Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Right Wright

 My hope in posting my research on the Stephen Wrights was that someone would have the missing information on Stephen Wright of Littleton. Fellow Westford historian Dan Lacroix came through with Stephen's pension that tells us he did indeed run a tannery in Littleton for many years and briefly served in the Continental Army. In July 1780 he served in Col. Cyprian How’s Company for 3 months but did not apply for a pension until 1855. Since his name does not appear in Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailor of the Revolutionary War this has caused him to be confused with other men by the same name. Mystery solved and on to the next project!

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Will the Real Stephen Wright Please Stand Up!

In 1776 a man named Stephen Wright from Westford served in the Continental Army as a drummer at White Plains and in 1778 and 1780 in Rhode Island. He may have received a pension for his service. Town records show his burial place to be unknown but an online genealogy shows that place to be Bethel NY.

A gravestone in Westlawn Cemetery in Westford also has a gravestone for a Stephen Wright, this man was from Littleton and would have been 12 years old in 1776. Although it is not too young to be a drummer there is no listing for a Stephen from Littleton having served. Could these be one in the same man or are they different.

Steven Wright #1 was born in Westford May 18, 1758 to Henry and Sarah Wright according to Westford Vital Records. (1) He was one of 10 children born between 1753 and 1770. He would have been 18 years old in 1776 and 21 at the time of his marriage to Sarah Carter of Hollis NH, the intention of marriage published December 8, 1779. (2) It is unclear when they moved to New York but there is a Stephen Wright on the 1810 census for Genesee NY although there are no identifiers on that census sheet. (3) The 1820 census shows a head of household over 45 years of age, Stephen would be 62 at that time (4) Graves for Sarah and Steven Wright are located in Transit Cemetery, Bethany Center, Genesee NY both died in 1831. (5)

Stephen Wright #2 was born in Littleton May 24, 1764 to Peter and Ellen Wright according to Littleton Records. (6) He had 3 older brothers. Peter Wright died in 1770 per Littleton records (7) however, his probate is dated October 1768 (8) and Ellen/Elnenor is listed as the taxpayer in 1770. (9) The property then goes to Ezekiel in 1782 with Ellen getting her widow’s thirds and the 2 youngest children Stephen and Betty are assigned a guardian as they are still not of legal age. (10) On April 5, 1787 Stephen married Sarah Prescott of Westford, vital records note Stephen still in Littleton (11)  Stephen died at the home of his daughter in Shelburne MA on February 16, 1857 at 92. His obituary notes he “enlisted in the revolutionary war at the age of 16” (12) which would have been in 1780 but the Find a Grave entry states he fought at and was wounded at Bunker Hill in 1775 at which time he was 11 years old.  It is possible, that who ever wrote the obituary was unaware that Stephen #2 was not from Westford and stated he was a veteran as the names matched. There is no listing in Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War for a Stephen/Steven from Littleton. A history of Littleton also notes a Stephen Wright served but gives no details (13) There is an interesting tidbit from what looks to be a pension application in Abstracts of the Revolutionary War Pension Applications Nancy Lowrie Wright, Cathy Dantin Shannon · 1990 · Snippet view page 236 “Stephen Wright has been in the tannery business in Littleton for more than 60 years and he is a man of unblemished integrity. Benjamin has a thorough acquaintance of the people of Littleton and feels confident that no other Stephen…” This does not give any details as to what that service was.

There are listings in Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War Volume 17 page 958-9 for 5 men named Stephen Wright (no men named Steven Wight). These men are from Granville, Southampton, Westford and a man from western MA and someone who was a sergeant, but none from Littleton. The Stephen from Granville was the only one with service in 1775. 

It would be useful to see tax records from Littleton to see how long Stephen did live in Littleton and when he came to Westford but since both men married a woman named Sarah it is going to be difficult to determine which is which during the time they are both in town. Also, useful would be to see all the pension paperwork for the Stephens.

Based on this research, I believe the soldier listed as being from Westford and matching the listing in MSSRW is Stephen Wright #1, as he was born and living in Westford during the Revolutionary period. He is not buried here but in Bethel NY. Stephen Wright #2 is living in Littleton through the Revolutionary war years as noted by the probate paperwork for guardianship in 1782. If he is the Stephen with the tannery then he did not live in Westford until later in life.   


1.    (1)

2.     (2)

3.    (3)

4.    (4)

5.   (5)

6.   (6)

7.    (7)

8.    (8)

9.    (9)


11. (11)


13.  (13) PDF history of Littleton, citation needed

Friday, April 10, 2020

Bloody Flux of 1775, Looking at the Little Picture

Hub History Podcast 2020:

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:
Some Common Diseases of Colonial Children Dr. Ernest Caufield, Colonial Society of Massachusetts 1942
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.  Fairview Cemetery 
September 13 Jonathan Spaulding aged 45. Fairview Cemetery 
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

St Distaff Day in Westford
January 7, 2024

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 7, 2024 from 1-4:30pm. Bring your spinning and those leftover Holiday goodies to share. 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  
• Something for the silent auction to benefit the Westford Museum (optional) 
• Snack to share (optional)                                                                                                                           
• Cash, card 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: