It is always a delight to receive "new" information, photos and ephemera about Westfield's fascinating history. Such was the case this past weekend when a reader gave me an envelope with a signed handwritten message on the front, "Marybelle, I thought you might like these for your historical things."
Inside were two deeply yellowed newspaper clippings, encased in plastic protection, from 1890 about the recent productive grape harvest and shipment.
The first clipping is headlined "Portland - The Grape Harvest Over - He can't remember such roads before - Rev. Wiltsie has a present - Visitors Looking For Grape Lands - Improvements - Frank Billings Leaves for parts unknown - Death of Mrs. Miles mother of E. P. Harris - Brocton, Nov. 24, 1890." The correspondent writes quite colorfully, "The grape harvest has closed and the last team has made its last struggle through the mud to the station to deposit its last offering at the shrine, whence comes, of late, all our hopes of material wealth ... The roads for a month have been simply intolerable ... The continual rains and the large amount of teaming, one-third more than any year in the history of our grape culture, have made the condition of our streets nearly impassable ... Many of our vineyardists have found that their ambition has outstripped their ability to successfully harvest their crop ... If this industry is to continue, better facilities for harvesting, preparing the fruit for market, and disposing of it, must be devised."
Photographs of an old truck loaded with filled grape baskets was dropped off in an envelope full of historical items regarding the local grape belt history. Though the photos themselves were not labeled, the envelope described the photos as follows. “20# baskets filled with grapes ready for shipment — Taken at Albert Eggert farm, West Main Road, Westfield — Year? 1923 — ’24 or ’25.”
Although the Wiltsie, Billings and Harris topics were not in evidence in the clipping portion provided, an unheadlined news item was startling. "A week since the round house at the station was found to be on fire, but the fire was extinguished with but little effort, and the old inflammable structure was saved."
The second article, Brocton, Dec. 22, 1890, gave the latest figure of 1,864 car loads of grapes containing 3,000 baskets per railroad car had been shipped from Portland, alone, that season.
In addition to the clippings was a small promotional booklet about Westfield, the Heart of the Grape Belt, Welcomes the Vacationist to the shores of Lake Erie. It was issued by the Westfield Chamber of Commerce and stamped by Miller's Drug Store, 33 E. Main St., Westfield, N.Y. Based on the information provided in the booklet about various Westfield entities, the date of the booklet is probably about 1941 or '42.
The Westfield Historian's office is located at 117 Union Street, in the small green building on the north side of driveway. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 to 11 a.m., or by appointment. The Westfield Historian phone number is 326-2457, and the email mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, a smaller envelope containing two copies of a photo of an old truck loaded with filled grape baskets was tucked inside the larger envelope along with the other three items. Although the photos themselves were not labeled, the envelope described the photos as follows. "20# baskets filled with grapes ready for shipment - Taken at Albert Eggert farm, West Main Road, Westfield - Year? 1923 - '24 or '25." Please note the photo attached to this BeeLines.