John Perkins Lord, Esq. (1786-1877), author and lawyer

John Perkins Lord House

c. 1820 – John Perkins Lord House - 301 Main Street

This house is part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. John Perkins Lord, Esq. (1786-1877) was an author and lawyer. An 1805 graduate of Harvard, he was a member of the Massachusetts Legislature before Maine became a state. His first wife was the daughter of a Portsmouth, NH, privateer, Capt. Eliphalet Ladd, who had married Abigail Hill Ladd of old Berwick. As a young man, Lord worked as a merchant in Portsmouth and a customs officer in Boston. About 1830 he was involved in bringing the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company textile mill to South Berwick to process cotton grown on Southern plantations.

John Perkins Lord was the eldest son of Gen. John Lord and Mehitabel Perkins, daughter of a Wells sea captain. Gen. Lord was a shipping merchant and partner of West Indies trader Jonathan Hamilton, and made the family’s home at Quamphegan Landing near present-day Liberty Street, South Berwick. Two younger sons of Gen. Lord were Nathan Lord, president of Dartmouth College from 1828 to 1863; and Samuel Lord of Portsmouth, NH, a Piscataqua Bank cashier who worked for Ichabod Goodwin, later governor of New Hampshire. Their sister, Susannah Lord Hayes, married Judge William Allen Hayes and lived on Academy Street in South Berwick.

After Harvard, John Perkins Lord may have studied law with Daniel Webster and Jeremiah Mason in Portsmouth, where he apparently lived on Congress or Islington Street, as the columnist Charles W. Brewster remembered years later. Lord apparently rented a pew in the old North Church. In “Bench and Bar” from the History of Rockingham County, New Hampshire, Lord is listed as being in practice there from 1809 to 1819.

Later in life, probably about 1866, Lord annotated the Records of the First and Second Churches of Berwick. In a note identifying himself he wrote, “gr. At H. C. [Harvard College] 1805; studied law: was a merchant in Portsmouth, NH: was a member of ye Legislature of Mass., and officer of Customs in Boston.”

In 1844, while living in South Berwick, Lord wrote The Maine Townsman, a book about laws and judicial decisions in Maine.

From a South Berwick map of 1856

A merchant with ties to Portsmouth, Lord may have been a key figure in the construction of the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company cotton textile mill at Quamphegan Landing, near his childhood home, around 1830. Historian Annie Baer, in her essay, “The Landing Mill,” wrote, “Ferguson also sold to the Portsmouth Co. a tract of land and wharf on the Berwick side. The same year Moses Varney and wife sold the Company a strip of land along the river in Somersworth; Theodore F. and Thomas Jewett sold to the same, land and wharf in So. Berwick. This land had been bought of John P. Lord.”

George Washington Frosst, who wrote a memoir of his years growing up in South Berwick in the 1830s, said John P. Lord then kept a store at Quamphegan Landing at the corner of Liberty and Pleasant Street. It had earlier been a business owned by his father, the West Indies merchant Gen. John Lord. It later became the location of a store run by Isaac L. Moore and then the Maddox family.

John Perkins Lord’s first wife was Sophia Ladd, born c. 1788, daughter of merchant Capt. Eliphalet Ladd of Exeter (later Portsmouth), and Abigail Hill of old Berwick (b. 1750, daughter of Elisha Hill and Mary Plaisted), who married here in 1772, according to Vital Records of Berwick, South Berwick and North Berwick. In Ports of Piscataqua, William G. Saltonstall describes Ladd as “an ambitious Exeter ship captain and privateersman who later moved down river to 'the Bank.'" At least one of Ladd’s ships was sailed by a local captain, Ebenezer Ricker of Rollinsford, who sailed to Demerara in 1799-1802 aboard the Eliza, according to Port of Portsmouth Ships by Ray Brighton.

In a newspaper column in the mid-1800s, Brewster mentioned Lord’s marriage to Sophia Ladd: “1772 [Capt. Ladd] married a lady of Berwick whom he met at her brother's house in Portsmouth, Miss Abigail Hill, who was a true helpmeet. To her good management, he used in his latter days to attribute at least three-fourths of his wealth. Ten children were added to their household... Four of his daughters were married. Rev. William F. Rowland, of Exeter, Capt. Samuel Chauncy, John P. Lord, and John Langdon, Jr. of Portsmouth, were their husbands.” (More on Eliphalet Ladd and his aqueduct can be read in Brewster's “Rambles” .)

The Records show that John P. and Sophia Lord’s daughter, Susan Hayes Lord, was baptized in South Berwick’s First Parish Congregational Church in 1823, followed by a son, Nathan Augustus Lord, in 1825, and a daughter, Mary Ladd Lord, in 1826. Susan Hayes Lord married Rev. C. F. Mussey, a Presbyterian minister “killed (1865) in Batavia, NY,” according to the Records. Nathan Augustus Lord later became a merchant in Melbourne, Australia. Cemetery records indicate the Lords also had a son, J. Buckminster Lord, who died at age 21.

Lord apparently was active in the church. The Records note, “At a Church meeting held at the dwelling house of John P. Lord Esqr on the 29 October 1828, Voted that after this year the Lords supper shall be administered on the First Sabbath in January, March, May, July, September and November.” It is not known whether Lord was living in this house at that time.

Sophia Lord died in 1830 at age 42. Lord then married Sally Noble (c. 1804-1897). Both wives are buried near Lord in Old Fields Burying Ground on Vine Street.

For over 50 years Lord was a trustee of Berwick Academy, which he likely had attended as a student and where his father had been a founder. He served as secretary of the board of trustees, where he was remembered, his son noted later, for his “clear, legible, neat English handwriting contrasting strikingly with the records made by other secretaries.”

Lord died in 1877 at the age of 91, and his wife Sally in 1897 at the age of 93. The John Perkins Lord House later became the McIntire-McCooey Funeral Home.

Excerpt from a South Berwick map of 1872.

(This summary by Wendy Pirsig from archives at the Counting House Museum. Revised December 2020.)