PORTSMOUTH — With an English lord mayor coming on top of historical lectures, tours, concerts and dances, claim boils and tractor pulls, canon salutes and parades, Portsmouth 375th celebration volunteers have their work cut out for them.
At their meeting Thursday, volunteers shored up plans for numerous events while suggesting ideas for more. Their first priority, however, was making sure that three mayors from sister cities will receive a warm welcome when they arrive in town Labor Day weekend.
The committee learned this week that Lynne Stagg, who in May will be installed as lord mayor of Portsmouth, England, will attend the festivities to honor the 375th anniversary of Portsmouth’s founding.
“Two other mayors, from Portsmouth, Virginia, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, will also be here,” said Esmond “Doug” Smith, chairman of the steering committee. “Those are big cities, and they’re coming to our little town.”
Mr. Smith said volunteers are needed for a “VIP hospitality group” for pickups and to escort the dignitaries around town. “It’s got to be a classy operation,” he said, adding that the key event will be a reception at the Glen Manor House.
A delegation of local residents wants to travel to England in May to attend Ms. Stagg’s installation ceremony. The committee hopes the town will establish a “sister city” relationship with Portsmouth, England, which could lead to “economic opportunities” for both waterfront municipalities, Mr. Smith said.
Portsmouth Compact ceremony
In other 375th celebration news, the steering committee and The Town of Portsmouth will host a ceremony March 7 to mark the 375th anniversary of the signing of The Portsmouth Compact.
The event will take place at noon in the Town Council chambers at Portsmouth Town Hall, 2200 East Main Road. Everyone’s invited to attend. Later that day, at 6:30 p.m., local historian James Garman will speak on “The Portsmouth Compact: How it Came About (375 Years Ago Today),” at the Portsmouth Free Public Library, 2658 East Main Road.
Mr. Smith said the group had hoped to have the original Town Compact on display, but will settle for the next-best thing: the original town record of the document. The Artillery Company of Newport will be on hand “for color,” he said.
The Portsmouth Compact, which some argue established the first true democratic form of government, came as a result of Anne Hutchinson and some of her followers challenging the authority of the clergy who ruled over the theocratic Massachusetts Bay colony. The group of dissidents were banished from the colony and later, with help from Roger Williams, purchased Aquidneck Island from the Narragansett Indians.
On March 7, 1638 (most likely in Boston), 23 men signed the Compact, which established a “civil bodie politick” based on Christian principles but non-sectarian in governance. It also severed religious and political ties with mother England.
Mr. Smith said the document’s significance cannot be underestimated. “This thing pre-dated the Declaration of Independence by 150 years,” he said.
Among the other upcoming events tied into the 375th celebration include an Easter egg hunt at the Brown House at Glen Farm on March 30, a “Portsmouth 100 Years Ago” historical lecture on April 9 at the library, and a tour of Fort Butts and a cleanup of Founder’s Brook on May 4.
Portsmouth history collection
Have any old photos, maps or other documents of Portsmouth that have historic significance? If so, the Portsmouth Free Public Library and the Portsmouth 375th Steering Committee would love to hear from you.
The two groups are seeking donations in hopes of building a historic archive for future generations of Portsmouth residents. Plans are to digitize each image and catalog it by photographer (if known), place, person, event or time period. Then it will be added to a database that can be accessed through the library’s or Portsmouth 375’s website.
The actual photographs or postcards will be stored in archival envelopes and boxes in the library. You also have the option of just loaning the item for the digitizing process. Some maps, charts, memorabilia or other artifacts will also be considered.
The library and the 375th Steering Committee reserve the right to refuse duplicate photos and items not considered consistent with the project’s goals.
Celebration has its own coffee
Custom House Coffee, 600 Clock Tower Square, has come up with a special blend of coffee to commemorate the Portsmouth 375th celebration.
“Anniversary Roast,” described as “a bold, patritic blend to honor the founding of a great town,” is available in whole bean and ground version at the coffee shop.
A portion of the proceeds of each sale will go in a fund to preserve historic artifacts from the town.
Show your local spirit by purchasing a Portsmouth 375th T-shirt, produced by Simplicity Marketing and featuring the logo by Tom Roskelly in color on the front and logos of local supporters on the back. They’re available for $10 each and can be purchased at Clements’ Marketplace, DeCastro Farms and Karen’s Hair Design.