Here are excerpts from an e-mail received on September 22, 1997 from Stephen Thomas Lawton, creator of the Lawton Ledger, regarding the Old Stone Mill in Newport, Rhode Island:

Hello genealogy buffs,

...I suspect all members by now have received the September issue of Lawton Ledger in good order.  Many have commented on the article about the Old Stone Mill. (a more comprehensive article was published in the Spring 1996 issue) It's a fascinating subject, and quite controversial, especially around Newport.  The good news is that they're at least closing in on who wasn't responsible.  The Viking theory seems to have been put to rest, and with carbon-14 dating, it's believed by most, to be much closer to fact that it was built during colonial times.  Perhaps now the Historians and townsfolk will focus more on a local mill builder… namely George Lawton.

I visited the OSM (Old Stone Mill) exhibit on Saturday before the Lawton/James reunion and found it most interesting.  Many artifacts, old documents, and keepsakes were on display.  (Too bad I couldn't take pictures) The Will of Rhode Island Governor Benedict Arnold was displayed, this is the second oldest known reference to the mill in 1678; "my stone built mill". Also on display was an original 1668 land exemplary document that states: "a way that leads to Georg Lawtons mill"  which appears to reference Mill Street.  Mill Street runs along Truro Park where the OSM is located.  From what I gather, most are in favor that the mill was modeled after a Chesterton, England windmill, not far from Bedfordshire, where George¹ Lawton (brother of Thomas) could easily have been a builder, or an apprentice.  One of the many mysteries that still surround the Mill is that no apparent English unit of measure was used during construction.  There are and will always be some who believe it was first erected by the Vikings or was perhaps a church of some kind.  The real builder(s) elude(s) us but we’ll continue to search for that hidden document to will prove once and for all that George Lawton had something to do with construction of the OSM.  Imagine the oldest know colonial stone structure in North America built by one of our ancestors. (Hey we’re all entitled to our own opinion)...

...After my visit to the Historical Society I took a walk up the hill to see the OSM up close.  What a marvelous structure... we were very impressed with the clever stone work and how well it has held up.  What a piece of history to witness.  Expect to see a picture of one of our members in front of the mill in the next issue...

...There’s a meeting I’m going to attend this Thursday night in Newport, RI (about an hour from where I live in Medway, MA) on the Old Stone Mill.  It will be hosted by two Norse fellows (they are the ones that really stirred things up) and should be rather interesting.  The discussion is based on: The Old Stone Mill, "Round Church or Windmill?"  More controversy.  I know of at least two other LL members that will be in attendance.  I will do a follow-up article on the meeting in the next LL...


Here is a reply from Jeffrey Clark Lawton, 12th generation in America, on his impressions of the Old Stone Mill:

When I was in Newport last October [1996], we drove by this interesting round stone structure and for some reason I just had to stop and check it out. The plaque explained that it has been a mystery for centuries as to who built it and what it was. We spent a good long time looking at it, and I even took pictures, but I couldn't really explain why I was so fascinated with it. According to the story below, it turns out that one of my ancestors may have built it! No wonder I found it so interesting.

Here is a response from F. W. Lawton, 10th generation in America, with some follow up information on the Old Stone Mill:

In the records that I have from a distant cousin regarding her relationship to me due to her ancetor Geo. Sisson who married Sarah Lawton fifth child of Thomas Lawton [1st generation in America, brother to George] I have the following information, probably from Portsmouth, R. I. records,

George Lawton (elder brother of Thomas and married to Elizabeth Hazard) was admitted to Portsmouth R. I. in 1638; was granted land for a grist mill on Wading River and became an influential citizen of the Colony, highly praised by the assembly in 1676.

Click here to see an early picture of the Old Stone Mill, provided by Stephen Thomas Lawton

Click here to see a recent picture of the Old Stone Mill, also provided by Stephen Thomas Lawton

Click here to see a recent picture of the Old Stone Mill, provided by Jeffrey Clark Lawton


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