Berwick by William F. Lord, 1872
From The Atlas of York County, Maine (1872), p. 121.
Settlement - Berwick originally formed a part of the possessions of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who by his enterprise and energy established permanent settlements at Saco, York, and Kittery. Berwick was called by the Indians Newichawannock. Some who had been by the liberality of Gorges induced to make their homes in the new world, having no tastes for agriculture or the fisheries, were early attracted to Berwick on account of its dense forests. Settlements are supposed to have been made as early as 1624, as mention is made of the settlement of Newichawannock being seven years old in 1631. Neal, whose residence was partly in Kittery and partly at Strawberry Bank, had five associates engaged in fishing, lumbering, and salt-making, two of whom, Gibbins and Chadbourne, lived at Newichawannock in 1631. There were also Frost, Heard, Shapleigh, Plaisted, Spencer, Broughton, Leader, Wincoln, and others, living there about the same time. In 1643, Humphrey Chadbourne purchased of Rowles, the Sagamore of the Newichawannocks, a part of the land on which the village of South Berwick now stands. He was a Sagamore of some celebrity, and all the Indians upon the river to its mouth were his subjects, through he was under the noted Passaconaway. His dwelling-place was on the easterly side of the river, near Quampheagan Falls. In 1670, five years before King Philip's War, Rowles, being bed-ridden of age and sickness, complained of the great neglect with which the English had treated him. At length he sent a messenger to some of the principal men of Berwick to make him a visit. He told them that he was loaded with years, and that he expected a visit in his infirmities from those who were now tenants on the land of his fathers. He said, "Though all these plantations are of right my children's, I am forced in this age of evil, humbly to request a few hundred acres of land to be marked out for them and recorded as a public act in the town book, so that when I am gone they will not be perishing beggars in the pleasant places of their birth. For I know that a great war shortly take place between the white men and the Indians all over the country. At first the Indians will kill many and prevail, but after three years they will be great sufferers, and finally be rooted out and destroyed." Blind Will, the son and successor of Rowles, regarding these premonitory counsels with sacred respect, at the commencement of the King Philip War entered the English service, where he remained two years till his death.
Seven years after the purchase of Humphrey Chadbourne of Rowles, Richard Leader obtained the following grant: "Whereas at a Court held at Kittery on the 11th of March, 1650, Mr. Richard Leader made certain propositions for erecting mills at Newichawannock, it is ordered therefore by this court and consent of the country, that the aforesaid Richard Leader, his heirs and assigns, shall have the sole property and privilege of the little river at Newichawannock, commonly called or known by that name, to erect a mill or mills upon the river aforesaid together with like property and liberty of all such timber as is not yet appropriated to any town or person." Leader erected a mill on the Little Newichawannock at Assabumbadoc Falls, which contained eighteen saws. This gave the location the name of Great Works. Mills were also erected a Salmon Falls and Quampheagan Falls. But for a period of thirty years there seemed to be a slow but steady progress in the settlement. They suffered much from the rigors of winter and the scarcity of provisions.
Newichawannock was organized as the Parish of Unity in 1673, and still remained within the limits of Kittery until 1713, when the northern part of Kittery, from Thompson's Brook to Stair Falls on the Salmon Falls River, was incorporated as the town of Berwick. It was the ninth town incorporated in the province. In 1814 the southern part of the town was incorporated as South Berwick. In 1831 the town was again divided, and the northeastern part was incorporated as North Berwick.
Indian Wars* - At the commencement of the King Philip War in 1675, Berwick was a frontier town. There were no white men living between the line of Berwick and the Canadas. All north of Berwick was an unbroken wilderness, the home and hunting-ground of the natives, who had now learned to whet their savage blades by the arts of civilization. No notes of preparation were heard in their camps; they came not with drums and flying banners, but in the stillness and darkness of night, springing with savage fierceness upon the defenceless inhabitants. History does not furnish us with the details of all these bloody scenes, nor tradition point out all the localities stained with blood, but many of them have come down to us red with the blood of brave men, heroic women, and innocent children.
September 24th, 1675, the dwelling-house of John Tozier was attacked. It was situated one hundred and fifty rods above the mills and garrison at Salmon Falls. Tozier and sixteen men in the neighborhood had gone with Wincoln, captain of the town company, to defend or relieve the distressed inhabitants of Saco, and left his household unguarded, consisting of fifteen persons, all women and children. The attack was led on by Andrew, of Saco, and Hopehood, of Kennebec, two of the bravest warriors in their tribes. Their approach was first discovered by a young girl of eighteen years, who shut the door and held it fast until it was cut in pieces with their hatchets, and the family had escaped. Madly disappointed by finding the house empty, they inflicted repeated blows upon the heroic maid until she was apparently expiring. They pursued the family, overtook two children; one three years old being too young to travel they at once dispatched, the other they kept six months. The young heroine revived after their departure, went to the garrison, and was healed of her wounds and lived many years. The next day a large party set fire to the dwelling-house and buildings of Captain Wincoln, which stood near the upper mills, and reduced them and their contents to ashes. They were followed closely by the men from the garrison until darkness put an end to their pursuit. The next morning they appeared upon the western side of the river, fired several shots across at the laborers who were working in the mill, calling them English dogs and cowards.
October 16th 1675, they assailed the house of Richard Tozier, killed him and carried his son into captivity. Lieut. Roger Plaisted, the commander of the garrison, who was an officer of true courage and a man of public spirit, having full view of the massacre, about one hundred and fifty rods distant, sent out nine of his best men to reconnoitre the movements of the enemy, and falling into ambush, three were shot down, the others escaped with difficulty.
A letter addressed to two gentlemen at Dover communicates the distresses of the place. "To Richard Waldron and Lieut. Coffin: These are to inform you that the Indians are just not engaging us with at least on hundred men, and have already slain four of our men, Richard Tozier, James Berry, Isaac Bottes, and Tozier's son, and burnt Benoni Hodsdon's house. Sirs, if ever you have any love for us, show yourselves with men to help us, or else we are in great danger of being slain, unless our God wonderfully appears for our deliverance. They that cannot fight, let them pray. Roger Plaisted, George Broughton."
To bring in for interment the bodies of his slain companions, Plaisted ordered a team, and led twenty of his best men in the field; placing first the body of Tozier, which was most remote, in the cart, they returned to take the others, when a party of one hundred and fifty savages, rising from behind a stone wall amidst logs and bushes, fired a well-directed volley upon the soldiers, and pursued the assault. The oxen took flight and ran to the garrison. The engagement instantly became fierce but unequal. Plaisted and his men withdrew a few paces to a more eligible spot of ground, and being greatly overmatched the most of his men returned, but he disdaining either to fly or yield, though urged again and again to surrender, fought with desperate courage until literally hewn down by the enemy's hatchets. A fellow-soldier and Plaisted's oldest son, unwilling to leave their intrepid leader, sought their retreat too late, and were slain. Another son a few weeks after died of his wounds. Such was the fate of this Spartan family, whose intrepidity deserves a monument more durable than marble. Roger Plaisted had four years represented Kittery in the General Court, was highly respected for his uncommon valor, worth, and piety. He and his son were buried on his own land near the battle ground, on the old road from Great Falls to South Berwick. The lettered tomb of this Christian patriot is now displaced and neglected, but as the place has recently fallen into the hands of Ex-Gov. Goodwin, of New Hampshire, a native of Berwick, his liberality and patriotism will not allow it longer to be neglected.
The Richard Tozier Garrison was on the place now occupied by John Spencer, Esq.
Not withstanding Berwick had suffered so much during the King Philip War, it had so revived that at the commencement of the King William and Mary War, 1690, it contained twenty-seven houses.
On the 18th of March, a party under the command of Hartel [Hertel], a Canadian officer of great repute, and the famous Hopehood, with fifty-two men, twenty-five of whom were Indians, commenced an assault on the settlement at daybreak in three different places. The people, though entirely surprised, flew to arms and defended themselves in their garrison so bravely that they were applauded by their enemies. They fought till thirty-four of their men were killed, when they were forced to surrender. The assailants took fifty-four prisoners, the most of them women and children. They then took all the plunder they could carry away, and set fire to most of the houses, the mills, and barns, which were consumed with a great number of cattle. The party with their prisoners and plunder retreated on their way a mile and a half above the village "where they had burned twenty houses." They set fire to the house of Thomas Toogood, took him prisoner, and murdered his wife and children. Toogood lived on the farm now occupied by Mr. Daniel Wentworth, who still retains the deeds and papers given by Toodgood to his descendants. Toogood's cellar is still to be seen in Mr. Wentworth's field. While the Indian who captured Toogood was preparing strings to tie him, holding his gun under his arm, Toogood seized the gun, ran backward pointing it at his breast, telling him he would shoot if he alarmed the others, he escaped, crossed the river, and arrived safely at Dover. The Indian had no recompense but to call after him by the name of "Nogood." The enemy were pursued by one hundred and fifty men, who had been aroused to arms by the smoke of the burning village. They came up with Hartel in the afternoon, at a narrow bridge over Woster's River. Expecting an attact, Hartel posted his men to great advantage on the northerly bank of the river. A sharp engagement ensued, which lasted until night. Four or five of the English were taken prisoners, and several were killed; three of the enemy were killed, and several wounded and taken prisoners.
There are [is] not, perhaps, in the annals of Indian warfare instances of greater cruelty than was executed towards the prisoners taken at that time. They were compelled to travel through pathless deserts and deep swamps, over craggy rocks and windfalls, in cold, rain and snow, poorly clad and hungry, their minds depressed by the loss of home and friends, loaded with burdens, pushed forward by the point of the bayonet, tortured or made the victims of instant death. Robert Rogers, being unable to carry the burden which they had imposed upon him, dropped it in the path and went aside in the woods to conceal himself. They found him, stripped him of his clothing, beat him, pierced him with their swords, tied him to a tree, and danced around him. Kindling a fire, they gave him time to pray and take leave of his fellow-prisoners who were placed around to see him die. They would push the fire towards him, and when he was nearly suffocated would take it away and allow him time to breathe, and thus prolong his sufferings; his dying groans were drowned by hideous singing and yelling, they all the time dancing around the fire, cutting off pieces of his flesh and throwing them in his face; and when he was dead they left his body broiling on the coals. Mehitable Goodwin was taken with a child a few months old; they dashed the child against a tree and hung it upon one of its branches, telling the mother she might come that way again and have the pleasure of seeing it. This woman was a prisoner five years, and returned home. Mary Plaisted was taken with a child three weeks old, and made to travel through the snow. To ease her of her burden they dashed the child against a tree, and threw it in the river. Mary Furgerson, a girl fifteen years old, was so overburdened with plunder laid upon her back that she burst into tears and said she could not go another step. An Indian led her aside, cut off her head, holding it up exclaiming, "So I will do with you all if you cry or complain."
In July, 1690, Hopehood, fired with uncommon revenge toward Berwick, appeared with a gang of desperadoes and proceeded to reduce that ill-fated settlement to utter ruin by shooting the inhabitants and burning their buildings. As a specimen of his character an instance of his cruelty is recorded: James Keay, a boy five years old, taken at Berwick in March, had spells of crying to see his parents; to still the little sufferer they stripped him, lashed him to a tree, and whipped him until he was covered with blood. Soon after the child had a sore eye, which Hopehood said was caused by crying; he turned it from its socket with his thumb, and because the child could not keep up in traveling, cut his head in pieces with his hatchet. In 1697, of four men mowing in a meadow in Berwick, three of them were cut down with tomahawks. This war of ten years ended Jan. 7, 1699.
To encourage the settlers who had so manfully struggled with war and want, the General Court made them a gratuity towards the support of the gospel ministry.
Another Indian war commenced in 1703, and on the 26th of Sept. five men fell into an ambush at Berwick; one was killed, one wounded, and three taken prisoners; two houses were burned, and a descent was made upon the garrison of Andrew Neal, where they were repulsed. To retaliate they burned Joseph King, a captive. The returning spring was a season of distressing melancholy, aggravated by an early renewal of hostilities. But as Berwick was an important pass, Major Mason was posted there with 95 men; but this did not cover the settlement, for on the 25th of April Nathaniel Meader was shot while at work in his field; two others were killed on their return from public worship, by a small scouting party. This aroused the inhabitants, and a band of them acquainted with their paths laid in wait for them, and by having the first fire threw them into such consternation that they dropped their packs and fled to the woods.
In the Lovell War, Berwick was still the out-post of civilization on the north, and the inhabitants were in constant peril and alarm. At this time, 1723, there was not a house between Berwick and Canada. All that were built in Berwick between 1690 and 1745 were of hewed logs, sufficient to oppose the force of small arms. At this time there was a block-house on the western side of Salmon Falls Brook, a mile above Keay's Garrison; and next was Wentworth and Goodwin's block-house. A fort on Pine Hill, called Hamilton's Garrison, was standing in 1750; it was made of poles twenty feet high, and picketed at the ends.
In May, 1723, two men were killed; soon after Mr. Thompson was killed, one of his children was carried off, another left bleeding on the ground, and a man named Stone was scalped near the same place. When they had killed one other, and taken a captive, the savage scouts left the place.
The Capture of Louisburg [Louisbourg]. - For the defence of Berwick in this war, one hundred pounds were appropriated by the General Court of Massachusetts, and twelve men were detailed to scout from Berwick to a block-house in Sanford; but to more effectually check the aggressions of the French in the Province, an expedition was sent to capture a fortified town at Cape Breton. Wm. Pepperell, a wealthy merchant of Kittery, a man greatly beloved in York county, and personally known to the people of Berwick, was in-trusted with the command. This expedition took the character of a crusade, and Berwick furnished for it one hundred and fifty men and several commissioned officers. Pepperell writes to Major Hill, Feb. 21st, 1745: "Yesterday I heard that Capt. Busted** had enlisted fifty brave soldiers in Berwick. This news is like a cordial to me. The commissioned officers of Berwick are as brave and as good men as any in the Province. Please tell them all that I sincerely value and love them. If any of them wish to go, give them the offer and tell them to be with me to-morrow."
War of Independence. - At the commencement of the troubles with the mother country, Berwick was a town of importance and influence; it had been settled 140 years, and was extensively engaged in lumbering and other branches of business. It contained in 1735 two thousand three hundred and seventy-four white inhabitants. She was consequently consulted and kept apprised of all that transpired at Boston; and although she manifested some modesty in dictating what should be done, alleging as a reason her remoteness from the scenes of action, she did not hesitate to assert the rights of her citizens.
The public records during that period are of an interesting character. They are copious, bespeak bold and patriotic sentiments. Space does not allow me to transcribe but a single specimen. At a meeting of the freeholders and other inhabitants of the town of Berwick legally assembled, Capt. Ichabod Goodwin was chosen moderator; and after considerable deliberation the question was put, whether the town would proceed to act upon the article contained in the warrant, calling the meeting, and it passed in the affirmative; upon which Capt. Nathan Lord, Capt. Philip Hubbard, Benjamin Chadbourne, Esq., Capt. Wm. Rogers [Roges], and Capt. Humphrey Chadbourne were chosen a committee to compose some notes and resolves for the town to act upon, as follows: "The melancholy state of this Province, of which this town is a part, calls upon us the inhabitants to declare our sentiments and show how far they agree with those of our brethren in this and the neighboring colonies of North America, relating to the improprieties of the Parliament of Great Britain in taxing North America. But the distance we are from the metropolis of this Province, and the little acquaintance we have with the nature of the dispute, renders it needless for us to attempt to say much upon the subject; yet as the cause is general we are in duty bound to declare our sentiments upon this important dispute, and so far as we understand it we join with our brothers in this and the neighboring colonies in opposing the operation of those late acts of the British Parliament subjecting any article sent here from Great Britain to pay a duty for raising a revenue in North America, more especially that relative to East India teas, which we apprehend is unrighteous and unconstitutional, and has a direct tendency to destroy this and all other colonies in North America; and if the East India Company are permitted to send their teas and vend them here whilst they are subject to a duty to be paid in this Province, it will fully complete our ruin, and that speedily. We acknowledge and profess true and faithful allegiance to our rightful sovereign King George the Third, and are willing at all times to risk our lives and fortunes in defence of his person and his family, but at the same time must earnestly contend for those rights and liberties we are entitled to by the laws of God, Nature, and the Constitution of this Province. Therefore, Resolved, that no power on earth hath any just right to impose taxes upon us but the great and general Court of this Province, and all others are unconstitutional and not to be submitted to. That the East India Company sending their teas and vending them, subject to a duty to be paid here to raise a revenue, is a high infringement upon the rights and liberties of this people, and has a direct tendency to complete our ruin. That we will at all times join with our brethren in all legal methods in opposing the East India Company in sending their teas here subject to a duty. That the thanks of this town be presented to the people of this and the neighboring colonies for their steady and resolute conduct in opposing the landing of the teas sent by the East India Company, and that we will at all times and by all legal and constitutional measure assist to the utmost of our power in opposing such impositions. That the thanks of this town be presented to the town of Boston for the timely notice sent to this town of their proceedings in town-meeting relative to the East India Company sending their teas; asking the favor that upon like occasions they will again do the same, wishing that union of sentiment may take place in this and every colony in North America, and that the proceedings of this meeting be recorded and a copy sent to the Committee of Correspondence in the town of Boston."
Meetings were frequently held during the war, in which large bounties were offered out of the town stock to encourage enlistments. One full company went out under Capt. Ebenezer Sullivan. An old historian writes: "To their everlasting honor be it said that they furnished as many men, according to the number of inhabitants, as any town in the country. There are but few ancient homesteads in the town that are not honored by the graves of some Revolutionary soldier."
In forming the government, the people of Berwick asked by their resolves for a simple government, one that could be easily understood, with the lines so justly drawn between the ruler and the ruled that those in authority could have no power to oppress their fellow-men.
The War of 1812. - In this war the government was well supported, although meetings were held in some parts of the town declaring it to be an unjust and an unrighteous war.
The Rebellion. - Owing to the peculiar location of Berwick, being contiguous to several large towns of New Hampshire, 78 of her citizens enlisted outside the limits of the town before she received credit for an enlistment. But they furnished for the war 138 men, mostly of her own citizens; and paid out for bounties and incidental expenses, $44,802.
Eminent Men. - John Sullivan sailed from Limerick, Ireland, in 1723. The vessel was driven by stress of weather into York harbor. Being a man of education, on the recommendation of Dr. Moody of York, he was employed as a teacher at Berwick, where he opened his public schools, one for boys and one for girls. These schools were opened but part of the year. On his voyage out, his attention was attracted to a pretty child, 9 years of age, named Margery Brown, whom he appears to have brought up as his own child, whom he afterward made his wife in 1735. He soon after purchased 70 acres of land on the easterly side of the Salmon Falls River, near Great Falls, where he resided more than 60 years. He died in May, 1796, in his 105th year, and his widow died in 1801, aged 87; they were buried upon the place which they occupied so many years, which is now occupied by Winslow T. Ricker, Esq. On this farm were born John and James Sullivan. The former was a leader in the first overt act of the Revolution, a general in the war, and a governor of the State of New Hampshire; the other, the acknowledged leader at the bar, a governor of Massachusetts, and who by his speeches and writings contributed to the successful establishment of our national liberties. They were companions in counsel with Hancock and Adams, and in arms with Washington and Warren, and of whom Washington said that, when a spirit of insubordination or despondency prevailed in the army, all that he needed to dispel it was the eloquence of one of the Sullivans. From these men have descended some of the most pleasing orators and eminent men of New England.
* From Williamson's and Sullivan's Histories of Maine, and Belknap's History of New Hampshire.
** This is probably a reference to Captain Moses Butler
We are grateful to Terry Heller of Coe College for typesetting the text of this article.