Established 1600's - Vine Street, near Old Fields Road and Brattle Street
Overlooking Leigh's Mill Pond, Old Fields Burying Ground on Vine Street is one of South Berwick's oldest cemeteries, dating from the 1600s. Though no stones from that date are identified, it is very likely the burial place of our first settlers --families such as those of Thomas Spencer and Humphrey Chadbourne. After the community's 1652 submission to Massachusetts Bay Colony, it was ordered that a meeting house be built, and around 1660 the settlers did so nearby, on the intersection of today's Brattle Street and Old South Road, at the center of the settlement.
"...The lands of [Thomas Spencer's son, Humphrey (died 1701)] are marked for us by the old cemetery on the hill near Quampheagan," according to Wilbur Spencer in his book, The Maine Spencers (1898).
Speaking of a late 19th century photograph of the Old Fields Burying Ground, Spencer writes: "Standing on the highest point in this ancient burying ground and following the eastern and southern horizon with the eye, there is, probably, not an inch of the surface that one of our ancestors has not owned. North and west also, as far as the rivers, and in some directions beyond the rivers, the same statement is true."
Over the past 350 years, the oldest graves have disappeared. Some markers may have just been plain fieldstones. According to oral tradition, Indians who had converted to Christianity are buried here also. In recent years, the Chadbourne Family Association placed a marker recognizing William Chadbourne's arrival in 1634.
Today, in on of South Berwick's most beautiful quiet spots, many important and interesting stones still fascinate us. Some examples:
- Rev. John Tompson c. 1739-1828 - minister of the First Parish Church , and his “truly amiable & virtuous Consort,” Sarah. Tompson was the last Congregational pastor to serve at the Old Fields meeting house, and saw the present church built on Main Street just before his death. A founder of Berwick Academy and its third president, he is remembered for riding his white horse to Boston in 1791 to obtain the school charter signed by John Hancock. Jewett writes that he was “a college-bred man, of Harvard, 17--, and a descendant of the Parson Tompson of Braintree, so celebrated by Cotton Mather... Mr. Tompson evidently plucked up his courage in accepting the call to Berwick. It was not only that he succeeded his predecessor, but the call was given in the darkest days of the Revolution, by a poor and anxious parish, with whom he frankly condoles upon its divided and languishing state. Berwick, as neighbor to her parent town of Kittery, had shared in the glorious successes of Pepperell in the siege of Louisburg [Louisbourg]; and no doubt some of her men marched with the company, formed about Saco, that was present at the fight on Bunker Hill. There is a devout assurance of Mr. Tompson's ‘Requests at the throne of Grace, that the God of Peace may be with us and bless us,' as he ends his letter of acceptance.” Read more about Parson Tompson.
- Edward P. Hayman (c. 1770-1831) was born in Boston and apprenticed to South Berwick lawyer Dudley Hubbard. Elected a member of the Massachusetts Senate in 1800 and appointed assistant clerk of the Supreme Court, he married Rev. Tompson's daughter Sarah in 1809 and became Berwick Academy's treasurer. He served as a circuit clerk until 1820 and then as cashier of South Berwick Bank.
- Mehitable “Hetty” Goodwin was the daughter of Salmon Falls mill owner Roger Plaisted, who had been killed with two sons in an Indian raid of 1675. After her marriage, she was captured with her baby in a raid of 1689/90. The famous Puritan minister Cotton Mather used her story in Boston to illustrate atrocities at the hands of the French and Indians, one of whom “violently snatch'd the babe out of its mother's arms, and before her face knock'd out its brains.” She managed to survive and was carried to Quebec and married to a Frenchman, with whom she had two children, but after five years was ransomed by the English and returned home. “Hetty Goodwin's half-buried little headstone may still be seen in the Old Fields burying ground,” wrote Sarah Orne Jewett in 1894. “I never can look at it without a thrill of feeling, or pass the pleasant place where she lived without remembering that she knew that lovely view over hill and dale, up the river, and must often have dreamed and longed for the sound of the river falls, in the far country to which she was carried a lonely captive, in the northern wilderness of Canada.”
- Dr. Ivory Hovey (1748-1818) - A surgeon at Fort Ticonderoga in the Revolutionary War, Ivory Hovey built a house about 1790 at Quamphegan Landing and became one of the town's wealthiest citizens and a founder of Berwick Academy . In addition to merchant ships, wharves, warehouses, and a store, the Hovey family owned gristmills at Quamphegan and Chadbourne's Falls, a fishing boat, and two gundalows for bringing their wares up-river. Dr. Hovey's son, Capt. Ivory Hovey, Jr. (1770-1822), became a sea captain and was captured by pirates. He eventually did return home. Dr. Hovey's first two wives, Mary and Frances , were daughters of William Hight , thought to have been a shipbuilder.
- Col. Simeon Brock (1800-1846) – Militia officer and a founder in 1829 of the South Berwick Methodist Church originally nearby on Brattle Street . Deborah Brock (c. 1809-1883) – Worked as a mill operative in the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company cotton factory.
- Thomas Butler, Emigrant, and Elizabeth Butler -- One of the first settlers in the area of today's South Berwick village, born in England about 1674 and arriving here by about 1698. Well educated, he taught Latin in the parish school and became a leading citizen and selectman, owning a farm that comprised Powderhouse Hill, also known as Butler's Hill. His house is thought to have stood at the present location of South Berwick Town Hall. He died in 1747.
- Rev. Jeremiah Wise was pastor of the First Church of Berwick from 1707 to 1756. The History of York County, 1880, states that Wise was from Ipswich, Mass., and was graduated at Harvard, and was ordained Nov. 26, 1707. He remained pastor of this church until his death, Jan. 20, 1756, at the age of seventy years. A man eminent for his learning and piety, his memory is still cherished in the parish.” Jewett wrote, recalling the years of Indian warfare, “In [Wise's] pastorate the town passed through most severe afflictions from its foes; but through his influence everything made for peace, as far as regarded the parish's own existence and government.”
- Hon. John Hill (c. 1703-1772) - Member His Majesty's Council, Massachusetts Bay, and court justice. Owned mill rights at Great Works, and lived on what is today known as Brattle Street. Judge Hill was one of the town's seven wealthiest men at the time of his death according to tax valuation records. His nephew, Deacon John Hill (c. 1738-1810), who also lived in this house, was voted deacon of the First Parish Church in 1767 and treasurer in 1774.
- Dudley Hubbard, 1763-1816, an attorney, was one of old Berwick's seven wealthiest men in 1798, according to tax valuation records. Born in Ipswich, Mass., he graduated from Harvard in 1786 and may have accompanied Jeremy Belknap on the first scientific ascent of Mt. Washington. About 1810 he built a house that today is known as the Hayes House on Academy Street. Read more about Dudley Hubbard and the Hayes House.
- Hon. Benjamin Greene, (1764-1837). A Harvard graduate of 1784, he came here as preceptor (headmaster) of Berwick Academy, then settled in the community. While Maine was still part of Massachusetts, he served as representative to General Court in Boston from 1809 to 1811 and 1813 to 1817, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas from 1811 to 1822, and Speaker of House in 1824. He is remembered in Maine for helping to draft our constitution in 1819, just before Maine became a state.
- Dr. J. B. M. Gray , d. 1857 – a beloved teacher who had been educated at Oxford and briefly served as headmaster of Berwick Academy before he died young. His students planted a tree that survived until 2010. At left, Marshwood Middle School students in October 2009.
- Capt. Samuel Lord , probably a sea captain, who lived from about 1690 to 1762.
- Gen. John Lord, d. 1815 – militia officer . A shipping merchant and partner of Jonathan Hamilton, Gen. Lord made the family's home at Quamphegan Landing on present-day Liberty Street with wife Mehitable Perkins (d. 1835). “His residence was a three storied house,” wrote early 20th century historian Annie Wentworth Baer, “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 [Liberty and Pleasant Streets]. 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.” Children included John Perkins Lord (1786-1877), 1805 Harvard graduate and Portsmouth merchant and lawyer involved in bringing the Portsmouth Company cotton mill to South Berwick; Nathan Lord, president of Dartmouth College from 1828-1863; and Samuel Lord, cashier of the Piscataqua Bank who owned the John Paul Jones House in Portsmouth.
- William Allen Hayes (1783-1851) and Susan Lord Hayes (c. 1790-1870), daughter of Gen. John Lord. Born in North Yarmouth, according to the 1880 History of York County , Hayes graduated from Dartmouth with the highest honors in 1805. He studied law with Dudley Hubbard and others, and was admitted to the Middlesex bar in 1809. At Hubbard's death, Hayes took over his South Berwick law practice, opened an office above the Parks Store still standing on Main Street, and acquired Hubbard's Academy Street mansion and farm. In 1828, girls began attending Berwick Academy for the first time, and the Hayes' teenage daughter Hetta Hayes was one of three young women to be the first to enter. Hayes was elected state representative in 1822 and served as president of the local bank; president of the York County bar about 25 years; judge of probate from 1828 to 1847; and president Berwick Academy from 1832 to 1851. Read more about Judge Hayes.
- Joseph Hayes (1835-1912) – Civil War brevet major general, one of only about 500 who served the Union as general officers in the Civil War. Born in the Hayes House on Academy Street, Hayes attended Berwick Academy and Harvard and worked as an engineer building railroads out west. Entering the war at 25, he fought with distinction in the major eastern campaigns, including Gettysburg, where he broke his leg, and the Wilderness, where he suffered a head wound. Captured at Petersburg, he was held in Richmond's notorious Libby prison. His portrait today hangs in Harvard's Memorial Hall, and his grave here at Old Fields is visited by travelers from throughout the country. Read more about Gen. Hayes.
- Jonathan Hamilton (1745-1802) – South Berwick's illustrious shipbuilder and merchant. Born in the Pine Hill section of present-day Berwick, he started out as a trader in salt fish in the 1760s. Soon he owned forests in Lebanon, then bought part of the century-old Chadbourne mill operation on the Great Works River and the shipyard and store at Pipe Stave Landing. During the 1780s and 1790s he was responsible for over half the ship tonnage produced here. He produced masts, spars, planks, and shingles, built ships to carry them, and exported them along with lumber, fish, beef, and farm products all over the world. Customs records show 104 arrivals of Hamilton vessels in the port of Portsmouth, over half from the West Indies. His store and warehouse at the landing were well stocked with tea, sugar, coffee, molasses, rum, timber and shipbuilding tools. In 1785, he started building the finest house in the area, today the Hamilton House owned by Historic New England. He also bought a riverfront lot with wharf and warehouse in Portsmouth on Merchants Row on Fore Street, now Market Street. His store, Long & Hamilton, was a ship chandlery in the busiest section of the port. Read more about Jonathan Hamilton.
- Deacon Nathaniel Norton (c. 1735-1820), deacon of the Second Congregational Church , and his wife Meriel (c. 1736-1811). Church records show the Nortons came from Durham, NH, in 1780. In 1814, according to the History of York County , Nathaniel Norton, age 79, was among 12 “leading citizens” signing the petition for the first South Berwick election following the incorporation of South Berwick.
- Gen. Ichabod Goodwin , 1743-1829 – Described by a contemporary as "a staff to lean upon in all parish and educational affairs," Gen. Goodwin was a merchant and ship owner with ties to Portsmouth docks and shipyards at Pipe Stave Landing near the Hamilton House. As a teen, Goodwin accompanied his father in military action at Fort Ticonderoga. He later served in the Provincial Army and the Provincial Congress. A farmer and leading citizen after the Revolution, for a time the second wealthiest man in town after Hamilton, Goodwin became first major general of the militia for York County and a founder of Berwick Academy in 1791, served as county sheriff for 27 years, and represented South Berwick in the legislature. The local militia often drilled on muster grounds somewhere near Goodwin's home. Read more about Gen. Goodwin.
- John H. Goodwin , d. 1964 - World War I veteran, 151 Depot Brigade
- Rhoda Hastings Lambert was the young first wife of attorney William Lambert of Portland Street. She died on Jan. 12, 1806 shortly after giving birth to their son, Thomas, who had lived only one day and died on Dec. 25, 1805. Read more about the Lamberts.
- Maj. Nathan Nason , d. 1826 - veteran – In 1812 a Nathan Nason was the builder at Pipe Stave Landing of the Hitty , a 337-ton, 101-foot ship owned by John Lord, Samuel Lord and William Haven, and later Ichabod Goodwin. She sailed under Nathan Lord and traded in the South and Europe.
- Maj. Thomas Leigh , (1773-1831) - In 1807 the Chadbourne family sold shares of Chadbourne's mills to the Leighs (Thomas's mother was the daughter of Judge Benjamin Chadbourne). The water-powered complex then included a sawmill, grist mill, hulling mill and card mill, on eight acres of land. By 1815 Maj. Leigh's journal indicates his net worth was about $30,000 and that he owned a farm and 100 acres. At his death his estate included property at Quamphegan Landing, two stores, a wharf, and land near the river.
- Capt. Elisha Hill (c. 1710-1764), mill owner, had 14 children including a daughter, Abigail, who married Capt. Eliphalet Ladd, an important shipbuilder and merchant based in Exeter and Portsmouth and a founder of the Portsmouth Aqueduct Company. Abigail Hill Ladd (1750-1804) is buried in Portsmouth's North Cemetery.
(This page revised August 2019.)