Westhampton woman creates town’s first flag

  • The town of Westhampton’s new flag, designed by Mary Montague and Bob Miller. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Miller and Mary Montague look over the Westhampton town flag. The two designed it after they realized the town didn’t have one. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mary Montague looks over the Westhampton town flag that she and Bob Miller designed. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Miller and Mary Montague look over the flag they designed for their town when they realized Westhampton didn’t have one. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mary Montague looks over the flag that she and Bob Miller designed for their town when they realized Westhampton didn’t have one. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The tree that is featured on the new Westhampton flag. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

Published: 6/11/2017 6:46:48 PM

WESTHAMPTON — The large, black walnut tree that stands tall in the heart of Westhampton, towering over the Blacksmith Shop Museum, provides an iconic image: the tree’s branches, broadly reaching against a blue sky.

That same image will now officially represent the town as part of the new Westhampton flag, which will be hung in the Statehouse’s “Hall of Flags” along with more than 300 others that represent the state’s cities and towns.

When Westhampton became aware that it was one of the few municipalities in Massachusetts that did not have a flag hanging in the hall, residents started brainstorming.

Mary Montague said she loved the way some of the tree’s limbs reach for the ground while others stretch toward the sky. An artist, Montague took a photo of the tree during the winter to use as a model for a painting. Montague thought the image would also be an appropriate one for the town’s flag.

“The tree is so unique,” she said.

The tree also has history with the town.

The walnut tree was planted during the early 1800s, the story goes, by Sylvester Judd Jr., a historian, statesman and editor of the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Kurt Heidinger, a resident who has researched Judd and the town’s history, said he had visited a state south of Massachusetts, brought back walnuts or seeds and then planted them. Heidinger said the area where the tree now thrives is a warm pocket in Westhampton.

“I’ve been told it’s the largest walnut tree in Massachusetts,” Heidinger said. “People stop their cars and take a picture.”

Montague and resident Bob Miller collaborated on the flag’s design. Using a computer, Miller superimposed the town seal on the center of Montague’s image of the tree.

Cheryl Provost, town administrative assistant, took it from there. To meet production requirements, she had to take another photo and work with Flags USA, which formatted the design, and Gettysburg Flag Works, which produced it.

Provost said she is working with the Statehouse and thinks the flag will be presented this summer.

Statehouse special events coordinator Ayanna Clark said there is usually a small, informal program with flag makers, a state representative and state senator when a new flag is hung.

The Board of State Office Buildings has been collecting the flags from the state’s 351 communities since 1992.

Starting in 2011, then-senator Benjamin B. Downing began encouraging officials of the 18 municipalities in his district of Berkshire, Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties to create their own flags, a press release states. He even sponsored design contests in some of the communities.

In the past six years, more than 10 communities in Downing’s district have created a flag.

While the collection is still not complete, Clark said “we’re getting closer.”

Two of the Westhampton flags have been produced — one for the town hall and one for the Statehouse. Montague said the Blacksmith Shop Museum may create smaller versions of the flag to sell, but plans are not set in stone.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.

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