Dr. Christopher P. Gerrish House c. 1870Dr. Christopher P. Gerrish (1829-1909), the town physician listed in town reports around the turn of the century, lived here according to the South Berwick map of 1872.  The house appears on a map of 1901 as a dwelling with bay windows.  According to a local resident, in the early 20th century it was the home of Walter Flynn, who ran a grocery store in a building to the right which appeared on maps of 1872, 1901 and 1927 but is now gone.

Dr. GerrishDr. Gerrish

Dr. Gerrish's medical practice as the “town physician and surgeon” was listed in many South Berwick town reports and the Maine Directory from the 1870s until after the turn of the last century.

Throughout the 1800s, South Berwick's town government hired doctors to treat poor families at home or at the Town Farm. Until the development of state-funded modern welfare systems in the 20th century, poor families, elderly residents and destitute immigrants depended on town support. By the mid-1800s the South Berwick Town Farm, also known as the Alms House, included 100 acres on both sides of Knight's Pond Road, and was worked by residents who were able. (Some of this land later became the South Berwick Town Forest.)

Town physicians over the years included village doctors Dr. Charles Trafton, Dr. Caleb Sanborn, and author Sarah Orne Jewett 's father, Dr. Theodore F. Jewett.

Records at Bowdoin College state that Christopher Prentiss Gerrish was born in West Lebanon, Maine, on December 22, 1829.  He attended Dartmouth and graduated from Bowdoin in 1855. He married Hattie A. Hill of Berwick the same year, and they had a son, Edward, and daughter, Clara.  Dr. Gerrish practiced medicine briefly in Somersworth, NH, and in York, ME, for ten years before moving to South Berwick in 1867, where they lived in a house still standing at 373 Main Street.  Here he served on the board of health and as superintendent of schools. 

About 1880, about the time that the Methodist Episcopal Church was moved from the corner of Main and Park Streets to the later site of Dunkin Donuts, Dr. Gerrish, who was a trustee of the church for many years, built an Italianate style home next door at 155 Main Street.  Hattie Gerrish died in 1808, and Dr. Gerrish died of cancer February 3, 1909. Their son, Edward E. Gerrish, was listed as a “conductor” in the 1900 census, when he would have been 42. He inherited the house at 155 Main Street, and died in 1931.

The Gerrish (or Garrish) family is one of the South Berwick area's very old maritime families often mentioned in historical accounts of the part of South Berwick known as Great Works.   A Capt. Benjamin Gerrish seems to have been an associate of the merchant Jonathan Hamilton around 1791.  In Old Fields Burying Ground on Vine Street, the graves of Nathaniel and Bridget Gerrish, who were born in the 1600s, are among the oldest graves in South Berwick.

(This page written by Wendy Pirsig from archives at the Counting House Museum. Revised December 2020.)

 

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