Berwick, in York County, first known as a part of Newichawannock, was incorporated in 1713, being the ninth town in the State. The territory then included also the present North Berwick and. South Berwick. Settlements appear to have been made here as early as 1624. The titles are derived from Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Rowles, sagamore of the Newichawannock tribe of Indians. In 1643 Humphrey Chadbourne purchased of the sagamore a part of the land on which the village of South Berwick now stands. Spencer and Broughton also purchased land of Rowles the same year. Among the names of residents about this time are the well-known Frost, Shapleigh, Heard, Plaisted, Spencer, Broughton, Leader and Wincoln. The Boston and Maine railroad passes across the southern part of the town, and the Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway railroad connects at Great Falls with the former road. The town is bounded on the north by Lebanon, on the east by North Berwick, on the south by South Berwick, and on the western side by New Hampshire. The extent of surface is 13,071 acres, exclusive of water. Its boundary line with the latter is formed by the Salmon Falls river. Little River runs across the northern part of the town, Boundary Brook forms one-third of the eastern line of the town; and parallel to the latter is Beaver Dam Brook. Love's Brook, further west, runs in the same direction, and Worster Brook runs southwest to the Salmon Falls River. Tare-shirt Hill, midway of the town, on the east, and Pine, opposite, near the western side, are the principal elevations. Knight's Pond, four or five square miles in extent, is the largest body of water in town. The rock is principally granite, and the soil is generally a good sandy loam. The manufactories are a boot and shoe factory employing about 200 persons when in full operation, a machine-shop employing twelve to fifteen persons, a soapfactory, employing about a dozen hands, saw and carpentry mills, a candy-factory, a tannery and numerous small establishments. The business centres are Berwick and South Berwick village. Its railroad connections are just outside of the town at Salmon Falls and Great Falls villages, in New Hampshire, on the Boston and Maine, and. Portland, Saco, and Portsmouth railroads, and. for the north part of the town, at South Lebanon, on the Portland and Rochester railroad."
Berwick suffered greatly in the Indian wars. In September 1675, the Indians entered the town and assailed the house of John Tozier, which sheltered at that time fifteen women and children. The master of the house had started with Captain Wincoln the day before to repel an attack of the savages upon Saco. A girl of eighteen years discovered the approach of the savages just in time to close the door in their faces. The fastening being imperfect, she held the door until the savages had cut it through with their hatchets. Finding that the inmates had escaped, the maddened savages wreaked their vengeance by a multitude of blows upon the poor girl. The fort or garrison was about 150 rods from the house, and the pursuing savages overtook and captured two young children. The next day they burned some buildings, but were driven of by the men of the garrison, who pursued them until dark. One of the children captured was killed at once, the other kept in captivity six months; the heroic girl who held the door finally recovered from her wounds. In the following month the savages again assailed the house of Tozier, killed him and carried his son into captivity. Nine men sent to his aid from the garrison fell into an ambush, and three were shot down. A team was soon after sent out under a guard of 20 men to bring in the bodies of the fallen, when they were assailed by about 150 savages. Several of the company fell; among them Lieutenant Plaisted, commander of the garrison, and his two sons. This garrison was on the place now occupied by John Spencer, Esq. The place revived after this war, so that in 1690 it contained 27 houses.
In March, 1690, the place was again attacked by a force of French and Indians under M. D'Artel and the cruel chief, Hopehood. The assault was made at daybreak at three points. The attack was a surprise, but the garrison flew to arms and fought until thirty-four of their number had fallen, when the remnant surrendered from necesssity. The Indians secured fifty-four prisoners, mostly women and children and carried away much plunder. They burned the dwellings, barns and mills, consuming a large number of cattle. In retiring, the savages set fire to the house of Thomas Toogood, murdered his wife and children, and made him a prisoner. While the Indian who had captured Toogood was preparing strings to tie him, the captive snatched the gun of the savage, and threatening him with death if he gave any alarm, retired across the river, while the defeated savage could only revenge himself by shouting "Nogood" at his recent prisoner in the distance. At sight of the smoke of the burning village, the inhabitants of neighboring towns to the number of about 150 gathered. at the place and set out in pursuit of the enemy. They overtook them at a narrow bridge over Worster River. where a sharp conflict ensued that lasted until night. Four or five of the English were taken prisoners and several killed, and the enemy suffered to about the same extent. Probably in all the annals of Indian warfare there is not a record of greater cruelties than were perpetrated by this band upon their English captives of all ages. In July, Hopehood again led his company against the ill-fated town, when the barbarities were repeated to such an extent as they found possible. In 1690 four men mowing in a meadow were attacked by the savages with tomahawks, and three of them cut down. This war continued until January, 1699.
Another war commenced in 1703; and all through the autumn inhabitants were killed or taken captive by the ambushed savages. In 1723, another war, sometimes called Lovewell's war, broke out. At this time there was not a house between Berwick and Canada. All those built in the town between 1690 and 1745 were of hewed logs, and an effectual defence against small arms. There was a block-house on the western side of Salmon Falls, a mile above Keay's garrison; and next was Wentworth and Goodwin's block-house. In 1750 there was a fort of this period still standing on Pine Hill, called Hamilton's garrison. It was made of poles twenty feet high and pointed at the ends. A band of savages laid in wait about the town in May, but finding the English so well defended they forsook the place, carrying away two captives, and having killed six persons. In the French and Indian war which commenced in 1744, Berwick was garrisoned, but was not attacked. It appears that the town furnished 150 men and several commissioned officers for the capture of Louisburg, which occurred in 1745. Of this matter, Pepperell, commander of the expedition, wrote to Major Hill, under date of February 21, 1745: "Yesterday I heard that Capt. Busteed had enlisted fifty brave soldiers in Berwick. This news is like a cordial to me. The commissioned officers of Berwick are as brave and as good men as any in the province. Please tell them all that I sincerely value and love them. If any of them wish to go, give them the offer and tell them to be with me tomorrow."
When the war of the Revolution approached, the people of Berwick were ready to support their brethren to the utmost of their ability. Meetings were frequently held during the war, in which large bounties were offered to encourage enlistments. Two full companies were sent under captains Philip Hubbard and Daniel Wood. A historian of the period writes: "To their everlasting honor be it said that they furnished as many men, according to the number of inhabitants, as any town in the country. There are but few ancient homesteads in the town that are not honored by the grave of some Revolutionary soldier."
In the war of 1812 the government was well supported, although some in town held meetings in which they denounced the war as unjust and unrighteous. In the war of the Rebellion Berwiek furnished for the Union army 138 men, mostly her own citizens, while 78 Berwiek men enlisted in neighl)oriflg towns. Berwick paid out for bounties and incidental expenses connected with enlistments $44,802.
The town has had many citizens of eminence, while several distinguished citizens of other towns and cities had their nativity within its borders. One of the most noted founders of families was John Sullivan, an Irishman by birth and education. He arrived in Maine in 1723, and opened a school in Berwick soon after. During the voyage from Ireland he made the acquaintance of a young girl nine years of age, named Margery Brown; who by some strange means was on board the vessel without friends. Neither had she the money to pay for her passage; and Mr. Sullivan assumed the debt, and took the girl as his ward. About 1740, when she was about 21 years of age and he was 44, they were married. He soon after purchased a farm in Berwick, upon which he lived more than 50 years. He died in 1796, in his 105th year; and his widow died in 1801, aged 87. On this farm were born to them 4 children, of whom were John and James Sullivan. The first was a leader in the first overt act of the Revolution, a general in the war, and a governor of the State of New Hampshire; the other, the acknowledged leader at the bar, a governor of Massachusetts, and one who contributed by his speeches and writings to the establishment of our national liberties.
Newichawnanock was incorporated as the Parish of Unity in 1673, and in 1702, John Wade was settled as minister.
The Baptists began their activity in the town in 1764, and in 1768 a church was formed at Great Hill, and a meeting-house built soon after. This was the first Baptist Church organized in Maine. Joshua Emery was their preacher for many years, though he was never ordained. lie was succeeded by William Batchelder, who was ordained as pastor in 1796. A new house was built in 1844; and in 1867 it was removed and rebuilt.
The Methodists began to have considerable influence in the town about 1810. John Lord was one of their early preachers. The first house was built about 1840, and it was burned before completion; but another was soon after built in the neighborhood to replace it. Berwick has sixteen schoolhouses; and its school property is valued at $16,750. It has also a free high schooL The valuation of the town in 1870, was $641,329. In 1880 it was $821,629. The rate of taxation in 1880 was $13 per $1000. The population in 1870 was 2,291; in 1880 it was 2,774.
- George J. Varney, A Gazetteer of the State of Maine (Boston: B.B. Russell, 1886), 109-112.