The early English ships came about ten miles up the Piscataqua/Salmon Falls Rivers to the present location of the Hamilton House in South Berwick.  Deep-water anchorages there fostered a profitable ship building industry.

Where did South Berwick children go to school in the 1870’s? Happy Valley School, South Berwick, late 1800s or early 1900s

Happy Valley School, one of South Berwick's many one-room schoolhouses

If you were going to school in the 1870’s, would you go to Central School?  No!  

Worster Brook in Berwick, Maine, sometimes called Worster's River, takes its name from Moses Worster/Wooster or Worcester, who built a mill there in 1709 with Timothy Wentworth, according to the book "Piscataqua Pioneers." Born November 10, 1643 in Salisbury, Mass., Worster was known as "Old Contrary" and lived to at least age 88. He first farmed for many years on 200 acres in present-day Eliot near Sturgeon Creek, but at 66 built his mill on the creek at Berwick.

Worster’s River can be seen today from a small bridge where it runs under Route 236 between South Berwick and Berwick.

Worster Brook flows into the nearby Salmon Falls River. During the conflict between English settlers and Native Americans known as King Williams War in 1689/90, the brook became the scene of a skirmish following an attack on the settlements of Salmon Falls, Quamphegan and Newichawannock, now in South Berwick. Settlers whose family members had been taken captive made an unsuccessful effort to recover the hostages before they were taken to Canada.

1791 House – Not to be reproduced without permission of Berwick Academy

   Founded in 1791, Berwick Academy is an independent coeducational country day school, grades K-12, serving over 580 students from the Seacoast area of southern Maine and New Hampshire. It is today Maine's oldest school. Among its students have been authors Sarah Orne Jewett and Gladys Hasty Carroll, artist Marcia Oakes Woodbury, Congressman John Holmes Burleigh, and Arizona Governor John Noble Goodwin.

Records of the Berwick, Maine, town meeting on April 3, 1809 (before South Berwick, Berwick and North Berwick were separate towns) called for the construction of a powder house.  It seems likely this building gave its name to Powder House Hill, also known as Butler's Hill. 

The Cushing MansionThe Cushing mansion on Main Street, South Berwick, was torn down in late 1924 to make way for South Berwick Central School. In its day, it had been almost as famous as the Jewett House, and adorned Maine postcards. Also well known was its occupant, Madame Olive Cushing (c.1758-1853), who had received General Lafayette on his visit in 1825. This is a transcription of a 1902 essay by Madame Cushing’s grandson, Charles C. Hobbs. We are grateful to Terry Heller of Coe College for typesetting this essay and correcting some typographical errors.


Quamphegan Landing, South Berwick, 1877
                                                                    Landing looking over the falls.

In the 2003 photo right, South Berwick’s old, Quamphegan Landing, sometimes called the upper landing, can be seen from the Route 4 bridge entering South Berwick from New Hampshire. This photo is a view looking downstream, with the corner of the hydroelectric plant built early 1900s showing at left. The Counting House is out of view to left, and the rest of the site where the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company once stood is below the hydro plant. Today this grassy area is a new town park. The South Berwick Sewer District plant lies beyond.

Aerial view of Portsmouth Manufacturing CompanyIn 1831, New Hampshire native Samuel Hale gathered investors to purchase the water rights at Quamphegan Falls at the head of navigation on the Piscataqua/Salmon Falls Rivers, ten miles up from Portsmouth. The 275-foot dam with its 19-foot pitch held promise for water-powered machinery of the industrial revolution. Within a few years, the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company's four-story brick textile mill was built on the Maine side of the river, along with a Greek Revival-style corporate office, the Counting House.

Excerpted from a talk by Ernie Wood, Old Berwick Historical Society Lecture, November 17, 2005


The horse-drawn omnibus “Grace Darling” Simeon P. Huntress (1844-1923) owned Eagle Stables on Portland Street, at the site of the present Mobil station. In the late 1880s, with the South Berwick and Salmon Falls mills booming but before the advent of trolleys, he operated horse-drawn carriages to the beach called the York Beach Daily Stage Line. His famous horse-drawn omnibus “Grace Darling” still exists at the Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages in Stony Brook, New York.

Across the street from the Eagle Stables was the business block we know today. Upstairs, Newichawannock Hall , located where Wadleigh Ballroom is now, was a center of a variety of recreational activities over the years.

Undated photograph of Quamphegan ParkQuamphegan Park
by Annie Wentworth Baer

This essay is history of the Oldfelds Road area of South Berwick, Maine, probably written early 1900s for a speech at the local "Quamphegan" amusement park on Waterside Lane. Original manuscripts of essays by Annie Wentworth Baer are at the Woodman Institute, Dover , New Hampshire.

Quamphegan Park was an amusement park in South Berwick operated by the electric railway companies of a hundred years ago to encourage leisure time trolley riders. It was located near the Salmon Falls River on Waterside Lane, not far from the Route 101 bridge of today, which then carried a trolley line. This is an undated photo from the Old Berwick Historical Society collection. (OBHS catalog 1996I.0473.03, photo 1999.0245)

Excerpted from a talk by Ernie Wood, Old Berwick Historical Society Lecture, November 17, 2005

In the 1930's and 40's, the place to be on a Friday night was the Palace in South Berwick. In today's terms it was hardly a palace, but it attracted hundreds in a 50-mile radius each weekend for recreation of all sorts. Reports of cars parked on both sides of the street from Rollinsford to Rollinsford were no exaggeration. Despite all this traffic and parking issues, there was only one policeman, Richard Dione's dad.

According to many, South Berwick was “alive” with entertainment on a Friday evening and most of it centered at the Palace. It was owned and operated by Leo “Ben” Vachon, who had many infamous friends combining to make the Palace an institution. Many claimed they never entered, but no one I interviewed denied hearing or knowing about it.

Excerpted from a talk by Ernie Wood, Old Berwick Historical Society Lecture, November 17, 2005

Porter PinesAn area that should attract researchers and yet frustrated this researcher was a place called Porter Pines and the term “Radio Ranch.” They were located on the same land and the latter may have replaced the former as a place to recreate.

Note in 2010: The Porter Pines site today belongs to the Great Works Regional Land Trust and has become The Raymond & Simone Savage Wildlife Preserve 

By Wendy Pirsig, February 2017

 

Shorey's Brook today in the Raymond & Simone Savage Wildlife Preserve of the Great Works Regional Land Trust, with the Piscataqua/Salmon Falls River in the distance and New Hampshire beyond.  At left is the former land of William Furbish in present-day Eliot. Miles Thompson's land is at right.

Shorey’s Brook, the creek that empties into the Piscataqua/Salmon Falls River and forms part of today’s border between South Berwick and Eliot, Maine, was home to two young settler families in the late 1600s.

Sgt. Miles Thompson seems to have been a carpenter in his 20s when he acquired land on the north side of Black Brook in 1656. His farm eventually comprised about 80 acres and included a point on the river known as Thompson’s Point.  The brook eventually became known as Thompson’s Point Brook.

SEARCH South Berwick graves and cemeteries on the Cemetery Database.

South Berwick's five community cemeteries span almost four centuries, from the 1600s to the present day.  Rich with history, they are peaceful, interesting places to stroll, as well as being a repository of historical facts and a means to honor hundreds of our veterans.  The Town of South Berwick provides only minimal maintenance for cemeteries.  The Old Berwick Historical Society is therefore grateful to the volunteers who maintain these irreplaceable community landmarks.

Established 1600's - Vine Street, near Old Fields Road and Brattle Street
Veterans' graves

Overlooking Leigh's Mill Pond, Old Fields Burying Ground on Vine Street is one of South Berwick's oldest cemeteries, dating from the 1600s. Though no stones from that date are identified, it is very likely the burial place of our first settlers --families such as those of Thomas Spencer and Humphrey Chadbourne.  After the community's 1652 submission to Massachusetts Bay Colony, it was ordered that a meeting house be built, and around 1660 the settlers did so nearby, on the intersection of today's Brattle Street and Old South Road, at the center of the settlement.

Freewill Baptist Cemetery
Established c. 1835 - Main Street
Freewill Baptist Cemetery

Click here for a database to search graves in the Freewill Baptist Cemetery.

 

Many South Berwick citizens of the 1800s and early 1900s have been laid to rest in this 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 and shown at left on Main Street, is part of the interesting story of Maine Baptists and the temperance movement of the early 1800s.

Click here to read more Freewill Baptist Church history

The earliest grave recorded here 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.

Portland Street Cemetery
Established 1818 - Agamenticus Road

Click here for a database to search graves in Portland Street Cemetery. Portland Street Cemetery on Agamenticus Road

In March, 1817, a merchant named Micajah Currier, writing his will, provided funds for the creation of a new burying ground “for the inhabitants of Berwick and South Berwick,” according to York County, Maine Will Abstracts. Currier's tomb was the first to be placed there, in 1818. This was how Portland Street Cemetery began. In those days Agamenticus Road would have been a country lane without a name. Nearby, however, was the spot that became the Soldiers Monument at the Portland Street intersection, where South Berwick's town house stood in the early 1800s.

Currier's tomb, right foreground, at Portland Street Cemetery on Agamenticus Road, with Powderhouse Hill ski area in background

 

Pleasant Hill Cemetery
Wadleigh Lane

Ernie Wood of the VFW places a flag at a veteran's grave at Pleasant Hill Cemetery

Click here for a database to search graves in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

Pleasant Hill Cemetery is an historic burying ground originally associated with the Great Works woolen mill on Brattle Street, and dates to at least the mid-1800s.  Many textile mill workers employed at the Newichawanick Woolen Company are buried here.  The Second Advent Society at Great Works had a small church opposite the cemetery and a bit downhill.  The society was founded in 1870 by Rev. J. G. Smith and Rev. T. W. Piper and 15 original members. 

Woodlawn Cemetery

Agamenticus Road

Tomb of George F. Knight at Woodlawn Cemetery, undated photo.

Click here for database to search graves in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Woodlawn Cemetery, the largest and newest in South Berwick, was created on an old Libby family homestead and burial site that dates to the 18th century.  As Portland Street Cemetery began to near its capacity in the 1880s, Woodlawn began to be regularly used, and now contains hundreds of 20th century graves, including many veterans of World Wars I and II.  It is maintained by the South Berwick Cemetery Association.
 
“This monument is raised in the original family burying ground on the homestead of Dea. B. Libby, as a memorial to the long neglected dead which repose here, some thirty in number,” reads a Woodlawn Cemetery marker “erected by the descendants of Dea. John Libby, A.D. 1881.” 
 

 Tomb of George F. Knight

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