John Sherman House
269 West Main Rd
John Sherman (1867-1928) was the son of Robert Albro Sherman (1822-1884) & Mary Tracy Hall (1830-1896) and grandson of John H Sherman (1791-1864} & Mary Albro (1789-1864). He was the father of Earle Grenville Sherman (1889-1937), Senator Perry Justin Sherman (1891-1955) & John Lester Sherman (1893-1954)
He moved to this home with his wife, Elizabeth Ward Sumner, and three young sons in 1899, two and a half years after his widowed mother’s death. On March 21, 1899, the Newport Daily News reported his move:
“Mr. John Sherman has moved back to his old home on Lehigh”
The David Durfee Shearman diaries (1850-1861) refer to visits to “Uncle John”which, while not disclosing a specific address, lead the reader to believe that his home was near to the coalmines. From this and the newspaper entry we can surmise that this home was the residence of both John H Sherman in the 1850s and his grandson John Sherman at the turn of the 20th century.
John Sherman, the younger, was a bridge contractor in 1910 and his wife ran a boarding house at her home. However, no roomers are enumerated in the 1910 census.
In 1920, the home is shared. Norman Hall & his wife Agnes L. Tripp are living on the first floor and Elizabeth and her sons, Perry J and John L., occupy the second floor. It is interesting to note that Norman Hall (1890-1949), his occupation listed as Real Estate, had been a chauffeur to Miss L. A. Borden, aka Lizzie Borden, of French Street in Fall River in 1918.
The home continued its recycling of residents. In 1930, the Sherman family had moved and Norman Hall, son of Benjamin Hall jr and Annie Ashley, called it home. He lived there with his wife Agnes and two children Marguerite L, age 9, and Norman, age 5. Norman Hall was an automobile mechanic, at the Quaker Hill Garage which he owned with his two brothers. Some residents of Portsmouth may recall that the town’s fire vehicle was housed at his business from 1935-1940.
For the first time, from 1939-1973, the house passed to a family without old roots in the town. Portsmouth US Navy Commander, Dr. Stanley Douglas Hart (1881-1973), established himself as a community leader. His background as a Medical Officer in WWI and Chief Medical Officer at Newport Naval Hospital led him to serve as Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Portsmouth Red Cross. His service to the community continued when he joined the Board of Directors of Portsmouth Free Public Library. Here he served as both Treasurer and President. By the time of his death, he had earned the designation President Emeritus. He was also Vice President Emeritus of Newport Historical Society, Vice President of the Old State House in Newport and Vestryman St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth
The Sherman windmill once stood alongside 269 West Main Road. The mill has been moved many times. While on Quaker Hill it had been owned by both John Sherman’s grandfather, John H Sherman (1791-1864), & his father, Robert A Sherman (1825-1884). The windmill was reportedly moved to the Lehigh Hill location, adjacent to the Sherman house, by brothers William & Benjamin Hall. The windmill was sold to Newport Historical Society in 1929 but not moved to Prescott Farm until 1973 after the 1969 transfer of ownership to Newport Preservation Society.
Portsmouth Historical Society is fortunate to have a detailed account of the 1858 relocation of the windmill. John H Sherman’s nephew, David Durfee Shearman, records in his diary: “… Uncle John has bought a windmill in Fall River” We learn that John H’s brother, Benjamin C Sherman, supplied the oxen that transported the mill to Portsmouth. The time to get it in operating order at its new location at Quaker Hill was five months. It involved disassembling, transporting, reassembling, repairing and finetuning the mechanisms.
Ownership of the windmill links the Halls and Shermans. The families are closely intertwined with marriages existing between Halls and Shermans throughout Portsmouth’s history. Further research would be necessary to determine if the Halls and Shermans who owned the mill were directly related .
Old Howarth Place
606 Park Ave
AKA Acme Social Club, AKA Old Colony Club House
In either 1898 or 1899, Old Colony Brewers built a ‘Clubhouse’ at 606 Park Avenue to capitalize on the growing amusement resort in Island Park. It was a rooming house serving both food and liquor. It is probable that there were games of chance and a pool table. The Club is not mentioned in newspapers as a destination for public outings in the manner of the Lawrence house, located a few doors north. Therefore, it may have been a private club for Old Colony stakeholders rather than a public club.
Randolph Howarth was the deeded property owner. He was the son of Fall River liquor dealer, James E Howarth. Tracing who actually resided at the property is difficult since they were summer residents and transient roomers. Mr. Howarth is listed in Fall River in 1900. Perhaps he was not in residence at his property in Portsmouth on the enumeration date of June 1st. He is also enumerated as a “proprietor” in the 1900 Fall River census. It is possible that this refers to the proprietorship of his Fall River establishment. Joseph Clinton and his wife Minnie Good, both of Fall River, were enumerated in 1900 as the residents on the Island Park premises. Mr. Clinton was listed as a “proprietor”. He also held the victualler’s license for Howarth Place. William H Canning was the holder of the liquor license. By 1914, Canning had transferred his liquor license to the Hindle premise also on Park Avenue. Mr. Canning is deceased by 1921 and Mr. Howarth appears in the town directory as both owner and summer resident at the Clubhouse.
Mr. Howarth’s occupation was listed as ‘liquors’ in the 1880 census enumerated in Fall River. He had a business in Fall River at 100 Old Bedford Road and from at least 1903 until 1927 operated a poolroom at 1169 Pleasant Street. At the time of his marriage in 1902 to Catherine Dwyer, he is listed as a bookkeeper. This is likely in connection to the liquor business. At the turn of the century, it is estimated that breweries controlled 80% of saloons. This leads to the belief that the business he began in Island Park was a continuation of the Acme Social Club of Fall River which was listed in the Fall River City directories for only two years, 1896 and 1897. The club with the same name then appears in Portsmouth. The Acme Social Club was incorporated by the State of Rhode Island for “Literal and Social enjoyment” in June of 1900.
Old Colony Brewing Company was one of the oldest breweries in Fall River. The beer was originally delivered by horse drawn wagon and dispensed in pails or pitchers. Later it was distributed in cans as well as the iconic Indian Chief embossed bottle.
Many of the Directors of Old Colony Breweries had summer homes and/or were associated with businesses in Island Park. The names of these early Island Park residents are found there now and many Portsmouth citizens are descended from them.
Brewery Directors 1896-1913 Cornelius Sullivan, Patrick McQuillan, Rudolph F. Haffenreffer Jr, Adolph Haffenreffer,Edward J. Delehanty, Edward H Murphy, James Hughes, Frank Hughes, John Keough,John Connerton, Nathan Miller, Quinlan Leary, Thomas Walsh, George D. Flynn, Frank A Flynn, Lawrence L Holden, Herman G Myers, Chauncey H Sears, George Hindle, and Charles Letendre
Treasurer + General Manager Rudolph Haffenreffer’s son, Carl W, was born in the family home on Hen Island 20 Jul 1906. Hen Island is directly north of the Howarth Place. The home has been replaced. Carl W. Haffenreffer became vice president of the family-owned Narragansett Brewing Company located in Cranston, Rhode Island.
Old Colony Brewery History
Sources: Fall River Public Library & South Coast Today article Flood unearths bottle tied to city’s brewing past by William A Moniz
After the 1912 reorganization of three Fall River brewers, King Philip Brewery, Enterprise Brewing Company and Old Colony Brewery they emerged under this name Old Colony Breweries. Adolf F. Haffenreffer Sr., the former assistant manager of Old Colony Brewers, managed the merged company.
The headquarters was at Davol Street until the advent of Prohibition. In 1920, like the rest of the country, Fall River’s beer taps would be shut off — at least legally — for the next 13 years. With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the consolidated companies, now renamed Enterprise Brewing Co., resumed operations with many of the former employees at the modernized and enlarged Davol Street plant near the bottom of President Avenue. Under the direction of its president, Adolf F. Haffenreffer, Sr., the suds again began to flow.
Although the brewery’s flagship brands were Old Tap Ale and Bohemian, AKA ‘Boh’, Lager Beer, the company brewed and marketed a number of labels – Enterprise Bock Beer, Yankee Trader Beer and White Seal Ale., The King Phillip brand was briefly resurrected with offerings of Ale, Beer, and Porter in bottles bearing the familiar Indian chief logo on paper labels. The brand was permanently retired in 1940.
Following World War II, and throughout the prosperous 1950s, the brewing business underwent significant changes. Local breweries, once the staple of the industry, faced increasing competition from regional and national brands. Unable to remain profitable, Fall River’s Enterprise Brewing ceased operations in 1963.
St. Paul’s Rectory
7 Church Lane
Whose Home Was St Paul’s Rectory? Too easy a question? Most would say why the ministers of course. And that was true of the early years of the rectory’s existence. But ministers come and ministers go while the church family weaves itself into the fabric of the town. Thus it came to be that two siblings called this their home for over 40 years, one a beloved school teacher the other a metal smith by trade.
Born in Portsmouth to Lawrence Fish and Frances Faulkner, Isabella F. Fish (1858-1935) and William H. Fish (1861-1958) began their tenancy with their elderly parents just before the turn of the century. The location must have been quite convenient to commute to their jobs. Miss Fish taught the Primary School at Newtown School which was located on Turnpike Avenue, where the playground stands today. William’s smith shop was located on the corner of Dexter Street and East Main Road.
We are fortunate to have a photograph of Miss Fish standing in front of her home in 1927 and even more fortune that her niece, Marie Thurston, took the time to label the photo “Isabella F. Fish … her home for 42 years.” Research while fascinating can also be daunting. A search of documentation to confirm the label for the residents of St Paul’s failed to pin point their exact address . Newspapers would use a description of “near Eureka Lodge” when talking about the Fish family’s home. Census records labeled their address as East Main Road in 1900, 1910 and 1920. Yet by tracing the neighbors in the census, records led to them living near the church. The 1921 directory lists no street called Church Lane but it does confirm the homes location, ‘next to the Episcopal Church’. Finally in 1930 the census listed the modern day address for the Rectory “Church Lane” but still no house number since that would not occur until 1940 following Isabella’s death. By then William had moved in with his brother Arthur.
In our search we discovered that in 1900 the rectory was home to six; Isabella, William, another sibling Katherine, their parents and her maternal grandfather, Pease Faulkner. In 1910 there was just father, Isabella and William. Grandfather Faulkner had died on June 20, 1900 just nineteen days after the 1900 census was recorded and sister Kate had died in 1907. Their numbers dwindled further with their father Lawrence’s death in September of 1921. A change occurs in 1930. We find Clarence W. Sherman (1861-1933) and his wife Mary O’Neal (1871-1943) also residing there. Was it the need for additional revenue, the feeling of too much space or the desire to welcome home a native son that turned this into a two family home? The rent reported in 1930 was $6/month for the Fish siblings and $12/month for the Sherman couple.
Clarence William Sherman was the last surviving child of David Durfee Shearman and Cynthia C. Dixie aka Dixey. His brother, Charles Edwin Sherman, had died in California in 1914. Although many miles from his native Portsmouth, Charles had maintained communication with Portsmouth friends and family. Clarence had not. Portsmouth relatives provided information for Charles’ death notice in the Newport Daily News. They listed his absence of 34 years, a family of 5 children and a wife, the cause of death, appendicitis, and a surviving brother, “Mr. Clarence Sherman in parts unknown”. In reality Clarence had been living in North Smithfield, Rhode Island with his wife and seven year old son.
It can be surmised that Clarence’s life was not the easiest. The death of his mother occurred when he was five years of age and his father died when he was seven years old. He was raised by his aunt, Abby Sherman Greene, who was childless. Many aspects of Clarence’s life remain untold. He dies in 1933 and is buried in Portsmouth. An obituary was not found. What became of his widow and his son George H.D. Sherman (1902-1961) was not known until the final hour of research. We can say ‘Rest in Peace’ now that we have found wife and unmarried child buried side by side at Mount Saint Benedict Cemetery in Bloomfield Connecticut.
Edward & Martha Lay’s Tavern and Inn
2538 East Main Rd
Circa early 1660
The house at the foot of Quaker Hill was termed a Tavern, Alehouse, Public House and Inn at varying times in its history. We know that it was first termed “a house of publik intertainment for straingers and others” when it was established by Edward Lay in 1679. Records indicate that the town was reluctant to allow Mr. Lay to establish an Inn at his residence. A petition by Lay on 1 August 1679 was submitted to the Assembly to intercede on his behalf. The Assembly implored the Town Council of Portsmouth to grant him a license to run an Inn. The Assembly asked the town to consider Mr. Lays “advanced age”, 71 years to be exact, and the “debility of his body for hard labor” and consent to his desire to operate an Inn.
Edward Lay had lived in both Connecticut and Massachusetts before settling in Portsmouth. In 1837, while a Connecticut resident, Edward Lay served as a soldier in the Pequot War. For this service he was granted land in Hartford Connecticut. In 1640, Edward Lay, had “forfeited his lot” by failing to build upon it. In 1648 he was in Saybrook Connecticut in an area that is the present town of Lyme. A court record from 1657 records his failure to appear in court to answer the charge for “his abusive carriage and expressions” toward several Saybrook residents. A plausible reason for his failure to appear in court is that by 1653 Edward Lay was a resident of Martha’s Vineyard. One could also surmise that the court charges, or perhaps his inability to get on civilly with his neighbors, accounts for his new residence.
When in Martha’s Vineyard Edward Lay and his wife Martha continued to appear in court records. On 31 Oct 1654, Robert Codman was found “not guilty of those aspersions which were cast upon him … concerning himself and the wife of Edward Lay.” In June 1656, Lay and his wife sued John Pease for slander. On 12 Aug 1657, at a General Court held at Hartford, Edward Lay’s bail bond was forfeited. He had been arrested for abuse and turbulent conduct. In 1659 he was fined for leaving a town meeting before it was adjourned.
Mr. Lay appears to have a foot in three states in 1657 since is also listed as one of 48 who were granted 5,000 acres in East Greenwich although he did not settle there. By 1661 he has purchased a lot from Daniel Wilcox and settled in Portsmouth.
Portsmouth appears to embrace the new resident by choosing Edward Lay for a variety of positions. Early Records of the Town of Portsmouth document that in the years 1662, 1663, 1666, 1668 and 1669 he was chosen as Grand Juryman. In 1665 he was Constable. In 1667, 1677, and 1678 he was Deputy to the General Court. And in 1671 and 1672 he was chosen Fence Viewer. These positions spanned the time from a year after his arrival in Portsmouth until just prior to the establishment of the Inn.
Edward Lay’s wife, Martha appears in the Town Records “having been attacked by an Indian named John, said Indian was sentenced to death”. With the exception of this incident in 1671 no hint of discord appears in the public record between their arrival in Portsmouth and their petition for a license to operate an Inn.
After a hiatus from court records of many years the Lay family name appears again. In 1680, just one year after opening the Inn, he was indicted for selling strong drink by retail without a license. The General Court of Trial fined him 40 shillings but the fine was remitted by the Assembly when Edward Lay once again pleaded age and debility.
We can conjecture and rely upon future researchers to confirm. Was it Edward Lay’s previous legal dealings, his reputation, the town’s desire to limit commerce or simply an attempt to keep business confined to established Portsmouth residents that resulted in its reluctance to grant his license to run an Inn? We could say that it might be any of these. What was the modus operandi of Lay’s time?
~ If Edward Lay was truly infirmed shouldn’t the town have welcomed his ability to support himself? Remember that in that era financial support of an individual was the responsibility of the town of his origin not of his current residence unless the individual was a home owner. Edward would have been a citizen due to ownership thus the town’s burden.
~ Is it possible that the Assembly pleaded his case for an Inn License and overturned his 40 shilling fine because they had become well acquainted with him when he served as Deputy to the General Court?
~ Edward had been in town for 18 years and held public offices. He was not a native but he was established. Had he made enemies among the leading citizens?
Edward Lay died in 1682 leaving his widow and no progeny. His will named his wife Martha as his sole heir. She continued the business. A license to operate her home as an Alehouse and Inn granted on 24 July 1682 to ‘Martha Lay Widow’ survives, We do not know the date of Widow Lay’s death. She is mentioned as paying taxes in1693 in Portsmouth.
Jump forward over 100 years to the year 1814 and we find a Tavern at the same location. Its size has grown but the original building remains to the rear. This section is used as a post office. The Inn is operated by Oliver Davis Greene (1780-1847) and his wife Phoebe Loomis Greene (1785-1853). The fit is perfect since Oliver was appointed postmaster in July of 1822. O. D. Greene dies in January of 1847. Once again the family continues to operate the business after the head of the family dies but this time with a slight variance. Oliver E Greene, his son, had already assumed the helm when he was appointed postmaster in 1845. Phoebe Greene, widow, follows her son as postmaster with an appointment in 1851 after he relocates to Providence. Mrs. Greene serves in this role until her death. Descendants of the Greene family, through daughter Emily who married Robert Hicks, continued to enjoy this home as a private residence. The ‘Postal Mail Sorting Table’ of the Greene family is in the permanent collection of the Portsmouth Historical Society.
Sarah J. Eddy House
567 Bristol Ferry Road
Sarah James Eddy was born in Boston and studied painting and sculpture at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and New York’s Art Students League. From the early 1890s until her death, she resided at 567 Bristol Ferry Road in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Sarah J. Eddy never married. She died in her Portsmouth home, on March 29, 1945, at age ninety-three.
Miss Eddy’s parents were James Eddy of Providence and Eliza Frances Jackson Meriam. Her siblings were James Eddy, Benjamin Eddy and Amy Eddy. Born during her mother’s second marriage, Sarah entered into a family of means with a strong social and humanitarian conscience. Her grandfather, Francis Jackson, actively participated and funded the abolition movement. Her father founded and permanently endowed the Bell Street Chapel in Providence. Her mother left a large portion of her estate to Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony. Miss Eddy continued to follow her family’s philanthropist example throughout her life. Among her causes were animal protection, women’s rights and woman’s suffrage, and cultural education.
Sarah Eddy was an established artist and author. She contributed to the cultural enrichment for Portsmouth citizens by establishing the Bristol Ferry Social Studio on a picturesque parcel of land that sloped down to Mount Hope Bay in the northwest corner of Portsmouth. Located near her home, the Bristol Ferry Social Studio was the site for children’s events, educational programs and cultural group meetings. Mrs. John M. Eldridge, the former Emmeline Burke, was its director. News articles report events such as the Church Sewing Group in 1903, DAR Barton Society in 1939 and the annual summer outing for the Home for Colored Aged of Providence beginning in 1901.
S.J .Eddy began exhibiting photographs in 1890, at nearly forty years of age. Miss Eddy preferred photographing children, women, and animals, in both rural and domestic settings. Eddy’s photographs appeared regularly in American and foreign exhibitions until about 1910. In 1903 alone, her pictures were included in salons in Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis, and Toronto. Her most important exhibitions were the New School of American Photography and the selection of American women photographers at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1900.
Eddy’s paintings reflect rural scenes, domestic settings and notable people. The large portrait at the Portsmouth Historical Society’s museum titled ‘Grandma Burke’ depicts Anne Burke, Mrs. Eldredge’s mother. It was exhibited at the Portsmouth Library in 1924. S. J. Eddy’s portrait of Frederick Douglass is said to be the only portrait for which he sat. Her portrait study of Susan B. Anthony was created during a three week and a half week visit by Miss Anthony on Bristol Ferry in September of 1901. The bust portrait, believed to be one of three, is housed in the Bryn Maw College Collection. A larger portrait, housed in Washington D.C, at the National Museum of American History, was completed based on the study portrait to memorialize Miss Anthony’s 1900 eightieth birthday celebration.
During her lifetime Miss Eddy prominently displayed her work locally at the Portsmouth Free Public Library, Newport County Fair and at the Bristol Ferry Social Studio. She welcomed groups into her home and studio to view her work.
Eddy’s social conscience is evident in her other activities, as an author and member of humane societies. Between 1899 and 1938, she wrote or compiled five children’s books on animals and their care. Most widely read were Friends and Helpers and Alexander and Some Other Cats, both featuring her sympathetic text and photographic illustrations. Eddy worked with animal rights groups for half a century. In the 1890s she helped found the Rhode Island Humane Educational Society, was named an honorary vice president of the fledgling Audubon Society and at her death she was the director of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
She was a proponent of woman’s rights and suffrage. In 1908 the Newport County Woman Suffrage League was established in Portsmouth at Bristol Ferry with Miss Sarah J. Eddy, Miss Cora Mitchell, Mrs. John Eldridge, and Mrs. Barton Ballou as founding members. Mrs. Julia Ward Howe was in attendance at the first meeting. Miss Eddy hosted many national figures in her home. She was friend to Susan B Anthony, Julia W. Howe and Frederick Douglass.
Christian Union Church Parsonage
1023 East Main Road
1023 East Main Road was built by the Christian Union Church of South Portsmouth. n October of 1897, the congregation, through their board of directors granted carpenter Joseph Coggeshall the contract to construct a parsonage. Their intent was to provide a home for their minister. The location chosen for the building was on the land of Gould Anthony at the corner of East Main Road and Glen Road. The home served as a parsonage such for fewer than 20 years. It was home for five ministers,
The first occupant was Reverend Henry W. McCrone and his wife Margaret Lavinia Cox. This was Rev. McCrone’s first pastorate and it was on his watch that the parsonage progressed from vision to completion. In this home in April of 1900 their fourth and youngest son, Charles William, was born. The last minister, Robert Downing, left in 1917 and returned to his previous occupation as a stage actor.
A photograph from Portsmouth Historical Society’s collection depicts a couple posing on the lawn of the parsonage. The photo is labeled “Rev.Loucks” This presented an identification problem since Rev. David C. Loucks and Rev. Albert Loucks served as ministers successively. Their marital status provided the answer. David had a wife, Josephine Putnum while he served the church. Albert was a widower of two years when he came to Portsmouth.
A 1909 article in the Herald of the Gospel gives us a first person glimpse at the parsonage. Gertrude F Greene reports:
“It was my pleasure to spend an hour recently with Rev. D.C. Loucks and his wife in their home in South Portsmouth, R.I. This church believes in offering inducements for men to remain with them. They have provided a beautiful parsonage and have, since Bro. Loucks pastorate, installed a compressed air water system which supplies a bath room, hot water tank and the kitchen. The bath room and the work on the whole was quite largely done by the pastor. At the lawn party, given on the lawn of Gardner T. Sherman, a sum of nearly $125.00 was netted. Music and Japanese lanterns made an enjoyable and pleasant evening.”
It is interesting that the building had been in existence for fewer than a dozen years before the facilities were upgraded.
The Christian Union Church dwindled in membership numbers and no longer required a full time pastor. They began to rent the home to private citizens. They did not look far from their church family for tenants.
From 1922 until 1925 the home was rented to the three sons of John R Manchester & Ruth Rogers, George R. Jr., John Rogers, and Frank Harold. . The Manchester brothers were descended from Manchesters and Coggeshalls. Their sister Eliza Gertrude had married George Elliott. These families had been leading members of the church’s congregation.
During the period in which they rented the parsonage, the family owned and operated Manchester’s Dry Goods Store in the Newtown section of Portsmouth. It was located northeast of the public library. The family had previously travelled trading in horses in Canada and the west as well as running the farm at St Mary’s Church for 7 years.
Green Animals: Brayton House
c. 1859 Cory’s Lane
1877 Thomas Brayton treasurer of the Union Cotton Manufacturing Company (more like principal operating officer today), bought property in Portsmouth to be a summer home for his family. Thomas Brayton hired a Portuguese mill worker, Jose Carriero, to develop and manage the grounds of his Portsmouth estate in 1905. Gardener Joseph Carreiro, superintendent of the property from 1905 to 1945, and his son-in-law, George Mendonca, superintendent until 1985, were responsible for creating the topiaries. There are more than 80 pieces of topiary throughout the gardens, including animals and birds, geometric figures and ornamental designs, sculpted from California privet, yew, and English boxwood.
When Thomas Brayton died at age 96 on May 10, 1939, he this estate to his daughter Alice, age 61 and his son Edward, age 51. Alice Brayton re-opened the main house on the Portsmouth estate in 1936 to begin renovations to make it her permanent residence. She moved to the estate in the spring of 1939 naming it Green Animals for the topiary animals in the garden. Miss Brayton left Green Animals to The Preservation Society of Newport County at her death in 1972.
About Alice Brayton
- During Depression she helped to found a relief program in Fall River to bring milk, food and clothing to the needy.
- Founded a nursing association in Fall River.
- Published books including contributing to “Gardens of America”
- Loved to garden.
- Loved to entertain – hosted Jacqueline Bourvier’s coming out party.
Living in a School House?
Can you imagine a family living in the basement of a school? Two families did live in the “cellar” of the old Southermost School because they fell on hard times. We learn about these families from Portsmouth historian Edward West’s writings. In his 1932 article for the Rhode Island Historical Society on the “Lands of Portsmouth,” West gives a virtual tour of early Portsmouth. “..we come to the site of the Southern School House, where the widow Sarah Strange took up her residence after the death of her husband; for at a Town Meeting in 1746, she and her family were ordered out, so that the school house might be improved in the use for which it was built.”
Sarah’s situation is indeed “strange” because her family forced the move of another family to the cellar of the same school. Schoolmaster James Preston was reported as being sick and helpless in 1727. In the early days it was the families of the school children that were responsible for the room and board of the schoolmaster and his family. In an article on “Relief Problems of Old New England,” West reports on Portsmouth Town Council decisions. “James Strange (Sarah’s husband) refuses to entertain James Preston and his family any longer in his dwelling house it is agreed by this council that said Preston and his family be settled in the Southermost School house in the town for the present, that is in the cellar part thereof…” The Town Council agreed to pay Preston’s wife money weekly to provide for the family. Now the building at that time was twenty-two feet by fourteen feet – not large at all to house a family and the school children.
In 1730 it was ordered “that James Preston and his family be removed out of the School house wherein they now dwell and that Rebecca his wife pay the charges of their removal and house rent out of the weekly allowance.” Rebecca was forced to “bind out her two eldest children otherwise the said council will put out the said Children in order for the lessening the Towns Charges therein.” Soon afterwards James Preston died and the town paid his funeral charges. There is no further mention of the family in town records.
This schoolhouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Home of George Thurston
Connors Funeral Home today
55 West Main Road
This home has had some colorful owners and uses through the years. Researching the homes and dating them is always difficult. We think the house may date to around 1850 and it was built for David Anthony. Asa Anthony owned it when he served as Portsmouth Coroner in the 1880’s. Newspaper articles mention that sometimes bodies were brought to Asa’s home before burial. In 1898 after Asa’s death, the home and farm was sold at auction to the Ballou family of Providence who had a home down the road on Bristol Ferry. Newspaper articles state that they probably would not be living there. Perhaps they bought it for artist Sarah Eddy who used it as a place her friends and other artists could come and stay while visiting Portsmouth. 1907 maps show it as her property at that time. The image above was scanned from a glass plate and we suspect that Sarah Eddy – a noted photographer – may have taken this photograph. In 1900 the Rev. Dennis and his sister seemed to run the guest house. Newspaper articles show that Rev. Dennis ran a Sunday School there for children who weren’t members of any particular church. Grand parties were held for the community during the 1920’s including a Christmas party for 164 guests. The house became a “tourist lodge and trailer park” in the 1930’s after it was bought by a Mrs. Hollis. Memorial Funeral Home bought it in 1983 and has run it since then as a funeral home. It seems to be appropriate as the home of a former town coroner.
Click Here to view a Willow Brook Brochure
George Manchester House
102 Glen Road
This description of George was written by a descendent of George Manchester.
George Manchester of Portsmouth, RI was born 1822, the son of John and Lydia (Albro) Manchester of 1105 East Main Rd. His brothers were John Henry Manchester and Daniel Manchester, both of Slate Hill, and his sisters were Susan and Rebecca (Mrs. William H. Gifford). George was a carpenter who helped construct many homes in Newport County. He was a devoted member of the Union Church at the location of today’s Portsmouth Historical Society, and taught Sunday School there. He was a public servant who represented Portsmouth in the RI General Assembly for several terms, as had his father and his grandfather Giles Manchester. At various times George held the offices of Superintendent of Public Schools in Portsmouth, State Railroad Commissioner, State Auditor, Customs Officer, Justice of the Peace, and High Sheriff of Newport County. An avid reader and book collector, he wrote book reviews and articles for magazines such as Harper’s, and for religious publications such as the Herald of Gospel Liberty and the Christian Inquirer. He lived at 102 Glen Rd., and was married to Phebe Taber Coggeshall. They had three children, Alfred (grew up to be a minister in Salem, MA), Charles (owned a store in Newport), and Leonora (wife of George Brawley, a Middletown farmer). George’s wife Phebe died in 1861. In 1873, he married Eliza Maria (Peckham) Rogers, widow of Thomas G. Rogers. George died in 1879 and is buried in St. Mary’s Church cemetery.
Cundall House – Maybe
Glen Farm Road
There are no definite dates for this house. 1798 is one date given. If so, than it would have been the home of Joseph Cundall, a notable miller in the area. Other sources note that this was the land of Joseph Cundall, but that the house was built later. This house, however, is known as the “Cundall House” in newspaper articles.
The Glen’s first settlers, the Cooke family, gradually moved away and sold their land, but many of the Cooke daughters married into local families. It is hard to trace all the ownership of what is now the town owned Glen land, but we did discover information on some of those landowners. In 1720 John Cooke sold a portion of his land to James Sisson. By 1745 Sisson had a water powered grist mill on the brook in the Glen to grind corn. Revolutionary War era maps show the location of that mill as just east of Glen Farm Road and the barn complex.
James Sisson then sold his mill and 46 acres around the brook to Joseph Cundall. What we call “the Glen” became commonly known as Cundall’s Mills. In 1706 Joseph Cundall had left his native England to become an indentured servant in America. Becoming an indentured servant was a way for a young person to learn a trade and get an education in exchange for working for seven years or more. Cundall seems to have learned his trade well and was in a good position to buy land as an adult. Water from the stream powered the carding and fulling mills to wash and pull woolen fibers. Joseph Cundall added almost a hundred more acres to his land around the Glen before he died in 1760. Newspaper accounts tell the tragic story of his son Joseph who got lost in a Christmas Eve snowstorm and died on his way home from the mill. Near the Glen barns there is a little burial ground with Slocum and Cundall family headstones. His gravestone is easily read in the old cemetery with a death date of December 24, 1811. If the 1790 date is accurate, this little house would have been home to this Joseph Cundall.
Mrs. Taylor’s Manor House
Frank Coelho Drive
Even though the Taylor family started Glen Farm in 1882, construction did not begin on their home until around 1920. The Taylors had a Newport summer home, but that preferred the Portsmouth countryside. They hired famed architect John Russell Pope to design their home in the Glen area. During World War I the Taylors lost their son in France. Family stories relate that the French chateau style of the home was designed to remember the place where their son died. The house was completed in 1923.
Architect Pope encouraged the Taylors to hire the Olmsted Brothers Firm to design the landscaping. The gardens were designed to be at their best in July and August when the family would be in residence. Mrs Taylor opened the grounds and gardens to special events. Moses Taylor died in 1928 but Edith continued to spend more time at the Glen. She remarried many years later and became Mrs. G.J. Guthrie Nicholson, but continued to come to the Manor House until her death in 1959.
In 1960 the Manor House and 43 acres around it were sold to the Elmhurst Academy of the Sacred Heart. The house served as a dormitory for boarding students. When Elmhurst Academy closed its doors in 1972, the Town of Portsmouth bought the house and the newly built school buildings that were attached to it.
Portsmouth citizens still own the house and the Glen Manor Authority and the Friends of Glen Manor House constantly strive to restore the house and gardens.
Leonard Brown House
If you are familiar with the Glen, you may know that the Leonard Brown House sits at the end of a drive lined by majestic linden trees. Who’s was Leonard Brown and what does he represent in Portsmouth history. Brown was born in Middletown in 1815. His wife Sarah was the daughter of Revolutionary War militia leader Cook Wilcox. What would become the Brown farm had been part of Wilcox’s land. By the 1880s Brown was considered one of the best farmers in Portsmouth. He raised poultry and pigs and brought them to market in New Bedford. Along with farming, Brown served as a wheelwright and a blacksmith.
Leonard Brown represents the Yankee farmers, the descendants of the original English settlers. Brown and the farmers like him were the backbone of Portsmouth. They served in political offices, farmed and were the skilled craftsmen of the town.
Dating the Brown House has been difficult. The diary of George Manchester shows that Brown was on the land in 1851 because a barn was built for him by Albert Coggeshall. 1860 maps show Leonard Brown on the property.
When Leonard Brown died in 1896, the Brown farm was sold to H.A.C. Taylor and became part of the Glen Farm. A 1904 gardening magazine shows that Taylor had the row of linden trees planted as a entryway to the house. The house served as a home for many Glen Farm families over the years. Manuel Camara’s family has wonderful memories of growing up on Glen Farm.
When the Town of Portsmouth bought the land in 1989, the Brown House was in disrepair. Fires, hurricanes and vandalism had damaged the house, but efforts are being made to restore and the use the house once more.
Mrs. Durfee’s Tea House
82 Glen Road
A 1893 Harper’s Monthly Magazine called Mrs. Durfee the “Goddess of the Glen.” No trip out to the romanic Glen was complete without stopping at the Durfee house for refreshments. Many of the Newport society greats would host dinners and events at the Durfee Tea House. One guest describes a visit in the 1870 timeframe: Miss Durfee, very lame but most hospitable, received her guests and soon the famous tea-house cakes were served. These were meal cakes, made as thin as a wafer, slightly sweetened with a suspicion of nutmeg flavor. Baked on a griddle that covered the whole top of the stove, they were compounded of a milk mixture consisting of ten eggs to a quart of milk, the finest Rhode Island meal, butter, sugar and spice….After supper, the frolic terminated in a Virginia Reel, in which all, young or old took part, and then the resellers returned home by the light of the moon.” (Newport Historical Society Bulletin, April 1926).
This house has had several owners and at least two locations through the years. There are two Mrs. (or Miss) Durfees. Samuel Clerk who took over the Cundall Mills property sold the original lot without a house to Mrs. Mary G. Durfee. in 1836. The house must have been built shortly after the sale. Mary Durfee must have originated the tea house because when the property was sold to Ruth Durfee in 1857 it was already known as “Mrs. Durfee’s Tea House.” Durfee Tea House was a cultural center for Portsmouth. Many activities were held there including the original Sunday School for the Union Meetinghouse which was organized by social reformer Dorothea Dix.
Through the diaries of George Manchester who lived nearby we know that the teahouse served as a gathering place. Locals met there to share gossip and have parties. In the winter time the teahouse hosted weekly meetings of the singing school, ladies sewing circles, and the Portsmouth Union Lyceum which was a debating society. George even mentions that a Republican political caucus was held there.
In 1909 the house was moved to the current Glen Road location because H.A.C. Taylor purchased the lot and wanted the house moved off of his farm. Manton Chase bought the house at auction and moved it.
Julia Ward Howe’s Oak Glen
745 Union St.
In 1850, Dr. Samuel Howe bought a small cottage on the land around what is now Oak Glen. Howe’s wife, Julia Ward Howe, had Rhode Island roots and this cottage became their summer refuge from Boston. Howe was a pioneer in education of the handicapped and he and Julia were part of the effort to abolish slavery. Julia may be best known for writing the words to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” but she also wrote songs, poetry, plays and essays. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oscar Wilde and other literary giants came to visit her at Oak Glen.
The Howes enlarged the home in the 1870’s, but the home was still centered around their growing family of six children. The additions to the home helped it become a gathering spot for local and national literary figures. When Samuel died in 1876, Julia continued to live at Oak Glen until her death there in 1910. Julia was occasionally ask to “supply the pulpit” at the Christian Union Church down the road. She was a noted speaker, writer and advocate for such causes as Women’s Suffrage and the International Peace Association.
Some of her furniture from Oak Glen was donated to the Portsmouth Historical Society and is featured in the Julia Ward Howe Room of the museum.
This home is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Greenvale – Barstow House
In 1863 J.S. Barstow, a China trade merchant, purchased land in Portsmouth to establish a “gentleman’s farm.” Barstow followed a formula for the how much of the land would be in gardens, orchards, livestock, etc. He was inspired by a book called Country Life by Copeland that describes the type of person (like Barstow) who would establish such a farm as a man who craves occupation as well as recreation. “Owners of country seats in America are generally men who have retired from active business… and have something to do and to think about those avoid the evil of mental inactivity.”
Barstow’s “Stick Style” home was designed by Boston architect Sturgess who also designed a stable and barn. At Barstow’s death the house and land passed to relatives and finally to niece Charlotte Parker and her husband Major General James Parker. When the Parkers retired in 1918, the came back to a property that had been neglected and revived the farm. The property is owned by members of the Parker family today and has been re-purposed as a Greenvale Vineyard. Although you can’t tour the Barstow house itself, you can visit the stables that have been restored and redesigned as a Wine Tasting House.
Nichols – Overing House – Prescott Farm
This house is known not for the importance of its owners, but for a daring deed in the Revolutionary War. It was probably built by Jonathan Nichols before 1750. The Nichols family owned it until 1765 when John Nichol’s widow sold to Peleg Thurston. A “mansion” is listed on the property as part of the land transfer. Both John and Jonathan Nichols served as Deputy Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island. Thurston was merchant who might have been involved in privateering. After Thurston’s death in 1770, his widow sold the property to Henry John Overing. Overing was a “sugar baker” who refined raw sugar into loaves. Overing was loyal to England and when the British invaded Aquidneck Island in 1776, Overing’s farm was a headquarters for General Richard Prescott. In July of 1777, American Col. Barton and his men silently rowed across to Portsmouth from Warwick. They overcame the sentry without a shot and captured General Prescott. Prescott later came back to the island. He was exchanged for a Col Lee – an American held by the British. The whole “caper” raised the spirits of the Americans.
Overing seems to have sailed for England in 1783. Overing’s wife kept the house until 1796. The house was sold to her son-in-law, Thomas Handy. He sold the house to the Briggs family in 1797, but Thomas and Mary Handy lived as tenants on the farm. The Briggs sold to Asher Robbins, and in 1803 it was sold to Benjamin Pages. There were other owners along the way. Bradford Norman picked up the property in 1927 and his daughter, Barbara Norman Cook (aka Kitty Mouse) owned the house until she sold it to the Doris Duke’s Newport Restoration Foundation in 1970.
Most residents of Portsmouth will know him as Henry F Anthony since many attended the school named in his honor. It is now simply called Anthony House. Mr. Anthony was honored in this way for his 53 years of service on the school Committee. He served many of these years as the chairman.The David Anthony homestead, featured in our 2016 exhibit, was the place of his October 1863 birth. Hemarried Martha Elliott in 1896 and died in 1947.
It is uncertain if Mr. Anthony moved to 65 West Main Road as a single man in 1894 or if he waited until his marriage 2 years later. The homestead had been sold to Benjamin Hall in 1894 but both Hall and Anthony paid joint taxes on property in Portsmouth into the 1920s. The 1860 map that hangs on the wall at the Portsmouth Historical Society shows the homestead labeled ‘D. Anthony’. David Anthony was Henry Franklin Anthony’s grandfather Across the street and slightly to the south 3 structures are indicated on the map. They are not drawn to scale or labeled with names. The old Brownell farmhouse, no longer there, is likely the one in the middle. The structure to the south could be the Hall home built about 1810. The third and most northerly of the three is likely 64 West Main Road.
Our interest in this home began with a baggage tag that was found in the wall by the current owners during a remodeling of the kitchen. It was marked NY NH H RR along with smaller hallmark letters. With the assistance of Scott Czaja, a railroad tag expert, we were able to date the tag to between 1892 and 1902. This coincides with the early years of the New York, New Haven, Hartford Railroad’s takeover of the Old Colony line in Portsmouth. Mr. Czaja dated the tag based on the following evidence:
- The American Railway Supply Company, a common maker of tags, started business in 1892 as a successor the Hoole Baggage Check Company.
- The hallmark on our tag AM RY S CO NY was found on the earlier bag tags produced by that company. In 1902 the brass tags went out of favor. Cardstock was far cheaper to produce and the number of locations nationally was too large to support brass tags.
Henry “Frank” Anthony was both station agent and married between these dates so it is probable that it was he who placed the baggage claim medallion in the wall during an expansion or remodeling of his home.
The brass baggage tag on display has one slot. This is the claim tag. A two slotted tag would have an identical number. At check in it would be attached to the baggage and the passenger would retain the other tag. The passenger would then produce their tag at their destination to retrieve their baggage. LOCAL is stamped into the brass. This designation refers to travel on just the railroad listed. The passengers, and their baggage, were not going on a trip that involved a transfer to another line.
Once we told the current home owners that we were following research to prove that their home once belonged to station agent Henry F Anthony, they were able to make sense of three letters that were visible on the garage floor. Their meaning had previously been a mystery but now they realized that the letters were initials that survived 69 years after Mr. Anthony’s death. HFA, still visible in the cement of the garage floor, is not carved or painted but rather appears to be etched or imprinted. Surrounding the monogram is the faint outline of a rectangle sized about 1’x3’. Also visible are two fastener holes. Could it be that a box was once attached to the floor and some substance was applied to etch the initials into the cement?
What was 64 West Main Road’s previous history? We know little of the house history before Mr.Anthony took occupancy. If it truly dates to 1860 and is the one depicted in the 1860 map, then it had a previous owner. Since HFA’s father, Asa, and grandfather, David, owned 65 acres in the area of Bristol Ferry and East Main roads it is possible that it is even older than 1860 and was a smaller home once used by members of the family before the homestead was built. It has been conjectured that it might have been built at the same time as the homestead, circa 1860, and used in conjunction with the main house.
Stories about the residence abound, with a common thread that it was once used as a stop on theUnderground Railroad. This is a subject for further research since it is very plausible for the following reasons. The Anthony’s were Quakers, a religious group known for abolitionist ties. And there is a tiny walled off section of the attic that could serve as a hiding place. From about 1830 Rhode Island is documented to have been very active in abolition movement and the Underground Railroad. Yet this will be difficult to research since little documentation exists. It was a quiet practice especially following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850. Abolitionists faced fines of $1000 and six months in jail if they were caught harboring fugitives. Records were purposely destroyed in an attempt to protect those involved. If this can be documented it will prove very interesting since those who harbored slaves escaping to the north were called ‘station agents’. The house will then have served two station agents spanning 100 years.