Ruel B. Rideout (1874-1944)

Early 1800s– Rideout House – 65 Portland Street

This house is part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the home of Ruel B. Rideout (1874-1944), and his son, John Paul Rideout. Rideout’s Hardware Store was a downtown South Berwick landmark from about 1900 until 2007.This house on Portland Street may have been built in the early 19th century, and about 1900, Ruel Rideout seems to have remodeled it for his family.

“You will find RIDEOUT’S New Store in Butler Building THE HANDIEST PLACE To Buy Lead and Oil Mixed Paints, Varnishes, Shellac, Floor Oil, Glass, Putty, Fence Wire, Sheathing Paper, Roofing, Rakes, Hoes, Shovels, Field, Garden or Flower Seeds, Nails, Bolts and Screws...Agent for HUB RANGES – “Acme Quality” Paints and Varnishes – PRATT’S ANIMAL AND POULTRY FOOD.”

    -- 1913 South Berwick Town Report

Rideout adAdvertisement in the
Salmon Falls-South Berwick Independent, July 9, 1914

Rideout's Store. Around the same time Ruel B. Rideout bought the house, he opened Rideout’s Store, seen at right, in a house still standing at the corner of Butler and Main Streets, where he began selling hardware as well as groceries.

In the 1910s, Rideout also sold groceries in the "Ross Block," also known as the Masonic/Huntress Block, which later contained the engineering firm Civil Consultants. Rideout's Hardware finally opened in the Business Block, where it operated until 2007.


The Rideout family. Earlier Rideout family members had roots in South Berwick. Rev. Uriel Rideout (1816-1868) and his wife Miriam D. Rideout (c. 1824-1891) are buried in Old Fields Burying Ground on Vine Street. Carrie C. Rideout, in Ruel’s generation, was active in the South Berwick Woman’s Club and died in 1966 at the age of 92.

Ruel B. RideoutRuel B. Rideout, 1920s

Ruel Rideout and his wife raised two sons in this house, John Paul born in 1908, and Edward Mitchell born in 1917. Ruel was town moderator for many years, and served on the building committee that in 1925 built South Berwick Central School, where Edward was a pupil.  Edward attended Berwick Academy, then the town high school, in the 1930s. Ruel Rideout died on April 27, 1944 at the age of 70.

 Advertisement in the South Berwick-Salmon Falls Independent, July 9, 1914


Nail keg, Counting House MuseumNail keg marked R. B. R. for Ruel B. Rideout, and formerly used at Rideout’s Hardware. From the Counting House Museum collection.
Son John Paul Rideout, who went by the name of Paul, inherited the house and operated Rideout’s Hardware throughout the mid-20th century. He served as an officer on the South Berwick Board of Trade, and in the 1960s as chairman of the restoration committee to repair the 1890 Town Clock at the Freewill Baptist Church. But he also suffered from a chronic debilitating illness, and in the late 1940s, following his father’s death, he had hired William A. Bray as store manager. Bray proved such an indispensable assistant that in the late 1970s, Paul made Bray the owner of Rideout’s Hardware.

Sheryll Johnson, Bray’s daughter, ran Rideout’s for the last 16 years it was in business. Generations still remember its old wood floors, friendly atmosphere and abundant inventory from nails and paint to Christmas ornaments.

Furniture polish distributed by Curtis Sales Company of South Berwick and sold at Rideout’s early in the 20th century. Donated by Sheryll Johnson to the Counting House Museum collection.

After the Rideouts, the Portland Street house became the home of Dr. Albert Kerr, headmaster of Berwick Academy from 1957-1964. An alumnus of Phillips Andover and Yale, and a former teacher at Governor Dummer Academy, Kerr led the academy's transition from public high school to private boarding school.
(Summary by Wendy Pirsig from archives in the Counting House Museum.  Updated December 2020.)