Charles Northend Cogswell (1797-1846), attorney and legislator; Hon. John B. Nealley (1810-1886), state senator
c. 1830 – Cogswell-Nealley House – 169 Main Street
This building is part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. Thought to have been built by Charles Northend Cogswell (1797-1846), this house then became the home of Hon. John B. Nealley (1810-1886) and Mary Elizabeth Jewett Nealley (1817-1890). She was the daughter of Thomas D. Jewett, author Sarah Orne Jewett’s great uncle and a partner in the Jewett shipping business. A native of New Hampshire, John B. Nealley opened a law practice here in 1845 and became an official of the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company cotton mill. He was South Berwick’s tax collector in the 1860s and 1870s, and served in the Maine state senate in 1870 and 1871.
Cogswell. Charles Northend Cogswell, an attorney who served as Maine state senator and representative in the 1830s and 1840s, built this house, according to local historian Margaret Foote (1834 - 1915). Born in South Berwick in 1797, he was the son of Northend Cogswell, who lived on Portland Street. He attended Berwick Academy and graduated from Bowdoin in 1814 at the age of 17, then became a law partner of William Allen Hayes (source: 1880 History of York County).
A memoir by Mary Jewett states that Cogswell shared a law office with Hayes on the second floor of the Parks Store. "It is said that for many years more business was done in their office than in any other in the country," according to the History of York County. "Mr. Cogswell possessed the confidence of the community in a large degree, not merely in his professional services but in his business relations and public duties. He was often elected to represent his town and county in the Legislature and Senate of the State, and was a member of the latter body in 1833-34. After an honorable and useful life he died suddenly on the 11th of October, 1843, in the forty-seventh year of his age. Judge Goodenow, in reply to the application to place upon the records of the court the resolves of sympathy adopted by the bar, observed, 'In a professional career of twenty-five years, few, very few, have accomplished it so well. His talents for business were indeed extraordinary, and he was most diligent in the employment of them. His memory was retentive, and he was exceedingly accurate in all his transactions in his office and in the courts. His whole demeanor was amiable and exemplary.'"
The intersection of Main and Academy Streets, South Berwick, about 1860
The Nealleys. By 1860 the property was the home of John Bowdoin Nealley and Mary Elizabeth Jewett Nealley. She was born in South Berwick on October 20, 1817 and was the older sister of Sarah Orne “Sally” Jewett, daughter of Thomas D. Jewett. (Mary Elizabeth's younger brother was named Charles Cogswell Jewett, after the famous attorney who had built the Nealleys' home. Born in 1831, Charles C. Jewett became a physician.)
On November 24, 1840, Judge William Allen Hayes married Mary Elizabeth Jewett and John B. Nealley. Nealley was born March 8, 1810, in New Hampshire (probably Nottingham), one of several members of his family to come to South Berwick after the establishment of the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company cotton mill in the 1830s. (Sources: family records provided by Elizabeth Hanna, including New Hampshire State Papers and Hoyt-Nealley Family Bibles.)
Historian Annie Wentworth Baer writes, “There came from the region of the Pawtuckaway hills the Nealleys, and they brought much thrift and business ability. It is said that John was well versed in cotton manufacture; Benjamin was an overseer in the card room; Charles, a fine looking man, was head of the cloth hall, and his sister – Mrs. Higley – was an able assistant. George Nealley was a merchant; Eben the tavern-keeper; and Andrew J. owned and skillfully managed the property sold to Mr. Maddox, besides many acres in Somersworth and Berwick.”
According to the History of York County, Nealley opened his practice of law in South Berwick about five years after his marriage, in 1845. That same year he joined his neighbors and other members of the Jewett family to found the local chapter of the Odd Fellows fraternal organization and construct the Odd Fellows Block. In the 1857 Maine Business Directory, Nealley was listed as a justice of the peace and the owner of a “country store.”
He was South Berwick’s tax collector in the 1860s and 1870s, and served in the Maine state senate in 1870 and 1871.
Nealley invested in considerable land in downtown South Berwick, as can be seen from the village map of 1872 at right. Perhaps this was made possible by his wife’s inheritance following the death of her father, Thomas D. Jewett, in 1864. Some of Nealley’s property along the railroad gave rise to the name of Nealley Street about 1900. Nealley’s holdings in the 1870s also included buildings near the Portsmouth Company mill. His brothers owned South Berwick property as well.
John and Mary E. Nealley had at least four children, some of whom attended Miss Raynes’ School with their cousins, the Jewetts. A daughter, Emma, died as an infant in 1846. Two daughters lived only into their twenties: Helen, born about 1844, who died in 1868, and Elizabeth, or Lizzie, born about 1847, who died in 1871.
Son Frederick T. Neally worked as a cobbler and harness maker. He married Addie Knox of Dover in 1879. At the Corner, off Central Square, his shop was at today’s 10 Portland Street, where the old Jewett store had been founded half a century before by his grandfather, Thomas Jewett. Mary Jewett wrote that the business was at one time known as Carpenter and Nealley.
John B. Nealley died in 1886, and his wife Mary Elizabeth in 1890.
Map of downtown South Berwick showing the Jewett Store, later Frederick Nealley's harness shop.
(This article was written by Wendy Pirsig and revised November 2020.)