#WestfieldIN – Over the weekend, my family attended the Voices from the Past Living History Walk. This is an amazing event in Westfield that brings our local history to life. The tour featured 6 vignettes to tell the stories of historical Westfield residents. It also included information on historical buildings, the Underground Railroad, and Quaker history.
I learned a lot about the Anti-Slavery Friends and the rift in the Quaker church over their support of the Underground Railroad. I never realized how much inner turmoil many Westfield residents faced when fighting on the side of equality over the Quaker doctrine of peace and honesty.
Our tour began at the front of Asa Bales Park, near the property he once owned. There was once a barn on this site that Asa Bales used to smuggle people to freedom on the Underground Railroad. The cellar used to hide runaway slaves was discovered in 1900 when the current home was built.
There were 3 vignettes in the Anti-Slavery Cemetery.
The first play featured The Estes family, sharing tales of their employees, Simpson and Mary Gray. The Grays were “free blacks” who were legal residents of Indiana before the 1851 constitutional amendment prohibiting immigration of blacks.
We also heard from the Scott and Parker families, activists on the Underground Railroad. Malissa Ann Pearce Scott was the niece of Asa Bales. Nathan Parker was noted in the first official documents for the founding of Westfield. As a blacksmith, he was integral in pioneering the city of Westfield.
Midway through the tour, we journeyed through downtown to Old Friends Cemetery Park. Due to the divide in the Quaker church, the devout Friends were buried separately from the anti-slavery supporters.
Here, we learned about one of Westfield’s most famous residents — Joe Cannon, a lawyer and congressman who spent his childhood in Westfield before becoming one of the most interesting Speakers of the House.
The final vignette of the evening offered a stark look at the sad realities endured by the people of this time period. David, Mattie, and Carrie Byers showcased the story of a family who lost their mother shortly after childbirth and a daughter who passed away at the age of 10.
The final leg of the tour shared stories of our most famous buildings’ past. We learned about the roots of downtown’s most colorful buildings, including the general store that later became home to a host of restaurants and the blacksmith shop turned hardware store that is now home to Grand Junction Brewing Co.
My favorite stop on the tour was 100 N. Union — my favorite building in all of Westfield. We were treated to stories of bank robberies and collapses, before the building became home to a series of small businesses, most recently Union Baking Co., which is currently closed as the move to a larger facility down the street.