sherman mill001

Sherman’s Mill in its Lehigh Hill site.

Grain bag from Thurston's Mill

Grain bag from Thurston’s Mill


Boyd’s Mill on its Mill Lane and West Main Road site.

Middletown may have the windmill on its town seal, but Portsmouth had its share of wind powered and gasoline powered grist mills. Butts Hill was known as “Windmill Hill” on some of our oldest maps. Quaker Hill had up to three windmills at one time or another. The gristmills were part of the fabric of Portsmouth society, but as more grain was imported from the American West, local farmers turned to growing vegetables for market.  In 1901 five mills were still turning in Portsmouth. What happened to our windmills?  You can see two of them in preserved in Middletown. The mill now at Prescott Farm made the rounds of a few locations before being restored by the Newport Restoration Foundation.  It was built in Warren in 1813, moved to the Highlands area of Fall River and then moved by Robert Sherman to Quaker Hill.  Articles in the Newport Mercury from 1871 place the mill in Portsmouth and report that the mill was severely damaged by a storm.  Later Benjamin Hall bought the mill and got it back in operation at Lehigh Hill off of East Main Road.  The mill passed through other hands and was damaged in the 1938 hurricane.  In 1968, Doris Duke and the Newport Restoration Foundation purchased the mill and painstakingly unassembled it for a move down to Prescott Farm. Unlike many of the other mills, Boyd’s Mill was built in Portsmouth and stayed at he corner of Mill Lane and East Main Road for over a hundred years.  The wood for the mill, however, did do some traveling.  Portsmouth was still recovering from the devastation to its trees by the British occupying forces during the Revolutionary War.  The wood for the mill construction was cut in Wickford and ferried across the bay.  Some of the wood was recycled from owner John Peterson’s damaged schooner.  After five years the mill transferred into the hands of the Boyd family.   In its original construction, Boyd’s mill had four panes.  In 1901 one of the Boyds converted the mill to the eight panes we see now.  Later it was fitted for gasoline power.  The Middletown Historical Society has moved the mill to Paradise Park and has restored the mill to operation. Portsmouth maps from 1907 show a mill on the Thurston property just north of Union Street.  It was originally built in Little Compton but was moved to Portsmouth in 1896.  The Portsmouth Historical Society has a painting of a Glen Mill with the Thurston Mill in the background.  Thurston’s Mill may have been destroyed in a fire in the 1950s. Windmills are an important part of Portsmouth’s history.  We can be grateful that some of them still exist even if they have been lost to Portsmouth and moved to Middletown.