Tour South Berwick Village section intro: Happy Valley
Happy Valley, from a postcard in the Counting House Museum archives.
We don’t know just how the name Happy Valley originated in South Berwick, but it was in common use in the late 1800s and early 1900s and, as far as we can tell, applied to the same area that later became known as Hog Point. For the purposes of this virtual tour of South Berwick Village, we have applied the term Happy Valley to the uphill part of what is now often dubbed Lower Main Street, and used The Point for the rest of the street. Note that the street on the 1877 map excerpt below is labeled Salmon Falls Street. Also called Salmon Street, it became part of Main Street in the 1910s.
In the early 20th century postcard at left, the Freewill Baptist Church on Main Street shows in the distance. Trolley car tracks are in view at right. This was part of the Portsmouth, Dover and York Street Railway (later the Atlantic Shore Line) that moved thousands of passengers around the area between 1903 and 1923.
A hundred years ago a bustling community known as Happy Valley nestled by the Salmon Falls, downhill from the “Plains” of South Berwick and closely tied to Salmon Falls Mill Village in Rollinsford, NH. Happy Valley was almost a world of its own.
Hundreds of people living and working at the Cummings Mill in South Berwick and at the Salmon Falls Manufacturing Company across the river in Rollinsford, NH, walked and shopped the main thoroughfare, known as Salmon Street. French was commonly spoken, as most of the residents were of French Canadian origin. With the town line at the Freewill Baptist Church in those days, much of the neighborhood actually lay in Berwick in the 1800s. In the early 20th century Happy Valley joined South Berwick and became known as Hog Point or simply The Point.
When this area was first settled in the 1600s, the road called Salmon Street in the 1800s and now often called “lower Main Street” did not exist as we know it today. Instead the road we call Butler Street led from the main part of South Berwick Village to the river, the Salmon Falls bridge to New Hampshire, and a cluster of early mills on the river. Tiny Salmon Falls Brook (also known as Driscoll Brook), which still runs through the neighborhood, also supplied water power thanks to a mill pond whose remains can still be seen today. Near the river, what is now Spillane’s Hill Road then continued northward toward Great Falls, at what is now downtown Berwick.
After the construction of the Great Falls and South Berwick Branch Railroad about 1852, the neighborhood was reconfigured to its modern layout. Butler Street was cut off at the tracks, and in 1853 a “new Townway” – Salmon Street or today’s Main Street – was built to connect South Berwick village with the bridge to New Hampshire. Two railroad lines eventually crossed here, in addition to the conventional bridge. One railroad bridge, serving Amtrak’s Downeaster as well as freight trains, remains.
In the early 1900s the Point also contained a trolley terminus, a newspaper called the South Berwick-Salmon Falls Independent, public and parochial schools, and many businesses including stores, bars and lunch counters, and even a recreational center called “The Palace,” featuring professional boxing.
The Old Berwick Historical Society is grateful to Albert Roberge for help identifying many historic properties below. We also thank the South Berwick Historic District Commission for their analysis of local architecture. We have examined maps, town reports and other archives at the Counting House Museum. We would love more information, memorabilia and recollections about the Point and Happy Valley, and hope to expand this page. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This excerpt from a South Berwick map of 1877 by Ruger & Stoner has been used to show the position of historic buildings built between c. 1830 and the early 20th century.
(Summary by Wendy Pirsig. Updated December 2020.)