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.
The 1856 map excerpt at left shows Ira Gilpatric on Main Street near the Baptist Church,where railroad tracks cross at current location of Route 236.
Gilpatric and Davis properties also stood on Liberty Street at Vine Street, as shown on the 1856 map excerpt at right.
The Davis and Gilpatric families crafted tinware and sold stoves at both the Landing and downtown South Berwick throughout the 1800s. The partnership of tinsmiths Gilpatric and Davis is mentioned in the 1820-1831 journal of Maj. Thomas Leigh.
The homes of Abraham Gilpatric and Richard Davis still stand today at "Liberty Square," the intersection of Liberty and Vine Streets and Old Mill Road. The 1915 photo below was a donation of Virginia Smith Alterio, Davis's great-great-grand-daughter, to the Counting House Museum archives. The Davis House, at center of photo, was built by Judge Benjamin Chadbourne in 1770.
This tin funnel in the collection of the Counting House Museum was donated by Linwood Davis, a great grandson of Richard Davis.
“Gilpatric and Davis carried on an extensive tinware manufactory,” wrote George Washington Frosst, who grew up in South Berwick in the 1830s. The firm belonged to Ira Gilpatric (1802-1878) and Richard Davis (1801-1895). There was an Abraham Gilpatric as well (sometimes spelled Gilpatrick or Kilpatric); perhaps he was Ira's brother or son.
“They employed several men as peddlers who penetrated York County far and near,” wrote Frosst, “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.”
The 1856 map excerpt at left shows the tin shop on Main Street at left, and the Davis residence at right, on Liberty Street of today.
“Richard Davis was born in Wells in 1801,” read his 1895 obituary in a local newspaper, “being one of a family of children early orphaned by the death of their father. Several years of his boyhood were spent with an uncle in the northern part of the county, after which he went to Kennebunk, where he remained until he had served a seven years’ apprenticeship and made the trade of a tinsmith his own.
“At this trade he worked two years in Wells, living with almost incredible economy and thrift, and saving nearly two hundred dollars, with which capital and a brother apprentice, Abram Gilpatric by name, he started out to seek his fortune. The first town visited was York, which did not seem to him a good location for his purpose, and he came hither, where the leading men of the place urged him to remain, and started business in a shop where the Dr. Trafton house now is [probably the current location of South Berwick Town Hall]. After a time he purchased the house where he died, which was built by Judge Chadbourne… Mr. Davis married the sister of his partner, Mr. Gilpatrick, and became the father of 8 children…”
Family records state that Richard Davis bought the Judge Chadbourne House in 1826.
At left is a modern photo of the Judge Chadbourne House, later the home of tinsmith Richard Davis and his wife Mary Ann.
Photo of Mary Ann Davis is reproduced with the permission of Virginia Smith Alterio, her great-great-grand-daughter.
Article from the Dover Enquirer, August 4, 1870
The eldest surviving son of Richard and his wife, Mary Ann (1806-1866) was Joseph Porter Davis (1833-1904), and he too became a tinsmith. The great downtown South Berwick fire of 1870 was said to have originated in Joseph P. Davis’s tin shop near Central Square.
After the fire, Davis re-established his store in the reconstructed Business Block in 1872 and sold tinware and stoves. For a time he served as South Berwick’s postmaster.
Joseph married Cylinda H. Lord in 1856. That same year they had had a son they named Benjamin F. Davis, who died when he was only about two years old. The grave stone at Portland Street Cemetery says Benjamin F. Davis (1856-1858), age 2, was the “only child” of Joseph P. Davis.
In 1862, Joseph and Cylinda had another son they named Ben Frank Davis. He grew up and became the owner of Davis Drug store.
Another son of Joseph P. Davis seems to have been Richard Davis (1864-1962). His son, Linwood "Darby" Davis, died in 2008 at the age of 101. Darby was raised and educated in South Berwick and graduated from Berwick Academy. He was employed at the Rocky Gorge Woolen Mills at Great Works. Later he moved his family to the Lawrence, MA, area to work as a plant engineer for Malden Mills, where he retired in 1973.
At right, ad from the Cornucopia newspaper, South Berwick, 1871
Another son of the elder Richard Davis, the tinsmith, was also named Benjamin Franklin Davis. He was Joseph’s older brother by two years and was born in 1829. A Union soldier during the Civil War, he died in Washington D. C. in 1862. His name is on the Soldiers Monument and his grave at Portland Street Cemetery.
This photo of Benjamin Franklin Davis was donated to the Counting House Museum archives by Virginia Smith Alterio, a descendant of Richard Davis.
Richard Davis’s 1895 obituary concludes: “He withdrew from active business some twenty years since, but retained his health and all his faculties in a marked degree, recovering from a paralytic shock experienced some years ago, so as to move about hand talk as freely as ever. His mind was stored with reminiscences of the olden days and an hour with him was a very pleasant one. Sunny and cheerful, in spite of repeated sorrows, as one child after another was taken away, he waited serenely for the day when this mortal should put off immortality. A member of the Baptist church for many years, a kind neighbor, a good citizen, many mourned when after a three weeks’ battle with the grip, that showed the wonderful vitality he still possessed he passed on where there are no more years.”
This Davis cookie or biscuit cutter in the collection of the Counting House Museum was donated by Linwood Davis, a great grandson of Richard Davis.