1860 Aquidneck map showing Howe property.

We know that Julia Ward Howe’s second Portsmouth home was Oak Glen on Union Street. Where was her first home? She started coming for her Portsmouth summers in the 1850s. The 1860 map that hangs on the wall at the Portsmouth Historical Society provides the answer.  It was on West Main Road, north of the Cornell property and in Lawton’s Valley.  In fact it was not very far from the Town Poor Farm.

Writing in her memoir, Reminiscences, and quoted in her daughter’s book – This Was My Newport – we know how the Howe’s came to own the home. She was writing about a notorious real estate agent named Alfred Smith.  Smith would entrap strangers in his gig (a light two-wheeled open carriage), drive them out to one of his properties and pressure them to purchase the property.  Julia says that “This lovely little estate (Lawton’s Valley) had come to us almost fortuitously.”  “In the summer of 1852 my husband became one of his victims… I say this because Dr. Howe made the purchase without much deliberation.”

Julia’s money was used to buy the property, but it was put in Samuel Gridley Howe’s name.  Later he would sell it just as abruptly as he bought it – and without Julia’s knowledge or agreement.  Thankfully, they later bought the Oak Glen property that we know today and Julia spent her last years there.

Note:  page 171 – This Was My Newport by Maud Howe Elliott, 1944.