Andrew J. Nealley (1815-1887), shop keeper; Albert Maddox (1873-1954), grocer
c. 1850 - Nealley - Maddox Store – 53 Main Street
This former 19th century grocery store at the corner of Main and Garland Streets is evidence of the small but vibrant commercial neighborhood once located at Quamphegan Landing. During the heyday of the Portsmouth Company textile mill, 1831-1894, the building was known as Nealley’s Store, after a leading merchant family. In the late 1800s it was bought by Joseph Maddox, who ran it along with at least two other grocery stores in South Berwick.
Early history of Landing stores
With road improvements in the early 1800s came commercial opportunities near the bridge to New Hampshire, and the development of properties on Main Street reflected this trend. A major land sale in 1803 transferred ownership of 12 lots near the bridge from Daniel Rollins’ heirs to a host of local tradesmen. The buyers included an innkeeper, baker, hatter, two storekeepers, a cooper, blacksmith and shipwright. Some were from nearby towns—Dover and Somersworth, NH, across the river—but most were Berwick men investing in land along a vital Northeastern transportation corridor that ran along what is now Main Street, South Berwick, Maine.
Two local shops were owned by two of the wealthiest men in town. Gen. John Lord, a merchant who lived from 1765 to 1815, owned mill rights at the Quamphegan waterfall and built ships at Pipe Stave Landing, where Jonathan Hamilton was his partner on the Atlantic trade routes out of Portsmouth. Lord had a “West Indies” store on what is now Liberty Street. Dr. Ivory Hovey (1748-1818), merchant and physician, owned ships, wharves and warehouses here, as well as mills down river and two gundalows for transporting goods. The Hovey store stood next to Lord’s near the river on today’s Liberty Street.
The mill era and the Nealley Store
With the arrival of the Portsmouth Company cotton factory in 1831, the number of business owners based at the Landing expanded to include a broad range of services, from doctor and merchant to blacksmith, hatter and baker. There were both rental properties and owner occupants. And the riverbank itself was transformed. A towering brick edifice with a retinue of offices, boarding rooms, and businesses serving a factory workforce supplanted the cluster of wharves and shops at the head of tide. The landing place had become a mill village.
Andrew J. Nealley (1815-1887), who owned this store at the corner of Main and Garland Streets, also built a house in today’s center of town, as did his brother John. His store supplied provisions to the busy community of mill employees, who by then numbered about 200 workers.
A Landing resident of the 1930s, George Washington Frosst, described the kind of trade that went on in local stores and on the river:
“At that time, Capt. Moses Varney commanded the good and fast sailing packet Ceres, which made alternate tidal trips to and from South Berwick, Maine, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Generally, the cargos consisted of cotton goods manufactured at the mill and produce from the different farms near the village consigned to some of the commission merchants at Portsmouth. On the return trips were brought nearly all the merchandise for the various dry-goods and groceries in the village. At this time it was no unusual sight, on entering a store, to see dry-goods displayed on one side and groceries on the other, and nearly all sold rum in the rear room that was used as an office. In visiting Portsmouth either on business or for pleasure, many preferred the water route on the packet to that of the stage coach line or other similar conveyances, as the fare was only twelve and a half cents each way, the distance being about ten miles. Several gundalows were used in transporting bulky material such as timber, cordwood, hemlock bark, and raw cotton in bales.”
By 1860, much of the property along Main Street from the bridge to School Street (now Sewall Road) was consolidated in the hands of three families, the Nealleys, Nasons, and Plumers. The men who headed these families—lawyer John B. Nealley, merchant Benjamin Nason, and baker John Plumer—all began as storekeepers or skilled tradesman living in the neighborhood. The Civil War and its aftermath brought economic decline, however, and property ownership and tenure at the Landing changed as well. When the older generation died in the 1870s and 1880s, ownership passed to family members who were women, often widows, and to laborers no longer associated with the cotton mill. The assurance of steady employment at the mill eroded, and with it the social fabric of the neighborhood.
The Maddox Stores
When Andrew Nealley died in 1887, brothers Norris and Joseph Maddox bought both this store and the former store of Gen. John Lord at the corner of Liberty and Pleasant Streets. By then the Lord store was owned by Isaac L. Moore, who was the Maddox brothers’ aging uncle. These stores at the Landing were two of several grocery stores to be operated by Joseph Maddox (1847-1916) and his son, Albert Maddox (1873-1954), and eventually by grandsons, Alden and Stanley Maddox. A third Maddox store was in the brick business block in Central Square, South Berwick. Others were in Milton, NH, and Lebanon, ME. They were known as J. A. Maddox and Sons, and were certainly one of South Berwick's first experiences with the economic advantages of “chains”. They operated in the early 20th century through World War II.
Albert Maddox was active in the community. He became the president of the Odd Fellows and later of the Rollinsford Bank. After his death, his widow Erna Maddox owned and rented out the former Maddox store in Central Square through the 1960s.
Married in 1914, Erna and Albert Maddox raised a large houseful of children and step-children. It was Erna's second marriage. She had been living before in Topsham and married to Rev. George H. Salley, and he died in 1911. By a previous marriage, he had had three children named Ruth, Kenneth, and Willis Salley. George and Erna had a son, George Salley, Jr. When Erna remarried, all four Salley children joined the Maddox household, which eventually had four children more-- Greta, Alden, Stanley and Betty Maddox. Descendants of the Maddox family have lived in South Berwick for the next 100 years.
(Posted 2016 – Excerpted from a 2015 Historic District Commission Report by Nina Maurer. Sources: Old Berwick Historical Society archives)