Up in the town of Westfield, there’s Asa Bales park. We’ve visited there several times, to get a Geocache and just take in nature.
I’ve always thought it was an odd name for a park, but only recently learned it was named for a person—Asa Bales.
Asa was born in North Carolina in 1795, Met his wife Suzanna, and they moved to Indiana in 1822. They spent a few years in Mooresville, which had a congregation of the Friends (Quaker) Church, and moved to Westfield in 1832.
I’ll admit that I don’t know too much and the Friends society, also known as the Quaker Church, but I do know they have a long history of promoting human rights, and in the 1700s and 1800s were extremely strong in the anti slavery movement.
Asa became a teacher in Mooresville (Quakers also have a long history of promoting education). He and Suzanne had no children of their own, but raised several children who had been orphaned.
He platted the original street of Westfield in 1834. He named the town after the “Westfield Friends Monthly Meeting”, which was a Quaker anti slavery group in North Carolina.
When the Westfield Society of Friends split over anti-slavery issues, he was instrumental in establishing the new congregation. This effort clearly indicated his deep personal convictions and moral beliefs. Asa and other settlers in the area offered a haven for the slaves that were en route to Canada on the Underground Railroad. Often the men would take the runaway slaves into their homes and barns and place them in cleverly designed hiding places, while the women cooked and provided clothing for the runaways Asa provided the land on north Union street for the Anti Slavery Friends Meeting House and Cemetery in Westfield.
Asa and his wife, Suzanne, died in 1845 during the Cholera epidemic.
In his writings, he left a farewell letter to his friends and family in North Carolina, and it struck me that it would make a pretty good folk song, so I set it to music, made a few changes in words to fit the meter, and here’s the result. I hope you enjoy it.