by Norma Keim
Until 1814, Maine’s three Berwicks -- South Berwick, Berwick and North Berwick -- were all one town, Berwick.
Why that name?
Many New England towns were named for English towns -- Plymouth, Massachusetts or Dover, New Hampshire, for example. Some -- like Pittsfield, MA, or Wolfeboro, NH -- were named to honor great English leaders. Throughout the 1600s the area that became the Berwicks in Maine was part of the town of Kittery and known at first as Quamphegan or Newichawannock. But gradually the name Barwick or Berwick took hold, taken from a town associated with England’s old rival, Scotland. Why?
17th century tower in Dunbar, Scotland
Old Berwick’s story began over 4,000 years ago as home to Native American fishermen and hunters. For millennia, Indians migrated during the spring from the interior of southern Maine to the Salmon Falls River.
Here, they established encampments adjacent to the river and today’s South Berwick’s Counting House, Quamphegan Falls, Rollinsford, and the Great Falls in Somersworth harvesting the salmon, shad, alewives, and eels that made their annual migratory runs up Maine’s coastal rivers. By the time English explorers such as Martin Pring (1602) and John Smith (1614) sailed along the coast of southern Maine, the Indians of Newichawannock and Quamphegan had established planting grounds of corn and beans along the Salmon Falls River.
A Summary of the Battle of Dunbar and the Scots of Berwick, Maine
In January, 1649, Oliver Cromwell’s anti-Royalist forces executed King Charles I of England in London. Until that time, Scotland had sided with Cromwell in the English Civil War. But the king had been born in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, and his murder dismayed his northern countrymen, who later that year defied the English Commonwealth by proclaiming as king his son, Charles II.