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Counting House Museum
Old Berwick Historical Society
Route 4,  Main and Liberty Streets (PO Box 296)
South Berwick, Maine 03908
Open July-September, Saturdays and Sundays, 1:00-4:00 pm
and by appointment year round.  Free admission. 
207-384-0000.
 
Counting House You can count on some cool things at this small country museum. It’s in the brick counting house of what was once an enormous mill in South Berwick, ME, just over the river from New Hampshire in what was once called Salmon Falls. Home of the all-volunteer Old Berwick Historical Society, the museum offers visitors a deeper perspective of life along the Seacoast.

The museum stands ten miles from the ocean at Quamphegan Landing, a tiny tidewater port and mill site since the 1600s. Before the advent of

railroads, the old town of Berwick was served by gundalows, flat bottomed boats that acted as river-going trucks. Berwick was once a gateway along the Piscataqua estuary, an important stop into the untamed interior of New Hampshire and Maine. Settlers in the early 1600s recognized its importance immediately.

By 1805 the small bridge over the falls by the museum here was the Boston-to-Portland stagecoach turnpike, encircling Great Bay long before Routes 1 and I-95 spanned the deep and turbulent waters of the Piscataqua. Today a new municipal Counting House Park with small boat ramp is open at the shallow old Landing, for picnics, fishing, kayaks and canoes.

Soon after 1830 the counting house appeared as part of the Portsmouth Manufacturing Co. cotton mill. The mill agent and paymaster worked here as accountants who counted hundreds of mill hands toiling at 7000 spindles, annually processing 1300 bales of cotton from Southern plantations, producing 2 million yards of sheeting per year. The Counting House also brightened community life, with dancing upstairs when gas lamps illuminated the "Lighting Up Ball" each autumn.

The mill closed in 1893 and the factory was torn down. But the Counting House survived as a regional treasure, and it still contains one of northern New England's last textile mill ballrooms. And that's not all. Since the Old Berwick Historical Society was formed in 1962, volunteers have collected thousands of archives and curiosities, and made them available as displays and research materials on life all around the Piscataqua. You can see everything from gundalow models and textile mill photos, to maps and mementos of 19th century life in the nearby South Berwick Village, home of author Sarah Orne Jewett whose house is located further up Main Street in South Berwick and open to the public courtesy of SPNEA. Jewett’s exquisite prose and poetry, focused on the old mill town, is enjoying a revival even today. Well know novelist Anita Shreve wrote the introduction to a recent release of the author’s work.

The Old Berwick Historical Society also sponsors the Humphrey Chadbourne Archaeology Project. You’ll see some of those artifacts below. The dig has been led since 1995 by Dr. Emerson "Tad" Baker at the South Berwick homesite of one of America's pioneering mill families, dating to 1650. More than 35,000 Chadbourne artifacts have been discovered so far and are among the treasures at the museum. Counting House volunteers are still counting them. We’re counting on you to visit soon.

For more on the Chadbourne Project visit
click below and press BACK to return here.
http://www.salemstate.edu/~ebaker/chadbourne.htm 

NHS

Berwick Counting House

Berwick Counting House

Berwick Counting House

Berwick Counting House

Berwick Counting House

Berwick Counting House

Berwick Counting House

Berwick Counting House

All images courtesy of Wendy Pirsig,, Old Berwick Historical Society
Copyright © 2002 SeacoastNH.com. All rights reserved.

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