Old Jewett Store - Hike through History

 "Village Voices - Everyone Working Together"

 

 

 

DRAFT

 

Village Voices:  Telling Us Stories of their Work and Fun

Pre-teaching Ideas

 

Objectives: 

• Students will understand the interdependence of people in South Berwick in the past.

• Students will understand how the bartering system worked.

• Students will understand that South Berwick’s citizens’ needs were met by the services and goods that were available in the town.

On the hike, each classroom will be a farm “family” going into South Berwick to barter for their winter supplies.  They will be bartering with the crop that they planted for the hoop house garden.  They’ll need to plan what they need for winter and look at the map of businesses that will be on the hike.  They will budget for each item they need (and discuss differences between needs and wants) and be prepared to barter. (know the value of their crop)  How much of their commodity should they spend on each item?  

Tug Of War at Powderhouse Hill

 

“Village Voices: Everyone Working Together”

Draft 4-4-11

 

History information for the Hike through History has been provided by the Old Berwick Historical Society/Counting House Museum, www.oldberwick.org .

 

 

 

Theme:  South Berwick Livelihoods.  Throughout history, everyone works to take care of everyone’s needs

 Loop One: The Village

Placide Gagnon - Central School - 2 stops:

 

“He married a South Berwick girl, Rose Marcotte, in 1905,” said Cynthia. “Their son, Robert, worked in the business and expanded it to coal and then fuel oil.  Placide died in 1958.  Robert married Josephine Macleod, from Nova Scotia, in 1931.  Their son, Richard, expanded the business to include liquid propane.”

  “I Wish to Inform the People of South Berwick and Salmon Falls that I am fully prepared to supply them with the BEST QUALITY ICE during the coming season and am now ready to take their names.” – Placide Gagnon, South Berwick Town Report, 1907.  Photo courtesy of Gagnon family.

 Born in Ste. Germaine, Quebec, Placide Gagnon emigrated to New Hampshire in 1896 when he was sixteen, attracted by a ready market for labor in the textile factory at Somersworth. He and his older brother Joseph went into business delivering milk and ice by wagon, switching to cordwood supply over the next decade. By 1906 Placide advertised as “Peter Gagnon," delivering wood in South Berwick. 

 

P. Gagnon and Son is now a fourth-generation family-owned business run by Placide’s great-grandson Mark, who started as a teenager pulling hoses for oil trucks. He still supplies fossil fuels, and in 2001 began to experiment with biofuels and solar heat.

 

• Ice man – 

We are used to getting ice from our refrigerators, but before the days of electricity, companies like Placide Gagnon’s cut ice in huge blocks from frozen South Berwick ponds such as Knight’s Pond.  To keep it in the summer, it was packed in sawdust and stored in ice houses.  The Gagnon delivery truck, one of South Berwick’s first motorized vehicles, brought big blocks of ice to people’s houses, where people kept food in ice boxes.  If you wanted an ice cube in those days for your drink, you had to chop it yourself off the big block of ice. 

 

• Wood cutter

Placide “Peter” Gagnon, used to cut wood with a one-cylinder engine mounted on a horse-drawn wagon.

 

MINI - Bakery and Post Office – 233 Main Street

 

This building is probably 200 years old. The Parks family came to South Berwick from Massachusetts about 1800 and eventually opened a store here. From at least the 1830s through the 1850s, the Parks Store was run by brothers Samuel and Thomas Boylston Parks and their brother in law Job Harris. Upstairs were the law offices of William Allen Hayes and Charles Northend Cogswell in the 1840s, followed by that of Abner Oakes. The building barely missed being destroyed by the fire of 1870. It then contained a grocery and dry goods business, Stackpole & Co. By the late 1800s it was the post office, and also contained a bakery.

 

A postcard from that time shows women wearing long dresses and a trolley car going by.

 

Tinsmith (and Fire of 1870) –  Film Barn Studio

What are your dishes made of at home?  Do you drink from glasses, or from cups made of plastic?  Do your parents cook on pans made from aluminum?  Many years ago, many  plates, cups and pans were made from a kind of metal called tin.  They were often made right here in South Berwick by someone called a tinsmith.  When kitchen things broke, a tinsmith could also repair them.

 

The Davis family’s tinware business dates back to the early 1800s, when Richard Davis (1801-1895) and his partner, Ira Gilpatric, operated from a building near Quamphegan Landing, not far from the Baptist Church. For a time, they may have had a store near the present location of South Berwick Town Hall. For many years Richard Davis lived in the Judge Benjamin Chadbourne House, with Gilpatric living next door. “Gilpatric and Davis carried on an extensive tinware manufactory,” wrote resident George Washington Frosst in a memoir. “They employed several men as peddlers who penetrated York County far and near, exchanging their wares for either cash, old iron, rags, sheepskins, old pewter, brass, and lead. In fact, almost anything was accepted in those days in the way of trade.” 

 

An account of the fire of 1870 in the Dover Enquirer claimed that the blaze originated in yet another site, Joseph P. Davis’s tin shop.  After the fire, Davis re-established his store in the reconstructed Business Block in 1872 and sold tinware and stoves. For a time he served as South Berwick’s postmaster.

 

Druggist Ben F. Davis – South Berwick Pharmacy

 

We get medicine from a drugstore today, and drugstores have been around for a long time.  We also call this kind of store a pharmacy, and the person who runs it is the pharmacist.  Nowadays, our medicine comes from factories far away.  Years ago, however, the druggist mixed a lot of medicine himself and created his own recipes.  Many kinds of medicine were liquid and sold in small glass bottles, and looked very different from pills of today.

 

A younger relative of the Davis tinsmiths, Benjamin Franklin Davis went by the name Ben F. Davis, and was sometimes known as Ben Frank. He lived from April 17, 1862 to February 1, 1933, and ran a drugstore on the Central Square of downtown South Berwick.

 

Given the same name as an uncle Benjamin F. Davis born in 1829 and killed in the Civil War, Ben F. Davis was filling prescriptions as early as 1882. Historian Jennie de R. Ricker said Davis Drug was established April 27, 1889.  At the turn of the century, it was also listed as the local ticket outlet for the trolley system, the Portsmouth, Dover and York Street Railway, later part of the Atlantic Shore Line.

 

An ad in 1900 for Davis’ Sarsaparilla and Celery Blood Purifier and Nerve Tonic stated:

"We do not claim to have a Medicine that will cure everybody of every kind of disease, but we do claim to have a medicine that if you are troubled with Nervousness, Kidney and Liver Complaint, Nervous Prostration, Sleeplessness, Poor Blood, or want a general Blood Purifier and Nerve Tonic, we have got as good a preparation as can be made, and you will see a marked improvement in your general condition from the first bottle.

 

“This preparation is prepared from Sarsaparilla, Celery, and other vegetable substances. We have made a careful study of their action on the system and know we have a good combination. A trial will convince you. Full directions on bottle.

    PRICE 75 CENTS PER BOTTLE

    Prepared by Davis, the Druggist, South Berwick, Maine."

 

A prescription for herbal “Green Salve” written on a Davis Drugstore prescription slip is in the Old Berwick Historical Society archives. The recipe, perhaps intended to relieve itching or pain, calls for:

    5 lbs Rosin

    1⁄4 lb Begunda Pitch

    1⁄4 lb mutton tallow

    1⁄4 lb Bees Wax

    Oil Hemlock

    Fir Balsam

    Oil originan Red Cedar

    Venice Turpentine

    1 oz oil wormwood

    1⁄2 oz verdigris

 

 

Sawmill- Hardware- Coffins – Edward R. McIntire – Funeral home 301 Main Street -- also Free Baptist Church and cemetery

 

Edward R. McIntire (1826-1886) established his hardware business in 1859. He lived on Grant Street and operated a shingle mill on a water-powered factory using the creek that today still runs under Salmon Street (Lower Main Street) in the Point section of the village.  The McIntire mill manufactured shingles, sashes and blinds, and even coffins, and sold products for many years at a retail store in the brick business block in town.  The McIntire-McCooey Funeral Home is believed to be a descendant of this old family hardware and wood supply business.

 

Many South Berwick citizens of the 1800s and early 1900s have been laid to rest in the Freewill Baptist Cemetery, a beautiful historic cemetery located right in the heart of South Berwick Village. The 1835 South Berwick Free Baptist Church, containing the 1890 South Berwick town clock, is part of the interesting story of Maine Baptists and the temperance movement of the early 1800s.

 

The earliest grave recorded is the Freewill Baptist Cemetery is that of Eliza J. Earl, a two-day-old infant who died in 1813, indicating the cemetery may have begun as a family burial plot on an Earl family farm.  

 

World War I Veteran Chester Guy Earl (1893-1957), Pvt Company G, 36th Infantry, was buried here much later.

 

A few of the other South Berwick residents whose graves are among those in this cemetery:

 

• William L. Hanscom, Company B, 27th Maine Infantry, Civil War veteran, and his family 

• Alfred W. Hart (1843-1863), who was killed in the Civil War. The family grave is marked, "Our first born – He gave his life for his country.”  

• Spanish American War veteran John L. Sink, (1880-1946)

• War of 1812 veteran John Spencer, age 76.

• Capt. Elijah Ricker, born about 1786, who died at sea in 1826

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tailor Charles E. Whitehead – Business block OR 324 Main (corner of Norton)

 

Today we buy clothes at the store, but in earlier times people made most of their own clothes, sewing everything at home.  For extra special clothes, such as wedding dresses and men’s suits, people went to a tailor.  A tailor would measure a customer’s arms and legs, buy the cloth, and then sew the clothes by hand or machine. 

 

Charles E. Whitehead (c. 1817-1878) was a tailor married to Mary B. Whitehead (1826-1908). They seem to have lived in South Berwick as early as the 1850s, and his shop was one of the ones destroyed in the fire of 1870. They had at least six children, and lived in the house still standing at the corner of Norton Street. Their son, John B. Whitehead, born in 1852, continued in his father’s profession and operated a men’s clothing store in South Berwick. He died in 1942. South Berwick Pharmacy and Pepperland Café now occupy this location.

 

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. 

 

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.

 

 

Author Sarah Orne Jewett – Jewett House

 

Sarah Orne Jewett was one of the luminaries of turn-of-the-century American literature. Her first book was published when she was only 18 years old, and she remained a famous writer her whole life.  Her exact, kindly descriptions of the people and places she encountered near home gave her writing a freshness that quickly became popular. She brought the world up the elm-lined streets, through the old-fashioned gardens and into the quiet kitchens of this small river town.  All over America, people read stories and poems inspired by the people and places of South Berwick.  

 

Sarah was born in 1849 into a town full of family. Her grandfather and great uncle had made their fortunes trading and building ships on the Salmon Falls River. They owned two of the grandest houses in town, and their children settled nearby. 

 

This stately Georgian house was then owned by her shipbuilding grandfather, Captain Theodore F. Jewett. A few years after Sarah’s birth here, her family moved into their new house next door. In 1887, Sarah and her older sister Mary settled back here for the second half of their lives. 

 

When Sarah grew up she lived part time with her sister Mary in South Berwick – riding, gardening, and boating on the river – and part time in Boston with her friend Annie Fields.  

 

Though Sarah was often in Boston or abroad, this is the house she called home. The sisters added dormer windows to the attic and repainted the dark exterior white. The colorful interior is much as the Jewetts left it, with the author’s desk still set at the top of the stairs, overlooking the center of town. Sarah died here in 1909. The house is a National Historic Landmark, owned by Historic New England, and is open for guided tours on weekends in the summer and fall.

 

 

Dr. Theodore H. Jewett – 37 Portland Street (SB Library building, the Jewett Eastman House)

 

Author Sarah Orne Jewett lived for more than half her life in the Jewett-Eastman House. She wrote over 140 stories, novels and poems during her 33 years here before she moved to the Jewett House, her birthplace next door, in 1887. 

 

Dr. Theodore H. Jewett, Sarah’s father, built this smaller home for his family in 1854, when Sarah was 5. He was a country doctor who practiced medicine here and inspired some of her literary works. Her mother Caroline was also the daughter of a doctor in another town.  

 

Today we go to a doctor’s office or a hospital when we are sick.  But when Sarah was growing up, the doctor usually visited a sick person’s house.  For Dr. Jewett, that meant hitching up a horse and buggy. Often he took Sarah with him on his visits to patients and their families in the neighboring countryside.  No matter where you live in South Berwick today, chances are, Dr. Jewett once rode past your house to visit someone when they were sick.

 

When Sarah grew up in this house with her older sister Mary and younger sister Caroline, the house looked exactly as we see it today. Originally it had no porch. A map of about 1860 seems to indicate that Dr. Jewett worked from a small office out-building in the yard, perhaps the one at the end of the next door driveway, or something similar. 

 

By the 1870s, he had moved his practice into the house, using the newly added porch as an entrance for his patients. A barn, where Dr. Jewett kept his horse and carriage, stood in the back yard.

 

In this house, as a child, Sarah decided she enjoyed writing stories and poems.  As a teenager, she began her professional career as a writer, mailing her stories away to be published in magazines at first.  Eventually she published over 140 stories, books and poems that were written in this house.  

 

After Sarah and her sister moved back to the large Jewett House on the corner, her younger sister Caroline Eastman and her family remained in this house.

 

After the last Jewett family member died in 1931, the house became a community center.  It is owned by a nonprofit community group, the Jewett Eastman Memorial Committee.  For the past 40 years it has contained South Berwick Public Library, which will move next year to the former St. Michael’s Church building.  

 

 

Jewett Store – Capt. Theodore F. Jewett – 10 Portland Street

 

Long before Sarah Orne Jewett was born, her grandfather, a sea captain, was making huge profits in maritime trade. He and his brother were among many Portsmouth NH merchants who traded lumber and crops from the Piscataqua region for sugar, molasses and rum in the West Indies and fancy cloth and other goods from Europe.  For decades in the 1800s. this store was where the Jewett brothers sold the goods brought back in their tall ships and then brought up the river to South Berwick by gundalow.

 

Sarah’s grandfather, Capt Theodore F. Jewett, was 21 years old in 1808 when he commanded the Alert on a voyage to St. Vincent, loaded with lumber and barrel hoops from New England. In the early 1820s Jewett moved upriver to South Berwick. At its deep-water anchorage at Pipe Stave Landing, he and his brother Thomas ran a shipyard next to the Hamilton House. 

 

In 1815, Thomas bought this property, and built the Jewett trade store. It carried West Indies goods and general merchandise for almost five decades. Today's 10 Portland Street shop contains many remains of the original Jewett store.

 

When Sarah Orne Jewett was growing up, she often went to her grandfather’s store.  Years later she wrote of her childhood, “My young ears were quick to hear the news of a ship's having come into port, and I delighted in the elderly captains, with their sea-tanned faces, who came to report upon their voyages, dining cheerfully and heartily with my grandfather, who listened eagerly to their exciting tales of great storms on the Atlantic, and winds that blew them north-about, and good bargains in Havana, or Barbadoes, or Havre.”

 

Sarah Orne Jewett scholar Richard Cary of Colby College, who edited a collection of her letters in 1967, said that Theodore F. Jewett “maintained the ‘W. I. Store’ on Main Street in South Berwick, a multifarious general store replete with potbelly stove and cracker barrel. Here gathered daily the Captain’s cronies, veterans of the seven seas, to spin the prodigious yarns which the child Sarah absorbed with undiminishing wonder."

 

“While we should probably find few actual luxuries in the stock of the general store of 1800 or thereabouts,” Mary Jewett wrote in her memoir of South Berwick village, “we should find a great variety surely both in quantity and arrangement from great bins of coarse salt, corn, salt fish, down to pins sold by the ounce in bulk, and in bulk it literally was with the queer round heads twisted on.

 

“Along with the pins went skein, cotton, wooden combs, queer gauze ribbons, laces, tapes, queer collage bonnets and so forth. Who nowadays would know what Rouen cassimere was, or calimanco, or paduasoy, and yet all these and many other like materials were of common use a hundred years ago, and perhaps later. Broad cloths and other materials for men’s clothing, satins for vests, gast silk and lawn handkerchief for men's neckties, great bell crowned beaver hats, strange shaped shoes, high shell combs were in every well-provided stock, along with writing paper, wafers, sealing wax, quill pens and blotting sand, beside medicines, hardware, and a few books.”

 

The Jewett store was supplied with merchandise from ships the Jewetts built at their shipyard near the Hamilton House at Pipe Stave Landing, where they had a warehouse served by gundalows, and from other investments in the worldwide trade through Portsmouth, New Hampshire, before the Civil War. As Mary Jewett relates, “Ships loaded with lumber, fish, hay and country products went long voyages to foreign ports bringing back cargoes of articles necessary for life and comfort here.

 

“It was quite another system of business from that of today for very little money actually changed hands, since the traders, as they were often called, almost invariably had stores to supply the needs of their customers, and the man who came early some snowy morning to the village with an ox team loaded with lumber or wood would carry home the necessary sugar, flour, tea, molasses, and perhaps some dry goods rather than gold and silver. Especially was this true of the long processions of sleighs which came every winter from Vermont and upper N. H. through the Notch of the White Mts to this region, loaded with farm products and returning laden with necessary articles like tea and salt and salt fish which they could get in no other way. The system of barter prevailed almost everywhere in this region, bills being paid in kind, as the expression was, even the ministers and school masters salaries sometimes being arranged for in that way.”

 

Capt. Jewett died in 1860 and his brother Thomas in 1864. At the time of their deaths, they were among the wealthiest people in South Berwick.  But their success came at a price.  Seafaring was a very dangerous livelihood.  Capt. Jewett lost three ships in two years, including the Berwick, which foundered in a gale off the Cape of Good Hope. The young captain, Samuel Jewett, was Capt. Jewett’s son and would have been Sarah Orne Jewett’s uncle.  He and the entire crew were lost at sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Innkeeper Sarah Frost (and Madame Cushing) – 224 Main Street

 

Sarah Bartlett Frost (1776-1848) opened a hotel here called the Frost Tavern after her husband, George, was lost at sea in 1815. She bought the house, other buildings and over seven acres of land for $3,150. Two years later, she is believed to have welcomed President James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States, when he passed through South Berwick after his July 1817 visit to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, during the first year of his presidency.

 

In those days, there were no cars, buses or airplanes.  People visiting South Berwick came by horse-drawn stagecoach.  Travel was slow and it took a long time to reach here.  Picture a stagecoach stopping in front of this hotel, with dusty, tired travelers getting out.

 

But the Frost Tavern was one of the most luxurious places in town.  Mrs. Frost had the inn decorated with hand-painted wallpaper showing scenesA of the bay of Naples, Italy from the mural “Les Vues D’Italie” by the French muralists Dufour et Leroy. Her daughter Elizabeth recalled, “The origin of the paper bearing the mythical pictures that adorn the walls cannot be correctly determined, but it is probably a French manufacture, and was made by Louis Robert in 1799…[It] was bought by my mother of Mr. I. F. Shores, who kept a bookstore in Portsmouth, N. H.”  This wallpaper is said to have survived to this day, but has been paneled over.

 

Another famous visitor was the French general, the Marquis de la Fayette, who visited in 1825.  The general came by stagecoach also, and “was received by a delegation of the most prominent citizens of Maine on his entrance to the State through this town. The party breakfasted at Mrs. Sarah Frost’s inn.”

 

The History of York County, published in 1880, says, “On this occasion there was a grand parade of the school children of the town.”

 

One of the children was a girl named Sophia Elizabeth, whose father made one of the speeches welcoming General Lafayette. Years later, she recalled the occasion: “An elegant breakfast was provided at Mrs. Frost’s. The attendants at the table were the principal young ladies of the village. One young lady, Miss Sally Noble, was honored by the conspicuous attention of the General, who said she was the most beautiful young lady he had seen in America. The citizens were introduced to the General in the parlor of the Hotel. My father acted as master of ceremonies, and I remember my pride in his easy address. I remember my father wore a claret colored frock coat – which displayed his remarkably handsome person to great advantage. But I was half ashamed when he brought up my sister Hetta and myself and introduced us as his children, though I was partially assured when the General complimented him upon having so interesting a family.”

 

Right across the street in those days was a large, beautiful house known as the Cushing Mansion on the site of Central School today. After General Lafayette stopped at the hotel, he crossed the street to visit Madame Olive Cushing (c.1758-1853) at the Cushing Mansion.  During the Revolutionary War, Madame Cushing and her husband lived in Boston.  Gen. Lafayette had helped the Americans defeat the British and win their independence.  Now, 50 years later, Madame Cushing and General Lafayette were old friends, seeing each other for the last time.  After that visit, the Cushing Mansion became as famous as the Jewett House, and adorned Maine postcards until it was torn down for the school in 1924.

 

Sarah Frost managed the inn, likely with the help of her son John, until her death on Apr. 11, 1848 at the age of 72.  It then became the Paul Hotel through the rest of the 1800s.

 

MINI - Sea captain Samuel Rice

 

 

 

Loop Two: To Powderhouse Hill

 

MINI - Blacksmith shop “cottage industry” – 85 Portland St

 

This small house was built about 1795.  About 1915, the shed behind it was built as a blacksmith shop.  By then the Huntress harness shop that had stood across the street for decades had been replaced by a filling station—the site of today’s Portland Street Mobil. So a blacksmith’s services were not in great demand much longer.

 

Farmers Jedediah and Jerusha Jenkins – Cider orchard – 105 Portland St. 

 

In 1806, Jedediah Jenkins (1767-1852) married Jerusha Parks (1763-1855). The Jenkins property included a garden and a “very superior orchard,” as well as 5 3/4 acres of fields.  

 

Now South Berwick is a very busy place with lots of traffic, but in those days much of this area was still farmland.  Picture the back yard of this house, and most of the land across the street, as covered with fields, including apple orchards.  Apple cider was a very important drink in those days.  Today we have so many types of juices, sodas, and flavored beverages.  But two hundred years ago, if you wanted something sweet, cool and tasty to drink, cider was almost your only choice.  Farmer Jenkins was the one to go to, because he grew apple trees.  Then he had a machine called cider press to squeeze out the juice and make apple cider.

 

We don’t know much about Farmer Jenkins, but when Sarah Orne Jewett grew up, decades later, the apples must have been considered very good. Even though Farmer Jenkins had died when Sarah was only 3, one of her books, The Tory Lover, mentions a Mr. Jenkins and “the harvest time of his famous early apples.”

 

Farmer Jenkins and his wife, like many farmers, had a difficult life.  His first wife may have died young.  Their 7 year old daughter, Nancy, died in 1813. A daughter by Jedediah Jenkins' first marriage, Lydia, died in 1816 at age 20.  A 17-year-old boy named Nathaniel Watson, who was working on the farm, died in 1815.  There were then many serious diseases that we don’t have today, and also accidents involving equipment and horses.

 

Nathaniel Watson was an apprentice, which means he was there not only to work, but also so that Farmer Jenkins could teach him.  The Jenkins farm was big enough that Farmer Jenkins needed workers to help with the crops and cider making.  And there were very few schools to learn a trade, and few young people went to college. Instead, teens often went to work to learn a trade.  This was called being an apprentice.  

 

 

 

Almanac writer Nathanael Low – 117 Portland St.

 

Dr. Nathanael Low (1740-1808), a physician and astronomer born in Massachusetts, published Low’s Almanac , one of the publications upon which citizens of the early United States depended for taverns and stagecoach schedules. During Low’s years in this house, when Portland Street was part of the Boston to Portland turnpike, stagecoaches driving right past his door followed schedules published in his almanacs.

 

Much like Poor Richard’s Almanac, penned by Benjamin Franklin at about the same time, and the Farmer’s Almanac, which continues to this day, Low’s almanacs, published from 1762, combined astrological information with verse, lore, homilies, recipes and stagecoach schedules, guiding not only farmers but also turnpike travelers and people waiting for the mail.

 

As explained by Marion Barber Stowell in Early American Almanacs: The Colonial Weekday Bible, an almanac of Low’s day was “a miscellany: it was clock, calendar, weatherman, reporter, textbook, preacher, guidebook, atlas, navigational aid, doctor, bulletin board, agricultural advisor, and entertainer. The entire colonial family consulted its almanacs freely and regularly; these served the various family members not only as their general handy helper but even as their diary, memorandum book, and early-day Reader's Digest."

 

In 1998 a collection of Low almanacs were displayed in an exhibit at UCLA. As the curators explained, "Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, almanacs were the principal practical guides for farmers, tradesmen, navigators, fishermen, physicians, lawyers, educators, clergymen, and anybody else who simply wanted to know what day it was, how to get rid of rats, how to cure a corn, or how to get from Boston to New York.”

 

South Berwick’s Nathanael Low wrote poems for each month of the year.  Low’s Almanac, November 1807:

 

The spangled frost now glitters in the ray,

And fire supplies the impotence of day:

Around the social hearth each jocund swain

Quaffs sober joy, bless’d product of his pain;

While round his cot innoxious tempests beat,

He smiles contented in his snug retreat.

 

Low also offered advice to his American readers: The art of holding one’s tongue is both a rare and excellent quality, and what contributes greatly to our eafe and profperity. It is as dangerous to fall in love with one’s own voice as one’s own face...

 

His 1807 almanac contains instructions on resuscitating a victim of drowning. Rub the body with flannel “fprinkled with spirits and flour of mustard,” advised Dr. Low. “To restore breathing,” a fireplace bellows comes in handy, “introduced…into one noftril” while closing the other, with a puff of tobacco smoke for good measure. Warm bricks applied to the soles of the feet are beneficial, and for a high tech remedy, electricity can be employed by “judicious practitioners.”

 

Finally, readers are warned ominously: In cases of drowning, salt is never to be used.

 

There was even an occasional tasteless ethnic turnpike joke:

 

“Two Irifhmen riding to New-York, one of them asked a man on the road how many miles it was there; to which he replied twenty:

 

“Arrah,” faid one of them, “we fhall not reach it to-night;”

 

“Pho,” fays the other, “come along, it is but ten miles apiece.”

 

Nathanael Low died September 6, 1808

 

 

MINI - Canning Factory – George Brown - 135 Portland St.

 

According to a 1927 map, the steam-powered George Brown Canning Factory stood behind the house at 123 Portland Street in a building the size of a barn. George W. Brown was South Berwick’s fire chief, and lived from 1887 to 1951.

 

MINI – Thomas Jewett House – 151 Portland Street (Grant House)

 

Capt. Theodore Jewett’s brother business partner, Thomas Jewett, lived in this house with his family.  The brothers owned tall ships that sailed the world with trade goods.  When Thomas Jewett died he was the wealthiest man in South Berwick. 

 

Schoolhouse No. 5 – 12 Agamenticus Road

 

Before Central School was built in 1926, children attended small schoolhouses scattered all over South Berwick.  All children walked to school from their homes.  

 

This schoolhouse, built in 1842, Schoolhouse No. 5 was designed by a building committee that included Portland Street neighbors (and parents) Benjamin Nason and Francis Raynes, the shoemaker.  The builder was a dad in the neighborhood, James Clark. When first built, the structure had two entrance doors for the boys and girls.  It is now a private home.

 

One teacher at this school was Miss Olive Raynes.  Born July 6, 1833, she was a Portland Street legend, as evidenced by newspaper articles written at the end of her life. She taught school in South Berwick for over 60 years—from the 1850s, when Sarah and her sisters were pupils, into the twentieth century.

 

Miss Raynes only briefly taught at Schoolhouse No. 5. By the 1850s, she ran her own private school, for the families who paid her to be their teacher.  Among her students were Sarah Orne Jewett and her sisters, and the children of Mr. Whitehead, the tailor, and Mr. Huntress, the liveryman.

 

 

MINI – Soldiers Monument

 

On this site in the late 1700s stood the Meeting House of the Plains, a Baptist church.   It still appeared on a map of about 1860 as the “Town House,” or South Berwick Town Hall.  In 1898, it was torn down and the town approved the Soldiers' Monument to be placed on the site.  Annual Memorial Day gatherings recalled the sacrifices of the Civil War.  For over 100 years the monument has been the scene of tributes to South Berwick veterans of all wars.

 

Powderhouse – 2 stops

 

(1) Soldiers and Militias – The Powder House

 

Many people think this hill is named Powderhouse Hill because in winter the snow is soft as powder.  But the hill is really named for gunpowder.  Records of our town meeting on April 3, 1809 called for the construction of a powder house on top of the hill to store gunpowder for soldiers’ guns.  They wanted the gunpowder away from people’s homes in case it exploded, so they built a little shed and stored it there. 

 

Why were there soldiers in South Berwick? This dates to just after the Revolutionary War, a time when all towns in America organized soldiers who were ready to fight if war should break out.  All the young men in every family offered to help defend South Berwick against America’s enemies if there should be a war. These groups of soldiers were called the militia, and later evolved into the National Guard.  As it turned out, fortunately, South Berwick never had a war.  But the powder house gave its name to Powder House Hill, also known as Butler's Hill after a local family named Butler.  

 

The flat ground below Powderhouse Hill was known as “the Plain” till at least 1829.  Soldiers needed to practice, so local militia training exercises were held on farm fields every year at the end of the harvest.  These exercises were called musters.  People enjoyed them, and on Muster Day every year, sometimes the whole family would come to watch.  They held picnics and enjoyed talking with their friends.  

 

There were even special recipes.  Author Gladys Hasty Carroll told in one of her books about a dessert called Training Day Gingerbread that soldiers could carry for their long days of training.  Here is the recipe:  “A half-cup of sugar mixed well with 1 teaspoon of ginger; a half-cup of New Orleans molasses; a half-cup of bonny-clabber [sour milk]beaten up frothy with 1 teaspoon of saleratus[soda]; a half-cup of shortening; a pinch of salt.  Stir all together and add flour to mix quite stiff.  Roll thin.  Cut into squares.  And bake.”—Training-Day Gingerbread taken to militia musters during the early 1800s, Gladys Hasty Carroll, Dunnybrook, 1943

 

Here is the official record from the April 1809 town meeting that created the powder house:

 

    Voted, 4/_per?_ day be allowed each man & each good yoke of Oxen working on the road

    Voted, The 5th Article in the warrant, respecting a building for the Safe keeping of the Town Stock of Powder, be referred to the Selectmen

    Voted to give a bounty for Killing Crows

    Voted Ten cents _per?_ head for each full grown Crow

    Voted to give a bounty for killing wild Catts

    Voted Š one dollar to be paid by the Town, for the head of each full grown Wild Cat

 

The town that year also allotted $4000 in taxes, half of which would be spent maintaining roads throughout the present areas of South Berwick, Berwick and North Berwick.  The rest of the budget appropriated $750  for schools and $1250 "for the support of the poor" and all other town business.

 

Here is a South Berwick militia “call-up” from 1829. This notice would be posted on signs all over town, to invite all the soldiers to that year’s muster.

 

Second Regiment first Brigade and first Division of Maine Militia -- South Berwick, September 24, 1829:

 

 “Pursuant to a Brigade order of September 21st, A.D. 1829, Capt. Samuel F. Staples will parade the company under his command on the plain near The Revd. Mr. Boyd's Meeting house in South Berwick, on Wednesday the fourteenth day of October next, at Seven o'clock in the forenoon, armed and equipped as the law directs for military duty, review and inspection: and there await the orders of the Adjutant of Said Regiment. Capt. Staples will make written application as by law directed to the Select Men of the town wherein his Company belongs for the rations to which they are entitled. The Regiment will be ready for the reviewing officer at nine o'clock in the forenoon.

 

    -- By order of the Colonel, Isaac P. Yeaton, Adjutant

(2) David Nichols, blacksmith

 

David Nichols Senior (1735-1774) and his son David Junior (1762-1821) were blacksmiths when South Berwick was still part of the town of Berwick.  At that time horses were the main form of transportation.  Most horses wore shoes to protect their hooves.  The blacksmith made the shoes for the horses.  They also made the metal rims for the wheels on the wagons and carriages that the horses pulled.  At that time teams of oxen were the equivalent of tractors today, doing the heavy farm work in the fields.  These oxen also wore metal shoes to protect their hooves made by the Blacksmiths.  Think of the blacksmiths as the original hardware stores.  They made cooking pans, hooks, hinges, door knockers, rakes, shovels, nails, axes, hammers, and chains.  They were also artisans, creating decorative fences, railings, gates, signs, and boot scrapers.  As you walk through town look for black metal items.  The old ones were probably made by the local blacksmith.

 

In the 1750’s America did not yet have a federal system of money.  Cash was brought from England and was in short supply.  The most prominent system of payment was barter.  For example the Nichols would put horse shoes on the shoemaker’s horses in return for leather aprons from the shoemaker.  This is a page probably from a sawmill account book in South Berwick with David Nichols’ bill over twelve years.  Mr. Nichols would have a similar page showing what he had made for the sawmill, such as saw blades, in return.  Even working a day on someone’s farm was a form of payment.

   David Nichols    Debt Pounds-Shillings-Pence

   1771 For three loads of wood 5 feet & half per load 1-10-0

1772 For five load of wood 6 feet the each load 1-12-0

      For one pair of Loom2-2-0

Jan 29 1773For one board of wood0-12-0

Feb 27 For Six feet of wood 0-9-0

Dec 23 For ten bushels of turnips0-15-0

March 1774To the widow for one yoke and Bows0-6-0

Sept 25 1782 For making one pair of wheels 1-16-0

June 6 1783 for three days work framing barn0-18-0

 

 

David Junior was an apprentice to his father.  He would go to school for part of the year, and part of the year he would work for his father learning the business of being a blacksmith.  It was important for him to learn how to read, write and do “figures”, all skills necessary in the blacksmith trade.   David Junior starting off doing unskilled work like keeping coal burning in the furnace, keeping the shop area clean, choosing the right iron for his father, and keeping the iron red hot in the furnace.  

 

The Nicholses bought their bars of iron and their coal from Boston, Massachusetts.  It would have traveled by boat to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and from there it would be sent by gundalow up the river to South Berwick.   

1764 Letter from Joseph Peirce in Portsmouth to David Nichols

 Portsmouth      July 1, 1764

I have sent you by Mr. Ham eleven chaldrons coal one more than you ordered.  I hope it will not be a miss.    Pray dispatch the gundalow as soon as possible as by the day [it is] very expensive.  Please to send as many boards and staves as you conveniently can.

Your Humble Servant 

Joseph Peirce

A chaldron of coal was the measure used, it was about 35 bushels, and weighed about 3000 pounds.  Staves were curved wooden boards used to make barrels.

 

The Nichols house was across Portland Avenue on what was called Goodwin Hill, now part of the golf course.  David Senior and his wife Phoebe moved to South Berwick from Salem Massachusetts for religious reasons.  The family was Quakers, also known as Society of Friends.  Many towns did not trust Quakers because their beliefs were different.  South Berwick was a safe place for them to raise their 9 children.  The old Quaker cemetery is up the road to Portland in North Berwick.  

 

The Village Blacksmith – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

UNDER a spreading chestnut-tree 

The village smithy stands; 

The smith, a mighty man is he, 

With large and sinewy hands; 

And the muscles of his brawny arms 

Are strong as iron bands. 

 

His hair is crisp, and black, and long, 

His face is like the tan; 

His brow is wet with honest sweat, 

He earns whate'er he can, 

And looks the whole world in the face, 

For he owes not any man. 

 

Week in, week out, from morn till night, 

You can hear his bellows blow; 

You can hear him swing his heavy sledge, 

With measured beat and slow, 

Like a sexton ringing the village bell, 

When the evening sun is low. 

 

And children coming home from school 

Look in at the open door; 

They love to see the flaming forge, 

And hear the bellows roar, 

And catch the burning sparks that fly 

Like chaff from a threshing-floor. 

 

He goes on Sunday to the church, 

And sits among his boys; 

He hears the parson pray and preach, 

He hears his daughter's voice, 

Singing in the village choir, 

And it makes his heart rejoice. 

 

It sounds to him like her mother's voice, 

Singing in Paradise! 

He needs must think of her once more, 

How in the grave she lies; 

And with his hard, rough hand he wipes 

A tear out of his eyes. 

 

Toiling,---rejoicing,---sorrowing, 

Onward through life he goes; 

Each morning sees some task begin, 

Each evening sees it close; 

Something attempted, something done, 

Has earned a night's repose. 

 

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend, 

For the lesson thou hast taught! 

Thus at the flaming forge of life 

Our fortunes must be wrought; 

Thus on its sounding anvil shaped 

Each burning deed and thought. 

 

 

Inventor Mark A. Libbey – 128 Portland St.

 

The family of inventor Mark Addison Libbey (1855-1940), whose brick building next door at 14 Highland Avenue once contained a roller skating rink, included some of South Berwick’s most mechanically inclined and innovative entrepreneurs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Libbey himself invented mechanical things, including a car.

 

Mark Addison Libbey's father, Mark Libby (1822-1907) had been South Berwick's town treasurer in 1883.  Throughout the late 1800s, he was the local dealer for Rudge bicycles.

 

In 1883, the younger Libbey, who was known as Addison and later added an “e” to the last name, operated a skating rink in Newichawannock Hall, upstairs in the Business Block in Central Square. In 1888 Addison bought a crank organ for roller skating, and may have built the Highland Avenue building about this time.

 

Around the turn of the century, Addison built a steam engine for the local trolley company’s merry go round at the amusement center Quamphegan Park, located on today's Waterside Lane. The Maine Register business directories for the 1890s listed him as a South Berwick machinist and woodworker.

 

Addison and his wife Grace occupied the house on Portland Street, and had four children, according to vital records: Mary, born in 1898; Mark William, born 1902; Theodore Addison (Ted), born 1905; and Charles Kenneth, born 1907, who died as an infant. Grace died in 1930 at the age of 59, Addison in 1940 at the age of 84, and their son Mark W. eventually inherited the house.

 

Not only was Mark Addison Libbey an inventor, his children were inventive also. Former South Berwick resident Chuck Oliver, who lived across the street as a boy, recalled the Libbey household of the 1920s and 1930s: “I arrived as a new resident in South Berwick in the summer of 1927 at age 10 1⁄2 … Their two friendly and mechanically gifted sons, Ted and Mark, along with their considerable store of rolling stock and other mechanical delights captured my attention early on.

 

“Mark, the older of the two, was not only a graduate of MIT but also an instructor at that institution for a few years. He did not care for city life and came home every Friday evening, traveling by train (via the old Eastern Division) to Portsmouth and then (via the Alton Bay branch) to South Berwick, where he de-trained at the First Baptist Church. Sunday evening he returned to Cambridge in the same manner. Mark was the quiet consultant/advisor type, whereas Ted was less the student (it was my understanding that he had attended Northeastern University but had not graduated) but more ‘the let’s get this thing done’ type.

 

"Their elder sister, Mary, was quiet and unassuming and became a lifelong friend of my mother’s. Mrs. Libbey (Grace) was an extremely outgoing and friendly person who was always ready to lend a helping hand. Mr. Libbey, who was always referred to as Addison,…would possibly be classified today as having Alzheimer’s Disease. He was always friendly but extremely deaf, making conversation nearly impossible…

 

“In the north living room of their home was an elaborately worked glass-walled cabinet containing a nickel plated scale model of an automobile said to have been invented by Mr. Libbey in the early part of the century.” This model now belongs to the Maine State Museum at Augusta.

 

 “The Shop [the brick building next door on Highland Avenue, shown at the top of the page], … Addison’s bicycle repair shop, was used, mostly by Ted, as a workshop for all sorts of projects but also as a storage facility. The second story had… hardwood flooring where, we were told, rollerskating parties used to be held to music supplied by a caliope type device…

 

“The first floor was, as I recall, mostly a machine shop with an engine lathe which Ted employed to make (among other things) a working miniature 2-cycle gasoline engine. I do not remember how the lathe was powered but I’m reasonably certain that it was belt driven from overhead line shafting driven by an electric motor but the size and location of that motor I do not know. I am certain that, in the early years, the line shafting was belt driven from a steam engine in the basement and that steam was produced in a fire tube boiler adjacent to it. The only time I ever saw that engine in operation was in March of 1934. Ted had discovered, probably by hydro-testing, that a few boiler tubes were leaking, had fashioned plugs to isolate the leaking tubes, and on the 27th had started a wood fire in the furnace and by early evening had raised a small head of steam. I and a few of my friends had been invited to witness the operation and were certainly impressed when Ted opened the throttle gradually and the engine came to life. The flywheel, which I remember as having been perhaps six feet in diameter, began to turn (silently, as is the case with steam engines) and although Ted did not choose to run it at any great speed, it ran for several minutes after which he closed the throttle and the engine gradually slowed to a stop.”

 

Ted Libbey was active in South Berwick community life, particularly helping children at the height of the Great Depression. One of the first lighted Christmas trees in South Berwick glowed on the Libbey family lawn in the winter of 1933.

 

He led Boy Scout Troop 3 and even started a Sea Scout program which allowed local kids to spend a week at County Scout Camp in Shapleigh in June 1933. Then Ted acquired a surplus Navy Whaleboat which he and the scouts once rowed around the Portsmouth Navy Yard.

 

“The only project of Ted’s which I can recall having come out at less than 100% was a bob-sled of which he and Fred Badger were the cooperating builders. One of them, probably Fred, had come into possession of the front axle and steering mechanism of an automobile and decided that it could be used to support the front runners of the sled so that steering could be done with a wheel instead of the usual rope arrangement. It was a really sturdy sled but proved to have a major flaw in that when the wheel was turned to either side the sled was guided in the opposite direction.”

 

 

Shoemaker Francis Raynes – 96 Portland St.

 

This house was a farm, but also the home of a shoemaker, Francis Raynes, and his daughter, Olive, the teacher.  Mr. Raynes ran one of South Berwick’s busiest shoe shops before the opening of the Cummings Mill on Norton Street.  

 

Small shoemakers used to be an important trade in South Berwick.   In 1850, there were three tanners and more than two dozen shoemakers. At downtown’s central square, Francis Raynes made custom shoes and boots from his shop. He employed six men and two women making goods valued at $3,600 a year—more than the local sawmill. 

 

To children like young Sarah, her sisters and her friends, by far the most important member of Raynes family was their daughter, Miss Olive Raynes, their teacher.  In later years her school was held in the back of this house.

 

 

Liveryman and Fireman Simeon Huntress – 40 Portland St. and Firehouse – 30 Portland St.

 

Today we take cars for granted.  They carry us almost everywhere.  But in the 1800s, people depended on horses and carriages for transportation.  And if you needed help repairing your wagon, or wanted to rent one, you came to see someone like Simeon Huntress, who lived in this house.   

 

Simeon P. Huntress (1844-1923) bought this property in 1877 along with land once part of the Raynes Farm, and moved with his wife and young family into what was then a fashionable new house.

 

Huntress owned a livery shop, or carriage business, at the site of the present Portland Street gas station. The livery shop, called Eagle Stables, boarded horses and offered carriages for hire, and provided transportation before the advent of trolleys and automobiles. 

 

The Huntresses were active in South Berwick's civic life. Parades often featured Huntress carriages filled with local men in top hats and women in long dresses.

 

In the summer, Huntress's horse-drawn carriages to the beach were called the York Beach Daily Stage Line.  It was like a bus drawn by horses, and it took people to the beach.

 

The fanciest was called the Grace Darling. During the 1880s this vehicle offered “mass transit” before the arrival of the trolley system, and would have been popular with mill workers who did not own horses and carriages but wanted to escape to the beach on their day off from work at the Cummings Shoe Factory, the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company, or the Salmon Falls Manufacturing Company in Rollinsford.

 

It is not known how Huntress chose the name Grace Darling for his vehicle. In Simeon's day, Grace Darling was renowned as an English heroine stationed with her father at a lighthouse; she supposedly risked her life rescuing the crew and passengers from a shipwreck in 1838.

 

Marked "HUNTRESS – SOUTH BERWICK" across the top, the Grace Darling was preserved in the 20th century, and became part of the collection of the Long Island Museum of Art, History and Carriages in Stony Brook, NY.

 

In addition to being a liveryman, Huntress was a fireman and served as South Berwick's fire chief in 1891-92.  Next door to the Huntress house, the building containing Kim’s Cleaners today was the Engine House of the fire department. In July, 1870, a devastating fire had destroyed a row of wooden stores where the brick business block now stands. The town then built a new firehouse for better protection. This building was the fire station for about 50 years.

 

At that time, South Berwick was protected by its 50-member Piscataqua Fire Engine Company and 40-member King Engine Company. Firefighters were paid $5 per year for their service. In the 1880s a third company was added. In 1891 the entire town was divided into three forest fire districts, each with a warden, to protect outlying areas as well as the village.

 

About this time, South Berwick installed a steam fire alarm and the first fire hydrants were connected to town water pipes running under the streets through the village area.   Right under the street near the fire house, a huge tank called a cistern collected 18,000 gallons of water.  The town spent $500 to purchase 1,000 feet of rubber-lined linen fire hose.

 

By 1913, the fire department complex included five or six buildings to house all the equipment.  

 

 

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