Below the falls here, tidal salt water leads to the Atlantic 10 miles away. Long before English traders arrived in the 1630s, the falls were a seasonal fishing ground for Wabanakis, who called the place Quamphegan (quamp meaning scoop or dip and hegan meaning net or tool—thus “dip net,” referring to their fishing place). The falls at the head of tide also attracted Europeans trading with Natives, but the fur trading post and sawmills that became the first nucleus of the town were at first located a mile downriver, at the junction with the Great Works River. Over the next two centuries, though, the growing settlement at Quamphegan built wharves, warehouses, and stores at the bridge to New Hampshire, and became the center of the community known as South Berwick. In 1831, the Portsmouth Company built a four-story brick textile factory that became the dominant employer.
In 1650, native leader Sagamore Rowls sold the area to Thomas Spencer for five pounds, and Quamphegan then passed on to other owners eager to build mills and land cargoes. Saw mills were operated by Thomas Broughton, Thomas Wiggin, and Symon Bradstreet. As relations between whites and Indians deteriorated late in the century, Thomas Holmes maintained a garrison. On March 19, 1689, it was attacked and burned.
Unlike South Berwick's Lower Landing at the Hamilton House, where the water was deep enough to accommodate tall ships, the Upper Landing at Quamphegan was reached only by gundalows, canoes and other shallow-draft boats bringing cargoes upstream on the tide. Heading downstream, vessels laden with lumber processed by water power had a route to Portsmouth and the sea.
The last remaining building of the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company textile mill, the Counting House once provided office space for the company's agent and paymaster and their staffs. Samuel Hale was mill agent until 1869, when he was succeeded by his son Frances. Grandson Samuel Hale ran the corporation through the 1880s until the mill's closure in 1893. The Counting House has been owned and maintained as the Counting House Museum by the Old Berwick Historical Society since 1964. It is open to the public on weekends throughout the summer and fall, as well as by appointment . The first floor, that once provided office space for the Company's Agent and Paymaster, now contains exhibits as well as about 10,000 historic records and photos of South Berwick and the surrounding area. Upstairs, the building still contains one of northern New England's last textile mill ballrooms. Years ago the mill entertained dancers each autumn when gas lamps were illuminated for a "Lighting Up Ball." The Counting House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of South Berwick Historic District.
Dr. Ivory Hovey (1748-1818) was a merchant and physician. A surgeon in the Revolutionary War, Hovey built a house about 1790 at Quamphegan Landing. Later moved, the house still stands nearby on Park Street. Hovey became one of the town’s wealthiest citizens and a founder of Berwick Academy. In addition to merchant ships, wharves and warehouses, the Hovey family owned gristmills at Quamphegan and Chadbourne’s Falls, a fishing boat, and two gundalows for bringing their wares up-river. The Hovey store was the focal point of the riverfront during his lifetime. Dr. Hovey’s son, Capt. Ivory Hovey, Jr. (1770-1822), became a sea captain who traded with the ‘wine islands’ and Spain and Portugal. Sometime before April 1801, he was captured by pirates during a time when Spain was at war with Portugal. He eventually did return home. Read more
William Gooch Cheney (1836-1895), one of the best documented gundalow captains of the Piscataqua, was born in Wells, Maine, on March 18, 1836. He was the son of James Cheney, Jr. and Theda Hilton. Read more
Part of neighborhood identified in a memoir of the 1830s and 1840s associated with the Portsmouth Company cotton mill and its labor force. This house was the site of a plot of anti-temporance arson attacks in 1849. Liquor dealer Benjamin Stillings was eventually acquitted, but from early 1849 through 1851, he and other temperance opponents were said to have plotted to burn down the Methodist Church at Main and Park Streets, the cotton factory on Liberty Street, Berwick Academy, and several other targets associated with South Berwick’s tee totaling establishment. Read more
The Furness House is part of South Berwick Historic District. Before the cotton factory was built at Quamphegan Landing, a small beach was located along the shore of the Salmon Falls Riiver. In the mid-1700s, what is now known as Liberty Street along the river was called Furness Road, after the seagoing Furness family, who owned a wharf on the riverbank. Blacksmith Robert Furness lived in a house across the street, not far from the Landing. He made iron tools and hardware, nails and horseshoes in his blacksmith shop. Robert and his wife Abigail had ten children. Three of his six sons—John, Robert, and William—were teenagers when the Revolutionary War began, and when they reached manhood, all three served as soldiers or sailors in the war for independence. Each left by boat from the wharf here at the Landing and went away to sea. Read more
This Chadbourne House is part of South Berwick Historic District. Descendants of pioneer William Chadbourne, who helped build the first sawmill in South Berwick in 1634, built on this site in the early 1700s. This early Chadbourne house was expanded and altered by later owners, possibly a Humphrey Chadbourne who lived from 1678 to 1763. A Chadbourne Garrison was recorded about 1712, but the site is not known. READ MORE
The Judge Benjamin Chadbourne House is part of the South Berwick Historic District. On June 12, 1770, the great-grandson of Humphrey Chadbourne built this house. Benjamin Chadbourne (1718-1799) had served in Sir William Pepperrell’s expedition against Louisburg in 1745, and later became a judge of the Court of Common Pleas. He represented the Berwicks in the Massachusetts Congress from 1756-1771, and was a member of the Governor’s Council. Read more
Part of South Berwick Historic District, the Town of South Berwick's new Counting House Park is on the site of the historic Quamphegan Landing, one of the community's oldest places of settlement dating to the 1600s, when it was the community's transportation link for supplies from Portsmouth and the world beyond. For generations this was the spot where tall pine logs were loaded into the river to be taken downstream to shipyards to become masts. The 1830 Portsmouth Manufacturing Company cotton mill stood here until about 1917.
Just as before the arrival of European settlers Quamphegan was a fishing place of Native Americans, it still attracts fishermen today, as well as kayakers and canoeists at the new town boat ramp, and residents enjoying the natural setting of the Salmon Falls River. It is a regular destination of Central School students during their annual Hike Through History, and the gundalow replica “Capt. Adams” visited in 2005. The park is named for the adjacent Counting House Museum.
This house may appear on late 19th century photographs and maps. Middle Street , formerly known as Tremont Street , was once a mast road where ox teams carried huge white pine logs to the river.
A Methodist Episcopal Church built on this spot in 1837 was the target of arson by anti-temperance forces in 1849. It was rebuilt and then moved in 1888. Read about South Berwick's Temperance Controversy and Crime Wave, 1845-55
The census of 1790 reports that Alexander McGeoch, an Irish-born innkeeper and town constable, lived here in a two story house that was home to two men, three women and girls, and six boys. The location was on Liberty Street at Main Street, by the bridge and directly opposite the Counting House today.
After McGeoch's death in 1824, the Portsmouth Company cotton mill opened and attracted boarders who needed housing. In the early 1830s, the company fitted out the McGeoch house on the first floor as a dry goods store and grocery; a family named Luke, who kept boarders and worked in the mill, occupied the second floor. About 1836, the McGeoch House was replaced by or incorporated into a large, three-story ell to provide lodging for additional workers. The building became known as the “Hash House,” a reference to the cheap but filling meals served there to generations of mill employees. In an account of the Landing neighborhood, local resident George Washington Frosst, who grew up in the 1830s, recalled families who lived there: the Whidden family, the three Estes sisters, the widow Hanson and her two sons. The Hash House was torn down and replaced by a garage in the early 20th century.
On an 1872 map, this house showed as the home of Isaac L. Moore (1826-1886), owner of Moore’s store at the Pleasant Street corner. Read more
On an 1872 map, this house is shown as the home of Isaac L. Moore (1826-1886), owner of Moore’s store at the Pleasant Street corner.
Isaac Moore was born into a large farming family in Newfield, Maine, about 40 miles north of South Berwick. His father died when when Isaac was only nine years old, and within a few years the family moved to South Berwick, where his older brother found work as a teamster, driving wagons. Later Isaac took work as a clerk in the grocery store of Benjamin Doe at the Landing. By the age of 22, Isaac was a partner in the grocery business of Doe and Moore. When Doe left for California to mine for gold in the Gold Rush of 1849, Moore stayed on as storekeeper at the corner of Liberty and Pleasant streets, opposite the cotton mill.
Early in the 1830s, attracted by the huge profits of textile mills built upriver, four local merchants bought property near the log dam at Quamphegan Falls with a plan to harness water power and manufacture cotton cloth. The Portsmouth Company produced cotton sheeting and drilling (used for bedding and clothes) in a four-story brick textile factory at the Landing. The factory building stretched along the riverbank below the falls and housed a spinning room, a card room, two weave rooms, and a cloth hall where finished goods were inspected. A bell in the central tower of the factory rang to call workers to and from their shift each day. By 1880, the company operated 216 looms and employed two hundred workers.
Moore’s store prospered as the mill neighborhood expanded. Local historian Annie Baer remembered Moore’s store from her childhood days in the 1850s:
“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 [such as the Fourth of July].”
Moore classified adMoore Grocery advertisement from the South Berwick Cornucopia, June 22, 1871.
An advertisement in the Cornucopia newspaper from 1871 describes Moore as a “Dealer in West India Goods and Groceries.” West India goods were foreign cargoes imported by ship, including salt, sugar, molasses, rum, cocoa, tropical fruits (like bananas, oranges and lemons) from the West Indies, which are islands in the Caribbean Sea; and dishes, tea, silks, cotton cloth, dyes (such as blue indigo) and spices (like cinnamon and pepper) from Asia. Moore’s grocery also sold locally made provisions, such as bread, soap, flour, cornmeal, oats and rye.
Isaac married his wife Sarah about the time he started his grocery business. They had three daughters—Ellen, Abby and Geneva—who grew up at the Landing in a house Isaac built at 3 Liberty Street, next door to the store. By 1860 his household numbered 16 people, including his family of five, the family of Benjamin Johnson, his store clerk; and three young boarders working in the cotton mill. His daughter Ellen later married a store clerk, Fernando Harvey, who boarded with the Moores. But in 1886, when Isaac Moore died, his grocery business was taken over not by his children, but by two nephews from his hometown of Newfield.
The Maddox Store at the Landing about 1890. The wagon driver is Joseph and his son Albert stands in front in a white clerk’s coat.
Joseph A. Maddox and his younger brother Norris had never owned a business before they came to South Berwick in the mid-1880s. They both started work at the Hargrave Woolen Mill in Shapleigh, Maine, as teenagers, and had worked in damp, loud mill conditions all their lives. The incentive for Joseph, age 39, and Norris, age 32, to leave mill work must have been great. Joseph bought the store on Liberty Street, and Norris was the clerk there until 1888, when he took over another grocery on the corner of Main and Garland streets, just two blocks away. Eventually, Joseph and his son Albert owned a chain of five grocery stores—three in South Berwick and two in Milton and Lebanon, both mill towns on the Salmon Falls River.
The Joseph A. Maddox and Son stores operated for over 60 years until the 1940s. The corner lot on Liberty Street remained a grocery supplying food and household goods to the neighborhood through three families—Lord, Moore and Maddox—for over 150 years, anchoring the Landing community during its transformation from a wharf-lined harbor to a water-powered industrial site.
In 1887, brothers Norris and Joseph Maddox bought both this store and the former store of Gen. John Lord at the corner of Liberty and Pleasant Streets. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, a store selling West Indies goods, such as rum, stood here and belonged to Gen. John Lord, a merchant who lived from 1765 to 1815. Lord owned mill rights at the Quamphegan waterfall. He also built ships at Pipe Stave Landing, and was a partner of Jonathan Hamilton, shipbuilder and West Indies merchant who built the Hamilton House about 1785. After Lord's death his store was owned by Isaac L. Moore, who was the Maddox brothers’ aging uncle, who sold groceries. This store and another Maddox Store around the corner on Main were two of several grocery stores to be operated by Joseph Maddox (1847-1916) and his son, Albert Maddox (1873-1954), and eventually by grandsons, Alden and Stanley Maddox. A third Maddox store was in the brick business block in Central Square, South Berwick. Others were in Milton, NH, and Lebanon, ME. They were known as J. A. Maddox and Sons, and were certainly one of South Berwick's first experiences with the economic advantages of “chains”. They operated in the early 20th century through World War II.