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

About the Society

48 Replies to “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

  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.

    • Eleanor West says:

      Betsy, My grandmother was Ethel May Lawton, George Lawton is my 9th or 10th great grandfather. My cousins and I are thinking of take a day trip to check out the Lawton-Almy-Hall family farm.

  14. Bob Harmon says:

    Good evening,
    My name is Bob Harmon. My grandfather Thomas Cashman owned (with his father, Daniel) and operated, Cashman Park from 1926 until about 1940. I am well familiar that the Park was devastated in the 1938 Hurricane.

    I am interested in learing about holdings that you have on their business or their family generally.

    Separately, where can I access Portsmouth newspaper archives from this period?

    Thank you,
    Bob Harmon

  15. tanya wilkinson says:

    trying to find some information about 2 places in portsmouth please if someone can point me in the right direction, My mother in law was born in portsmouth in 1930, on leaving school she went to work in a Mattress factory, what was its name and where was it ?
    She also talks a lot about a shop that had a great big teapot outside, she believes this was in Fawcett Rd, any information on this would be great please,

  16. Deborah Reed says:

    Hello, I am from Nevada. I really appreciate the work that you do

    I hope to come to Portsmouth. My family names from there are: Babcock, Lawton, Butts, Briggs, Anthony, Cooke, Cornell, Tallman & Earle.

    I also had family in Little Compton (Shaw), Jamestown, Kingston, & Warwick.

    Do you have any pamplets you could send?


    Deborah Reed

    • Eleanor West says:

      Hi Deborah,

      My name is Eleanor Mcgrady West. My mom was Dorothy Tyler and she married John Edward McGrady. My grandmother was Ethel May Lawton Tyler. Ethel married Lionel Tyler and they lived in Warwick. Her parents were Milton Lawton and Nettie Dyer and lived in Coventry RI.

      Let me know if there is anything I made be able to help you with. A few of my cousin and I will be going to see the Lawton-Almy-Hall farm that is in Portsmouth RI



  17. Deborah Reed says:

    Hi Ellie! I would so love to go! Finding that my family had so much to do with the founding of RI, and parts of Ohio is so awesome! I would like to spend a few months in RI & Ohio. I have so many Babcocks/ Lawtons/Greenes & Shaws, all from RI, with the Shaws going to NY & then Ohio.

    If you take photos, could you email me a couple, if I send my email?

    Your last name is West, any relation to the Wests of Virginia & Delaware? I have West cousins and also Knowles/Knollys.


    Deborah Reed

    • Eleanor West says:

      Hi Deborah,

      I have an e-mail from my 10th cousin that has the Lawton family traced back to the 1600. That would be George and Thomas Lawton. You would be surprise who is in the list.

      Yes if I take pictures I would be glad to send them to you. I can also forward a copy of family line that my (our) cousin sent to me. Let me know your email and I will sent it.

      My email is ellie100@verizon.net Drop me a quick note so I can get your e-mail.

      I don’t know any of the West side of my late husbands family.


  18. Stephen Lawton says:

    Re: Lawton Valley. The REWHC dot org website of the Raytheon Employees Wildlife Habitat Committee has a great deal of information about Lawton Valley and its history. The last date on the copyright for the site is 2007 and a number of links are inactive, so I do not know if the Committee still exists — but the website remains and would be of interest to any Lawton descendants or naturalists. Raytheon Corporation apparently owns the land in Valley below the W Main Rd (Rte 114) where Julia Ward Howe once had a studio in what I believe was a building of a mill that once occupied the Valley. A walled cemetery with a number of Lawton headstones is nearby near W Main Rd, as I recall.

  19. Stephen Lawton says:

    Re: Lawton-Almy-Hall farm. Thanks to the folks who provided addition information about this farm. It strikes me the current owners might try a GoFundMe site to raise funds to help out with stabilization and restoration of the buildings, fieldstone walls, etc. There are not many 17th and 18th century buildings left in the U.S. As a Lawton descendent, I’d be please to toss in a few bucks. Maybe it would be helpful to set up a website with a few photos and a restoration plan. Show folks the progress. Of course, these things are easier said than done.

  20. Wayne Boothe says:

    Anyone remember the grape nuts pudding at the Red, White and Blue Restaurant by the Greyhound station on High Street?

  21. Karl F. Stephens says:

    How did Hog Island get its name?

    • Rich Talipsky says:

      Good morning, Karl,

      What better place to put hogs to pasture than an island! Hogs use their snouts, as well as their sharp feet, to forage for food, digging roots and tubers, not to mention their wallows, where they can roll in mud to cool off in summer. All this activity disturbs the soil (while manuring it) and uproots desirable planted crops. Pigs and hogs are difficult to confine–they go where they want to. Ferrying them out to an island allows the animals free range without damaging planted crops and with minimal managing. That’s how Hog Island got its name!

      Can you name all of Portsmouth’s islands?

      Happy Spring and thank you for contacting Portsmouth Historical Society. Come visit our museum on a Sunday afternoon between Memorial Day and Columbus Day.

      Anne B. Wagner
      Docent of Portsmouth Historical Society

  22. Christine Ellis says:

    Thank you for a wonderful visit to the museum, school house, and Church. We learned alot

    • Rich Talipsky says:

      Thanks, We are happy that you had a great visit. Please come again.

      Rich Talipsky
      PHS Board

  23. Chris Curtis says:

    Hi there. I’m a Civil War buff from Illinois that will be passing thru Portsmouth in September. I have had no luck in locating a marker, sign or interpretive panel about the old Lovell General Hospital from the Civil War days. Is there anything you can point me to, or a generic location on Bradford Road, where the hospital used to be? Thanks for your time!

    -Chris Curtis / Champaign, IL
    ccurtis2@hotmail.com / 217.372.6304

    • Jim Garman says:

      Chris, Good timing! There is a project in the works this year to place a marker at the site of the Lovell General Hospital. It is part of an overall project to mark several significant historical locations in our town. I am pretty sure you have seen Frank Grzyb’s book “Rhode Island’s Civil War Hospital” (available on Amazon). I too am a Civil War buff (as a graduate of Gettysburg College), and I am am anxious to see this site marked. The young man working on this project hopes to have some results by the end of this year. Keep in touch.
      Jim Garman
      Portsmouth Town Historian

  24. Providence Lyceum says:

    Congratulations on a important and delightful society!
    I would like to talk to a representative of your great group about the excellent Sarah Eddy past exhibition. Can I call someone about it? Or may contact me, text 401-339-0131 Thank you! This is sent 11/12/2019

  25. Brenda jackson says:

    I need an update—

    What has become of the Adam Mott Farm and house since the Seventies? The last information I have is from newspaper stories from 1972 when archaeologists wanted to preserve and study it — and oil companies wanted to buy it. The town had succeeded in blocking the owner from selling to the oil industry.

    I’m nearly 50 years behind the news! What would I see if I came to visit it today?

    Thank you for your reply!

    Brenda Jackson

  26. Lesa Booth says:

    Hello. I’m looking for the gravestones of this couple. I’m unsure of the specific cemetery and address. Here is the obit
    JANUARY 1, 2001

    Portsmouth, RI – Mary T. Carriero Mendonca, 93, and George A. Mendonca 101, of Coreys Lane, Portsmouth, RI, died Tuesday, February 1, 2011 and Wednesday, February 2, 2011, at Newport Hospital, Newport, RI. Mrs. Mendonca was born in Portsmouth, RI on August 21, 1917, and was the daughter of the late Jose and Mary Pimental Carreiro, one of five children. Mary Mendonca was very active in St. Anthonys Parish. She was an avid seamstress and a very accomplished gardener, winning many awards for her flowers and gardens. She was a Life Member of the Newport Preservation Society, where she volunteered regularly. She was also a member of the Newport Horticulture Society, an Honorary Member of the Portsmouth Garden Club, and a member of the Portsmouth Grange. Her father, Jose Carreiro, is credited for creating the Green Animals Topiary Gardens in Portsmouth. This fanciful environment further influenced her creativity and imagination. She was a loving and devoted wife, mother and grandmother and will be sorely missed by her family and friends. Her husband George continued the grooming of Green Animals and added his mystique. Mr. Mendonca was born in Newport, RI on December 29, 1909 and was the son of the late Francisco L. and Mary Perry Mendonca and was one of nine children. George, an accomplished horticulturist and topiary artist continued his father-in-laws work and increased the number of animals on the farm. George was active in the community and was a life member of the Horticultural Society of Newport, an honorary consultant to the Portsmouth Garden Club and for many years Mary and he were active in the Portsmouth Grange. His work, trials and travails were chronicled in the Sony Pictures film, Fast, Cheap and Out of Control produced and directed by Errol Morris, as it depicted the struggles of four men who confronted nature. He relaxed using his imagination combing the shores of Narragansett Bay, doing creative carpentry of his finds, which included rebuilding a half of a boat that washed ashore. He loved fishing and hunting. George Mendonca was a quietly loving father, friend and guide to family and acquaintances. They are survived by their sons Gregory W. Mendonca of North Andover, Ma, G. Leonard Mendonca of Portsmouth, RI, and Paul E Mendonca of Wenham, MA, her brother Adolph B Carreiro of Lovell, ME, his sister Virginia Mendonca of Portsmouth, RI, their grandchildren, John L Mendonca, Michol J Mendonca, Jason Mendonca, Kelly A Mendonca, Brian Mendonca, Kevin Mendonca, and their greatgrandchildren, Alexandra Botohello, Teddy and Jeston Mendonca Their calling hours will be held on Friday February 11, from 4:00 to 7:00 PM at the Connors Funeral Home, 55 West Main Road, Portsmouth, RI.Their funeral will be held on Saturday February 12, at 9:00 AM, from the Connors Funeral Home, 55 West Main Road, Portsmouth, with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 AM, in St. Anthonys Church, 2836 East Main Road, Portsmouth.Burial will be in Portsmouth Cemetery in Portsmouth. In lieu of flowers, donations in their memory may be made to the Visiting Nurse Services of Newport and Bristol Counties, 1184 East Main Road, Portsmouth, RI 02871.uary. Thanks

  27. Jared says:


    I’m curious about an inconsistency that I found in the 1901 edition of “The Early Records of the Town of Portsmouth”. The oath of loyalty to Charles I has a list of twenty-eight signers that runs through pages 1 and 2. One of the men that is accredited as a signer, Anthony Paine, used his mark – a kind of swirl. Later in the records, on pages 384 and 385, we find Anthony Paine’s will. His mark in this case is a circle with a cross, and the swirling mark is associated with the co-signer of the will, Thomas Wait. Is it possible that the signer of the original oath of loyalty was signed by Wait instead of Paine?

    Many thanks,

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