return until the Monday following Twelfth -Night. They used this discrepancy to no good by playing pranks on the busy spinners. The most popular of these pranks was to set fire to the tow and flax which was awaiting processing. The spinners in turn would quench the fire with buckets of water, drenching both fire and firebug.

We will celebrate St Distaff Day on Sunday January 8, 2023 from 1-5pm. Bring your spinning and those leftover Holiday goodies to share and the museum will put on the coffee pot. There will be a silent auction of some special items to benefit our hosts at the museum and lots of spinning and chatting!   Doors open at 1pm, sorry no early birds.

The Westford Museum is located in the original Westford Academy school house, built in 1792. With the opening of the new Westford Academy building in 1897, the old academy building was used as a residence until 1917 when it was then moved across and down the street and converted to a firehouse and used by the Westford Fire Department until 1974.

Directions:  Westford Museum 2 Boston Road Westford, MA 01886 Take exit 83 off Rt. 495. From the Southbound exit ramp, turn left onto Boston Road towards Westford Center or From the Northbound exit ramp, turn right onto Boston Road towards Westford Center. Drive 1 mile and the Museum is on the right, next to the Parish Center for the Arts.

A word on parking: the museum lot is small so if you are able please park
around the corner. There is also parking in a lot behind the Town Hall
further down the street. You can drop off the wheel first and then park.

What to bring: 
• Your wheel or spindle, and fiber (assuming you want to spin!)
• Something for the silent auction to benefit the Westford Museum (optional) 
• Snack to share (optional) • Cash or checkbook for your silent auction purchases

See satellite map at: which show the museum and
the parking behind the town hall and library.

Further reading on St. Distaff Day: 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rice Bags for Spay Clinics

Rice bags are used at the spay/neuter clinic. They are warmed in a microwave and used to keep the cats warm as they recover from the anesthesia, which makes their temp go down to 98 degrees or lower. They stay in the traps until the trapper moves the cat to a cage or releases it. These are basically single use items so the fabric does not need to be fancy just sturdy cotton or fabric you want to get rid of. For a small clinic of 50 cats 60 bags would be needed. For a more normal clinic of 75 cats they would need 85. I know it's a lot, but it really does keep the cats warmer when they most need warmth. The warmth also helps them wake up faster.

Cotton fabric-flannel, calico, poly cotton OK. Fabric cannot have any metallic in the weave as these go into the microwave.
Rice-1½ cups for each bag
Sewing Machine

1. Cut Fabric into 11x8” rectangles

2. Fold in half

lengthwise and stitch ¼” seam on 2 sides, leave one short side open. Remember to backstitch at start and finish. Turn right side out.

3. Fill about 2/3 full with rice, aprox. 1 1/2 cups, place a long pin to hold the rice to the bottom of the bag

4. Fold under top edge and securely stitch top. Remove pin and you are done.

Finished bags will go back to the shelter to be stored with the supplies for the clinics. Let me now how many you finish so I can let the clinic coordinator know.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I haven't updated this in awhile and I'm feeling a bit guilty that Possum did not get the obituary her fur siblings did.
Possum and her brother Rusty were feral kittens living under a trailer in a nearby town and were totally feral. Rusty died of heart failure about a year after he came here and Possum then decided she needed to eat for two! She was a big rolley polley girl who loved to sunbathe. Since she did not wear sunscreen she got skin cancer on her all white left ear and had to be ear-tipped. She loved chicken and in her final months would put her paws up on my lap in order to steal the yummy bits of poultry from my plate. Possum was about 11 years old, her decline was very fast and she joined Rusty at the Rainbow Bridge on March 6.