Portsmouth Historical Society
Portsmouth Historical Society (c) 2015; 870 East Main Road (at Union St), PO Box 834, Portsmouth, RI 02871

About the Society

24 comments on “About the Society
  1. Stephen Lawton says:

    I did the survey, but have several more thoughts. I believe I have read that there was a second compact in 1639 and that my ancestor, Thomas Lawton (and his brother George) had there names on that one. I wonder if that is true, and whether you could add that compact to your store (assuming it is correct.) I have viewed the town records (some 15 years ago) and noticed that Thomas signed with an X… or is a sideways T for Thomas? George as I recalled signed his name. Curious the older brother was literate and the younger was, apparently, not. (Although maybe one can read and not write.) Second, I don’t recall there being signage marking more minor historical places, like the many cemeteries, in Portsmouth. I don’t know if you have a walking/driving tour of Portsmouth with a map, but if not that would be nice (if I ever get there again.) I did enjoy exploring the two times I visited. Finally, I think there may be a Thomas or George Lawton house (see http://www.preservation.ri.gov/pdfs_zips_downloads/national_pdfs/portsmouth/port_union-street-559_lawton-almy-hall-farm.pdf ). I don’t know if it is still exists, but if it does and does date from the 18th or even 17th century, it would be a shame to lose it. Could someone provide me an update on it? I’m full of ideas; no money to fund it, though. I do appreciate the work you do an making so much available (esp. the maps) on your website. All the best, Stephen Lawton, Phoenix, AZ.

    • admin says:

      Stephen, Thank you for your interest and for being a geographically-separated member of our society. Please see the video of Jim Garman’s lecture of the founding of Portsmouth at the “Video Theater” page of the web site. He talks about the second compact. Also, we are working on things like driving tours of Portsmouth. We have an interactive map at the “Places” tab on our web site. You’ll note that I have added a marker for the Lawton-Hall Farm with a link to the National Historic Register Application. I will look into its current status. We have an action item on or long list to make that map more comprehensive as well as establishing some “driving tours around town. We are also trying to get a handle on the status of our historical places on both the RI and National Historic Registers.

      • Siobhan says:

        The home on Union Street referred to as Lawton-Almy-Hall farm is actually three buildings dating to the 1700’s. It was a farm house among other things. My husband George Almy Thurston Jr. whose grandmother grew up there, moved to a new farm in 1876 just down the street where we actually live now. There’s always more to the story…

        • Rich Talipsky says:

          Thank you for the information. I have passed it on to our Curator.

          Are you a PHS Member. Please consider membership so we can stay in touch.

    • Jim Garman says:

      You are correct: George Lawton DID sign the 2nd Compact with his signature and Thomas Lawton (along with 16 others) signed with an X. That was very common for those who could not write in those days.

      We have had a driving tour of the town and we hope to update it soon.

      As for the Lawton-Almy farmhouse it still stands. Part of it DOES date to 1690. It was the home of Herb Hall our President Emeritus. Herb has had some health issues and the house was recently sold to his nephew who has the intention to restore it. It is in pretty shaky condition, but it seems as though it will be saved and restored.

      Thank you for your note. Keep tuned to our website; it is a good source for information about the 378 years of our town.
      Jim Garman
      President, Portsmouth Historical Society.

  2. Rosemary Davidson says:

    Hi Jim, I would like to suggest that our schoolchildren get more exposure to the Society via field trips. I have taken my grandchildren and they loved it. I thought that more high school students should have seen the Portsmouth Compact as well.

  3. Jamey bacon says:

    I have a friend in her 80’s who grew up on 326 Randolph street and I wanted to get a picture of it to her as a gift . It must have been demolished because I can’t find anything on it. Would you have an old picture of it . I would like to buy one

  4. Charlene Mackey says:

    Hi Jim My mother was born in Portsmouth on the corner of West Main Road and Hedley St. Her grandfather David Hedley was born there in 1822 . His father Henry Hedley lived there to around 1777.When I was a kid I stayed on the farm in the summer. There was a plaque hanging on a tree on the corner Hedley St.andWest Main Rd.saying Town of Portsmouth R.I. first town hall and whipping post .It hang there for years when the state cut the trees down to winding WEST MAIN RD. the plaque just laid on the ground and disintegrate.I remember the plaque like it was yesterday some 50 yr.ago. regards Charlene Mackey

    • portsmouthhistorynotes says:

      Too bad we don’t have the plaque, but at least we have the Old Town Hall. It was moved to Historical Society property and is now filled with our exhibit of farm tools and vehicles.

  5. Tracy Godfrey says:

    Lawton Mill? I’m part of the Lawton family that came to MN from Fall River in 1856, but came first to America in Portsmouth. I had read that George and Thomas Lawton had constructed a mill in the 1640’s in the area now called Lawton Valley. Last week I was back and explored the ravine and stream there. As I was walking back upstream, I discovered what seems to be a stone wall that stretches across the valley. Is that the foundation for the mill? Has anyone found the site where the mill was? Does anything remain? I have a couple of photos I can email to you

    Tracy Godfrey
    Golden Valley, MN

    • portsmouthhistorynotes says:

      There have been a number of mills in the Lawton Valley area. I will ask Jim Garman what he knows. If you could give us an idea of where you were walking, it might help as we look at old maps. A URI researcher has been working on Portsmouth mills – I will check with him as well.

  6. Henry Hughes says:

    Would you please send me via email a photo of the naval hospital that existed in 1956. This hospitsl was also used for treating German POW’s.

    I am from Lewiston, ME now living in CA. I was a patient in the hospital in 1956. I served in the Navy.

    I would appreciate your response.

  7. Wonderful things to know and even to visit too.

    I will take my grandchild for sure.


  8. Carol Kelber says:

    I have a handmade quilt that my great, great, great grandmother( Mary Borden Lawrence born 1823-died 4/20/1903) made about the time of the 1860’s and a bible that was my grandmothers(Edna Malone Dixon) in 1902 and would like to know if this is anything you folks would be interested in having as my children do not want them and I would hate to see them thrown out. Could you please let me know?
    Carol Kelber

    • Rich Talipsky says:


      Thank you.

      I have forwarded your information to our Curator,Nancy Crawford, and she will be in contact with you.

  9. nancy Horgan says:

    can you tell me the full name of the (old) Anthony School and how it came to be named?
    thank you. Nancy Horgan n.horgan112@gmail.com

    • Rich Talipsky says:

      Thanks for your interest in Portsmouth History. I have passed your information of to our Board to see if we can get and answer.

      Please consider becoming a PHS Member so we can keep in touch.

    • Marjorie Webster says:

      The school was named Henry F. Anthony School. Mr. Anthony was a railroad agent and a dedicated, long serving member of the School Committee. Additional information on H. F. Anthony can be found by following the ‘Places’ link on our web site. Find the information under Who lived here. Mr. Anthony’s home is the last home on the page.

  10. Christine Ellis says:

    Hi My name is Christine Ellis. I am the 10x great granddaughter of Thomas Cornell(1595-1696). I know that he was married to Rebecca Briggs and His son Thomas JR was hung for her murder. I also know he moved to Portsmouth after selling his Inn in Massachusetts. I was wondering if you have any other information on him and his family and what he did while living there. I would appreciate any info you have. Thank you.

    Christine Ellis

  11. John Huerta says:

    I would like to request a brochure on The Portsmouth Historical Society Museum.

    My address is: 308 W. Elm St, Warren, Arkansas 71671.

    I hope to hear from you real soon!

    John Huerta
    308 W. Elm St.
    Warren, Arkansas 71671

  12. Andi Caswell says:

    The last time I visited Portsmouth about 18 months ago, I was wandering along the shore line of Ferry Road on the opposite inland side of the Eastney Landing and came upon a rusty old broken cannon ball.Tthere is about three quarters of it present and it looks like it broke on impact many many years ago. The inside of the cast iron is heavily pitted rough black iron but the remaining exterior is smooth and hard showing just a little sign of rust
    I’ve done some research on the area and find it is where the battle of the Solent was fought so can only assume it is an artifact from the battle.
    My son is delighted with this piece of history and shows it to all who enter the house.

  13. Betsy Babcock says:


    My name is Betsy Babcock – my husband is Bryan Babcock. Bryan is a descendent of George Lawton and James Babcock. (James’son John married George’s daughter Mary).

    I am very interested in researching anything having to do with his family. He also is descended from settlers in Newport (John Crandall, Mary Opp).

    We are planning a family history trip this summer, and I would welcome any suggestions and information you can provide.

    Kind regards,
    Betsy Babcock

    • Rich Talipsky says:


      We have one of our members that coordinates a genealogy effort. Please email Anne Wagner (AnneBWagner@cox.net) for more information.

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