From the 1790s, when the waterfall at Quamphegan was crowded with mills and wharves and called “the Great Landing Place,” through the 1840s, when commerce shifted away to the present downtown location, the center of South Berwick was here.
The section of South Berwick’s Main Street (Route 4) between the state line at the Salmon Falls River bridge and the road to the coast (Route 236) has been a transportation hub for almost four centuries. After the American Revolution, the Upper Landing, as the falls area was also known, expanded when roads were built to carry wagon and coach traffic between the states of Maine and New Hampshire.
The Boston to Portland “turnpike” brought stage coaches that stopped at the taverns such as the Quamphegan Hotel, a house still standing at 48 Main Street, on the corner of Park Street.
After 1830, the Portsmouth Company, a towering brick textile factory on the river, dominated the Landing neighborhood. This economic dynamo for the waterside community boosted the local population and the businesses that clustered along its main road.
On the map of 1872 this site was occupied by the home of pharmacist and ink manufacturer Ebenezer S. Hanson (1825-1905), whose family owned several properties, including a drug store in Central Square. Prior to that, on a c. 1856 map, it was owned by a J. Frost.
The present house was built by Charles Wentworth, probably late in the 19th century. In the 1950s the Wentworth family donated it to Berwick Academy to be used as the headmaster's residence. Today it contains Roaring Brook Consultants.
Sewall Road from Main Street has hardly changed since the 1800s, when maps identified it as School Street. A one-room schoolhouse served children living in District #4, until the construction of South Berwick Central School on Main Street in 1925. Beyond the Wentworth house, at the top of the hill, was the parsonage of the First Baptist Church on Main Street.
In 1927 the town renamed the road Sewall Road, after a family living at the top of the hill on the north side of the street. Helen D. Sewall died on her 77th birthday in 1922. Jotham Sewall died on his 85th birthday in 1932. His sister, Jane Sewall, lived to be about 100 and held the Boston Post Cane as the town's oldest resident.
One of the dominant families at the Landing in the 1800s was that of John Plumer, a baker who lived from 1800 to 1873, and his son, John Henry Plumer, who owned a livery stable.
Founded in the decade before the Portsmouth Company cotton mill was built on the Salmon Falls River, Plumer’s bakery business at 54 Main capitalized on a location at the nexus of the river and the “turnpike” that then carried horse-drawn traffic through town on Main Street. Later, the bakeshop thrived because of its proximity to boarding houses, taverns, and several hundred mill employees at the Portsmouth Company, incorporated in 1831. John Plumer was a young man of 29 with a wife and infant son when he bought his shop at 54 Main in 1828. Sixteen years later, at age 45, he was described as a “gentleman,” indicating a man of property.
Throughout much of the 19th century this house, located on the Portland to Boston turnpike, was a tavern known as Quamphegan House or the Quamphegan Hotel, where travelers coming over the bridge and mill workers associated with the Portsmouth Company cotton textile mill mingled, stabled their horses and and enjoyed hospitality.
This former 19th century grocery store at the corner of Main and Garland Streets is evidence of the small but vibrant commercial neighborhood once located at Quamphegan Landing. During the heyday of the Portsmouth Company textile mill, 1831-1894, the building was known as Nealley’s Store, after a leading merchant family. In the late 1800s it was bought by Joseph Maddox, who ran it along with at least two other grocery stores in South Berwick.
A memoir of the 1830s says, “On the brow of the hill just above Colcord's store, Gilpatric and Davis carried on an extensive tinware manufactory; 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.” Throughout most of the years of operation of the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company cotton mill, a property at this location is said to have belonged to Ira (or Abraham) Gilpatrick (1802-1878), tin manufacturer. Gilpatrick and his partner Richard Davis (1801-1895) also had property and homes at Liberty and Vine Streets.
Built as a rental for employees of the Portsmouth Company cotton mill on the river, this house was owned for many years by members of the Nason and Plumer families. Benjamin Nason (1788-1875) was one of South Berwick's leading businessmen, and the Plumers were descendants of the baker, John Plumer (1800-1873).
In the early 20th century, Sarah Burleigh (daughter of Charles S. Butler), had been living on Academy Street in the family home of her husband, Charles H. Burleigh, foreman of the Newichawannock Woolen Mill. By 1920 Sarah and Charles moved to 97 Main.
In 1907, Sarah had bought the house across the street at 88-90 Main from the estate of her aunt, Nancy Butler Plumer, widow of John Henry Plumer, and managed it for rental income.
For five generations, beginning with Thomas Abbott, who died in 1713, the Abbott family was one of several principal landowners at Quamphegan Landing. This property seems to have held the “one house and new shop unfinished” mentioned in an 1814 inventory of cabinetmaker Legro Abbott, whose estate was left to his last living sibling, Edmund Abbott, who sold to the Nasons. As late as half a century later, the property was still referred to as the “Abbott House and lot.”
This very old, large mansion stood at the present location of modern condominiums. The home of Bartholomew Nason, whose family had lived in South Berwick since the 1600s, it was later owned by Timothy Ferguson, a partner of Capt. Theodore F. Jewett and a founder of the Portsmouth Company cotton mill. The house was torn down in the mid 20th century. More details coming soon.
Likely built by merchant Timothy Ferguson, a founder of the Portsmouth Company, between 1825 and 1840 as an investment property to house mill workers, the house was still referred to as the “Ferguson House” in 1915. After Ferguson's death in 1839, John B. Nealley and his family managed the property into the 20th century.
The house is traditionally said to have been built in 1840, not long before a mid-century map shows a merchant named William Hutchings living here. A Hutchings family also lived at the Landing decades before, perhaps on the site or not far away. Records show that in 1796, a Joseph Hutchings, from Portsmouth, married Esther Nayson (Nason), and by 1805 had a boat building shop near Main Street. The Nasons were major property owners across Main Street from the Hutchings property in the early 1800s, when merchant Benjamin Nason owned a dwelling house, store, and outbuildings.
The property at 72-74 Main was already a rental in 1817, when the heirs of Gen. John Lord, a merchant who owned nine acres and mill rights at the Landing, sold this parcel to Richard Hazeltine, a doctor living there. Hazeltine’s ownership lasted only six months before he sold to another doctor, Charles A. Trafton. It was then maintained by the Nealley family as a rental housing duplex for employees of the Portsmouth Company cotton mill on the river, which operated from the 1830s to the 1890s.
The original Berwick Academy schoolhouse, built on today's campus in 1791, is known to have been moved to Quamphegan Landing during the 1800s where it served as a private home. This building or another one on the site may have been the residence of the family of George Washington Frost (Frosst), who grew up in the neighborhood and wrote a memoir in the 1890s. The 1791 House was transported back to Berwick Academy about 1965, where it remains today. A lengthier article is planned and will be poster at a later date.
On the c. 1865 and 1872 maps it may have been occupied by a Mrs. Chadbourne. Descendants of John Thomas Driscoll (d. 1941) say this was the home of the Driscoll family. Driscoll was the South Berwick chief of police and in the 1910s and 1920s owned a drug store and lunch counter in the John Frost Store at Main and Paul Streets. Driscoll's aunt, Hannah Driscoll, may have been a housekeeper in family of Sarah Orne Jewett and mentioned in Jewett's 1909 will.
George Goodwin (1796-1861), the paymaster at the Portsmouth Company cotton mill on the river, owned this double house for many years on the site of his childhood home, and likely rented half to another mill official or employee through the mid-1800s. After Goodwin’s death it became the home of John Henry Plumer (b. 1829-1894), who owned a livery stable across the street and maintained this and other properties for rental income from mill workers.