7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)

Historian Jan Eakins became interested in devices used by early New Englanders to ward off witches when she was director/curator of Fairbanks House, built in Dedham, Massachusetts in 1641. Puritans believed supernatural forces for good and evil shaped their daily lives. To ward off disaster, they placed old shoes in the walls of their houses and barns, hung a horseshoe over the door, or crossed their fingers – practices that continued long after the Puritan religion faded. In a lecture sponsored by the Old Berwick Historical Society, Jan will discuss the role of magic in early New England, and why shoes were believed to have special power to ward off witches. She will offer tips for determining if a “found” shoe was purposefully placed, and what to do if you are fortunate enough to find one. She will end her talk by examining a pair of children’s shoes found in a house in South Berwick. Bring shoes and stories if you have them!

The program will be held on Thursday, April 24, starting at 7:30 pm at Berwick Academy's Jeppesen Science Center on Academy Street.  The public is invited, and volunteers will serve refreshments.  This lecture is one of many bicentennial events to be organized throughout 2014 by the Old Berwick Historical Society and other community organizations.

Burke & Surette7:00 pm (Counting House)

Celebrate South Berwick's 200th Anniversary on May 22nd with the Old Berwick Historical Society’s new Bicentennial exhibit, good food, and a performance by Susie Burke and David Surette.  The Annual Meeting, located at the Counting House, is open to all OBHS members - new members are welcome to join at the door.  The society’s annual membership meeting begins with refreshments and exhibit viewing at 7:00 pm and will be followed by the concert.

In honor of South Berwick's 200th anniversary, there will be a new Bicentennial exhibit, “Main Street, South Berwick: 200 Years of Downtown History.”  The exhibit explores the staples of South Berwick’s downtown area, including churches, businesses, municipal buildings, and schools.  Items from the Counting House Museum’s collection round out the exhibit, as well as special panels featuring parades from past South Berwick celebrations, and current photos of “The Faces of Downtown.”


Ouellettes' Barn
On Saturday, June 21, the Old Berwick Historical Society will present "Circle the Pond," a house and garden tour featuring seven private homes in South Berwick, Maine.

The homes (circa 1700-1985) feature various periods and styles, including unique architectural designs.


Joshua Chamberlain7:30 pm (Berwick Academy) Gen. Joseph Hayes

Regional historian and Berwick Academy teacher, Brad Fletcher, will trace the parallel experiences of the well-known Chamberlain and South Berwick's little know Joseph Hayes.


7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)

The shape of modern food habits begins to emerge in the early 1800s, including the order of the menu, and the preparation of dishes we know and love today.  In this talk, Sandy Oliver will explore the life stories of classic Maine dishes enjoyed by Berwick residents from 1814 to 1914 like chowder, baked beans and brown bread, and some that have disappeared (or nearly) like salt fish dinner.


7:30 pm (Berwick Academy) 

Something extraordinary occurred at the Portsmouth Navy Yard during World War II.  After building fewer than two submarines a year in the 1930s, the yard completed an astonishing 32 fleet boats in 1944 and built a total of 79 submarines during the war, more than any other shipyard.  Captain Watterson USN (Retired) will analyze the factors that led to the yard's record setting performance, which resulted in Portsmouth-built submarines sinking 434 enemy ships, totaling 1.7 million tons.  Few industrial facilities made a more significant contribution to winning World War II.

7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)

Join Kevin Gardner, author of "The Granite Kiss", as he discusses the history, technique, stylistic development and aesthetics of New England stone walls.  Kevin will also explain the how and why New England came to acquire its thousands of miles of stone walls, the ways in which they and other dry stone structures were built, how their styles emerged and changed over time, and their significance to the famous New England landscape.

7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)

What was life like on the American home front during World War II?  Peggy Konitzky, Historic New England Site Manager, will examine how American communities like the Berwicks dealt with the exodus of local men and women to the armed services and the requirements of the war effort, including the effect of blackouts, rationing and shortages on households and local businesses.  She will discuss the changing roles of women during the war, both as production soldiers in new war jobs and as “kitchen commandos” in the home. The illustrated talk includes information from local newspapers in South Berwick and Kennebunk as well as photos and archival materials from the Old Berwick Historical Society.

May 21 -  OBHS Annual Meeting

7:00 pm (Counting House)

Enjoy an evening of good food and a performance by Jeff Warner at our Annual Meeting.  Located at the Counting House, the Annual Meeting is open to all OBHS members - new members are welcome to join at the door.  The society’s annual membership meeting begins with refreshments and exhibit viewing at 7:00 pm and will be followed by the concert.

  (7:30 pm - Berwick Academy)

James Sullivan, a son of Old Berwick, was an economic visionary, an early supporter of religious freedom, and by 1807, the first Jeffersonian governor of Massachusetts.  Yet few historians have given him the recognition he deserves.  In this program, Daniel L. Breen will discuss Sullivan's lively and colorful career, and assess his significance in the politics of the early republic.


7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)

Emerson "Tad" Baker will discuss his recent book which sets the Salem Witch Trials in the broader context of American history from the seventeenth century to the present, and examines their enduring legacy.  Focusing on the key players in the Salem witchcraft crisis—the accused witches and the people they allegedly bewitched, as well as the judges and government officials who prosecuted them— he illuminates why the tragedy unfolded as it did.

7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)

General Fitz-John Porter was blamed for the bloody Union defeat at Second Bull Run for over 20 years.  Then in 1886, President Grover Cleveland restored him to the Army at his former rank.  Amateur historian (and retired lawyer) Wayne Soini tracks the successful post-war campaign of Porter's belated-but-key supporters, U.S. General Grant and attorney Joseph Choate, in the quest for his vindication.

7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)

For over 140 years the moonlight ax murder of two Norwegian women on the rocky Isles of Shoals has haunted New England. Popular historian and lecturer J. Dennis Robinson cuts through the hoaxes, lies, rumors, and fiction surrounding the infamous trial and execution of handsome 28-year old Louis Wagner, who claimed he was innocent.  You will hear about the role of South Berwick's George Yeaton, the prosecutor, who lived on Academy Street; the murderer's arraignment on Main Street; and the vibrant history of life on the Seacoast in the 1870s.

7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)

Have you ever wondered what life was like for the Native people who called the Berwick area home?  Join Dana Benner as he discusses what a typical year would have been like for them.

Dana is of Abenaki (Piqwacket, Penobscot, Micmac), English and German descent.  He holds an M.Ed. in Heritage Studies from Plymouth State University and a BA in U.S. History and Native American Culture from Granite State College.  He spent 12 years in the US Army.  He teaches Political Science, History and Sociology at Southern New Hampshire University, Granite State College and Manchester Community College.  He also has been writing and lecturing about Native American history and all aspects of the outdoors for 30 years.

7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)

 Sandy Oliver will explore the last three hundred years of vegetable eating in America, its evolution to vegan dishes on restaurant menus, and invite sharing of gardening advice useful today. 

Bread as the staff of life, augmented by precious meat, and accompanied by "garden sauce" -- an early term for vegetables -- has evolved into "Eat More Kale" and vegan dishes on restaurant menus. How has this come about? Sandy's lively lecture will address this question and give some ideas on how to incorporate vegetables in your own meals.

(7:30pm - Berwick Academy - Whipple Arts Center)

A scholar investigating the centuries-old mystery surrounding the last resting place of captive Scottish will visit a region in America where some of their comrades were taken after the brutal Battle of Dunbar in 1650.

 Dr. Chris Gerrard, head of the department of archaeology at Durham University, England, will present a lecture on the fate of 17th century soldiers imprisoned at Durham.

These men had been caught in a religious war that catapulted them across Europe and America—including southeastern Maine and Seacoast New Hampshire, where many descendants live today. 

Photo: Dr. Andrew Millard, Durham University, North News and Pictures

Sunday, October 30 - Cemetery Art and Symbolism

Authors Paulette Chernack and Cassandra Davidson will present “Cemetery Art and Symbolism- A Talk and Workshop” at the Counting House Museum on Sunday, October 30, at 1:30 pm.   

The program is one of several of the Old Berwick Historical Society’s presentations this fall. Admission is by donation and the public is invited.

The author and the illustrator, a mother/daughter duo, will discuss art, symbolism and history found in graveyards and cemeteries, conservation and preservation information, and correct procedures for rubbing gravestones.

 Local chef Kathy Gunst will host a recipe swap, and talk about her newest book, Soup Swap: Comforting Recipes to Make and Share, on Sunday, December 4, at 2:00 pm at the Counting House Museum. 

Participants are encouraged to bring copies of their favorite recipe for others to take home and try.

7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)

 The Piscataqua estuary is at the heart of this tale, which asks listeners to imagine how different peoples have lived in the ecosystem we now call home. Prior to the arrival of the English and French during the Little Ice Age, Wabanaki inhabitants mastered the seasonal challenges of living in this place. English settlers redefined its ecology during the seventeenth century. Paying attention to forests, fish, ships, and sheep, Dr. Jeffrey Bolster recasts our regional story, anchoring us to the past in compelling new ways.

 10:00 - 11:30 am. Old Berwick Historical Society president Wendy Pirsig will introduce the story of English merchants and adventurers who settled along the Piscataqua River in the 1600s and launched America’s first clearcut. Presented through a partnership of Old Berwick Historical Society and Great Works Regional Land Trust, this hike follows the January 26 OBHS lecture on the Piscataqua Estuary before the arrival of Europeans. For details on hike site, click here. Limited to 20 people and reservations are required. Call GWRLT at 207-646-3604 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information, hike status, and weather updates. 

7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)

 The incredible tale of a young girl captured in Wells, Maine, and taken to Canada in 1703, never to return, will be presented by author Dr. Ann Little at our monthly lecture at the Berwick Academy Arts Center. “The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright: Communities in the Northeast Borderlands” is open to the public. Admission is free with donations are gratefully accepted.  

Born and raised to age 7, Esther Wheelwright (1696-1780) was captured by the Wabanaki and taught to live as a native girl. Enrolled in a convent school in Quebec City at age 12, she eventually became Mother Superior of the Ursuline order. 

  10:00-11:30 am. Archaeologist Tad Baker will recount the story of the French and Native raid of 1703 that devastated the village of Wells and the century-long contest of faith and allegiance that defined the Piscataqua frontier. Presented through a partnership of Old Berwick Historical Society and Great Works Regional Land Trust, this hike follows the February 23 OBHS lecture on the captivity of Esther Wheelwright of Wells. For details on hike site, click here. Limited to 20 people and reservations are required. Call GWRLT at 207-646-3604 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information, hike status, and weather updates. Photo by Brenna Crothers.

7:30 pm - (Berwick Academy)

An era when news in New England was carried through both Native American and English networks, and rumors could produce shivers of fear, will be the subject of a talk presented by the Old Berwick Historical Society. Dr. Katherine Grandjean will discuss her recent book, American Passage, which revisits the story of early New England’s settlement through the dark, confused world of communication. Image courtesy Rhode Island Historical Society.

 10:00 am - noon. Historian Neill DePaoli will describe the pivotal role of the beaver fur trade at Newichawannock and the influence of English trade on Wabanaki culture in the 1600s. Presented through a partnership of Old Berwick Historical Society and Great Works Regional Land Trust, this hike follows the March 23 OBHS lecture on Native and English communications networks in the 1600s. For details on hike site, click here. Limited to 20 people and reservations are required. Call GWRLT at 207-646-3604 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information, hike status, and weather updates. Photo by Brenna Crothers.

7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)

 Both English and French colonists on the Atlantic coast of North America described bread as the “staff of life” and went to considerable lengths to ensure themselves a steady supply. Food historian Paula Marcoux describes how early colonists adapted their technologies, and ultimately their expectations, to local conditions. Her research combines evidence from the archeological and historical record with experimental oven building and baking trials. Samples of period bread and pastry will be served!

1:00 pm - Counting House Museum

 Local Author Paula Bennett will be discussing her recently published book, “Imagining Ichabod: My Journey into 18th Century America through History, Food, and a Georgian House,” at the Counting House Museum in South Berwick.

The book, priced at $30, is hardcover with 60 full-color photographs and 25 adapted historic recipes. ORDER THE BOOK.

Bennett will share her story about how she and her husband, Harvey, came to own the Goodwin House, located in what is called the Old Fields part of South Berwick. They wanted to imagine, and to live to some extent, what daily life was like for the Goodwins in the 1700’s. They researched and explored the diet, décor, and activities of the early colonial times. 

(Counting House Park)

 David Ledoyen and the company of “Les Mousquets du Roi,” French militia re-enactors from Montreal, Quebec, along with Ken Hamilton, a Penobscot interpreter from Corinth, Maine, will bring to life the world of allies and combatants on the Piscataqua frontier in the late 1600s. See the conflict through enemy eyes by visiting the English camp at nearby Wentworth House, sponsored by the Association for Rollinsford Culture and History.

Both encampments are family-friendly, and visitors are encouraged to ask and touch. “Through Enemy Eyes,” a special presentation about the experience of woodsmen raiders on the New England frontier, will take place at 3:00 pm at the Counting House Museum. Photo credit: Jimmy Brodie 


Old Berwick Historical Society - Historical Programs for the public

The Old Berwick Historical Society of South Berwick, Maine, invites you to join us for our history lectures and activities.  For programs at Berwick Academy, we meet in the Arts Center. Please take Fogg Entrance #2 and use the parking lot at the top of the hill.  For more information, please write This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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