Old Fields Burying Ground (Vine Street Cemetery)
Established 1600's - Vine Street, near Old Fields Road and Brattle Street - MAP IS BELOW
Overlooking Leigh's Mill Pond, Old Fields Burying Ground on Vine Street, South Berwick, Maine, is one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States, dating from the 1600s. It was the main burial place of the town's first European settlers -- families such as those of Thomas Spencer (c. 1596-1681) and Humphrey Chadbourne (1615-1667) and his father, William Chadbourne (1562-1682). The Chadbourne Family Association placed a marker recognizing William Chadbourne's arrival in 1634. After the community's 1652 submission to Massachusetts Bay Colony, it was ordered that a meeting house be built, and around 1660 the settlers did so nearby, on the intersection of today's Brattle Street and Old South Road, at what was then the town center.
Hundreds of citizens are buried in Old Fields Burying Ground, many in graves no longer visible or where only fragments of headstones remain. Earliest markers may have been plain fieldstones.
Among some 339 identified surviving graves in the cemetery are an unknown number of former soldiers' graves from the 1700s to the 1900s. Of the identified veterans, seven are of the American Revolution, six of the Civil War, two of World War I, several others identified with the colonial militia, including two who fought at the Siege of Louisburg in 1745, and others who served as members of the Massachusetts and Maine Militias in the early United States.
Burying ground late 1800s, from The Maine Spencers, by Wilbur Spencer, 1898, who identified the land as having been that of Thomas Spencer's son, Humphrey (c. 1674 – 1712).
Although no inscriptions from the 1600s remain, it is one of South Berwick's most beautiful quiet spots, and many important and interesting stones still fascinate us. Some examples:
Daniel G. Nason (c. 1809-1838) A South Berwick resident who died of cholera as a young man. His gravestone bears this inscription:
Stop youth and read as you go by
as you are now so once was I
as I am now so you must be
prepare for death and follow me.
Rev. John Tompson c. 1739-1828 - The minister of the First Parish Church during the American Revolution lies with his family, including his “truly amiable & virtuous Consort,” Sarah. Tompson (also spelled Thompson) was the last Congregational pastor to serve at the Old Fields meeting house, and saw the later church, now known as First Parish Federated Church, built on Main Street just before his death. Educated at Harvard and both a founder and third president of Berwick Academy, he is remembered for riding his white horse to Boston in 1791 to obtain the school charter signed by John Hancock.
Edward P. Hayman (c. 1770-1831) was born in Boston and apprenticed to South Berwick lawyer Dudley Hubbard. Elected a member of the Massachusetts Senate in 1800 and appointed assistant clerk of the Supreme Court, he married Rev. Tompson's daughter Sarah in 1809 and became Berwick Academy's treasurer. He served as a circuit clerk until 1820 and then as cashier of South Berwick Bank.
Mehitable “Hetty” Goodwin, born late 1600s, died early 1700s. She and her family were swept up in the conflict between Berwick settlers and Native Americans when the latter were allies of the French in the 1600s. Mehitable was born and raised near the Salmon Falls sawmill of her father, Captain Roger Plaisted. He and two of her brothers were killed in an Indian ambush in 1675. Fifteen years later, then married to Thomas Goodwin, she was part of a group taken captive in the Salmon Falls Raid of 1690 and marched north at an exhausting pace to keep ahead of pursuing English militia. Those who could not keep up were quickly killed, including her infant son. Arriving in Montreal, survivors were assigned work as servants in French households. After five years of captivity, Mehitable Goodwin returned home, was reunited with Thomas and rejoined the Congregational Church. They raised five children in their home near this cemetery.
Dr. Ivory Hovey (1748-1818) - A surgeon at Fort Ticonderoga in the Revolutionary War, Ivory Hovey built a house about 1790 at Quamphegan Landing and became one of South Berwick’s wealthiest citizens. In addition to merchant ships, wharves, warehouses, and a store, the Hovey family owned gristmills at Quamphegan and Chadbourne’s Falls, a fishing boat, and two gundalows for bringing their wares up-river. Dr. Hovey’s son, Capt. Ivory Hovey, Jr. (1770-1822), became a sea captain and was captured by pirates. He eventually did return home. Dr. Hovey’s first two wives, Mary and Frances, were daughters of a West Indies trader, William Hight (1707-1782), whose ships built at Pipe Stave Landing sailed between South Berwick and the Caribbean in the 1750s and 60s. Many members of the Hovey and Hight families are buried near each other. The graves of three enslaved people in William Hight's will, Diner, Violet and Peter, are not identified.
Col. Simeon Brock (1800-1846) – Militia officer and a founder in 1829 of the South Berwick Methodist Church originally nearby on Brattle Street . Deborah Brock (c. 1809-1883) worked as a mill operative in the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company cotton factory.
Thomas Butler, Emigrant, and Elizabeth Butler -- One of the first settlers in the area of today's South Berwick village, born in England about 1674 and arriving here by about 1698. Well educated, he taught Latin in the parish school and became a leading citizen and selectman, owning a farm that comprised Powderhouse Hill, also known as Butler's Hill. His house is thought to have stood at the later location of South Berwick Town Hall. He died in 1747.
Rev. Jeremiah Wise (c. 1686-1756) -- From 1707 until his death, Rev. Wise was pastor of the First Church of Berwick, in a meeting house that stood near this cemetery by the intersection of today’s Brattle Street and Old South Road. The History of York County, 1880, states that Wise was from Ipswich, Massachusetts, graduated from Harvard, and was ordained Nov. 26, 1707. “A man eminent for his learning and piety, his memory is still cherished in the parish,” author Sarah Orne Jewett later wrote, recalling the years of Indian warfare. “In [Wise’s] 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.”
Hon. John Hill (c. 1703-1772) - Member His Majesty's Council, Massachusetts Bay, and court justice. Owned mill rights at Great Works, and lived on what was later known as Brattle Street. Judge Hill was one of the town's seven wealthiest men at the time of his death according to tax valuation records. His stone bears this inscription: In memory of the honorable John Hill, Esq who after 28 years successively serving the Massachusetts Bay as a member of His Majesty’s Council resigned his seat at the Board. At the time of his death, and for many years before, he sustained the offices of first Justice of the Inferiour Court and Judge of Probate in York County. Honesty and Integrity marked his path, thro’ Life with distinguished lustre.
Dudley Hubbard, 1763-1816, an attorney, was one of old Berwick's seven wealthiest men in 1798, according to tax valuation records. Born in Ipswich, Mass., he graduated from Harvard in 1786 and may have accompanied Jeremy Belknap on the first scientific ascent of Mt. Washington. About 1810 he built a house that today is known as the Hayes House on Academy Street.
Hon. Benjamin Greene, (1764-1837). A Harvard graduate of 1784, he came here as preceptor (headmaster) of Berwick Academy, then settled in the community. While Maine was still part of Massachusetts, he served as representative to General Court in Boston from 1809 to 1811 and 1813 to 1817, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas from 1811 to 1822, and Speaker of House in 1824. He is remembered in Maine for helping to draft our constitution in 1819, just before Maine became a state. Greene also served as the fifth U.S. Marshal for the District of Maine. He was appointed by President James Monroe in 1824, was reappointed in 1828 and held his position until 1830.
Judge Benjamin Greene
Dr. J. B. M. Gray , d. 1857 – a beloved teacher who had been educated at Oxford and briefly served as headmaster of Berwick Academy before he died young. His students planted a tree that survived until 2010. At right, Marshwood Middle School students in October 2009.
Capt. Samuel Lord , probably a sea captain, who lived from about 1690 to 1762.
Gen. John Lord, d. 1815 – militia officer and a founder of Berwick Academy. A shipping merchant and partner of Jonathan Hamilton, Gen. Lord made the family's home at Quamphegan Landing on present-day Liberty Street with wife Mehitable Perkins (d. 1835). “His residence was a three storied house,” wrote early 20th century historian Annie Wentworth Baer, “standing in ample grounds opposite Dr. Hovey's. This mansion was stately in proportions; the finish outside and within was perfect and all betokened abundant means and good taste. His retail business was carried on in the store later known as Isaac Moore's [Liberty and Pleasant Streets]. He was called ‘Honorable' from being a member of the General Council, and General, from being a brigadier-general of the Militia. He was one of the original trustees of [Berwick] Academy, and gave a sum of money for a fund for providing every student who should enter the Academy with a Bible. These sacred books are scattered from Maine to California.” Children included John Perkins Lord (1786-1877), 1805 Harvard graduate and Portsmouth merchant and lawyer involved in bringing the Portsmouth Company cotton mill to South Berwick; Nathan Lord, president of Dartmouth College from 1828-1863; and Samuel Lord, cashier of the Piscataqua Bank who owned the John Paul Jones House in Portsmouth.
William Allen Hayes (1783-1851) and Susan Lord Hayes (c. 1790-1870), daughter of Gen. John Lord. Born in North Yarmouth, Maine, according to the 1880 History of York County, Hayes graduated from Dartmouth with the highest honors in 1805. He studied law with Dudley Hubbard and others, and was admitted to the Middlesex bar in 1809. At Hubbard's death, Hayes took over his South Berwick law practice, opened an office above the Parks Store still standing on Main Street, and acquired Hubbard's Academy Street mansion and farm. In 1828, girls began attending Berwick Academy for the first time, and the Hayes' teenage daughter Hetta Hayes was one of three young women to be the first to enter. Hayes was elected state representative in 1822 and served as president of the local bank; president of the York County bar about 25 years; judge of probate from 1828 to 1847; and president Berwick Academy from 1832 to 1851.
Joseph Hayes (1835-1912) – A Civil War brevet major general, one of only about 500 who served the Union as general officers. Born in the Hayes House on Academy Street, he attended Berwick Academy and Harvard, then worked as an engineer building railroads out West. Entering the war at 25, he fought with distinction in the major eastern campaigns, including Gettysburg and the Wilderness, where he suffered a head wound. Captured at Petersburg, he was held in Richmond’s notorious Libby prison and other military institutions for seven months. As Brevet Major General, Commanding, Advance Brigade, Army of the Potomac, he served through the Appomattox Courthouse surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865. His portrait today hangs in Harvard’s Memorial Hall.
Jonathan Hamilton (1745-1802) – South Berwick’s illustrious shipbuilder and merchant started as a trader in salt fish in the 1760s. Soon he owned forests in Lebanon, mill rights on the Great Works River and a shipyard and store at Pipe Stave Landing. During the 1780s and 1790s his properties were responsible for over half the ship tonnage on the Salmon Falls River as well as masts, spars, planks, and shingles. His ships carried these cargoes and likely also some enslaved people. Customs records show 104 arrivals of Hamilton vessels in the port of Portsmouth, over half from the West Indies. His stores and warehouses at the Landing and in Portsmouth were stocked with tea, sugar, coffee, molasses, rum, timber and shipbuilding tools. In 1785, he started building the finest house in the area, later known as the Hamilton House owned by Historic New England.
Deacon Nathaniel Norton (c. 1735-1820), deacon of the Second Congregational Church , and his wife Meriel Norton (c. 1736-1811). Church records show the Nortons came from Durham, NH, in 1780. In 1814, according to the History of York County , Nathaniel Norton, age 79, was among 12 “leading citizens” signing the petition for the first South Berwick election following the incorporation of South Berwick.
Gen. Ichabod Goodwin (1743-1829) – Described by a contemporary as "a staff to lean upon in all parish and educational affairs," Gen. Goodwin was a merchant and ship owner with ties to Portsmouth docks and shipyards at Pipe Stave Landing near the Hamilton House. As a teen, Goodwin accompanied his father in military action at Fort Ticonderoga. He later served in the Provincial Army and the Provincial Congress. A farmer and leading citizen after the Revolution, for a time the second wealthiest man in town after Hamilton, Goodwin became first major general of the militia for York County and a founder of Berwick Academy in 1791, served as county sheriff for 27 years, and represented South Berwick in the legislature. The local militia often drilled on muster grounds somewhere near Goodwin's home.
John H. Goodwin, d. 1964 - World War I veteran, 151 Depot Brigade
Rhoda Hastings Lambert was the young first wife of attorney William Lambert of Portland Street. She died on Jan. 12, 1806 shortly after giving birth to their son, Thomas Lambert, who had lived only one day and died on Dec. 25, 1805.
Maj. Nathan Nason, d. 1826 - veteran – In 1812 a Nathan Nason was the builder at Pipe Stave Landing of the Hitty , a 337-ton, 101-foot ship owned by John Lord, Samuel Lord and William Haven, and later Ichabod Goodwin. She sailed under Nathan Lord and traded in the South and Europe.
Maj. Thomas Leigh, (1773-1831) - In 1807 the Chadbourne family sold shares of Chadbourne's mills to the Leighs (Thomas's mother was the daughter of Judge Benjamin Chadbourne). The water-powered complex then included a sawmill, grist mill, hulling mill and card mill, on eight acres of land. By 1815 Maj. Leigh's journal indicates his net worth was about $30,000 and that he owned a farm and 100 acres. At his death his estate included property at Quamphegan Landing, two stores, a wharf, and land near the river.
Capt. Elisha Hill (c. 1710-1764), mill owner, had 14 children including a daughter, Abigail, who married Capt. Eliphalet Ladd, an important shipbuilder and merchant based in Exeter and Portsmouth and a founder of the Portsmouth Aqueduct Company. Abigail Hill Ladd (1750-1804) is buried in Portsmouth's North Cemetery.
(This summary by Wendy Pirsig from the archives of the Counting House Museum. Updated December 2020.)