Isaac Moore was born into a large farming family in Newfield, Maine, about 40 miles north of South Berwick. His father died when when Isaac was only nine years old, and within a few years the family moved to South Berwick, where his older brother found work as a teamster, driving wagons. Later Isaac took work as a clerk in the grocery store of Benjamin Doe at the Landing. By the age of 22, Isaac was a partner in the grocery business of Doe and Moore. When Doe left for California to mine for gold in the Gold Rush of 1849, Moore stayed on as storekeeper at the corner of Liberty and Pleasant streets, opposite the cotton mill.
James Golden was an Irish farm laborer and mason who immigrated to Boston in the early 1840s, attracted by the promise of employment in America. In the 1820s Irish immigration had increased sharply to supply labor for canal building, lumbering and construction in the Northeast. Most Irish immigrants who came during this period settled in large cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York, where they found support and protection in their own ethnic communities. As a stonemason, James would have sought work in large urban construction projects in Boston.
Abner Oakes was born in the farming community of Sangerville in central Maine in 1820. His father, William Oakes, Jr., was a poor farmer who raised six boys and a girl. Abner was the oldest child. Unlike most Maine parents struggling in the early 1800s, William Oakes managed to send at least three of his sons—Abner, Albion, and Valentine—to college, and all three became lawyers.
Mary L. Davis grew up in a house at the corner of Vine and Liberty streets in South Berwick, then part of a village known as Great Works. Her father, tinsmith Richard Davis, worked in his tin shop at the Landing bridge, where a neighborhood of shops and boarding houses had developed around the cotton factory. Mary was the youngest of ten children born to Richard and his wife Mary Ann, seven of whom lived to adulthood.
One of the first names used for the place we know as South Berwick was an Indian name, Quamphegan. When settlers first arrived from Europe, Native Americans were already living here. They called this place where the river tumbled down on its way to the sea Quamphegan—a place to fish using nets. Judge Benjamin Chadbourne, who grew up near the falls in the 1720s, once asked one of the early settlers what Quamphegan meant. “He told me it was a compound word and signified several things. I can only remember that it conveyed this idea: ‘A place for scooping fish out of the water with a net.’"
Who were the Indians who used names like Quamphegan and Newichawannock? Most traces of Wabanaki culture disappeared from this region in the 1700s, so it is difficult to understand their life ways today. In the years 1616 to 1619, European diseases sweeping New England devastated Native tribes before the English began to settle this area, so very little information was passed on. An estimated seven out of ten Natives died, killed by smallpox, measles, and other diseases for which they had no immunity, causing enormous disruption to their society and loss of their culture.
The Counting House got its name because it was a place where accounting was done—the work of counting and reporting the income and expenses of a business.
Upstairs in the Counting House of the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company, owners of the cotton mill held meetings.
Many years ago this part of South Berwick, where gundalows and other boats docked, was known as Quamphegan Landing.
William Gooch Cheney was born on a small farm in Wells, Maine, in 1836, one in a family of seven children. His father, James, was a farmer, and his older brother, Ira, followed suit, becoming a farmer by the age of 16.
Sarah Orne Jewett was a popular American novelist and short-story writer of the late 1800s. Her exact, kindly descriptions of the people and places she encountered near home gave Jewett’s writing a freshness that attracted readers.
Sarah Bartlett Frost opened the Frost Tavern here after her husband, George, was lost at sea in 1815.
When she was a young woman and graduated from high school, Mary Evelyn Davis found work at the Cummings shoe factory in South Berwick.
In 1872 manufacturer David Cummings moved his shoemaking business from Sanford to the area of South Berwick then known as the Plains.
Trains have been using this route since 1843, soon after Maine became a state. To the west (left), the tracks go to Dover and Boston. To the east (right), they go to Portland.
The owner of the nearby shoe factory, William Cummings, built this house about 1912. He came to South Berwick as a young man in the 1890s to manage the factory that his uncle had founded.
Benjamin Franklin Davis grew up in a house that still stands at the corner of Vine and Liberty Streets.