William Lambert (b. 1772), lawyer; Rev. Ebenezer Little Boyd (b. 1768), Baptist minister; and Dennis Ferguson (1815-1900), tanner

William Lambert House c. 1800

c. 1800 - William Lambert House – 194 Portland Street

This house is part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. Lawyer William Lambert was considered to be a “worthy citizen of the town” while living in the house through 1811. His granddaughter, years later, was engaged to John Wilkes Booth at the time of the Lincoln assassination. The house meanwhile belonged to Reverend Ebenezer Little Boyd, a Baptist preacher in the early 1800s. In 1852, it passed to the ownership of Dennis Ferguson, who operated a tannery across the street. By 1931 it was Purity Hospital and then South Berwick Maternity Hospital until the late 1940s. Many South Berwick residents long remembered having been born in the tiny upstairs “birthing room.”

The Lamberts.  William Lambert was born in Rowley, Mass, on July 22, 1772. He graduated in 1798 from Dartmouth with a law degree and became a respected lawyer in South Berwick. His sister was Elizabeth Lambert Cogswell, who lived not far from her brother in the Cogswell House.

William Lambert’s first wife was Rhoda Hastings Lambert who died on Jan. 12, 1806. Their infant son, Thomas, lived only one day and died on Dec. 25, 1805. They are buried in the Old Fields Burying Ground.

On Sept. 17, 1807, William married Abigail Ricker who was the daughter of Captain Ebenezer Ricker, a Rollinsford, NH, sea captain. They had two children, Rev. Thomas R. Lambert and Lucy Hill Lambert. This daughter went on to marry Sen. John Parker Hale of Dover, NH.

The Hales had two daughters, Elizabeth Hale and Lucy Lambert Hale. It has been documented that this second daughter was engaged to John Wilkes Booth at the time of the Lincoln assassination and that when his body was found, he was carrying a picture of Lucy in his wallet. After the scandal faded, she eventually married Sen. William Chandler.

Abigail Ricker Lambert, widow of William Lambert, and her sister, Elizabeth Ricker Little, have been buried in the Hale Family Plot in Pine Hill Cemetery in Dover, NH.

Rev. Boyd.  In 1817 the house was purchased by Reverend Ebenezer Little Boyd. He was born on July 6, 1768 in Newburyport, Mass. His older brothers were successful merchants in Portland. Joseph Coffin Boyd became the first treasurer of State for Maine in 1820. His younger brother, John Parker Boyd, was made a brigadier general serving in the War of 1812.

Ebenezer became a noted Baptist preacher. His early congregation held services in what became known as the South Berwick “Town House” that was located where the soldiers' monument was later built. Sarah Orne Jewett mentions him in her work, “The Old Town of South Berwick.”

Ebenezer was married to Sarah Frazier Boyd on June 30, 1796. Sarah’s sister, Ann Frazier, was married to William King, the First Governor of Maine. Ebenezer & Sarah had a number of children. Among them, born in 1817, was Dr. John Boyd who studied medicine with Dr. Charles Trafton of South Berwick and became a strong advocate of temperance.

The Fergusons.  In 1852, the house passed to the ownership of Dennis Ferguson (1815-1900). He also purchased the home across the street and set up a tannery on that property. Maps show several buildings established on this site. Dennis was considered to be a prosperous businessman. It is noted in the memoir "South Berwick Village" by Mary Rice Jewett that at a later time he became “the postmaster for So. Berwick and that his daughter, Mattie was the efficient clerk.”

Dennis Ferguson and his wife Mary had eight children. Their daughter Martha moved into the house across the street. A postcard photo taken in 1913 identifies this house as the Old Ferguson House in “disrepair.”

Martha eventually married Alfred B. Brackett and moved to Minnesota. With the exception of Martha, most of the Ferguson family is buried in the Portland Street Cemetery located on Agamenticus Rd. The gravestone shows that many of the children died at a very early age.

South Berwick's hospital.  In 1931 Annie Trafton Hooper established the Purity Hospital in the house. Annie Hooper lived in the large colonial home next door while running the hospital. Eventually the hospital was sold to Julia A. Kenney, who changed the name to the South Berwick Hospital and it continued to serve South Berwick as a maternity hospital until the late 1940’s. A small upstairs room was used as the “birthing room” for the newborns. There was a front porch added to the house at some point, which no longer exists but can be seen in a photo from that era.

When the hospital closed, the house was taken over by the Federal Housing Commission. In 1964 the house was purchased at auction and a restoration of the house to its original condition was undertaken. It has since remained in private ownership as a family home.

(This article by Mary Vaughn was revised in January 2010.)