The Landing Mill and Its Time by Annie Wentworth Baer
Original manuscripts of essays by Annie Wentworth Baer are at the Woodman Museum, Dover , New Hampshire .
According to the History of Strafford County , 1914, Baer was born in South Berwick and was the daughter of Lorenzo Stackpole. He seems to have worked at the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company, and thus may have provided Baer with first-hand information for this essay.
In 1643 when Sagamore Rowles sold to Humphrey Chadbourne a half mile of ground which lieth betwixt the little river (the Great Works) and the Great river he reserved for himself a parcel of ground called Quamphegan. This land was between the Salmon Falls brook, now known as Hog Point brook, and the Great river, and beyond the Great river. The River was the red man’s highway.
Seven years later perchance the lure of gold induced the Indian chief to sell for Five Pounds and “the grace of God” this same Quamphegan, to Thomas Spencer.
In 1651 Thomas Broughton and wife bought of Thomas Spencer a tract of land on the southwest side of the Newichawannock. The next year Capt. Thomas Wiggin and Symon Bradstreet erected a saw mill on the falls. Thomas Broughton disputed their ownership and the question was not settled until 1751, when the town confirmed the sale of half of Quamphegan by Spencer to Broughton. Ten years after Wiggin and Bradstreet had their mill running John Lovering was granted 50 acres of land in Quamphegan by the town of Dover, for the accommodation of a saw mill. Lovering was drowned a few years later and his son John sold the land to Thomas Abbott; Thomas conveyed the property to his son Joseph, who sold it to Archibald MacPhedris of Portsmouth (the builder of the famous Warner house). MacPhedris sold to Capt. Benjamin Wentworth, who lived on the site of the house occupied by Mr. Sinegar.
Many sawmills were erected as time went on, by Somersworth men, and the York records show that Joshua Gee of Boston owned shares in a saw mill on Berwick side; Walter Abbott sold his interest to William Lord; Elisha Cook and wife conveyed their right in the western saw “in ye new saw mill” to Samuel Plaisted, proving that business was brisk on the Newichawannock.
In the early part of 1800 Capt. Wm. L. Foote bought a mill privilege in Quamphegan falls of James C. Hill, and also bought of Hill, Joseph Doe, and Jonathan Colcord, the Capt. Ebenezer Ricker house on the Somersworth side. The Quimby’s were the last tenants of this once fine house.
Capt. Foote built a Fulling Mill and did a good business. A few years later the Quamphegan Mfg. Co. bought of the executor of Alexander McGooch his real estate and house, namely, the “Hash Factory”. This company bought of Ivory Hovey, executor of Dr. Ivory Hovey, 21/24 of mills and mill privileges, rock, dams, etc., also land sold by the Hon. John Lord’s heirs in Somersworth. In 1831 the Portsmouth Co. was organized, and bought first of David and Mary Lord Little, land and buildings formerly the homestead of Mark Lord, deceased, and Olive, his widow. The same year Timothy Ferguson and wife quit claim deed to Portsmouth Co., land appurtenances sold to Ferguson by Hope Nason and Lucius Q.C. Nason, which they inherited from Nathaniel Nason, their father.
Ferguson also sold to the Portsmouth Co. a tract of land and wharf on the Berwick side. The same year Moses Varney and wife sold the Company a strip of land along the river in Somersworth; Theodore F. and Thomas Jewett sold to the same, land and wharf in So. Berwick. This land had been bought of John P. Lord.
Photo #3 1805 map.
Samuel Hale, and Ichabod Rollins, of Portsmouth, merchants, quit claim 3/24 parts of mills, mill privilege on Quamphegan falls in So. Berwick. This had been the property of Mark Lord and Nathaniel Nason. The latter part of 1831 Edwin, Martha, Salome and Susan Leigh, minors, children of the late Thomas Leigh, deeded to the Portsmouth Co. two stores, a wharf, and land near the river. In July of the same year the Quamphegan Mfg. quit claimed all the company’s real estate to the Portsmouth Co. The Committee to sell the property was Timothy Ferguson, Chas. N. Cogswell, and John A. Burleigh. The names in these old transfers of property bring before us the brain, business and wealth of So. Berwick a hundred years agone.
Timothy Ferguson was a man of affairs and lived in the three-storied colonial house now occupied by the Burnetts; the roof has been changed but not improved. Dr. Ivory Hovey was a physician and held in his name considerable property, but he was a poor financier in spite of his slippery business methods. His wife was Mary, daughter of Wm. Hight, who lived on the hill where Charles Ham’s house stands. Dr. Hovey died before his second wife, and she was left with a small income, but still lived on in the Hovey mansion, standing under the tall elms in the terraced grounds, now used for a pasture. Madam Hovey was very stately in her ways and never willingly submitted to the change in fortune. She persisted in living alone in the great house, until friends interested in her welfare persuaded her to have a family live in part of the house. The newcomers frequently heard her talking as if to servants, and the bell would ring at meal times for the waiter. Astonished at such orders, the man asked the people who looked after the old lady who was living with Madam Hovey? He was assured that she lived alone; and then it was believed that she was still keeping up her former style of living. It is said that a ghost was laid in this house by Parson Thompson of Berwick, but the story of this unusual visitor had been handed down from family to family, until as late as seventy years ago, children digging greens in the Hovey grounds, hearing strange noises, believed they saw a ghost, and they threw their knives and baskets, and fled. The Hovey house was moved and it now stands on Park Street, East of Miss Helen Warren’s.
Photo #4 Hovey House. The Ivory Hovey house was eventually moved to Park Street, where it stands today.
Mark Lord lived north of the McGooch house on the road from So. Berwick Corner to Somersworth.
Alexander McGooch, a Scotsman, married Olive Goodwin in 1777. Robert was their eldest child. Dr. Theodore Jewett, when a young man, remembered seeing Robert sitting at the west end of the huge house, knitting a long stocking – knee breeches were worn in those days. The Nathaniel Nason house stood in the corner of the street south of Maddox’s store. Sixty years ago when the Methodist church stood on the corner of Pleasant and Middle Streets (Note: The church actually stood at Park, Main and Middle Streets.-- editor), this house was the Methodist parsonage. Hope, and Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus lived in this house many years, Lucius had the distinction not only of hearing a distinguished name, but he possessed a certificate of membership in the Order of Cincinnati. This was framed and hung in his house. Time went on, and Lucius grew weak in body; he and his aged wife had little means. It came about that Dr. Jewett was called to attend him; while in the house he chanced to notice the certificate, and at once knew that there was financial help for the old people. Dr. Jewett attended to the matter immediately, and Lucius and his wife were made comfortable. This was only one of the many acts of kindness done by Dr. Jewett in his long practice – and he never let his left hand know what his right hand did. Lucius lived in his last days in the small house, still standing, on the left side of the road going from the village to Great Works, after turning Wiggin’s corner.
Photo #6 Gundalow at the landing.
Moses Varney was the owner and manager of the packet, a passenger and freight boat plying between So. Berwick and Portsmouth, going and coming with the tide. Mr. Varney lived in Somersworth but his packet was on the So. Berwick side. In the early days it is said that there was a fleet of forty sail of gundalows on the river. Tradition says that Marchant John Roberts of Somersworth was the first man to put a gundalow on the Newichawannock.
Capt. Theodore Jewett was a sea captain, making long voyages to foreign shores; he was engaged in shipbuilding; and the good ship “Berwick” built on his wharf at the Lower landing went out with his son Samuel on board never to come back. Capt. Jewett owned much real estate in the towns roundabout and possessed the aristocracy of the dollar as well as of the father. He bought this house, built nearly one hundred and fifty years ago by John Higgins, and lived here in a manner becoming his position.
Gen. John Lord was for many years a leading merchant in town. His residence was a three storied house, standing in ample grounds opposite Dr. Hovey’s. This mansion was stately in proportions; the finish outside and within was perfect and all betokened abundant means and good taste. His retail business was carried on in the store later known as Isaac Moore’s. He was called “Honorable” from being a member of the General Council, and General, from being a brigadier-general of the Militia. He was one of the original trustees of the Academy, and gave a sum of money for a fund for providing every student who should enter the Academy with a Bible. These sacred books are scattered from Maine to California. Mr. John P. Lord was his eldest son. He was a Cambridge graduate of 1804. He lived to be over ninety years of age, and retained his intellectual faculties wonderfully.
General Lord’s third child was Nathan, who was graduated from Bowdoin College in 1809. He was President of Dartmouth College from 1828-1863. His daughter Susanna was the wife of Judge William Hayes, whose family stood sponsor for the Academy many years.
Thomas Leigh was a business man of note; his mills were where Perley Varney saws and grinds today, and many old people speak of Leigh’s mills, while those of a generation younger would say “Yeaton’s” mills. Both owners of this property were good men and honored citizens, and their memories revered. Thomas Leigh lived on the ridge east of the Hayes house, and he was buried in the cemetery at “Old Fields”. Mr. Yeaton spent his last days in the new house built on the Humphrey Chadbourne farm.
Photo #7 The Cotton Wagon.
John A. Burleigh, a lawyer, was a brother of William Burleigh, who lived in the Philander Fall house. William died young, leaving a family of boys and girls. John A. assisted the boys in their youth; with this help and through their own persistent efforts made honorable and prosperous citizens. Mr. Burleigh was Agent of the Great Falls Mfg. Co. (N.H.) for many years.
Jonathan Colcord lived east of Dr. Hovey, on the same side of the road in the small house where the Littlefields lived many years. Some of the Colcord family opposite the Primes (later known as the J.P. Davis house). John Colcord was a merchant and his place of business was standing just across the river in So. Berwick. Here Benjamin Doe later carried on the grocery business until the gold fever of ’49 took him away. Isaac Moore was a clerk with Mr. Doe.
The incorporated Portsmouth Co., owning all the building of the former owners and the water power, save Wm. Foote’s mill and mill privilege, built in 1832 a four-story brick cotton mill of about 7,000 spindles, using 1300 bales of cotton and turning out annually 2,000,000 yards of cotton sheeting. This was a busy year at the Landing. The bricks were made for the mill by John Pray Rogers at his homestead on the “Long Reach” on the Pascataqua, in Eliot, and were probably brought up the river in gundalows. When the mill was completed, it is believed that Mr. Samuel Smith was made Agent for the Company, and maybe George Goodwin was paymaster. There were a spinning room, a card room, and two weave rooms in the building. The names of the early employees have been lost – a few have been remembered. Some time between 1840 and 1848, Mr. Smith’s health failed and he resigned. Mr. Samuel Hale was elected Agent. Mr. Smith was born in Peterboro, N.H.; he was a brother of Judge Jeremiah Smith of Exeter, and later of Lee.
Paul Perkins came over into Somersworth for Elizabeth Guppy, who had learned to weave in the Dover mills, to help start the weaving in the new mill.
Photo #8 Overview - A view from Academy Hill.
There came from the region of the Pawtuckaway hills the Nealleys, and they brought much thrift and business ability. It is said that John was well versed in cotton manufacture; Benjamin was an overseer in the card room; Charles, a fine looking man, was head of the cloth hall, and his sister – Mrs. Higley – was an able assistant. George Nealley was a merchant; Eben the tavern-keeper; and Andrew J. owned and skillfully managed the property sold to Mr. Maddox, besides many acres in Somersworth and Berwick. Josiah Burnham, Aaron Joy and William Earle, had charge of the spinning and Abner Boston came a little later. Cyrus Ferguson, Levi Barnes; Theophilus, his brother, Fred and James Dore were interested in the weaving. John Stanley was in the card room. The Littlefields, father and son, James Young, and Lysander, his son, George and Abel Frost, Samuel Wyman, James Wilkinson, Freeman Ham, John and Rowen Abbott, all helped in this new industry. The first watchman remembered was Simeon Hartford, who lived on the Somersworth side; younger men could drive pins part of the watch, but Simeon was the main stay.
Associated with him and his duties, were Lorenzo Stackpole, John Ferguson, Thomas Stackpole, and many others. Mrs. Hartford was a noted housekeeper and cook, and most of Simeon’s small wage was put onto their table; the rest of the time was spent in cleaning. One day a gundalow was discharging a load of cotton at the door of the Picker. Simeon, a small man, was watching this work; by some mischance a bale hit him and knocked him into the river. He was fished out as quickly as possible, none the worse, save a thorough wetting. The men took him home and when Mrs. Hartford saw his condition she would not allow him to come in until he stood on the doorstep and drained. With this faithful and meek watchman were associated in the works of the mill, John Varney, machinist; James Wentworth, loom fixer; John and Reuben Hanscom; Albert Mason was in the dress-room; Joseph Hanscom in one of the weave rooms; John Bailey in the cloth hall. Moses Hanson for forty-six years worked in the carpenter shop, and John Butler drove his Morgan horse down the Keys Road each morning and spent his days with the belts of the mill. William Shaw’s vocation was mending spinning machines –and teaching dancing his avocation. Edmund Coffin, Jesse Copp, Richard Spencer, and a host of others kept the mill running.
Photo #9 1850s Map of South Berwick
In 1833 Capt. William L. Foote sold his Fulling mill and water privilege to the Portsmouth Co.; the building was used for a carpenter and machine shop; and now the electric light machinery is housed there. Capt. Foote bought land and a mill privilege at Great Works. He built a Fulling and Finishing mill and continued in business there many years. Capt. Foote was a deacon in the Baptist church-, a generous supporter of the ministry. He gained his title by service in the militia.
The working hours of this cotton mill were somewhat different from the time and schedules of our time. The operatives began work at five o’clock in the morning, in summer; worked two hours, and then went home (out) to breakfast; returned shortly; and worked until noon. They had an half hour for dinner, and came out at seven o’clock at night. In the winter, they had their breakfast and went to work at half past six; the same half hour at noon, and worked until seven-thirty at night. Girls from the outlying farms walked in at that early hour, brought their dinners, and walked back at night. This physical effort bore golden results; old farms that had been in the names of the grantees since 1656 were fast slipping away from the owners; mortgages were common, incomes small. The girls brought in ready money, and to those little used to handling the “coin of the realm” it seemed like a fortune. In many cases the daughters paid the lien, and made the last days of their parents comfortable.
Deborah Brock walked from Brock’s Crossing, so-called for years, and added materially to her bank deposits by her efforts; with her came her niece, Elizabeth Fernald, who later married Aaron Roberts. Deborah was known, and is remembered as a good woman and a careful financier. When years began to tell on her she gave up working in the mill, and attended to her farm. In time she hired a man to manage her estate. He was very pious and had family prayers three times a day. Deborah endured, and possibly enjoyed these orisons, but when a neighbor congratulated her on the faithfulness of Rufus and enumerated the times he prayed daily, Deborah said tersely; “Yes, but he prays on my time.”
The Warrens, Nasons and Grants came from “Old Fields”; the Goodwins and the Coopers from “Witchtrot”; the Winns from North Village and York; and the Quints from Bauneg-Beg. Whole families moved into town and boys and girls found employment in the mill. Edmund Earle migrated from Witchtrot with his ample family –all capable, and all a valuable addition to the working force of the Landing Mill. Out of their income was built the house now owned by Mr. Joseph Doe.
Some old settlers reduced in means consented to take boarders. The Primes had several; Mrs. Abner Boston catered in the west end of the McGooch house. Mrs. Rebecca Abbott cared for her numerous boys and girls with now and then a stranger at her board. Mrs. Eliza Dorr, left a widow with a family, spread her table larger, and took strangers in, with her own. Mrs. Col. Meserve, who had many daughters, increased the family purse by providing bed and board for out-of-town girls –while the Colonel, in his outlandish costume, captured discontented bees when they decided to take up new quarters. It was an unwritten law among boarding mistresses that when a girl boarder had a beau, and a fire was built in the best room, she must give the mistress a silver quarter, or a new apron.
There were women employed in the mill who had by reason of years passed the long hours of work at the loom or frame, but they came daily with broom and mop to do their part. Among these were Hannah Copp, Ellen O’Brien, Mary Roberts, and Joanna Turner. The last was a strange character. Somehow she missed her opportunity in her youth, and now an old woman was solving the problem of life alone, save a medium-sized mongrel dog which was her only company. After years of toil she was found one day unconscious on the floor of her one room in the quaint little house still standing on Middle St. After twenty-four hours of irregular breathing she slipped out of life as she had lived –alone. Her dog would have missed her, too, unhappily, but a few bubbles on the surface of the Newichawannock told of his end before he had known what had happened.
When the mill was young, the paymaster came into each room with his “settling board”, and the girls came in turn to receive their wages. Later, they went to the counting-room.
Photo #11 The Counting House.
All these years the mill had been lighted by lamps filled with whale oil, and when it was light enough to work without this dim light, the employees had a general festivity known as the “Blowing-Out Ball.” The first of these social functions was held in “Union Hall”, over the Samuel Evans shoe shop. This building stood on the point of land between the highway from the village to the bridge, and Middle St. It was burned more than sixty years ago. The next we hear of these “Balls” was in the Counting Room, and the banquet was served in the cloth hall; and it was the boast of the operatives that their table was worth a thousand dollars, besides the refreshments served. Undoubtedly their calculations were correct, since bales of cotton cloth were placed in order, a piece of sheeting spread over –and there they had their expensive table!
At these gatherings a good time, with music and dancing, was enjoyed. After the Civil War these Balls were done away with.
The Counting Room was built on the site of the Mill house so-called; it was moved across the road and it is the first house on the left side of the road, after crossing the bridge into So. Berwick.
During the winter of 1848-49 small pox raged among these people; many died, and those who recovered bore the marks of that winter’s scourge.
In the winter of 1850-51 the mill did not operate; because of “hard times”.
Photo #12 Map of the Landing by Old Berwick Historical Society.
For years the question of liquor Prohibition had been discussed in the towns of Maine, and opposition was strong among those who made liquor selling a business. In 1851 the law was passed. A man who lived in the house below Col. Meserve’s on the same side of the street entertained many in this basement room who favored strong drink. He felt that his personal liberty had been challenged when this law was enforced, and revenge became a master passion. Among his companions were some weak enough to do his evil work; fires were lighted and property destroyed in Dover, Berwick and So. Berwick. People were afraid to sleep. Hardly a night passed without the cry of FIRE! Low call whistles were heard; the dip of oars in the river, and stealthy footsteps were sometimes followed, leading at last to the arrest of this man. Then the Landing was in commotion. The man under arrest was kept under guard in Mr. John Ferguson’s house one night, and then taken to Alfred the next morning. His suspected tools were brought into Court –later one fled, under bail; one turned State evidence; and another came near dying in Alfred jail, from consumption. By the skill of lawyers, the instigator of these crimes escaped punishment, but his property had vanished; his business was destroyed, and his health broken. He died many years ago.
Again there was a ripple in the social life of the Landing when Charles Brewster, a Barrington (N.H.) boy wandered into a rum shop in Hog Point, and some time later was brought out with his skull crushed, and laid on the hill among the pines, on Butler’s hill back of the Academy. For days the body lay there, until at last a gunner made the ghastly find. Once more detectives were busy; one in the guise of a peddler, with a roll of oil cloth curtains, visited all the boarding houses hoping to find Brewster’s long-legged calfskin boots that he wore away from home and were not found on his body. The work of the detective was in vain and it was never known who dealt the fatal blow.
Photo #13 The Boys at the Landing.
Between the Landing boys and the young men who came to the village from Witchtrot, the Junction, Emery’s bridge, and on toward Agamenticus, there had long been a feud; and frequently at town meetings when Capt. Andrew Goodwin addressed the townsfolk with the eloquence of a Cicero a free fight was indulged in. Once, when the Boston boys –one or more deaf and dumb- came to the village and got into a pot-valiant condition, they decided to attack the Landing boys, hip and thigh. About noontime they appeared at the lower mill-gate and gave battle to some of the boys on their way to the mill. Russell Varney, the David of the mill, rescued one of his comrades and made the huge Boston kiss the dust. A war went up and the street was filled. Eben Roberts, a cripple, saw from his point of vantage in his mother’s tenement over Isaac Moore’s store what was going on, and rushed into the street in his slippers; Mary, his mother, was in close pursuit, foretelling Eben’s doom if he were not captured. To still the poor woman’s shrieks Eben was taken up bodily, bundled into the entry of his house and the door made fast. By this time the Bostons were surrounded and it was decidedly an uneven warfare. By command of a Special Police the crowd stood back and the battle scarred men were taken into a stable where the stains of conflict were removed. After the mill bell had called the Landing boys to work the sobered belligerents took to the fields Academy hill on their way home.
Photo #14 Moore's store later became Maddox's store at the corner of Pleasant and Liberty Streets.
Isaac L. Moore’s store was a place of much business; he supplied most of the boarding houses with their provisions, and it was a general gathering place in the few holidays then observed. One Fourth of July Mr. Jenness, whose son and daughter were employed in the mill, had looked upon the wine when it was red until he felt called upon to preach; leaning against a stone post in front of the store he gave his text and context in these few words, repeated at intervals; “We’ve all got one Father, and ain’t that the Marster?”
A story of the Landing mill would not be told if Deacon John Plummer, the baker, was forgotten. He was a most excellent baker; almost innumerable pots of beans and loaves of brown bread were taken out of the side door in the basement of his house, next north of the tavern, Sunday mornings. Good bread, jumbles, turnovers and doughnuts grew under his hand. Reverend John Lord, the historian, said of him; “He was a pillar of the church –frugal, but generous in large matters; a liberal contributor to the Academy, and to all public charities, a man of foresight, who would have made a capital abbot of a medieval monastery –for his piety- his asceticism, his abilities, and love of power”. One spring many years ago, when the water came down the fresh river with a rush and a roar it was discovered that the dam was weak near the west gate on the Somersworth side. All day in the pouring rain men fought the rushing water; loads of earth were dumped into the cavities made by the flood, but the river gained. At last Mr. Hale, who had anxiously watched the damage, said; “Haul up a load of waste –perhaps those bags will hold the water back.” It was a fortunate thought; it saved the dam, although the men worked all through the night. At midnight Mr. Hale sent the force in squads to Nealley tavern for a hot supper. When morning dawned the storm had passed, and the water was under control. Later the dam was raised eleven feet, affording a surplus power sufficient to drive 20,000 additional cotton spindles. Mr. Samuel Hale, grandson of Major Samuel Hale, the famous schoolmaster of Portsmouth, N.H., was a most worthy man. He was honored and respected by business men, and those he employed. He lived in Somersworth (now Rollinsford) and his beautiful estate was the pride of the town. He died in 1870. During the Civil War the mill was silent. Mr. Goodwin and Mr. John Hodgdon served as paymaster in Mr. Samuel Hale’s time; and some remember a Mr. Treat, who is said to have been paymaster. When Mr. Hale’s work was done his son Francis Hale had the management and Mr. Charles Hardy was paymaster. As time went on, Mr. Samuel Hale, son of Francis, was made Agent, and Mr. George Muzzey was paymaster; he was with both father and son. Under this administration business was not as successful as in times past, and for twenty years or thereabouts the wheel has ceased to turn. The machinery was sold to a Southern Mfg. Co., and the bell went also. The boarding houses are falling into decay; the mill is a ruin, and the vandalism of the Landing boys is visible in the broken glass of the Counting room windows. The River alone holds its own after being harnessed more than two and sixty years.
Photo #15 Main Street at the intersection of Park and Middle Streets. Eben Nealley's Tavern, the Quamphegan Hotel, is at thr right. The Plummer house is just beyond it. George Nealley's store faced them across the street. The Methodist Church was just out of view, to the right.
Later: 1929- The mill was sold for the nominal sum of One Dollar, and torn down. The home of electricity is housed where the old machine and carpenter shops stood, and the counting room makes a comfortable home for Mr. Warren and his family. This counting room stands on the site of the old mill house, which was moved across the road, and is still standing; it is the double house next to the bridge.