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Re-enactment Celebrates Westport's Birth

Westport celebrated its 175th birthday today at Saugatuck Congregational church, with a re-enactment of its 1835 designation as an independent, state chartered town. Acting out the sometimes humorous history that culminated in Westport's creation, were costumed current and former town leaders. They played the roles of the key townspeople who in 1835 joined forces to petition the Hartford General Assembly to create Westport. Originally, the Saugatuck area that is now Westport was part of Fairfield, Weston and Norwalk. At the time, it had 1,800 residents.

Westport Selectmen Gordon Joseloff and Shelly Kassen played bussinessmen-officials Thomas Rowland and Taylor Hurlbutt respectively, and former second selectman Carl Leaman played Ebenezer Jesup, all of whom were instrumental to the effort. Craig Matheson, founder of Staples' drama department, now retired, played Daniel Nash, the leader of the 1835 drive to create Westport.

Channel 12's Dianne Wildman narrated the event, which was organized by the Westport Historical Society. It was taped for Channel 12 and for the Historical Society's archive.  At its start, Westport Historical Society's Susan Gold, Katie Chase and Dorothy Curran reviewed the history of the area. It was a bustling port, they said, and Ebenezer Jesup was a wealthy merchant whose business thrived here. Greens Farms is the oldest part of Westport but it didn't become part of the town until 1842, Katie Chase said.

The event began outside, in front of the church and then moved indoors, where each of the characters, on stage and many other participants, in the balcony, continued a  dialogue describing how the town came to be. Carl Leaman's Ebenezer Jesup, for instance, explained that the town couldn't be called Saugatuck because people thought it sounded too much like succotash. The name Westport, he said, is not only easier to spell, it includes port, which pinpoints the area's prominent maritime role. Following the re-enactment, participants and spectators enjoyed birthday cake. Since this was the first Westport birthday event in a year of celebrations, there should be quite a few more cakes to come.

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