Village overview 3: The Turnpike

Turnpike, South Berwick, MaineBefore the construction of bridges at the mouth of the Piscataqua, the Boston to Portland highway rounded Great Bay and crossed the Salmon Falls River into Maine at the location of Quamphegan Landing, by the Counting House Museum today.

During the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, the country began improving transportation routes, and the new federal government gave turnpike authorities the right to create the best possible route through private lands, explain Donna-Belle and James L. Garvin in their book On the Road North of Boston. The improvements brought by the turnpike meant that a stagecoach leaving Hanover Street in Boston in the morning could now reach South Berwick by dark instead of taking two days.

A ledger from the period in the Counting House Museum collection lists the local turnpike corporation’s employment of 8 oxen, two horses, 4 ox yokes, 4 horse collars, 2 saddles for draft horses, 3 ox carts, 2 horse carts, a truck, 3 drays, 2 plows, 3 “scrapers” drawn by animals to smooth road surfaces, 12 wheelbarrows, 2 saws, 29 shovels and spades, 20 hoes, 4 crowbars, 10 axes, an adze, 4 pickaxes, a block and tackle, chain, rope and blasting equipment.

Published almanacs show that among the places the stagecoaches stopped were the Haggens tavern (in the period 1795-1809), the Foss tavern north of town, and after 1816, the Frost Tavern at the corner of Main and Paul Streets.

The town had become the gateway to Maine, as described in The South Berwick Register, 1904, which said, "At the close of the war of 1812, the messenger bearing the news peace, galloped through this town on his way to bear the good tidings through the Province of Maine."