While researching other topics in the old Westfield Republican newspapers, on microfilm, articles announcing the date of the Charity Ball were often noticed, but the date wasn’t always in early December. After questioning this, and receiving only puzzled looks or denials about it having been held after Christmas, or in January or February, a search was made to locate not only the above-mentioned Billie Dibble’s article about it, but also any other articles regarding the Charity Ball’s history.
Prior to writing the “Dibble’s Dabbles” article, in Oct. 25, 1980, Dibble wrote a 10-page paper to be presented regarding the first 100 years of the Union Relief Association of Westfield, N.Y., from which she drew the information for the “Dibble’s Dabbles.” In addition to the Westfield Republican, a scrapbook in the files of the Patterson Library, which was kept for a few years by Mrs. G.W. Patterson, contained clippings regarding the early years of Union Relief.
A search of the topic index of Westfield Republicans located two more articles regarding the history of Union Relief and the history of the Charity Ball. In the May 16, 1956 issue, page 1, “Part of a Brief History of the Union Relief – presented by one of the members at a recent meeting,” describes that, “In the Fall of 1876, a group of about eight women met in the Presbyterian Parlors for the purpose of organizing a Relief Society for the needy of the town of Westfield.” The writer lists the names of some of the founding members: Mrs. George W. Patterson, President; Mrs. Reuben H. Wright, Secretary; Mrs. Edward A. Skinner, Treasurer; Mrs. Moses Tennant; Mrs. William Walker; Mrs. F. Brewer; and Mrs. Byron Fenner.
Mrs. Patterson, writing about the Union Relief Association, noted “for the first time Westfield had an organized group founded for the purpose of doing charitable work. She adds, ‘Westfield people helped to support the Union Relief for a short time…’ plan was abandoned after the end of the second year. From that time on this organization was supported by donations from its members and from various entertainments…”
The May 16, 1956 article mentions having “one Charity Ball program dated April 1, 1891. This party was the third Charity Ball held over a period of 15 years… they were quite gay and elegant affairs for a small town of that period.” A photograph of the ladies at the meeting at which this history was presented is captioned, “Union Relief mark 7th birthday.”
In the Dec. 8, 1937 Westfield Republican, page 1, is a brief history and an announcement for the annual Charity Ball “set for December the twenty-seventh in Eason Hall.” According to this article, “… the history of this Charity Ball which has been sponsored by the Union Relief Association since 1880… 1884-1887 there were Charity Balls held in Spencer Hall… grand affairs… Top hat, white tie and tails… midnight suppers of baked ham, scalloped potatoes, ice cream and coffee… such elaborate parties proved too much at this busy season so were abandoned until the gay nineties when for several years they were held at Easter time… another lapse until about 1912 when for another few years they were held in the Fenner Block…”
The Charity Ball was again resumed in about 1924, and evolved into the Annual Charity Ball – a “lovely affair if the community will give its usual hearty support… This is the only time throughout the year that we [Union Relief] appeal to the public for help.”
In 1982, the Charity Ball was held on Dec. 18 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., at the Eason Hall, tickets costing $12 donation. The newspaper article of Dec. 2, 1982, lists many projects supported by the Charity Ball, the Union Relief Association and local businesses, particularly naming Welch Food employees who bring toys to their Christmas Dance.
At a recent Charity Ball, a fundraiser for the Westfield Union Relief Association, Charlie Hanks, now deceased, and Nancy Hanks pose together at the entrance of Eason Hall.
Fact BoxMarybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 — inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.
Beigh can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).