Mar 5, 2021 | Beyond the Barways

When I first started walking through Westport Woods Conservation Park, I felt stories rising up from the land…

But when it came to knowing the documented history of the land and the house on it- I knew much less. Since my house is across the street, the story of Westport Woods is intimately linked with the story of where I live. I felt a particular desire and responsibility to understand in a more complex way how the land I live on went from Wampanoag sovereignty to English landownership. 

As a project of the Westport land Conservation Trust (WLCT) Land Connection Committee, which I chair, I started to look into the early documented history of 573 Adamsville Rd (Westport Woods) and the house, relying heavily on the research of others, such as local historian Richard Gifford. The WLCT staff were especially curious to learn more about the historic Kirby House, listed in the MA Historical Commission database as circa 1850. Local historic preservation carpenter Nathaniel Allen generously accepted my invitation to explore the house, basement to attic, while walls were open for renovation, and we learned some intriguing things.

Westport Historical Society (WHS) Executive Director Jenny O’Neill kindly invited me to share my research-in-progress at a WHS online presentation. Serendipitously, I then connected with Dan Taber, a descendant of cousins of the first English family who settled the land that is now Westport Woods, and he joined me as a co-presenter. His decades of research led to some discoveries, including who built the Kirby House. The link to the presentation is below:

If you watch, you will learn a little something about Indigenous continuity in this neighborhood, the architectural clues and land records that revealed an earlier origin for the front part of the Kirby House, and some of the unique things about 18th and 19th century Adamsville section of Acoaxet. Over time I hope to both dig deeper into the early story and also follow the stories of the land and its inhabitants later into the 19th and 20th century- with the help of others! 

Let WLCT know if you have stories or photos to share!

Valerie Bassett

Valerie Bassett


Valerie is a Westport native, environmental advocate, lover of indigenous cultures, and former Director of the Women’s Fund of Southeastern Massachusetts.