Cundall’s Mills in the Glen

Painting of early Glen mill found in the attic of the "Durfee Tea House."

Painting of early Glen mill found in the attic of the “Durfee Tea House.”

Courier and Ives view of picnicking in the Glen in the 1850’s

At the historical cemetery, the Cundall family stones led us to uncover another tragedy during what would become the Glen mill days. 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” becames 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 from the mill. His gravestone is easily read in the old cemetery with a death date of December 24, 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. We think of Slater and his mills in Pawtucket, but Portsmouth had these, too. Factories constructed of stone were located in the Glen until the Civil War but no trace remains. The stone structure in the Glen now is a later Glen Farm building.

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.

A “mill” building can be seen from Glen Farm Rd opposite the entrance of the barn complex. This building was raised on the foundations of an older mill site, but it does not date from mill days. The mill buildings appear on various maps as located on either side of the brook. We have a few images of some of the mill structures and we can imagine the mill pond through drawings and photographs. What is left today is the stonework mill runs that channel the brook down to the river. Unfortunately this beautiful part of the Glen is in private hands now.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Glen Farm, The Glen

One Comment on “Cundall’s Mills in the Glen”


  1. Reblogged this on portsmouthhistorynotes and commented:

    The landscape of the Glen provides a special place where you can see Portsmouth history.


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