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Rural Landscapes of Westport
Westport’s main economy in its earliest years was subsistence agriculture. Farm families grew their own food; raised their own livestock; made their own clothing; and built their homes, barns and tools from lumber provided by the trees on their land. Westport, situated on Buzzards Bay, also had one of the more productive river and seafood resources for shellfish, ground fish like cod and haddock, and ocean species like Atlantic halibut, ocean perch, haddock and yellowtail flounder. Our rich waters gave rise to the lobster, shellfish, and fishing industry still prominent in our harbor today. Westport was a fishing resource for the America Indians long before the Europeans came.
The rich, but rock-peppered glacier soil of Westport’s farmlands gave rise to hundreds of miles of scenic dry stone walls that frame almost every acre of useable Westport farm and field. Many of these walls still exist today.
Our protected harbor, even with its swift currents and treacherous moon tides, gave home to our early fishing industry, and later to ship building and whaling. Lumber for Westport’s whalers came from northern Westport and beyond via the Acoaxet (Westport) River. The dependable and swift flow of the Westport River, particularly the East Branch, spawned many saw, grist, and small tool mills that allowed rapid growth and prosperity to the Head of Westport. This manufacturing period peaked with the incorporation of the Westport Factory, a textile manufacturer and a community that operated well into the 20th century.
But farming remained the chief use of the land, with dairy farms more recently being the most prominent. Read about 1899 Westport to understand its origins.
Today, one will find that some of our early 20th century farms have been abandoned and overgrown, and some have been developed into sprawling residential neighborhoods. However, with the help of community preservation funds, agricultural preservation restrictions, and land trust protection, some of Westport’s early character is being preserved, from Old Bedford Road, to Old Pine Hill Road, to picturesque Old Harbor Road. We owe much to the organizations listed below. Our tidal rivers are the focal point for a picturesque community rich with rolling pastures and fields interlaced by fieldstone and granite walls, and peppered with historic cemeteries. An interconnected series of millponds, lakes, and reservoirs, once the backbone of our industrialized Westport, are there still for all to enjoy. This photo essay illustrates another flavor of rural Westport.
Click on each of the logos below to learn more about Westport preservation efforts.
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