This house is part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. Norton Street likely gets its name from Charles Edward Norton (1795 - 1873), an early justice of the peace, town clerk, and church deacon. As a South Berwick map of 1856 shows, Norton Street and the Cummings Mill did not yet exist in Charles E. Norton's lifetime (the mill was built about 1872).
The house was later owned by the Whitehead family, who had a tailor shop and clothing store for decades in Central Square in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The Nortons. Charles E. Norton served as justice of the peace from the 1830s through the 1850s. He was South Berwick town clerk, and became deacon of the First Parish Church in 1844.
Norton married two daughters of Northend Cogswell of Portland Street, and both died young. Then in 1833 he married Clarissa Baker.
Daughter Mary Ann Norton, whose mother was Norton's first wife, Mary Ann Cogswell, had erysipelas, a disfiguring skin disease also called St. Anthony's Fire. She died in 1847 at age 23, almost the same age as her mother, also named Mary Ann, who had died in 1825 at age 24. Both are buried in Portland Street Cemetery.
The Whiteheads. After Norton's death, the house belonged to Charles E. Whitehead (c. 1817 – 1878), a tailor whose shop was nearby in the Business Block, at today’s location of South Berwick Pharmacy, as shown on the map excerpt at right from the Atlas of York County, 1872.
Whitehead and his wife, Mary B. Whitehead (1826-1908), raised six children.
Some Whitehead children seem to have been classmates of author-to-be Sarah Orne Jewett and her sisters, as well as neighbor Rebecca Young, when all were enrolled at Miss Raynes’ School on Portland Street. In the school photo from the 1850s, Charles and John Whitehead are Nos. 27 and 36, respectively, and their sister Nellie is No. 10. Sarah Orne Jewett is No. 14 and Rebecca Young No. 13.
Charles’ early Whitehead Tailor Shop was one of the wooden buildings hit by the fire of 1870. As the flames approached, he managed to pull his inventory out and pile it in the Jewett House garden across Main Street. Later a thief was caught there “putting on one vest after another until he had swollen out of all due proportion,” according to one account.
The tailor’s son, John B. Whitehead, born in 1852, continued in his father’s profession and operated a men’s clothing store well into the 20th century. He lived to be 90 and died in 1942.
A Ralph H. Whitehead, perhaps a grandson of the tailor, lived from 1892-1936. His grave at Woodlawn Cemetery is marked, “Company A, 39th AEF.” The American Expeditionary Force was the United States military force sent to Europe in World War I.
(This page was revised in January 2010.)