The Old Town of Berwick - Sarah Orne Jewett's history of South Berwick
by Sarah Orne Jewett
"The Old Town of Berwick” is Sarah Orne Jewett’s history of her hometown, South Berwick, Maine, with an emphasis on the years before 1814 when the name Berwick applied to present-day Berwick, South Berwick and North Berwick. The essay was published in 1894 in New England Magazine with the illustrations that appear here. We are grateful to Terry Heller of Coe College and the Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project for typesetting this document.
Throughout Jewett’s writings, her descriptions of the physical landscape are often very accurate. Taking her father’s advice, she wrote about what she knew, and her short stories sometimes read like 19th century travelogues. Her purpose in writing “The Old Town of Berwick” was to keep alive the places and people and stories which were familiar and dear to her. However, a few references in her essay here are not historically accurate. Because “The Old Town of Berwick” is often read as a local history, there has been a need to point out a few important inaccuracies in Jewett’s account. These will be mentioned in the notes accompanying the essay.
The Old Town of Berwick by Sarah Orne Jewett
Low Tide. The old fishing place.
I have always believed that Martin Pring must have been the first English discoverer of my native town, when he came to the head of tide water in the Piscataqua River in 1603. Bartholomew Gosnold had sailed along the coast in 1602, and Pring's pilot was one of Gosnold's seamen. He brought his two little vessels, the "Speedwell" and the "Discoverer," of fifty and twenty-six tons burden respectively, in search of adventure and of sassafras bark, which at that time in England was believed to be a sovereign remedy for human ails. TThe records say that Pring could find no inhabitants in the Indian villages near the coast, except a few old people, from whom he learned that they had all gone up the river to their chief fishing place.
So he followed them at flood tide for a dozen miles or more, finding little wealth of sassafras, but discovering a magnificent wooded country and the noble river itself, with its many tributaries and its great bay. The main branch of the Piscataqua (river of right angles or the great deer drive, as one may choose to interpret it) would lead him to Newichawannock Falls (my place of wigwams), and to Quampeagan (the great fishing place). No doubt there were those who could direct him to this point, for, being in June, it was the time of the salmon fishery at the Newichawannock Falls, to which place all the Indians came to catch and dry their fish for winter use. It was the great fishery for all that part of the country.
The River Bank
| Locating Chadbourne’s house at Quamphegan (Quampeagan) is somewhat confusing, as Sagamore Rowls' deed actually exempted the Indian place by that name from Humphrey Chadbourne’s purchase of Rowls’ land in 1643. The term Quamphegan was imprecise and sometimes even included what is now the New Hampshire side of the Salmon Falls River. The place of Humphrey Chadbourne’s house during his lifetime was probably called Newichawannock. But by the 1700s, Newichawannock no longer existed as a place name, and Berwick was set aside as a town in 1713. The area near the Counting House Museum, at the falls, later did become known as Quamphegan of the town of Berwick, until being renamed South Berwick when it separated from Berwick in 1814. |
-- Old Berwick Historical Society
I have myself traced for some distance the deep-worn footpath which marks the first day's trail northward and northeastward, as I have been told by a very old person who has preserved many of the earlier traditions of the town. I have heard that one might walk across on the salmon, which wedged themselves into solid masses in their efforts to leap the impossible high fall near the mouth of Chadbourne's or the Great Works River, which flows into the Newichawannock (now called the river of Salmon Falls) at Quampeagan, the high point of sandy land between the two streams. On the opposite bank, near the present village of Great Works, were the chiefs' houses, the deputies of Passaconaway, the great sachem of all this part of the country, and after him of Wonalancet and those other sons whom he commanded to be friendly, like himself, with the English people. Two cellars of their great wigwams may still be seen in a high green slope above the river.
The streams were full of high falls and dashing rapids; they were manifestly full of fish; the pine forests were superb, and in June, Quampeagan is always one of the most beautiful places in the world. If Martin Pring had been looking for a place to come to anchor with his two little vessels in the western world, he could hardly have found greater advantages or temptations than along the great river, with its fine harbor below and such manifest wealth above. The Indians were peaceable and friendly. He must at any rate have gone back to England and told his tales to eager ears and adventurous hearts. Champlain was on the coast in 1605; and Capt. John Smith, in 1614, also returned to carry news of the Piscataqua's advantages for a settlement, and to inspire others to seize upon the great opportunity.
|The location of Ambrose Gibbons’ “great house” is not known. Jewett says the early settlers planted grape vines along the north bank of the Great Works River, above Leigh’s Mill Pond. The road bordering the pond is still called Vine Street today. In the late 1600s, a generation after Ambrose Gibbons’ time, Humphrey Chadbourne operated a mill at the falls near where the Great Works empties into the Salmon Falls River.|
-- Old Berwick Historical Society
He was the intimate friend of Ferdinand Gorges; and when the Laconia colony made its adventure to the region of what is now Portsmouth, in 1623, we find the fisheries and water power of Quampeagan at once made use of and appreciated. In 1630 there was already a busy settlement of two hundred souls at the Great Works , as they called their little group of mills, -- the first mills of any sort that were built in New England. Ambrose Gibbons, the first agent of the proprietors, built a palisaded house on his arrival, in 1623 or 1624, near his famous mill with its gang of eighteen saws; and there have been mills of one sort and another at the Great Works ever since, and the little place has kept its high sounding name, much to the amusement of strangers who do not know its history. It is a picturesque spot, with steep, rocky cliffs and a bold plunge of the river into what was long supposed to be an unfathomable Great Hole, below the highest fall of water. In those early years, when the people in Plymouth were making their piteous defence against hostile Indians and starvation, this more northern settlement seems to have been busy and fearless and well fed.
". . . an unfathomable Great Hole, below the highest fall of water." Rushing water has worked its wonders on the landscape around South Berwick. There are a number of references to deep holes. Occasionally, one finds the Great Hole at Great Works being called Hobbs Hole. But Hobbs Hole is actually one of two depths on the Salmon Falls River, located near the Hamilton House. The other hole, also located near the Hamilton House, has been called Alpheus’ Hole or Deep Hole. Shipbuilding occurred near these watery depths, and became famous in local lore.
-- Old Berwick Historical Society
The Great Works River.
The Mason colony, as it is usually called, built its first house (called the Manor House) on Odiorne's Point, below Portsmouth, where some relics of its foundation or cellar and an old pear-tree or two were lately to be seen. Their object was "to found a plantation on Piscataqua River, to cultivate the vine, discover mines, carry on the fisheries, and trade with the natives." Gorges and Mason had great expectations of gaining wealth from certain legendary mines, as well as taking high rank from their possessions of manors and immense landed estates. There were fabulous tales of the wealth of the inland country, the three hills of silver beyond the Saco River, and the huge shining carbuncle that was guarded by a spirit somewhere among those White Hills, which every adventurer had seen from his anchorage on the coast. This expedition was not thought unworthy of the interest and fellowship of many men of good family and fortune, and we find them carrying out different social ideas than most of the colonists of their time. Their Great House and Manor House, and the pains they took in maintaining a respectable fashion of life and even a certain degree of state and elegance, strike the reader of their old records at once. There were men of authority among them, and we presently find some of these established at Newichawannock, or Quampeagan.
Perhaps Ambrose Gibbons may be called the first settler of the present town of South Berwick. As we have already seen, he was given charge of the mills and trading post, and attempted also the cultivation of vines in what is still called the Vineyard , where there were steep, sunny banks about the river basin below his mills. One of the favorite schemes of Mason was vine growing. The early voyagers who brought back tales of the New World had seen the Maine coast only in summer, and could hardly take the winter weather into account. All the early colonists had to undergo bitter suffering from cold, and even, at times, the lack of food, for this reason. Mason evidently thought that it was possible to rival the wine trade of France and Spain; at any rate he writes to Gibbons anxiously, "I pray you look well to our vines"; and Gibbons could only answer, what careful gardeners in this region have ever since found to be true: "The vines that were planted will come to little. They prosper not in the ground wherein they were set; but them that grow naturally are very good of divers sorts."
In the earlier part of this century there were still so many vines left in the Vineyard that it was a favorite place of resort in autumn for all the Berwick boys. One more than half suspects that it was a survival of vine planting in the earlier colonization of the Northmen and their German servants. If the good vines which Gibbons found and praised had come from the North German valleys, they would have done much better than Mason's, which probably came from France. The half-civilized state of the Indians is a hint in the same direction. One of them drew a serviceable map of the coast for Champlain with a bit of charcoal. These and other things show them not to have been entirely barbarous or without acquaintance with the habits of European life and speech.
But whether the Northmen were the first to know the lovely valley called the Vineyard, everybody who has known the region since will remember the high, steep banks and green intervale below, shaded with fine elms and a magnificent hop hornbeam that stand apart or border the sheltered mill pond, entered on one side by the Great Works River and its wild gorge. The fall of water above, so famous in early history, is at least thirty feet in height, and rushes with great force past the cliffs; but below in the intervale it separates into brook-like streams, and flows gently among willows and alders, circling the mysterious Indian mound. Wild grapevines and tangles of clematis are festooned from tree to tree. In August the water brink is gay with cardinal flowers. Everything seems to grow in the Vineyard, and to bloom brighter than elsewhere. As an old friend once told me, "If you want six herbs, you can go right there and find them." The shyest and rarest birds of the region may be seen there, in secret haunts, or at the time of their migration; it seems like Nature's own garden and pleasure ground. The old turf is like velvet, even on the high banks; and here grow great barberry-bushes, as they grow almost nowhere else. There is no doubt that they always mark for us the very oldest New England settlements and the site or neighborhood of old gardens. Brought over from England with other fruits and berries, they found a much more favorable soil and climate. Cotton Mather shows the importance in which it was held, in describing the escape of a woman from an attack of the Indians upon the Dover garrison, when she "hid herself among the barberry-bushes in the garden."
The Berwick barberries have had time enough to stray far afield from the old cellars and garden spots; but among them you usually find that soft fine turf which only grows where the hand of man has dealt much with the ground. The high flavor of the meagre berry has always been liked by people of the ancient New England stock, as if they were indeed grown of the same ancient soil and gardening. Some of us may feel the presence of an inner truth in the childish belief that certain infants were found in a barberry-bush, and that no other kind of dust or fostering neighborhood would suffice to account for their presence. One lingers over these few traces of our earliest forbears.
| Vistas along the trails in today's Vaughan Woods State Park include a landmark known as Cow Cove along the Salmon Falls River. Sarah Orne Jewett's mention here of the "tradition" about this cove sometimes leads to an exaggerated claim that South Berwick had the first cows in all the Americas. An inventory signed by Ambrose Gibbons in 1635, after a voyage to South Berwick the year before, listed among the livestock 24 cows, two bulls, 22 steers and heifers, and 10 calves. Later in the 1600s Cow Cove was probably part of the homestead of Scottish settler James Warren and his family, whose homesite and graves can still be seen in Vaughan Woods on one of the trails back from the river. |
-- Old Berwick Historical Society
The settlements that were fostered by Mason and Gorges fared much better than those like Jamestown, which in 1607 had taken first advantage of the famous royal grant to Popham of all the land between Pemaquid and the Delaware. At Newichawannock the dreams of the three silver hills and the great carbuncle had faded before the actual, visible wealth of the fisheries, and the huge timber pines that clothed the valleys and high hill slopes. The little ships of that time could easily come up the river; but as they had to cut the forests farther and farther back from the river bank, and to extend the farming lands, it was impossible to do without cattle, and these were sent over from England, or rather from Denmark, by Mason, in sufficient numbers. There were some traces left of this great yellow or dun-colored breed of oxen in the Agamenticus region, thirty or forty years ago; and Cow Cove, a charming inlet to the river below the Lower Landing, preserves the tradition that the first cow brought to this part of the country was landed there. In the upland pastures above, near Pound Hill and the Old Fields, are many old cellars with the almost effaced graves, and now and then an ancient hawthorn-bush or strayed garden flower of the earliest farms.
The Lower Landing.
Mason had plenty of money at first, and was most generous with provisions of every sort. In 1631 a ship brought many supplies and new settlers from England, and especially a company of Frenchmen, who were to take charge of the salt works.
Few women seem to have come with the first party of colonists. Ambrose Gibbons writes to Mason, in 1634: "A good husband with his wife, to tend cattle and to make butter and cheese, will be profitable; for maids they are soon gonne in this countrie." Gibbons's wife was with him at Quampeagan, and Roger Knight's wife had come also. In a schedule of goods sent out to the colonists in 1634 were "24 children's coates," and among the emigrants that year were twenty-four women. Most of these people were from Devonshire; and they evidently pushed through the Rocky Hills region, or the people with Champernowne and Col. Francis Norton, at York River or Agamenticus, came inland; for the local name of Brixham (a farming district between the great woodland tract and Scotland Parish, later settled) is taken from a fishing town in Devon, from which some of the colonists probably came.
|Ambrose Gibbons' Burial Place|
Gibbons lived at Sanders Point in New Castle, New Hampshire, for a while, and then removed his family to Oyster River (which was then part of Dover which later became Durham, New Hampshire.) He was buried there, according to Everett S. Stackpole, 1919, "The First Permanent Settlement in Maine."
-- Old Berwick Historical Society
Gibbons did not stay many years at Quampeagan or Newichawannock; and he was succeeded by Humphrey Chadbourne, a man of authority among the early colonists, who had built the Great House at Strawberry Bank (now Portsmouth), and, after living there in considerable state, removed to the sawmills settlement, as if it were the more advantageous and responsible position. He acquired great estates, buying the valuable peninsula between the two rivers, from the sachem politely called Mr. Rowls. Gibbons fades out of sight very soon. He is said to have been buried on Sanders Point at Newcastle. There was a mysterious person called Leaders or Ledgors, who was also prominent at Newichawannock; and we find the familiar names of Cooper and Knight and Norton and Spencer, who bought so large a tract of land, in 1643, that the men of the settlement were called together to ratify the deed. The estates of Humphrey Chadbourne were for two hundred years in possession of his descendants, and the house of his great-grandson, Judge Chadbourne, is still standing. When it was built there was no house between it and Canada.
The early settlers of the town were people of good intelligence and found themselves possessed by many advantages. Mason spent all his fortune to further theirs; and, barring the severe winters, for which they were at first unprepared, and the great distance from the managers of the company, they got on much better than many others in like situation. Some of the agents were untrustworthy, but there was, on the whole, a marked difference between these pilgrims to a new world and those of Plymouth or Connecticut. They were firm royalists and Episcopalians, and were careful at first to mind the interests of both Church and State; but it was only at Portsmouth that the church establishment was permanent. The people were happily not given to dignifying their own personal animosities and squabbles for ascendancy by the name of religion. They seem to have been honest, quiet people, with more self-respect than cant and self-seeking. They lived well, and in fact seem to have cared a good deal more for feasting than fasting, and to have had a sense of propriety in household affairs and great hospitality; and all these traits have come down to their descendants. They were not reformers, or people who made life too much a matter of opinion and lacked some of the finer qualities of such as these, yet held steadily on their way, with hardships enough to make them humble and encouragements enough to keep [heep] hope alive. While they looked to the provisioning and forethought of Mason, their own energies were somewhat enfeebled.
Mason died in 1636, bequeathing his much diminished property to his grandsons, with the New England lands. The family sent over an agent, but things were in a bad way; supplies and remittances ceased on either hand. It is not known when the inhabitants of the eastern shore of the river formed themselves into an order of self-government; but this proving precarious, in 1641, most of these communities of the Piscataqua put themselves formally under the protection of Massachusetts. In 1652 Kittery was formally made a Massachusetts town, and was authorized to send two deputies to the General Court.
It seems to have been many years before anything troubled the settlement at Newichawannock. Humphrey Chadbourne was the father and lawgiver of the little community; but with him we soon associate the Hills, and Plaisteds, and Lords, and Goodwins, from whose intermarriages have descended many distinguished New England men and women. Their garrison houses were not far apart, and this word "garrison" marks definitely the change from a kind of cheerful neighborliness with the friendly people of the Abenaquis tribe to an armed defence against the suspicious and savage Indian foe. In 1673 the old Sawmills settlement at Great Works and the neighboring farms were formally known as the Parish of Unity in Kittery, a name that their lack of history, the surest sign of a peaceful country, seems to have well deserved. It was sometimes called Kittery Commons and then Berwick, but it was not until the year 1713 that Berwick was set off from Kittery and made a separate town, as it had for many years been a separate parish.
The first great impulse to the population and affairs of the region after the original settlement was in the years of the civil war between Charles I. and the Parliament. Emigration had decreased; in fact, according to Hubbard, "The New England colonies were losing, by returns to the mother country, almost as many as they gained by accessions." When the managers of the company had ceased to support the plantations on the Piscataqua, a trade was opened little by little with the West India Islands, in which lumber and dried fish were exchanged for the island products, -- so beginning a commercial relation that was always of great advantage to this part of the country. Yet things were languishing and progress was stopped when Cromwell gained a victory over the royal troops at Dunbar, in the north; and "not knowing how to dispose better of his prisoners, he banished them from the realm of England and sent them to America." From Boston they were despatched down the coast to find fellowship in the more conservative royalist colony planted by Gorges, and were given lands in what is still known as Scotland Parish, in the upper part of York, not many miles from the Great Works and Quampeagan, whither, no doubt, some of them were attracted by the mills and general business. "Among these people," says Sullivan, "were the McIntires, the Tuckers, Maxwells, etc. These came to Gorges's government because he was a royalist." There were also the Lovats (Leavitts), Bradwardines (Bradeens), and others, whose descendants are familiar to our sight in York and South Berwick; and among these North Country men there must have been some one who came from the ancient hamlet of Barwick or Berwick-in-Elmet, in Yorkshire.
One Of The Oldest Houses.
I was always puzzled to know why the old people of the region called our town Barvick, and why the old church record book, begun in 1701-2, has on its titlepage, "The Records of the Church of Christ at Barvick"; though some later hand has attempted to turn the "v" into "w." Berwick-on-Tweed, for which this New England town has always been supposed to be named, is always pronounced Berrik. I should like to know more than I know now about the tiny Yorkshire village, whose existence I only discovered a few months ago, and which some loyal hearts remembered in their new homemaking. They had left a stormy England to find the young colonies beginning a long series of terrible struggles against the Indians, and so fell upon a most anxious time.
The plantations on the Piscataqua, and its upper branch, the Newichawannock (called now above the falls by the English name of Salmon Falls River), suffered more from the first hostile attacks of the Indians than either York or Wells. The river was the great highway, and gave subsistence to the war parties, according to Sullivan's History. We begin to meet on every hand the piteous stories of burned houses and cruelly murdered settlers. The Shorey and Neal garrisons, below Old Fields, and the Plaisted and Tozer and Keay and Wentworth and Spencer garrisons or fortified houses near the Salmon Falls, seem to have been most depended upon for shelter. There was a stockaded fort on Pine Hill, near the Great Falls, called by the name of Hamilton; but this as only a fort, and not a house. Almost every man went armed to his ploughing or to church. The Plaisted garrison was on the high, upland farm, occupied later for several generations by the Wallingford family; and near the site of it may still be seen the relics of a very old burying ground, of which the well-known Plaisted stone is almost the only one now recognizable. In 1675 the Indians made a determined and terrible assault on Berwick, and Lieut. Roger Plaisted, "like a man of public spirit, sent out seven men from the garrison to see what the matter was," and falling into an ambush, three of them were killed. The next day Plaisted went out at the head of a company of twenty, with a cart and yoke of cattle, to find the bodies; and, being surprised, most of the men ran for their lives; "while Lieut. Plaisted, out of the height of his courage, disdaining either to fly from or to yield himself (for 'tis said the Indians were loath to kill him, but desirous rather to take him prisoner) into the hands of such cursed caitiffs, did fight it out desperately, till he was slain upon the place. His eldest son and another man were slain in their too late retreat, and his other son was sorely wounded, so that he died within a few weeks after."
"Such," says Williamson in his "History of Maine," "was the fate of this Spartan family, whose intrepidity deserves a monument more durable than marble." The father had represented Kittery four years in the General Court, and was highly respected for his valor, worth and piety. He and his sons were buried on his own land, near the battle ground, full in view from the highway leading through Berwick, whose lettered tombstone tells succeeding ages:
"Near this place lies buried the body of Roger Plaisted, who was killed by the Indians, Oct. 16, 1675, aged 48 years, also the body of his son, Roger Plaisted, who was killed at the same time."
There is no record of any stone to the second son, but an older inscription on this same large stone reads: "Here lies interred the body of Samuel Plaisted, Esq., who departed this life March 20th, 1731, Æ. 36." This was probably Lieut. Roger Plaisted's uncle, as his father's name was Ichabod. A descendant of the family was one of the recent governors of Maine.
I remember in my childhood a low headstone near by, which bore the name of "Elizabeth Wyat, 18 years." It has quite disappeared with the old apple-tree that it leaned against, but I remember my father's telling me that he had heard from very old people that Elizabeth Wyat was a most beautiful and lovable young creature, whose early death had given the deepest sorrow to all her friends. I somehow take unreasonable pleasure in writing here this brief record, which perhaps no one could write but myself. Her dust long years ago was turned into pink and white apple blossoms against the blue sky, and these, in their turn, faded and fell on the green grass beneath. Mr. Granville Wallingford, the last of his long-respected family, was possessed of a knowledge of much local history, especially about these ancient graves, which are so nearly forgotten; even their very stones are covered deep into the green field out of sight and mind.
In 1678 there were dark days. Two hundred and fifty Englishmen were killed or carried away captive, and almost every settlement beyond the Piscataqua was laid in ashes. Major Waldron of Dover was the great Indian fighter of the region, and there is an account of a hundred Indians captured by him, which were sent to Bermuda and sold as slaves. The disastrous war of King Philip lasted three years, and nearly broke up the flourishing fisheries, upon which the seacoast, and river towns like ours, had begun to depend.
The story of Berwick is like the story of all the mother towns of New England, and she can boast her children's bravery and heroism with the best. In that same sad month of October, 1675, at the Tozer garrison near Roger Plaisted's, and half a mile above the mills at Salmon Falls, fifteen women and children were saved by the courage of a girl of eighteen, -- "that young heroess," as Hubbard calls her, who, while the rest were escaping, kept the door fast against two Indians, until they chopped it down with their hatchets, with which they then knocked her senseless; but "the poor maid that had ventured her life so far to save many others, was by a strange Providence enabled to recover so much strength after they were gone, as to repair to the next garrison, where she was soon after healed of her wounds and restored to perfect health again"; and so, as Hubbard says, somewhere else in his quaint and graphic "Indian Wars," "did happily make an escape from their bloody and deceitful hands."
Perhaps the most famous battle with the Indians was in 1690, when a party under the command of Hertel, a Frenchman, and Hopegood, a sachem, attacked Newichawannock." They killed thirty men, and the rest of the people, after an obstinate and courageous defence, surrendered at discretion." The captives were fifty-four in number, the greater part of whom were women and children. The enemy burned all the houses and mills, and, taking with them what plunder they could carry, retreated to the northward. A party of one hundred and forty men, collected from the neighboring towns, pursued and came up with the savages on Worster's River , at a narrow bridge. They fought all the afternoon, but with little loss on either side. The French and Indians held their pursuers in check until night, and then continued their retreat, tormenting their captives with shocking cruelty. Among these unfortunate captives was Mrs. Mehetable Goodwin, who may be called the mother of all that representative widely scattered Berwick family, which has shown in different generations so much ability and such marked traits of character. Hetty Goodwin, as she has always been called, was taken by the Indians, with her husband and baby. The man and wife were separated by two parties of the savages, and set forth on their long and suffering journey to Canada, each believing the other to be dead, and leaving behind them their comfortable farm on a beautiful hill above the river, near the Plaisted garrison. In the early part of the march one of the Indians snatched the baby from its mother's arms and dashed its head against a stone; and when the poor mother dragged her weary steps behind the rest and could not still her cries, they threatened if she did not stop weeping to kill her in the same way. At nightfall she was stooping over a brook trying to wash a bloody handkerchief, and her tears were falling fast again. She forgot the threats of her captives. Suddenly, a compassionate squaw, pitying the poor, lonely mother, threw some water in her face, as if in derision. The tears were hidden, and no one else had noticed them. "This squaw had a mother's heart," the old people used to say, in telling me the story. In Canada the captives underwent great hardships, and "Hetty Goodwin, a well-off woman," was so hungry that she sometimes stole food from the pigs. She was bought at last by a Frenchman; and, supposing herself to be a widow and despairing of ever reaching home again, she married him and had two children. Their name, corrupted probably from the French, was Rand; and the Portsmouth family of the name is said to be descended from them. As I was once told, the captive husband "was a Goodwin, and smart"; so after a while he outwitted the Indians in some way and gained his liberty; and, coming to his home, found that his wife was still alive. He went back to Canada and found her and brought her back; after which they managed to live unmolested and were the parents of many children. Hetty Goodwin's half-buried little headstone may still be seen in the Old Fields burying ground . I never can look at it without a thrill of feeling, or pass the pleasant place where she lived without remembering that she knew that lovely view over hill and dale, up the river, and must often have dreamed and longed for the sound of the river falls, in the far country to which she was carried a lonely captive, in the northern wilderness of Canada.
In the ancient church record book there is almost no hint of all these sorrows and anxieties that had come upon the people. In these same dreadful years of 1690 and 1724, when the village was completely destroyed, when they must have feared to sleep in their beds or to take the shortest walk afield, and for a long time after the houses were built only of logs for better defence, there are only the brief records, grown sadly few, of marriages and baptisms and "owning the covenant," and now and then an amusingly serious account of the settlement of disputes and desperate animosities between ill-tempered sisters of the congregation.
Of course, through the better part of the first century of occupation, the colonists had all belonged to the church at Portsmouth; and then when Gorges and Mason divided their lands, practically by the natural boundary of the river, and later still, when the town of Kittery was formed, the people of the Great Works and its neighborhood belonged to the Kittery church. The long distance soon became too perilous and difficult; and there had probably been a separate church service for the Parish of Unity for a good many years, before the church itself was formed and the Rev. John Wade ordained as pastor, in 1702. A meeting-house was built at Old Fields, between the busy riverside at the Lower Landing, or Pipestave Landing as it was first called, and the settlement at the Great Works. As early as the 8th of May, 1669, the town of Kittery made Sturgeon Creek the line dividing the town into two parishes, the upper parish being Berwick. In July, 1669, it was voted at town meeting to lay out one hundred and fifty acres of land in each of these parishes for the use of the ministry. The glebe land belonging to the upper parish was on the southern side of the Great Works River, and was sold many years ago and its price added to the ministerial fund. I do not know why it has always had the extremely secular name of the Tom Tinker lot.
We come now to the time when there are careful church and town records practically interchangeable at times. To quote a recent writer, "In the beginning each settlement or town was before all things a congregation, and the town meeting was in most cases the same thing as the assembly of the congregation."
The town of Berwick was incorporated in 1713, and Elisha Plaisted was the first representative to the General Court of Massachusetts the next year.
The Rev. John Wade preached for some years before the establishment of the church. He was born in Ipswitch, and graduated at Harvard in 1693. In 1698 he was chaplain of a garrison to the eastward, and died in 1703, hardly two years after his ordination. He wrote a beautiful, scholarly hand, and has left three most interesting, closely written pages of records, describing the founding of his church and early ministry. David Emery was the first deacon, and Nathan Lord the second. Capt. Ichabod Plaisted gave two silver cups, which are still preserved, and a cloth and napkin for the communion table. The second minister, who for half a century was truly the spiritual father and priest of his people, was the Rev. Jeremiah Wise. In his pastorate the town passed through most severe afflictions from its foes; but through his influence everything made for peace, as far as regarded the parish's own existence and government. Again and again "ye chh. voted in ye negative," when it was invited to attend the settling of grievances in neighboring churches; and the church in Salem is rebuked in solemn session as "a chh. obstinate and impenitent in scandal," and the First Church of Christ in Berwick decides to stay at home when "ye Separatists" in Exeter desire delegates.
Parson Wise lived in a house near the old meeting-house, at the upper left-hand corner of the road after you pass the Old Fields burying ground. Beside the constant dread of Indian frays in this border town to which he ministered, there were the two great excitements of the coming of the Quakers and the Salem witchcraft; but there is no record of any real persecution of either Friends or witches, on the eastern side of the Piscataqua. There is no word at all about the latter offenders, but Parson Wise piously records the baptism and owning of the covenant of a certain "Mary Foss, wonderfully recovered from ye Quakers," in 1716. One seems to know the good man familiarly after reading the age-browned pages of the old church book. He wrote a quaint wind-blown-looking hand, that makes the pages look more and more like a bent field of grass. You can see how his fingers grew stiff and old and were sometimes cramped by December cold. Such pastorates are no longer common. We can imagine the loss of the people when he died; the winter funeral the end of the long dependence and friendship.
|Rev. Stephen Burroughs and Rev. George Burroughs|
The Reverend from Wells who was hanged in Salem Village in 1692 was the Rev. George Burroughs. Stephen Burroughs was a criminal from New Hampshire in the 1700s.-- Old Berwick Historical Society
There is one incident connected with the Salem witchcraft delusion which has given an unforgetable name and association to a certain part of the present town of South Berwick, in connection with the summoning of the Rev. Stephen Burroughs, of Wells, to appear before the judges in Danvers. The whole history of Burroughs is most interesting and perplexing. He was a man of amazing strength and a curious knowledge of woodcraft, but was accused of cruelty and various misdeeds. An enemy of his in Danvers, where he had formerly preached, was despatched to Wells on the welcome errand of bringing him to justice, with the help of two constables, -- the strength and cleverness of Burroughs being quite enough to found the charge of witchcraft upon, and cover the desire of revenge for a private grudge. They found the man at his parsonage; and, sure of proving his innocence, he readily agreed to accompany them, but suggested that they should take a shorter path than by the road they had come, -- round by the old coast or post road through York. They pretended afterward, or perhaps believed, that he cast a spell on them, and led them into a gloomy forest, presently coming out on a high, strange ridge, like a backbone to the country. As it grew dark a great thunder-storm gathered, but Burroughs alone seemed to know no fear, and kept on his way. The messenger and his two constables nearly perished with fright, and believed the whole situation to be diabolic. The horses seemed to fly, and the lightning flashed blue and awful gleams about Burroughs, as he rode ahead; and so things were at their worst as they hurried up and down the steep hills of what has ever since been known as the Witch Trot Road. Suddenly the storm ceased, as thunder-storms will, and the moon shone out; and they found themselves near the calm water of the river, near Quampeagan. This was proof enough in that moment of Burroughs's evil powers, and his fate is a matter of history. The Danvers men told the story of their fearful ride, with great glory to themselves no doubt, for many years; and though those who were familiar with the country insisted that the road to the river was shorter by half than the long way through Cape Neddick and Ogunquit, it was easier to accept the marvellous than the reasonable.
There may have been witches in Berwick; but I never heard of any nearer than York, where one has always been said to lie under a great stone in the churchyard; and a terrible person in Portsmouth, described as wearing a white linen hood tied under her chin, a red waistcoat and petticoat, with a green apron, and a black hat upon her head; and she vanished away, green apron and all, in the shape of a cat!
The Last Of A Family.
It is interesting to see how many of the still familiar names of the region appear early in the old records; like Bragdon, Butler, Hodgdon, Grant and Gray, Hooper, Emery, Guptill, Weymouth, Jellison, Warren and Gowen; but other names equally common then are now, as far as I know, extinct in the Berwicks: like Wincal, Broughton, MacPhedris, Kilgore, Hamilton, Bolthood, Reddington, Andros, Shackley, Stockbridge and Percy, and especially Chadbourne, which was for so many years most prominent. We find in the church book Major Charles Frost, an honored parishioner and great Indian fighter, declining to take the responsible office of elder, "because the service is incoherent with his civil and military office." There is a fine picture preserved of Richard Shackley, "ye last of ye Elders." "He was a man of very grave countenance of the old Puritan stamp (which does not seem to appear very often in the Piscataqua plantations), sound in the faith, and very tenacious of his Hopkinsian opinions. He used to wear a red cap in church, and when he heard a minister whose preaching he relished, he would rise in his seat, which was beneath the pulpit, and stand there looking intently at the preacher. When not pleased, he would keep his seat." He wrote a fine, dignified hand: in fact, all these records show the first two ministers and the leaders of the parish to have been men of education and refinement. There is practically no misspelling, though some archaisms of speech, and a general tone of dignity and discretion.
After the death of Mr. Wise, a new handwriting in the old book somewhat afflicts the unprejudiced reader. It is commonplace, tiresome and insistent; and somehow the poor man's troubles with his parish are discovered, as if by instinct, to begin with a mean-spirited self-pity for himself; and one dismisses him, even at this distance of a hundred years, as willingly as his parishioners seem to have done. He tries to use force to bring certain stray-aways into church. He plans about getting more money, and goes on pitying and cherishing himself, and blaming his people, until the end. He was always signing his name as if it stood to him for something very remarkable, while Parson Wise's signature hardly once appears. Directly after his departure, old Richard Shackley, the solemn elder, calls for a day of fasting and prayer, "on account of the maloncholly state of religion in the church and town."
There followed him a man who is still remembered by some of my older friends, the Rev. John Tompson, who was a far more worthy successor of Parson Wise. He, too, was a college-bred man, of Harvard, 17--, and a descendant of the Parson Tompson of Braintree, so celebrated by Cotton Mather, in his "Magnalia," for his "constellation of converts." Mr. Tompson evidently plucked up his courage in accepting the call to Berwick. It was not only that he succeeded his predecessor, but the call was given in the darkest days of the Revolution, by a poor and anxious parish, with whom he frankly condoles upon its divided and languishing state. Berwick, as neighbor to her parent town of Kittery, had shared in the glorious successes of Pepperell in the siege of Louisburg [Louisbourg]; and no doubt some of her men marched with the company, formed about Saco, that was present at the fight on Bunker Hill. There is a devout assurance of Mr. Tompson's "Requests at the throne of Grace, that the God of Peace may be with us and bless us," as he ends his letter of acceptance.
These were days of discouragement. The town's business was stopped; the country was making a bitter struggle, and drawing away the best energies of the men to the seat of war. It was manifestly a time when the pine forests were in process of growth, and there was no market for timber, even if it could yet be cut. Some of the richer families had become extinct or had gone away. Judge Hill, the leading citizen, had died just before the great struggle came on. The country was more and more impoverished, and we can hardly imagine the discouragement that met both minister and people at every hand. It is a temptation to follow the history of the town closely, and to follow with it the closely interwoven fortunes of the sister town of Somersworth, across the river; but it is increasingly difficult to choose the leading threads, where everything is so locally important and interesting.
| Master John Sullivan lived from 1692 to 1796. In 2002, his farm site was marked by a plaque at the intersection of Pine Hill Road and Sullivan Street in Berwick, Maine. Master John Sullivan's house is thought by some local historians to have been moved from its original Pine Hill Road to still stand at 134 School Street / Route 9.|
-- Old Berwick Historical Society
Two of the most interesting figures of the last century, however, who must by no means be forgotten, were John (or Owen) Sullivan, always called Master Sullivan , and his wife, Margery, who came over to New England from Ireland about 1723. They first landed at York, and spent some time there on the McIntire farm, still occupied by descendants of the royalist exiles. Master Sullivan always surrounded himself with more or less mystery, but insisted that he had "four countesses to his mother and grandmothers, which has been proved true." He feigned great ignorance at first to match his poverty; but at last, tiring of his humble position, tradition says that he wrote a letter to Parson Moody, of York, in seven languages, and presently removed himself to the upper part of Berwick, a few miles above Quampeagan, to the neighborhood of the Great Falls, and opposite the present city of Somersworth. Here he kept a school for a great number of years, and owned a small farm. He is reported to have been indolent according to the standard of his contemporaries, but to have been always reading and a man of great wit and natural powers of mind. His wife was a woman of quick temper, but great tenderness of heart, joined to all the practical ability which Master Sullivan seems to have lacked, except that most noble gift of awakening young minds. Margery Sullivan, -- "the small, beautiful, energetic, courageous woman, who worked in the fields, so that her thoughtful and studious husband might not be obliged to do it; who drove a cow some thirty miles through woods and along bad roads for her son; who nursed the neighbours when they were ill, and quarrelled with them horribly when they were well; who gloried in her sons' careers, boasting that she never did anything contrary to the will of her husband. He was her father in age, her master in knowledge, and her husband by marriage." The writer has heard another boast of Margery Sullivan's repeated: that she had dropped corn many a day with two governors: a judge in her arms and a general on her back. Old Master Sullivan died in 1796, at the great age of nearly one hundred and five years, keeping his love for books until the last. His wife died in 1801. Two of their sons, Daniel and Ebenezer, were captains in the Revolutionary army: the first dying on his way home from a captivity in the Jersey prison ship; the second was a lawyer at South Berwick, but died at Charleston, S.C. John Sullivan, the younger, was one of the distinguished officers of the war, major-general by rank, and afterward first president or governor of New Hampshire. James lived at first in Saco (it was to him the cow was driven), and later he became a citizen of Boston; a judge of the Superior Court, attorney-general, and in 1808 governor of Massachusetts.
There is a charming story of his being on circuit in the District of Maine, and going out of his way to pass the night with his old father and mother at Berwick. In the evening he and his father lost their tempers over some political argument and parted in anger. The judge was obliged to leave the house very early in the morning before day, but he was so troubled as he rode away by the thought that he had been disrespectful, that he turned his horse at last and rode back again several miles to beg his father's pardon.
This was the author of the "History of Maine," so often quoted; a delightful work, eloquent at times, and naturally very full of interest when its author touched at any point the history or traditions of his native town. Berwick has had few sons of whom she has such good reason to be proud. The family burying place, at the old farm on Pine Hill, was unfortunately destroyed by the laying out of a road; and the graves of the father and mother being disturbed, the poor ashes that were left and the stone erected by their son James were removed by a descendant to the burial ground of their son and daughter, Gen. John Sullivan and Margery (Mrs. Hardy), at Durham, N. H.
After the Revolution the poverty and anxiety of the country were followed by just such a rousing of the people's energies and consequent renewal of prosperity as in the case of our late War of the Rebellion. It was in 1791 that, in spite of heavy taxation and much uncertainty, the town of Berwick made up its mind to have as good an academy as Byfield or Yarmouth. One of the old state historians says that Berwick has always been celebrated for the excellence of its schools. A town may have a profession as well as an individual, and Berwick chose to be an educator of youth. Judge Chadbourne gave ten acres of land in the finest possible situation and a sum of money besides, to begin the subscription; and Parson Tompson rode twice to Boston on his old white horse, and finally returned victorious with the charter granted by the General Court and bearing the fine signature of John Hancock. The history of Berwick Academy from that day to the delightful occasion of its centennial celebration would make a long magazine article in itself; but it can only come in as an episode in the town's history, and as the best expression of the spirit of the Berwick citizens. In giving this necessarily brief account, I shall take the liberty of quoting from the historical address given at the celebration of the academy's hundredth year, by Rev. John Lord, LL. D., one of the most gifted and best known pupils of the old hill school.
"The founders," says Dr. Lord, "were all honorable men, at least they were all respectable citizens in this prominent village, or were distinguished clergymen or lawyers in the neighboring towns. Primus inter pares, there was old Judge Benjamin Chadbourne, a veritable patrician, with a great landed estate, which his ancestor purchased from the Indians." Here we find the great-grandson of that Humphrey Chadbourne who came with the earliest settlers, and was for many years their leader. The late President Chadbourne of Williams College belonged to a later generation of the same family. "Judge Chadbourne lived in a fine colonial residence surrounded by noble elms, not far from the Vineyard, and was a great lover of trees. He gave to his friend, John Hancock, a large number of elms from his Berwick estate to be planted on Boston Common, where some of them still exist."
The Hayes House.
There was indeed an interesting group of men in the town, the stamp of whose thought and ambition may still be felt as a good inheritance from the early planters of Berwick [may be felt], I believe, all through her history. The houses built by these men are, for the most part, still standing, and many of their own traits and actions are still remembered. The importance of the village, and its connection with the world outside, can be measured by the manner of its housekeeping; and no one can enter Judge Chadbourne's house or the Hamilton house at the Lower Landing, the Gen. Goodwin house at Old Fields, the Hayes house built by Col. Dudley Hubbard, the Hobbs house built by Madam Elizabeth Wallingford, and long occupied by her children and grandchildren of the Cushing family, the Hayman house, or the Haggens house at the Corner , the Timothy Ferguson house, without seeing at once that people of refinement and cultivation had planned them and lived in them with elegance and hospitality. The best life in such a town as this was no more provincial in early days than it was in Salem or Boston, and the intercourse and sympathy between people of the same class in New England was more marked than at any other period.
The Haggens House.
| The Haggens House is known today as the Sarah Orne Jewett House in the village of South Berwick. Believed to have been built in 1774 by John Haggens (Higgins), it became the home of Sarah Orne Jewett’s grandfather, Theodore F. Jewett, during the 1820s. The author was born there in 1849 and lived in the house during the last decades of her life. She died there in 1909. Today it is a museum owned by Historic New England. "The Corner" was a name often used to mark the intersection of Portland Street and Main Street, where traffic from Portland took a bend as it headed south.|
-- Old Berwick Historical Society
The richest founder of Berwick Academy, the oldest literary incorporation in the state, was Col. Jonathan Hamilton, a shipowner and merchant, who from humble beginnings accumulated his great fortune in the West Indian trade. He was born on Pine Hill, in the northern part of the town; but built later the stately old house at the Lower Landing, and lived in it the rest of his life, with all the magnificence that was possible in his day. On his archaic looking tomb, in the Old Fields burying ground , the long high-sounding inscription ends with the solemn words, "Hamilton is no more." Another of this interesting group of the first trustees of the academy was Mr. John Lord, the young partner in business of Col. Hamilton, afterward Gen. Lord, and the successor to Judge Chadbourne's and Col. Hamilton's pre-eminence and authority in town affairs. He lived at the Upper Landing, in another fine old house, which was long ago destroyed; and died when hardly past middle age, leaving a large inheritance to his family and generous gifts to the church and academy, beside a fund to the latter, from which each student is given a copy of the Bible. Among his children and grandchildren have been many distinguished men and women.
The Hamilton House and the Hamilton Tomb.
The minister, Mr. Tompson, has already been spoken of; and the other trustees were Dr. Hemmenway of Wells, the great theologian of his day; and Judge David Sewall of York, of the Superior Court, who was as famous a lawyer; Dr. Ivory Hovey of Berwick, the most picturesque person and character of his day, and Gen. Ichabod Goodwin of Old Fields, the major-general of militia for York and Cumberland Counties; whom Dr. Lord calls "a staff to lean upon in all parish and educational affairs."
|Preceptor Tompson -- William Allen Tompson (c. 1786-1835) was the sixth preceptor of Berwick Academy from 1813 to 1817, and his home still stands on Main Street next to South Berwick Town Hall. He was son of Rev. John Tompson, (c. 1739-1828), minister of the First Church of Berwick, founder of the academy and president 1803-1825. In 1817 Tompson was discharged as preceptor because academy closed for lack of funds through 1819.|
-- Old Berwick Historical Society
"According to the charter," he continues, "the academy was founded 'to promote piety, religion and morality.' It is not easy in this critical age to define the difference between piety and religion, . . . but, I must add, to speak truthfully, 'to educate youth in such languages, and such liberal arts, and sciences as the trustees should direct.'" By the charter six of the trustees were to be residents of the town, and seven to be non-residents, -- a regulation intended to prevent the academy from degenerating into a mere village school, with only local interests to guard, rather than to hold out inducements for young men at a distance to avail themselves of a good business education, or to prepare for college, -- the primary end for which our academies were founded. "There were many cultivated persons in Berwick, who read the best books and knew what was going on in the world. It was inevitable that they should insist upon having a good school, and ask much from their teachers, as to both social and intellectual gifts."
These expectations were almost always gratified, especially in the early years of the school's history. Mr. Samuel Moody was the first master, on a salary of ninety pounds a year, with the addition of sixpence a week for each pupil. Mr. Joseph McKeen succeeded him, -- not the president of Bowdoin, but later the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard College ("a very able man," says Dr. Lord), who was followed by Mr. Benjamin Green, afterwards Judge Green, a distinguished lawyer and gentleman in the village, noted for his fine address, autocratic manners, and love of horses. Then followed Preceptors Hilliard, Seaver and Tompson, and a strange erratic person named Holton, who was gifted as a teacher of mythology and of the exercises of Wednesday-afternoon speaking and composition. Ira Young, his successor, was one of the best masters the school ever had, and was soon beckoned away by Dartmouth College, where he was for many years the Professor of Mathematics. Stephen Chase, a man of fine powers, who came after him, also became a Dartmouth professor; and the Rev. James Wilson Ward, under whose administration the prosperity of the institution reached its acme. He was a fine linguist, being a Hebrew scholar as well as learned in Greek: "a very genial man," whose son, the present editor of the New York Independent, has kept to the same high directions and ambitions.
The early records of the academy were lost, probably in the burning of the second building, which also destroyed most of the books of the old Social Library, so precious to the town. The list of the scholars who have received Bibles from the Lord Fund is, happily, in the possession of the secretary, Charles Cushing Hobbs, Esq.; and from the year 1817, when it begins, the students number about three thousand. From 1791 to 18I7 would, however, give many more, and some of the best men the academy could show.
Hon. Francis B. Hayes.
| Burnt in 1851|
The Berwick Academy schoolhouse was destroyed in August 1851 by arsonists protesting the new prohibition laws in Maine. Also burned, though not destroyed, was the Hayes House, then home of Francis B. Hayes, son of Judge William Allen Hayes.
--Old Berwick Historical Society
A second academy building was made necessary by the growth of the school, about the year 1825. This is looked back to by those who remember it as having been a very suitable and handsome structure, which stood well on its conspicuous site. It had a high white belfry, and fine rows of Lombardy poplars led up to it from the street. The old oaks were already decaying, but nobody thought to put young ones in their places. This was burnt in 1851, and the new building seems to have poorly replaced it, although Hon. Francis B. Hayes, who succeeded his father, Judge Hayes, as president of the board, used every means to have the best schoolhouse that could be obtained, going to Richard Upjohn of New York for the plans; but it shows what advance has been made in our time in architecture, that the first American architect of the day should have shown so little imagination. The two high gables showed well, however, above the treetops, when one saw it from the westward; and the large schoolroom, which could be divided at will, was very handsome and gave a fine sense of light and air. The hall too, with its open roof and finished framework of beams, is not without beauty, especially as many old pupils will always remember it garlanded with oak leaves, and decorated with the school mottoes done in elaborate fashion after traditional rules.
The Old Academy.
Until 1828 Berwick Academy was entirely a boys' school; but in that year the names appear of Hetta Lord Hayes, Caroline Lord, Miranda Smith and Martha Leigh; and these brave young persons seem to have left the door open behind them, for the record of the next term shows seventeen of their friends to have followed a wise example. From that time the names of girls and boys appear to be about equal.
The aim of such an academy as this to fit young men or young women for college, or to give, as it does to many pupils, their last opportunity for school instruction, and so to hold the final chance for directing and developing their young ambitions, is indeed a high aim; and the standing of many of the Berwick Academy pupils in after life is certainly some evidence that the task has been well fulfilled. It would surprise us if we could count up the number of Harvard and Bowdoin and Dartmouth graduates who were fitted here, and no less if we could make a list of the distinguished men among them: four college presidents and three governors of states, with many college professors and eminent teachers, men and women both; highly accomplished men of the professions and men of affairs; soldiers, sailors and statesmen of renown; and many women, who, in their ever-widening public service or beautiful home-making and home-keeping lives, have been among the true leaders of civilization in their time.
In the early years of the fifth decade of this century, perhaps in 1842 or 1843, the influence of the academy and the level of intelligence in the society of the town were, perhaps, at their height. I have often heard it said that in the congregation of the old First Church there were over twenty men, young and old, who were college graduates. This will give some idea of the progress of the village. The old order of things was fast passing away, but this was a moment when hope for the future seemed very bright, and pride in the past was most assured.
Perhaps this is the moment to call the character and achievements of the descendants of our early settlers most clearly before the mind, and to end this hasty sketch of the town's progress. A long process of change was about to begin. The assimilation of successive foreign elements which have not been without great value, the effects of the War of the Rebellion, the change of professional and educational ruling interests for those of various manufactures, were to work slow and certain changes in the aspect of the town and the character of its citizens. I believe that the general level of intelligence, the common stock of prosperity, were never better than now. We are returning to some of the old standards of good taste and wider interests, which we had at one time too hastily flung aside. We are more reverent of our past, and more appreciative of our academy, of our teachers and preachers, than ever before in the course of many years.
I should like to speak of many things and many people to whom the three towns of Berwick have owed much in these later days; especially of a mysterious figure among the academy teachers, Dr. Gray, "an Englishman who had achieved considerable distinction as an Oxford scholar, who gave the school a new impulse, and placed it on a higher level in some respects than ever before, being himself a man of culture and one whose experience of life had been wider than that of many of the other principals. His pupils are said to have borne the impress of his own knowledge of life and letters."
Fogg Memorial Library, Berwick Academy.
I should like to say how much good the Cogswell prize books have done, scattered as they are among the pupils, at the rate of ten or a dozen really valuable and charmingly bound volumes every year; of the five or six college scholarship funds which have helped so many young people to go on with the process of their education; of the liberality of those who have made gifts to the academy fund, like Mr. Francis B. Hayes, so that the price of the excellent tuition is kept so low that no bright boy or girl can possibly be hindered from sharing it. The greatest beneficence, however, is in the recent large legacy left to the school in memory of her husband, a former pupil, by Mrs. William H. Fogg of New York, for the building and equipment of a new schoolhouse and public library.
Horatio Nelson Twombly , nephew of William H. Fogg, was born in South Berwick and had graduated from Berwick Academy in the 1840s. He joined and eventually headed his uncle William H. Fogg's China and Japan Trading Company, continuing as president after both Mr. and Mrs. Fogg's deaths. A bachelor who made his home in New York, Twombly spent many years in Asia with the company, including some time in Shanghai overseeing Fogg family business on the Bund during the Taiping Rebellion. In 1886 Twombly became president of Berwick Academy's board of trustees, and oversaw the construction of Fogg Memorial in 1894. The bronze bell in the tower, specially cast in London, was a Twombly gift to the academy.
This noble gift has been increased, according to her later wish, by the liberality of her executors, the late A. Phipps, Esq., of Boston, and Hon. H. H. Fogg of Bangor, to whose warm and generous interest in the town of his ancestors, the people of the three Berwicks and the old and new pupils of the school should be always most grateful, as they will also be to the devoted president of the trustees at this present time, Hon. Horatio N. Twombly of New York, and to Mr. George A. Dickey, the principal of the academy. Upon both of these men and their assistants has come unusual responsibility in the enlargement and new departure of the institution.
Hon. H. N. Twombly.
I am much tempted to speak of my own school friends and my kind teachers, and the affairs of my own time generally; but it is after all with the first two centuries of Berwick that my fragmentary sketches must be concerned. To have seen how the settlement began, and how it overcame its many hindrances and held fast to its many hopes, and bred its men and women to high callings, is to understand these later days very well. There is no better way of learning American history than to find out what one can of the story of an old New England town.
George A. Dickey, A. M., Principal Of Berwick Academy.
The Rev. Mr. Tompson's pastorate lasted almost as long as Parson Wise's. It was in his time that the present First Congregational Church was built to replace the ancient one at Old Fields, where he preached so many years to Judge Chadbourne, Judge Green, Gen. Lord, Col. Hamilton, and the men and women of that time. A second parish had been formed at Blackberry Hill, with which were long associated the honored names of Rev. Mr. Meriam and Mr. Hilliard, but which has now ceased to exist. There was also the Baptist Church , where Parson Boyd preached for many years. This was later used, for many years, as a town house, being conveniently situated for that purpose, and it was a great pity that it should have been unnecessarily destroyed. The moderator used to occupy the high pulpit with its sounding board, while the citizens and voters made a more or less discreet congregation.
|Cato's Hill -- This hill may be one that lies between Liberty Street and the Salmon Falls River in South Berwick, and overlooks the South Berwick Sewer District plant today.|
-- Old Berwick Historical Society
I remember that the unpainted woodwork had taken a beautiful brown tint with age, and that it used to be a vast pleasure in my childhood to steal into the silent place, and to sit alone, or with small, whispering friends, in one of the high, square pews. The arrangement of the pews and benches reminded one of the time when there was such careful attention paid to social precedence, and provision made for the colored people, of whom there were formerly a large number in Berwick, and many of them have been excellent citizens. Most of the prominent families in this part of New England, near tide water, possessed one or more African slaves in the last century; and one may still hear delightful stories of their strange traits of inheritance and their loyal affection to the families which they adopted as their own, and were always ready to champion. A little sandy hill, just below the Landing, and above the old river path that leads to Leigh's, now Yeaton's mills, still bears the name of Cato's Hill, from the fact that the sunny sand bank near the top was the favorite retreat of an ancient member of the household of Gen. Lord. Cato was a native Guineaman, and the last generation loved to recall the tradition of his droll ways and speeches.
At Doughty's Falls, or what is now North Berwick Village, there were in the last century a large number of families belonging to the Society of Friends. It is an interesting fact that the first meeting of Friends (or Quakers as they were then called) in the province of Maine was at Newichawannock, in December, 1662. "At about the same time in Dover," says Williamson, in his "History of Maine," was "issued the famous warrant commanding three women to be whipped out of the state." There was no persecution in Maine, however. In North Berwick the Husseys, Buffums and others have taken active part in the great interests and potent achievements of their society.
To the north of this now large and enterprising village (which owes much of its growth to the business capacity of the late William Hill, or Friend Hill as he was familiarly known, and to the Hobbs family) is the old estate of one branch of the Goodwin family. The pleasant old house which stands by the river, between its great forests and open fields, was always called by the unexplainable and dismal name of Execution, which must be legal in its remote origin; though there are relics of lost traditions about a regicide judge, only a few miles away, and the hospitality of the family may have harbored him here. There is one thing certain: Capt. Goodwin, the friend and contemporary of Sir William Pepperell and high sheriff of York County, never levied an execution without breaking off a twig and pulling a tuft of grass, to make literally true his oath that he had delivered possession by twig and turf. This was the father of Gen. Ichabod Goodwin of Old Fields; and grandfather of Rev. Dr. Daniel R. Goodwin, late president of Trinity College, Hartford, and chancellor of the University of Pennsylvania, and of Gov. Ichabod Goodwin of New Hampshire, who belonged to that remarkable group of men known as the war governors, who held the executive powers of the Northern states in 1861-62. No man among them was more "prompt, methodical and clear-sighted, and intensely devoted to their one duty." These brothers bear two of the best known names on the Berwick Academy roll of honor. Nor must we forget their younger relative, Hon. John Noble Goodwin , one of the many well-known lawyers of the town, who was a member of the Thirty-seventh Congress, and later governor of Arizona and its representative.
Goodwin House. Old Fields.
| First Parish Federated Church, built 1826|
The Congregational Church, originally the First Parish Church of Berwick, was built in 1826 at the intersection of Main and Academy Streets, South Berwick. This was the church where Jewett’s family worshipped. As Jewett explains, the congregation until that time had met in meetinghouses in the Old Fields part of town. In 1929, the Congregational Church became the First Parish Federated Church after a merger with the local Methodists.
--Old Berwick Historical Society
It grieves me more and more that the meeting-house of the old First Church and Parish has not been allowed to keep something of its look of antiquity. It was originally a most tasteful building, well proportioned, as all the older village buildings are, and finished in the best fashion of a day when simple good taste in architecture seems to have been instinctive with almost everybody in the town, judging by the fine roofs and good outlines which remain. But owing to successive changes, this oldest church has lost its handsome front with the three doors and Corinthian columns, its high panelled pews, gallery, great mahogany pulpit, and, more to be regretted than anything else, its beautiful windows of the best hand-made sash-work, which it would cost hundreds of dollars to replace. The quaint little sofa and other furniture of the communion table are the only relics of the past, and poorly represent the long continuance of an historic parish like this. Such changes are often made in good faith and with the best intentions; but we must add to our inheritance whatever will best represent our own time, without taking away anything which has the power to speak of those old associations which are beyond all price. I have dwelt on this point because we Americans are only just beginning to value properly what has belonged to our past.
Many of these details are interesting in themselves only to Berwick people; but I do not leave them out, because I have always the belief that so old a town must be typical and representative. Those who never saw old Berwick will put other names in the place of these, and be reminded of other old houses and landscapes and stories of the past. There are, however, certain characteristics, I had almost said individualities, of the town: I do not know any prospect that rivals the view from Powder House (or Butler's) Hill, or that down the river from the Lower Landing, near the Hamilton or Goodwin house. From the hilltop, which is high and bare like a Yorkshire moor, the eye follows a great procession of the New Hampshire mountains along the horizon from Saddleback to Mount Washington. If you look eastward you have a sense of being at the door of the great forests of Maine, -- a dark, pine-clad region stretches over and beyond Agamenticus. This way you are reminded of the loneliness that the settlers found, and westward you discover the smiling country of towns and farms that they began to build.
The Village Street.
Another characteristic of the village of South Berwick is the sound of all the river falls, almost always to be heard by day, when one stops to listen, and loudest and most jarring in the dead of night to the wooden houses that vibrate to their constant notes. Then the many bells of the mills and churches give one at certain hours the feeling of being in a foreign town. Nine of them ring in their high belfries within little more than a mile of distance. I do not know any other New England village which has so many pleasant bells within hearing. Three of them belong to the sister town of Rollinsford, on the other side of the river.
| Other falls that could have been heard in the village during Jewett’s day would have been those at Salmon Falls and at nearby Driscoll’s Brook (Salmon Falls Brook), at Great Works (Rocky Gorge) and at Leigh’s (Varney’s) Mills . As for the bells, those likely heard would have been from the Free Will Baptist Church, the Universalist Church, St. Michael’s Catholic Church, the Congregational Church , the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the First Baptist Church. Mill bells probably included the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company, the Cummings Shoe Factory, and the Newichawannock Woolen Mills at Great Works. The Salmon Falls Manufacturing Company produced cotton textiles nearby in Rollinsford, New Hampshire. |
-- Old Berwick Historical Society
This region bore its part in all the wars with generosity and bravery. The famous crew of John Paul Jones and the "Ranger" was mainly gathered from the shores of the river. One of the last of his sailors was, in his extreme old age, my father's patient. There was much shipbuilding up and down the river ; and hardly a household in the old seafaring days of New England did not find itself anxious when the wind blew, or the mother did not give a heavy sigh as she said that it was a hard night for sailors coming on the coast. This part of the industry of the town is so completely at an end that younger people can hardly believe that the river was once such a highway for traffic. Even so lately as forty years ago there was a picturesque fleet of twenty gundalows with lateen sails, sailing from the Landing wharves to Portsmouth, beside a good-sized packet boat which went every other day. We know so little of the ways of the people a hundred or two hundred years ago, that it is a pleasure to be able to recall the customs of only fifty years since, and to be able to picture to ourselves, not only the people, but the way they lived in their pleasant houses and spent their time in the same pleasant houses and along the quiet streets that we ourselves know. When you see the last of the gundalows coming up the river, you will like to remember that its ancestor was copied from a Nile boat, from which a sensible old sea captain once took his lesson in shipbuilding. The high peaked sail looks like a great bird's wing, and catches the flawy wind well in the river reaches.
A Gundalow At The Landing.
The northern country was covered then, for the most part, with heavy pine growth; and the chief business at Berwick was buying this from the lumbermen, and sending it to Portsmouth, there to be reshipped, or direct to the West Indies, where the usual course of the ships was to load with rum, tobacco and molasses, and then to Russia where this second cargo was exchanged for iron, duck and cordage, then back to Liverpool for another trade, and so home. The little ships made money fast enough, and in the winter time the Berwick streets were crowded with ox teams and huge timber pines and piles of plank and boards. Sometimes gangs of teamsters, with their oxen, came in great companies from the White Mountains, and even from Vermont through the Crawford Notch. Sometimes there were two or three bronzed sea captains rolling up the street in company. It was a business full of all sorts of interests and surprises, and the cords which were fastened at one end to the Landing wharves seemed to wind all about the other side of the world. You found a plain old man who knew all about some distant corner of the mysterious earth, not because he had read about it in a weekly newspaper, but because he had been there himself and perhaps taken his wife with him.
The Landing Wharves - South Berwick’s old Quamphegan Landing, sometimes called the upper landing, today lies below the Route 4 bridge entering South Berwick from New Hampshire. Quamphegan Landing is the head of tide on the river. From here it flows down into the Piscataqua River and to the sea at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Nearby the landing today are the Counting House Museum on the site of the former Portsmouth Manufacturing Company, the town's Counting House Park, the plant of the South Berwick Sewer District, and the hydroelectric plant of Enel North America. It was on this riverbank, from the 1700s through the early 1900s, that gundalows and other craft moored against the granite bulwarks that still can be seen today.
There was somebody, perhaps your own great-grandfather, who had wintered at Valley Forge. One might meet Dr. Usher Parsons, the biographer of Sir William Pepperell, and a distinguished writer on medical subjects, who had been Commodore Perry's surgeon, at the great fight on Lake Erie, who was of Berwick stock, and had come to pay a summer visit to his relatives in the town. There would be Judge Green, a most dignified and elegant man, wearing his cloak with scarlet facings; and Judge Hayes, who had the instincts of an English country squire, and lived like one on his great estate, bringing up his handsome sons and daughters to be ladies and gentlemen, to walk and to speak as ladies and gentlemen should, and to be self-respecting and respectful of others. You might see his brother-in-law, President Lord, of Hanover, walking gravely past the Corner on his way to call upon his brother John, who had been the early friend of Daniel Webster, and law student with him in Jeremiah Mason's office at Portsmouth. You might meet Hon. William Burleigh , another lawyer and member of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Congresses, who had just won great approval from his townsfolk for getting a longed-for appropriation from the government for dredging and blasting the river channel between the Upper and Lower Landings, so that commerce was expected to take a new start in these busy waters.
Madam Cushing's House.
If you saw a dignified, straight little lady coming down a wide box-bordered walk to the street, from a noble house that stood behind a close planted row of poplars that long ornamented the village street, you might be sure that it was old Madam Cushing, who had known Lafayette when they were young together in Boston, and the battles of the Revolution were being fought. It was she whom the old man remembered and came to Berwick to see in his last visit to America. Only the other day, a dear old friend of mine told me that she remembered seeing the old French general go "with his gentlemen" up that same box-bordered walk to pay the visit. And with Madam Cushing might be her son-in-law, Mr. Hobbs, a tall, fine figure of a man just in the prime of his activity, and one of the most useful and careful secretaries and trustees of the academy during many years. He, too, was a lawyer, -- all these men were lawyers, -- and so were Mr. Cogswell and Mr. John Hubbard, who died young and so disappointed many hopes. They knew what was going on in the world, bought good books, knew the best men in other places, and lived handsomely at home. If Judge Hayes was the village squire, then that delightful man, called by everybody "Old Parson Allen," in spite of as young a heart as ever beat, -- Old Parson Allen was the village clergyman, and stood in Parson Wise's shoes with no room to spare. Grave, compassionate, full of sympathy with the present and reverence for the past, he magnified his office in a lovely and most noble way. His contemporary, Mr. Richardson, was a younger man, to whom a great parish looked with respect and affection. The doctors were known men. The Berwick women were famous for their housekeeping and their hospitality; they had their Social Library, which held the best books of the day; they were fond of ceremony, and they had their maternal meetings and their sewing societies, and made them answer well for discussion clubs and all the subdivisions of club life at the present day. Mrs. Hayes and Mrs. Leigh and the Cushings, Hardings, Fergusons, Rices, Nasons, Parkses and Lords, -- what a list one might make! They make the social affairs of to-day seem pale and prosaic. Perhaps in their time, however, everybody was saying that society in Berwick was nothing to what it had been in Judge Chadbourne's and Judge Hill's day. It is natural to look at the past through the mists of glamour and imagination.
I find myself always speaking of my native town as Berwick, though the original town was long since divided and divided again. South Berwick is really the oldest of the three, to which most of the earliest history and tradition belongs; and the newer settlements and townships are its children; but the old people never seemed to make any difference in their own minds. I feel myself to be a little pedantic when I speak unnecessarily of the points of the compass. It is all one Berwick to me, except for post-office conveniences and things of that sort. The courage of the Plaisteds, and the nameless heroine who saved all her neighbors in the Tozer garrison, are as much my inheritance as if an imaginary line had never been struck across the land in 1814. I am proud to have been made of Berwick dust; and a little of it is apt to fly in my eyes and make them blur whenever I tell the old stories of bravery, of fine ambition, of good manners, and the love of friend for friend and the kindness of neighbor to neighbor in this beloved town. Her children and the flock of her old academy are scattered everywhere. They can almost hear each other's voices round the world, like the English drumbeat. They have started many a Western town; they are buried in Southern graves for their country's sake; they are lost in far northern seas. They sigh for the greenness of Old Fields and Pound Hill, for Blackberry Hill and Cranberry Meadow, from among the brick walls of many a crowded city; but some of the best have always stayed at home, and loved the rivers and the hills as their fathers and mothers did before them. They keep to the old ambitions, they mean to carry the flag of their town and state as high and free as they can! There is no town that has done its duty better than old Berwick, in war or in peace, in poverty or pride, in the days of her plain, hard-fighting youth, or the serenity of her comfortable prime.