Photo Gallery | Hike through history explores South Berwick’s historic journeys


SOUTH BERWICK, MAINE – Some students go to a far-away museum to learn history.  But the students here just hike out the door of their school, and follow their imagination to discoveries in their own home town.

Located in the heart of an historic village, South Berwick Central School is steps away from historic sites in all directions. Students will visit 18 of them on this year’s Hike through History on Friday, May 31 (rain date is June 3). 

At each stop, the Old Berwick Historical Society has researched stories of citizens’ adventures in earlier times—when today’s familiar streets were navigated by such conveyances as trolley, mule-drawn wagon, and high-wheeled bicycles.

This year the Hike theme is “Journeys,” so among other activities, children will help build an Indian bark canoe where natives paddled 300 years ago, and care for a horse at the house of Sarah Orne Jewett, where the author learned to ride as a child in the 1850s.  They’ll even practice welcoming a national celebrity at the stagecoach tavern where Gen. Lafayette stopped on his visit to Maine in 1825. 

As the younger pupils hike, they’ll meet local residents from the past, portrayed by older students.  Third graders prepared for the Hike in early May by walking to the historical society’s Counting House Museum for a special program, “Changes in the Land,” which taught the concept of change over time, using a custom rug designed with the map of local rivers.

Meanwhile, about 188 eighth graders from Marshwood Middle School have researched local characters like William Furness, a South Berwick sea captain whose ship was attacked by pirates off Portugal in 1793; Eliza Barker, a teenager who arrived by gundalow to lead the church choir; and Benjamin Davis, a young South Berwick soldier who went off to fight in the Civil War.

Through role-playing these and other characters, older students will teach the younger ones and bring to life the 18 interactive sites they will visit.

For the past 19 years, Central School’s annual Hike through History has been a collaboration with the Old Berwick Historical Society.  Teacher Pamela Mulcahey coordinates the event.

“We think the program is unique in New England,” said Nina Maurer, project coordinator for the Old Berwick Historical Society. “We are proud of the hard-won collaboration between three schools, two museums, 60 teachers, a phalanx of volunteers, and seven presenters, from a mule team driver to a wherry boatman,” noting that Historic New England is also a participant.


“Both the eighth grade and third grade interpreters do a fantastic job, first conducting their own historical research, and then communicating what they learn to a younger audience,” added Nicole St. Pierre, the historical society’s project curriculum coordinator.

Presenters this year also include Jamie Foote, Native American interpreter; Phil Kendrick, architect and boat enthusiast; Leigh Robinson, farm animal owner; Ken Creed, York County Community Action staff; Bob Crichton, Pine Hill Mules, mule wagon driver; Dan Smith, antique auto restorer; and Zip Zamarchi, bicycle enthusiast whose family had a South Berwick bicycle shop over 100 years ago.

The Hike through History route travels through a district listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and property owners cooperate with children celebrating lore associated with their homes.

Brian McNulty, for instance, will welcome kids to the mansion built by Willie Cummings, the owner of the local shoe factory, where they’ll see Dan Smith’s antique car that is similar to the Franklin Roadster in the historical society’s photo of Cummings about 1906.

This year’s Hike incorporates improvements developed over the past two years, thanks to grant funding. Staffing has allowed better integration of teachers’ educational goals with historic materials from the archives of the society’s Counting House Museum, and plans to support the program’s continuation in the future. A new website has also been created, .

Donors include the Davis Family Foundation, Marshwood Education Foundation, Maine Community Foundation, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Central School PTO, People’s United Bank, Kennebunk Savings Bank and Bruce Wilson, cabinetmaker.

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