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Portsmouth During Revolutionary Times: What the Blaskowitz Map tells us about Northern Portsmouth

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In reading a map for information, it helps to view the map in smaller sections to pull out the information. I am focusing on the Northern portion of the town – basically Sprague Street and north. As I view the map I try to put elements into categories. I encourage my readers to view the map and let me know what they see that I have missed.

Transportation -Roads

Looking at today’s map as well as the Blaskowitz Map, these are the roads I see. Blaskowitz does not label the roads, so I will use today’s labels

Park Avenue which would head toward the Howland Ferry

Bristol Ferry Road which would head toward the Bristol Ferry

Part of Boyd’s Lane

Sprague Street

Child Street

Anthony Road

East Main Road

West Main Road

Water Street

Transportation: Ferries

Bristol Ferry which was the main route to Bristol and the North

Howland Ferry which was the main route to Tiverton and Massachusetts to the East

Military Sites: Batteries

Blaskowitz noted where Americans had placed defenses before the Occupation, but he also includes British battery along East Main Road to the north of Sprague Street.

Howland Ferry Battery: This is an important place for the Americans who used this narrow area as a point to move their troops onto the island and when the battle was done to escape off the Island to Tiverton and the safety of Fort Barton.

Bristol Ferry Battery: Edward Field’s paper on Revolutionary Defenses a diagram of the Fort at Bristol Ferry. See Reference below.

Farmers and Farms

Mr. Scott’s farm was located between Child Street and Park Avenue. I could not find information on Mr. Scott, but he may have been a Newport merchant and or Captain who had a country farm in Portsmouth. He was not included in the 1778 tax roll.

Isaac Lawton’s farm was located around East Main Road heading toward Boyd’s Lane. Isaac is active in the Quaker church. After the War for Independence many Quakers began to give up their slaves and Isaac’s widow, Mary Fish Lawton, was among those who freed her slave.

Geographic Features

To the East: Common Fence Point, Spectacle Island, Sherman’s Point, Hen Island, Town Pond, Pocasset River

To the West: Arnold’s Point, Shoal by Bristol Ferry that is part dry at Spring Tides

Man-Made Features

To the East: Bridge by Park Avenue, Wharf by Howland Ferry

To the West: Windmill by Bristol Ferry Road

Distribution of Homes

Where did Portsmouth residents live? In this section of the map there are two basic communities. The largest collection of homes was in the Bristol Ferry Road neighborhood. This was one of the earliest areas established when the original land grants were given out. This would have been a high volume transportation route, so there were accommodations for travelers, taverns and other commercial properties here. The second community seems to be in what is called the Newtown area around Child Street and between East Main Road and Water Street. This was an area established when the Town Pond became silted up in 1728 and the original settlement around Anthony Road were abandoned.

Resources Used:

REVOLUTIONARY DEFENCES
IN
RHODE ISLAND
AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE FORTIFICATIONS AND BEACONS ERECTED DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, WITH MUSTER ROLLS OF THE COMPANIES STATIONED ALONG THE
SHORES OF NARRAGANSETT BAY
BY
EDWARD FIELD
PAST PRESIDENT OF THE RHODE ISLAND SOCIETY OF THE SONS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
WITH MAPS, PLANS, AND ILLUSTRATIONS
PROVIDENCE, R.I. PRESTON AND ROUNDS 1896

Light Keeper’s Quarters

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Plans in the PHS collections.

The plans of the Musselbed Shoal Light show the quarters for the lighthouse keeper.  The keeper led an isolated life.  Most keepers held the post for only a short time.  A few of them lasted as long as ten years.

Plans for Musslebed Shoal Light

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The plans for the later Musselbed Shoal Lighthouse are part of the collection of the Portsmouth Historical Society. These are plans for the 1877 lighthouse. Ice floes moved the entire structure of the original lighthouse.    The stone pier was enlarged to protect the structure, but this house was also damaged by ice and hurricanes.  The fog bell was mounted on the roof.

Plans for the Musselbed Shoal Light in PHS collection