Portsmouth Historical Society

Portsmouth Historical Society

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Please join the 54th Regiment of Foot at Fort Butts on June 6th. We will be on site from 10an to 3pm. The 54th will be drilling on the parade field of the fort in full kit and uniform. The 54th RoF was stationed on Aquidneck Island during the British Occupation of Newport during the American Revolution. We hope to see you there.
Link to John Mann Murals, Ma & RI Indian Life
https://spark.adobe.com/page/ANvMt9J6aQffH/
Fall River, Ma Matthew J. Kuss Middle School
Catch me next Saturday at Portsmouth main library from 2-3pm
#HonorTheAncestors #TheyWillHonorYou #LivingHistory #Storytelling
The Gosport Liners - have a sneaky peek inside the book
Does anyone know whether there is a house still standing on East Main that belonged to Sampson Sherman/Shearman back around 1800?
Due to a heating issue at the Portsmouth Free Public Library (which has been closed for the day), the book club discussion on "King Philip's War" by Eric B Schultz and Michael J Tougias has been postponed until next Monday evening, Oct 29th, from 6 to 7:30 PM.

The library still has copies available if you want to come-another week to read!
Looking for a little information. I have found that my grandparents 1918 address was listed as "Coal Mines". I did find a postcard with a picture of the homes. On the back it says that they were located at Lehigh Hill. Where would that be on today's map?
Hello,
I am trying to contact a manager regarding field trip options. If you can have them email me ([email protected]) at their earliest convenience I would greatly appreciate it.
Cheers!
Chris
34th Beirut Bombing Memorial
Observance ceremony
Monday 10-23-2017
10:00 sharp upstairs Chapel
Wreath laying after indoor portion
Refreshments provided following the ceremony
By Gold Star relative's

The Portsmouth Historical Society is a non-profit volunteer entity devoted to the preservation of Portsmouth's historic buildings, sites, and artifacts.

The Portsmouth Historical Society has worked to preserve the Christian Union Church (1865) as its headquarters and museum by using grants from the Champlin Foundations. The cataloging of items and the creation of exhibits using the various artifacts collected over the past 60 years is an ongoing process. The Southermost School (1725) was moved to the Portsmouth Historical Society site in 1952. It

Temporarily closed

David Gifford and the Portsmouth Militia 06/13/2021

David Gifford and the Portsmouth Militia

Documents at the Portsmouth Historical Society lead us to some interesting stories. Captain David Gifford's story helps us understand more about the Portsmouth militia.

David Gifford and the Portsmouth Militia The Portsmouth Historical Society has a rich collection of documents dating from the 1600s and 1700s, but we have very few documents from the Revolutionary War Era. War came to Portsmouth on Decemb…

Butts Hill Fort in Portsmouth now part of national historic trail 06/07/2021

Butts Hill Fort in Portsmouth now part of national historic trail

The Butts Hill Fort committee has been working to accomplish its goals.

Butts Hill Fort in Portsmouth now part of national historic trail PORTSMOUTH — The National Parks Service has made Butts Hill Fort a location on the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail. The Butts Hill Fort …

Butts Hill Fort Development: Rebel, British, French, American 06/06/2021

Butts Hill Fort Development: Rebel, British, French, American

The Portsmouth Historical Society is spearheading efforts to preserve and protect the Butts Hill Fort area. How did it become the shape we see today?

Butts Hill Fort Development: Rebel, British, French, American As we look to restoring Butts Hill Fort, one question that comes up is how the fort developed in the first place. The Diary of Frederick Mackenzie * in combination with the Revolutionary Era maps o…

Butts Hill Fort: A Land History – From War for Independence to Today 05/29/2021

Butts Hill Fort: A Land History – From War for Independence to Today

Our Butts Hill Fort Timeline is still a work in progress. We are still trying to sort out which families owned the property after the War for Independence. Hall and Dyer family genealogists, can you help us?

Butts Hill Fort: A Land History – From War for Independence to Today During the War for Independence the hill that was known as Butts Hill or Windmill Hill became the location of Butts Hill Fort. The location provided a commanding view of the Eastern and Western sid…

05/27/2021

Happy Birthday to Julia Ward Howe, who was born on this day in 1819. One of Portsmouth's most accomplished residents, she is best known as the author of "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Her writing desk is one of the most special items in our collection!

Happy Birthday to Julia Ward Howe, who was born on this day in 1819. One of Portsmouth's most accomplished residents, she is best known as the author of "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Her writing desk is one of the most special items in our collection!

Briggs Hill, Windmill Hill, Butts Hill: Part 1 of A Land History 05/21/2021

Briggs Hill, Windmill Hill, Butts Hill: Part 1 of A Land History

Our Land History of the Butts Hill Fort area is still a work in progress. Portsmouth families - Briggs, Durfee, Cory, Bennett, Earle, do you have some information that can help complete this history.

Briggs Hill, Windmill Hill, Butts Hill: Part 1 of A Land History As we look to preserving the earthworks Butts Hill Fort, I wondered about the land history. Who ow?ed this piece of land we are trying to preserve? How has this tract of land been used throughout P…

Occupied Portsmouth: The Redcoats Chopped all the Wood in Sight 05/16/2021

Occupied Portsmouth: The Redcoats Chopped all the Wood in Sight

The British occupation of Portsmouth meant all our timber, orchards, wooden fences, and wagons were used for firewood. It was hard to keep warm in the winter.

Occupied Portsmouth: The Redcoats Chopped all the Wood in Sight A number of years ago I was privileged to take a tour of the Glen with arborist Matt Largess. He commented that the Glen itself was one of the few areas on the island with old growth trees because …

Photos from Portsmouth Police RI's post 05/10/2021

Happy 100th Anniversary to the Portsmouth Police Department!

Anne Hutchinson School Dedication 1928 05/09/2021

Anne Hutchinson School Dedication 1928

A little information about the Anne Hutchinson School

Anne Hutchinson School Dedication 1928 Anne Hutchinson School has been in the news lately. I had little information about the school itself, but I have been looking through a folder of old clippings on loan from Jim Garman, and I came a…

Portsmouth Historical Society updated their business hours. 05/05/2021

Portsmouth Historical Society updated their business hours.

Portsmouth Historical Society updated their business hours.

Photos from Portsmouth Historical Society's post 05/05/2021

Dorr Rebellion Lecture

Please join us on May 19th at 6:30 PM on the second floor of the museum for a fascinating lecture on the Dorr Rebellion by guest speaker Russell De Simone. Free to members, $5 non-members; email [email protected] to reserve a space.

In 1842, RI had two governors, resulting in a military clash that is referred to as RI's very own, very small Civil War. Dorr, the “People’s Governor,” forcibly tried to implement the People’s Constitution, which he believed had replaced the antiquated colonial Charter. The Dorr Rebellion raised profound questions of citizenship, political freedom, and the rights of Man.

Russell DeSimone is a native Rhode Islander, and a lifelong student of Rhode Island History. Among his many works is co-author of Broadsides of the Dorr Rebellion, and author of The Dorr Rebellion Chronicled in Ballads and Poetry, and in 2005 curated “Thomas Wilson Dorr – A Bicentennial Birthday Tribute”.

Occupied Portsmouth: British and Hessian Encampments from Mackenzie’s Diary 05/01/2021

Occupied Portsmouth: British and Hessian Encampments from Mackenzie’s Diary

We are researching Portsmouth during the War for Independence. Restoring Butts Hill Fort is one of our goals for the future.

Occupied Portsmouth: British and Hessian Encampments from Mackenzie’s Diary The diary of Frederick Mackenzie gives us a remarkable record of what was happening in Portsmouth during the British Occupation of Aquidneck Island (December 8, 1776 to October 1779). Mackenzie pro…

Town Pond Through the Years 04/23/2021

Town Pond Through the Years

In Portsmouth we are fortunate to still have some historic landscapes. Town Pond is one of those and the Portsmouth Conservation Commission is leading a "Walk and Talk" tomorrow at 11 AM at the pond. If you can't go tomorrow, this blog will give you some of the historical background and vintage maps of the area. If you can go, the blog will let you see the maps that are a key to understanding the pond through the years. https://portsmouthhistorynotes.com/2021/04/18/town-pond-through-the-years/

Town Pond Through the Years Have you walked by Town Pond lately? It is so quiet and nature filled it is hard to imagine that Town Pond was once a hub of the early Portsmouth settlement. Many people assume Anne Hutchinson and …

04/18/2021

Town Pond is a hidden gem. Take a short walk (about a mile to the railway tracks and back) to learn about the history and ecology of the area.

Town Pond is a hidden gem. Take a short walk (about a mile to the railway tracks and back) to learn about the history and ecology of the area.

03/27/2021

Notable Portsmouth Women: Dorothy Jackson Edwards.
Portsmouth has had a tradition of women that stepped into leadership roles. Dorothy Jackson Edwards is a prime example. There weren’t many women in politics when Edwards, a Republican, ran for office in 1966. Against all odds, Dorothy won the District 94 seat and she held that seat until 1980. She worked to pass bills that made a difference to her constituents. Among them were bills to study traffic patterns on the Mt. Hope Bridge, authorize the town to issue bonds for a municipal complex, establish a probate court, to control subdivisions and provide property tax exemptions for seniors and veterans in Portsmouth. She worked to bring the drinking age back to 21 years old.

After she left the legislature, she was elected to the Portsmouth Town Council and became President of the Council in 1985.

Dorothy Edwards died last year at the age of 96. Her example still encourages Portsmouth women to see politics as a way to serve the Portsmouth community.

Photo from her family scrapbook.

Notable Portsmouth Women: Dorothy Jackson Edwards.
Portsmouth has had a tradition of women that stepped into leadership roles. Dorothy Jackson Edwards is a prime example. There weren’t many women in politics when Edwards, a Republican, ran for office in 1966. Against all odds, Dorothy won the District 94 seat and she held that seat until 1980. She worked to pass bills that made a difference to her constituents. Among them were bills to study traffic patterns on the Mt. Hope Bridge, authorize the town to issue bonds for a municipal complex, establish a probate court, to control subdivisions and provide property tax exemptions for seniors and veterans in Portsmouth. She worked to bring the drinking age back to 21 years old.

After she left the legislature, she was elected to the Portsmouth Town Council and became President of the Council in 1985.

Dorothy Edwards died last year at the age of 96. Her example still encourages Portsmouth women to see politics as a way to serve the Portsmouth community.

Photo from her family scrapbook.

03/24/2021

Notable Portsmouth Women: Mary Chase Hanks, farmer and artist. Many of us remember Mary Chase Hanks and her farm stand on East Main Road. A 1994 Daily News article by R. Reiner gives us good background on Mary Chase Hanks. At the time Mary was growing peaches, pears, tomatoes, peppers, berries, flowers and corn and selling them at her "Stonewall Stand" on East Main Road. Mary was using organic techniques and was quoted as saying, "I like natural things, the natural way of preserving life and doing things that's going to help the other fellow." She didn't use herbicides or insecticides. That was the Chase farm way since before the Civil War. Mary stated that the farm was once part of her great-great-grandfather Samuel Chase's much larger farm. Frank Chase inherited part of that farm - around 18 acres of it from Quaker Hill to Bloody Run Brook. In 2002 Mary hosted a class of Elmhurst students who were learning about farming in Portsmouth. The fact that both Mary and the organic farmer who was farming on her land were women was a great delight to the girls in the class. Mary told the students about traditional farming methods and Nicole Vitello of Manic Organic shared her methods. The students were surprised that both women shared similar methods. Women have been part of Portsmouth's farming heritage throughout the years.

Mary Chase Hanks was dedicated to farming on her father's side, but she was also artistic like her mother. She earned a degree in commercial art, but didn't use her training for a while. She married and went on to raising four children in California. She became a portrait painter with children as her subjects.

Notable Portsmouth Women: Mary Chase Hanks, farmer and artist. Many of us remember Mary Chase Hanks and her farm stand on East Main Road. A 1994 Daily News article by R. Reiner gives us good background on Mary Chase Hanks. At the time Mary was growing peaches, pears, tomatoes, peppers, berries, flowers and corn and selling them at her "Stonewall Stand" on East Main Road. Mary was using organic techniques and was quoted as saying, "I like natural things, the natural way of preserving life and doing things that's going to help the other fellow." She didn't use herbicides or insecticides. That was the Chase farm way since before the Civil War. Mary stated that the farm was once part of her great-great-grandfather Samuel Chase's much larger farm. Frank Chase inherited part of that farm - around 18 acres of it from Quaker Hill to Bloody Run Brook. In 2002 Mary hosted a class of Elmhurst students who were learning about farming in Portsmouth. The fact that both Mary and the organic farmer who was farming on her land were women was a great delight to the girls in the class. Mary told the students about traditional farming methods and Nicole Vitello of Manic Organic shared her methods. The students were surprised that both women shared similar methods. Women have been part of Portsmouth's farming heritage throughout the years.

Mary Chase Hanks was dedicated to farming on her father's side, but she was also artistic like her mother. She earned a degree in commercial art, but didn't use her training for a while. She married and went on to raising four children in California. She became a portrait painter with children as her subjects.

03/22/2021

Notable Portsmouth Women: Barbara Norman Cook aka "Kittymouse." As you pass by the Prescott House on the Portsmouth/Middletown border by West Main Road, you might think of it as the location of the famous raid of Colonel Barton to capture British General Prescott during the Revolutionary War. There is a strong Portsmouth woman associated with that house as well. Her name was Barbara Norman Cook, aka “Kitty Mouse” Cook. Barbara was born in Newport and she was the granddaughter of George Norman who founded the Newport Water Works. The Norman family was a major property owner in Portsmouth and owned land from the Middletown boarder to Redwood Farms. Barbara’s father was Bradford Norman. He owned Brook Farm and across the street the old Overing Property. He willed his property on the east side of West Main Road to his daughter. In his will, he referred to this property as “Prescott Place.” By the time that Barbara Norman Cook came into the property in 1949, the farm included roughly 33 acres.
Barbara Norman married Daniel W. Jones in 1918 and the two moved to Portsmouth in 1930. Both were co-administrators for the National Recovery Act under President Franklin Roosevelt and both were active in the Democratic Party. Jones died in 1942, and Barbara married Benjamin Ladd Cook, Sr. in 1943. She continued her wartime work, this time hosting a half-hour morning radio show telling listeners how to use their ration coupons. She was active in civic organizations like the American Cancer Society, League of Women Voters, Birth Control League, Boys Club and the Newport Music Festival. Barbara was one of the seven founders of the Portsmouth Historical Society and was awarded lifetime membership in the society.
Barbara bought the Lawton Valley Glen area from her grandfather’s estate in 1952. She hoped to preserve the property for recreation. It had long been a popular picnic spot and Boy Scout camping area.
Barbara Norman Cook lived in her Prescott Place house until 1969, when she sold it to Doris Duke for the sum of $475,000. Doris Duke then deeded the property to the Newport Restoration Foundation in 1970. The home is a rental property now and not open to public view, but the Newport Restoration Foundation has established Prescott Farm on the Middletown side of the property. Old Portsmouth buildings have been moved there as well as the Sherman Windmill. This area is open to the public as well as lovely hiking trails in the back of the property.

Notable Portsmouth Women: Barbara Norman Cook aka "Kittymouse." As you pass by the Prescott House on the Portsmouth/Middletown border by West Main Road, you might think of it as the location of the famous raid of Colonel Barton to capture British General Prescott during the Revolutionary War. There is a strong Portsmouth woman associated with that house as well. Her name was Barbara Norman Cook, aka “Kitty Mouse” Cook. Barbara was born in Newport and she was the granddaughter of George Norman who founded the Newport Water Works. The Norman family was a major property owner in Portsmouth and owned land from the Middletown boarder to Redwood Farms. Barbara’s father was Bradford Norman. He owned Brook Farm and across the street the old Overing Property. He willed his property on the east side of West Main Road to his daughter. In his will, he referred to this property as “Prescott Place.” By the time that Barbara Norman Cook came into the property in 1949, the farm included roughly 33 acres.
Barbara Norman married Daniel W. Jones in 1918 and the two moved to Portsmouth in 1930. Both were co-administrators for the National Recovery Act under President Franklin Roosevelt and both were active in the Democratic Party. Jones died in 1942, and Barbara married Benjamin Ladd Cook, Sr. in 1943. She continued her wartime work, this time hosting a half-hour morning radio show telling listeners how to use their ration coupons. She was active in civic organizations like the American Cancer Society, League of Women Voters, Birth Control League, Boys Club and the Newport Music Festival. Barbara was one of the seven founders of the Portsmouth Historical Society and was awarded lifetime membership in the society.
Barbara bought the Lawton Valley Glen area from her grandfather’s estate in 1952. She hoped to preserve the property for recreation. It had long been a popular picnic spot and Boy Scout camping area.
Barbara Norman Cook lived in her Prescott Place house until 1969, when she sold it to Doris Duke for the sum of $475,000. Doris Duke then deeded the property to the Newport Restoration Foundation in 1970. The home is a rental property now and not open to public view, but the Newport Restoration Foundation has established Prescott Farm on the Middletown side of the property. Old Portsmouth buildings have been moved there as well as the Sherman Windmill. This area is open to the public as well as lovely hiking trails in the back of the property.

Photos from Portsmouth Historical Society's post 03/20/2021

Notable Portsmouth Women: Scout leaders Gertrude Macomber and Ruth Earle.

Gertrude Macomber was leading the “Bluebird” Girl Scout troop in Portsmouth in 1921. She wasn’t alone in this effort. Fifteen women met in 1922 to form a troop committee to aid the Portsmouth scouting movement. They lent their support to provide money and assistance to Gertrude and the thirty-five girls who regularly attended the weekly meetings.

In a 1923 Newport Mercury article we find ladies formally calling themselves “The Portsmouth Girl Scout Aides.” These women were meeting to support the efforts of a Girl Scout troop in Portsmouth and “Captain” Gertrude Macomber gave a talk on her recent camp and convention experiences in Washington. Newspaper accounts show the Girl Scouts engaging in some creative activities. A Girl Scout Circus was held in 1925. Miss Mary Chase acted as ringmaster. There was a chariot race between two girls in kiddie cars and Marjorie Hall did a tight rope act with the rope stretched over the floor. The girls played homemade musical instruments made from curtain rods, funnels and frying pans. There was a parade with animals like monkeys and ducks – perhaps girls in costumes?
By 1926 the Girl Scouts had grown large enough to have two patrols in the troop. The “Monkey Patrol” had a campsite at Gertrude’s home to work toward a cook badge. Gladys Gibson made a meatloaf, Hope Manchester made a fruit salad, baking powder biscuits were created by Margaret Martin and a mystery cake was make by Ruth Peckham.

Ruth Peckham would become Ruth Earle, known as “Jolly”. Ruth had spent 33 years devoted to the Girl Scouts. She even went to Venezuela as a trainer.

Many of us in Portsmouth remember Ruth as a fixture at Sandy Point Beach during the summer. As of 1973 she had spent 25 years with the water safety program. Ruth taught countless numbers of Portsmouth children how to swim. She continued teaching swimming and water safety at the Boys Club in Newport and she taught an adapted swim program at the Howard Johnson Pool for those who needed the extra attention.

Some called her “Mrs. Red Cross” for her dedication to first aid. She went into schools to teach children to appreciate and care for their pets.

Ruth served the adult community in Portsmouth as well. Ruth Earl died in 1999, but she will be remembered for her service to Portsmouth and to our children.

Our Story

The Portsmouth Historical Society has worked to preserve the Christian Union Church (1865) as its headquarters and museum by using grants from the Champlin Foundations. The cataloging of items and the creation of exhibits using the various artifacts collected over the past 60 years is an ongoing process.

The Southermost School (1725) was moved to the Portsmouth Historical Society site in 1952. It has been entered on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Old Town Hall (c. 1850) was moved to the Portsmouth Historical Society site in 1975.

The Board of Directors meets on the third Monday of each month at 5:15 PM at the Portsmouth Historical Society Museum.

The Portsmouth Historical Society:
Provides programs of interest about Portsmouth to the public;
Has provided assistance with genealogical searches and property identification;
Has provided tours of various historical sites;

Videos (show all)

Let's Restore the Fort Aug 19, 2020
Portsmouth Historical Society on the Road:  Prescott House
Portsmouth Historical Society on the Road:  Ft. Butts
Portsmouth Historical Society On the Road:  Founder's Brook
It was a beautiful day to have Portsmouth Art Guild artists painting around the Portsmouth Historical Society.  This eve...

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Products

Some small Portsmouth related items are available for sale in the museum during open business hours on Sundays, 2-5, May-October.

Telephone

Address


870 E Main Rd
Portsmouth, RI
02871
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