Novelist, poet and short-story writer Sarah Orne Jewett was one of the luminaries of turn-of-the-century American literature. Her exact, kindly descriptions of the people and places she encountered near home gave Jewett’s writing a freshness that quickly became popular. She brought the world up the elm-lined streets, through the old-fashioned gardens and into the quiet kitchens of this small river town.
Sarah was born in 1849 into a town full of family. Her Jewett grandfather and great uncle had made their fortunes trading and building ships on the Salmon Falls River. They owned two of the grandest houses in town,and their children settled nearby. Sarah’s own father was a doctor (and her mother the daughter of a doctor) who often took Sarah on his visits to patients and their families in the neighboring countryside.
As a woman Sarah split her life, living part time with her sister in South Berwick – riding, gardening,and boating on the river – and part time with her intimate friend Annie Fields, traveling abroad or mingling in the artistic life of Boston. She died in South Berwick in 1909.
--From the Sarah Orne Jewett Walking Tour brochure by the Jewett Eastman Memorial Committee, trustees of Jewett Eastman House.
A visitor to contemporary South Berwick can follow in Sarah's footsteps and see much of the built and natural environment that shaped her life and influenced her writing. The following is a tour of Sarah Orne Jewett's South Berwick. (This article was updated in May 2012.)