A “glen”is a secluded narrow valley. That is an apt description of the heart of our Glen district in Portsmouth. The “Glen” and Glen Road appear on colonial maps of Portsmouth. Early land grants gave the Glen area to William Brenton. His large farm grant stretched from just below McCorrie Point (they called it Sandy Point) to Hutchinson land at our Sandy Point (they called it Little Sandy Point). He called his farm “Middleford Farm” and Glen Road was the approach to it.  Early town records show a land sale by Brenton to Thomas Cooke on October 25, 1649. Brenton reserves the right to a “cart way” through the land to carry hay from the water to his farm. Cooke and his family had moved to Portsmouth in 1643. In 1648 Cook is listed in the Town Council records as receiving 30 acres of a land grant on which he built his house in the area we call “The Glen.”  This property ran

toward Mr. Burtun’s ferry which may be an early name for the Fogland Ferry near the foot of Glen Road. In 1649 Cooke bought the adjacent land from Brenton.  In 1655 Thomas Cooke Sr. builds his home on the site of the present day Glen Manor House. Cooke’s son and grandson bought land around it and the family was very active in Portsmouth life.  In 1657 Thomas Cooke, Jr. sold part of his land to Giles Slocum. The border of that property was called “the brook” and we know it as the stream that runs through the Glen.   John Randall also sells Slocum a piece of land he had bought from Thomas Cook Jr.  This land is around the Slocum graveyard and current Glen barns. In 1668 records show that the Cooke family ferries cattle, sheep and horses daily for grazing from what is now the Glen Manor House dock area to

Cook Lands and Ferry

The Cook family began to ferry their animals to Fogland to graze during the day.

Fogland in Tiverton.

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 sells a portion of his land to James Sisson. By 1745 Sisson had a water powered grist mill to grind corn on the brook in the Glen. Revolutionary War era maps show the location of that mill as just east of Glen Farm Road and the barn complex. James Sisson then sells his mill and 46 acres around the brook to Joseph Cundall. What we call “the Glen” becomes 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 a young person could 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. Old local history books tell the tragic story of his son Joseph who got lost in a Christmas Eve snowstorm and died on his way home in 1811.

By 1815 the mills and the land are in the hands of Judge Samual Clarke, whose wife Barbary was a Cundall. The mill was still known as Cundall’s Mills and he advertised that he bought a new carding machine and could dye wool. He advertised that he could manufacture cashmeres, flannels and satinets. The land transfers are hard to follow, but by 1823 the mills were on the auction block and the inventory lists a gristmill and clothier works with looms and spinning machines.

Currier and Ives print of the Glen as picnic area

Local historian Rev. Edward Petersen wrote in 1853: “Cundall’s Mills is one of the most romantic spots on the island, and has become a general resort of strangers, who visit Newport in summer, to enjoy the salubrity of its climate and its picturesque scenery.” Artists Currier and Ives even illustrated a picnic at the Glen in 1860. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s diaries record an 1852 visit.: “Then we drove to the Glen, and walked down a lovely little valley, with a brown brook threading it and a silent mill, to the sea shore; a charming secluded nook.” The Glen was a popular spot to enjoy nature, take a walk, paint and even write poetry. Visitors would often enjoy a stop at Mrs. Durfee’s Tea House on the way home.

Down in the Glen today. Remains of Glen Farm power station in view.

The Glen land was divided and re-divided into small farms. On September 28, 1882 Halsey P. Coon sold his “Glen Farm” to H.A.C. Taylor. The land evidence records note that it was a parcel of land with “two dwelling houses, a grist mill, two barns, two cribs and other out buildings.” The tract of land was about 111 acres of land. The “Glen” is a traditional name for the area and Taylor continued to call it “Glen Farm.”  In the hands of the Taylor family, the farm grew in value, prestige and land area. What H.A.C. Taylor did in his land purchases, was to make a large gentleman’s farm from all the smaller farms in the area.  The Taylors would go on to buy the farms or house lots of Howard Smith, Harriet Smyth, Frank Smith, Wm. Ware, Mary B. Field, Frederick Field, Charles Slocum, the Cundall family, Leonard Brown, William Coggeshall, William Chase, William Sisson and the Durfee Tea House lot.  H.A.C Taylor’s son Moses and daughter-in-law Edith Bishop Taylor would continue to grow the property until it was 1500 acres. After H.A.C. Taylor’s daughter-in-law Edith Taylor Nicholson died in 1959 the property was again broken up and sold. Much of the land is in housing developments. Other pieces are planted with nursery stock but the Glen brook area itself remains in private hands.  Thankfully the people of Portsmouth are the owners of two very special pieces of Glen. The Glen is still a popular recreation site for our town.