This house is part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. Goodwin Street, built by the town of South Berwick in 1871, divided a large parcel of farmland owned since the early 1800s by Capt. Benjamin Franklin Goodwin (1817-1891), who lived here for many years. His father, Elder Jedediah Goodwin, had been the first pastor of the Baptist Church that stood nearby on the present site of the Soldiers Monument.
Capt. Goodwin married Mary Abigail Wallace (1826-1883) on November 16, 1848, and they raised their children in this house. Bradford C. (1849-1851) and Levi Woodbury (1852-1867) both died young. Rodney (1858-1931) moved to Biddeford as an adult, and Clinton (1861-1945) lived in North Berwick and York.
Benjamin Franklin Goodwin's title of "captain" could have designated his rank in the militia. This site on the Plains was a key militia drilling area in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
The Baptist meeting house dating to the 1790s at the later site of the Soldiers Monument functioned as South Berwick’s Town House through the 1850s. Here "Elder Jedediah Goodwin was quite often town auditor and read his report in open town meeting,” according to a history account in the South Berwick Town Register.
Elder Goodwin, Capt. Goodwin’s father, had been "first pastor" when the Baptist church preceding the Town House reorganized in 1818.
Previously, Elder Goodwin had preached at the church at Great Hill (today's Hooper Sands Road). Joshua Emery helped found the church in 1768, when it was the only Baptist Church in Maine. Emery, for whom Emery’s Bridge is named, was Elder Jedediah Goodwin's grandfather and thus B. F. Goodwin’s great-grandfather. Elder Goodwin is also considered one of the founders of the Emery’s Bridge Christian Church on Emery’s Bridge Road.
The Plains meeting house here on Portland Street appeared on the Berwick map of 1795 (Maine State Archives). An annotated excerpt from this map is shown here. The early 19th century Baptist congregation had a strong association with many of the homes still found along Portland Street. The church, though operating during a period of confusion among several Baptist groups just before the First Baptist Church was built in 1824, was nonetheless an important community center.
If Benjamin F. Goodwin was a sea captain, his connection to the profession may have come through his neighbors, the merchant Thomas Jewett and his brother, Capt. Theodore F. Jewett, or through Goodwin’s uncle, Emery Goodwin, who was married to a daughter of merchant Jonathan Hamilton. In 1798, when Emery was 17, he married Mary “Polly” Hamilton. Jonathan Hamilton died in 1802. Polly lived until 1865.
Capt. Goodwin could also have been an associate of Capt. Samuel Harding (c. 1780-1844), the neighbor who moved into the Parks Harding House across Portland Street at about the same time Capt. Goodwin built this house. Harding had at least two sons about Goodwin’s age who were merchant sea captains. The Hardings were also members of the Baptist Church at the Plains.
(Summary by Wendy Pirsig from archives at the Counting House Museum. Updated December 2020.)