Sarah Orne Jewett
Long before the Old Berwick Historical Society existed and began to chronicle – and recreate – the way life was lived in the Berwicks in centuries past one woman chronicled it all as she lived it, and in doing so become a well known author whose works are still read and discussed today, both as a valuable historical resource and an example of American women’s literature from the 19th century.
About Sarah Orne Jewett
By the time she was born in 1849, Sarah’s family had been living in New England for generations. There were several reasons why Sarah was able to write so clearly and descriptively about life in the Berwicks in her later life that stemmed from her childhood. Her father was a local doctor and whenever she could Sarah made a habit of accompanying him on his rounds of the area, which brought her into contact with a great many more of the local residents than most young girls at the time would have met.
Sarah also suffered from rheumatoid arthritis from a young age and took regular nature walks at her father’s request to help her remain as mobile and agile as possible. As a teenager she began to make trips to Boston where she met many of the important literary figures of the day but she chose never to leave South Berwick for good.
Jewett had her first works published when she was 19 years old in Atlantic Monthly magazine but it was her novel “The Country of the Pointed Firs” that brought her and her works national attention. In her works South Berwick was heavily featured, although Sarah fictionalized it Deephaven and Dunnets Landing.
After a lifetime of traveling Europe and the world with her close friend Annie Fields, the widow of the Atlantic Monthly publisher who had originally given Sarah her “break”, Sarah returned home but was injured in a carriage accident in 1802 that left her unable to write any further. She died as the result of a stroke a few years later in 1809 at the age of 59.
The Sarah Orne Jewett Houses
One of the most visited of the many historic buildings in South Berwick is Sarah Orne Jewetts two homes in the village, both on Portland Street and next door to each other. One of the homes is the one that that she grew up in and the other is one that belonged to her family when she was very young that she and her sister Mary then purchased and refurbished in 1887. For years Mary mainly lived there alone as much of Sarah’s time was spent traveling but it was to this house that Sarah eventually came home for good to.
Another popular attraction are the Jewett Gardens. Gardens feature heavily in all of Sarah’s writings and thew land, located between the two Sarah Orne Jewett houses, provided the inspiration for all that. These days the gardens, and both of the houses, are open to public year round.