By 1657 most of the open land in Portsmouth was given out to freemen and inhabitants. Though Newport welcomed new settlers, Portsmouth residents were more guarded in accepting new residents. Settlers were not admitted without a vote of the town citizens. Once someone was accepted as a freeman, the town took responsibility to help them in time of need. Some colonists were given as much as 300 acres of pastureland.

There was a rule that farmers had to fence planting areas and orchards. They used stonewalls, rail fences and hedges as fences. We can still see stonewalls that mark the gardens and orchards of the old farms. By 1713 the final acres of town land were given out. This time freemen received twelve acres. In 1755 there were 1363 Portsmouth residents. Most of them were farmers. Farming continued to be an important part of Portsmouth life during colonial times.  Newport was a good market for Portsmouth farm produce, but Portsmouth farmers sold their products all along the East Coast. Animals were very important to the colonial farmers. The cattle herds did well and soon Portsmouth cattle were being sold to Boston and the Barbados in the Caribbean. Large flocks of sheep and herds of horses were common.

Mills developed to help farmers. Saw mills started as early as 1642 to saw lumber for fences and houses. Grinding corn meal was very important to farmers and early water powered gristmills began in Lawton Valley and the Glen. By 1668 the first of many Portsmouth windmills was built on the Briggs Farm. This is the Butt’s Hill area and was commonly called “Windmill Hill.”