We’ve looked at the W.W. Rich & Sons store on the southeast corner of Sawyer and High streets. Let’s take a look at the drug store that was once in operation on the northeast corner of Sawyer and High streets – at 114 Sawyer St. The building is now used as an apartment building, but it was widely known as a drug store in earlier years.

In this early Ferry Village scene taken at the corner of Sawyer and High streets, the drug store is on the left. The sign on the other side of the awning says “A.E. Thurrell, Apothecary.” South Portland Historical Society photo

Albert E. Thurrell was the first person to operate a drug store from the corner. Thurrell was born at Cushing’s Point in Cape Elizabeth (now South Portland) in 1853, one of the six children of James and Mary Thurrell. His father James was a carpenter and, although Albert first worked alongside his father when he was a teenager, he soon decided to follow a different path.

As early as 1877, Albert was operating an apothecary, or drug store, in Ferry Village. He had help from his family in the early years. His sister Mary clerked in the store, as did his youngest brother James as soon as he was old enough.

In 1882, Albert Thurrell married Eva Sterling from Monhegan Island. Also in 1882, he bought a vacant lot of land from Tristram Hutchins (father of longtime teacher Hattie A. Hutchins) on the northwest corner of High and Pine streets. Thurrell’s father built the home there on that corner where Albert and Eva lived throughout the rest of their lives.

Houses in Ferry Village didn’t have street numbers when the home was first built, and it carried several addresses over the years due to street renumbering – it was first given a house number of 27 West High St., then became 181 High St. The home is still there today and is now known as 179 High St.

In 1885, Thurrell was also appointed postmaster of Ferry Village. e served in that role through 1889.


Portrait of Albert E. Thurrell. South Portland Historical Society photo

A story in the Portland Sunday Telegram in 1926 provides a glimpse into the life of Albert Thurrell:

“He chose the profession of a druggist, continuing his studies in that direction with marked success. He qualified for the State diploma, afterwards practicing as a fully qualified chemist…he did business for more than 50 years, making up the medical prescriptions of the neighboring doctors for a generation. During this lifetime of service no error was registered against any of his prescriptions…His store was a public welfare office for he had a most remarkable spirit of kindly service that seemed to attract all kinds of requests from all kinds of folk. His genial and obliging manner made him a public asset of no mean value and the most remarkable thing about his service was that it was entirely voluntary…It was a habit of his to do much for nothing. He laid the whole neighborhood under obligation for this kindly care of other folk’s business. In character he was straightforward, and honest often against his own commercial interests.

“He was widely known and universally respected…For 57 years he was a member of Peoples’ Methodist Episcopal Church on High Street, South Portland. He held every office open to a layman in that church excepting that of local preacher; the latter office he often filled without the exacted license. For 38 years he was treasurer of the church and Sunday School…For years he sang in the church choir and no funeral used to be perfect without his voice in sympathetic hymn.

A prescription bottle from the A.E. Thurrell Apothecary is preserved in the collections of the South Portland Historical Society. South Portland Historical Society photo

“He served all interests that were good, and always with the same faithful service. As treasurer of the South Portland Building and Loan Association he did fine public service, rendering to many private citizens a service of privacy and promptness that qualified him for the confidence of those he served. Few men have handled so much money of so many South Portlanders as Mr. Albert E. Thurrell did.

“He was treasurer of Mount Pleasant Cemetery Association for many years, and thus uniquely combined the care of housebuilding and gravedigging. As registrar he served the city for six years on the Board of Registration. He was treasurer for the South Portland Branch of Red Cross during the war, and to many other organizations he rendered the same skillful service.”

Thurrell retired and sold the business to Walter Dow in 1917.


Walter changed the name of the store to his own name at first: Walter Dow, druggist. Over the years, the business became known as Dow’s Drug Store and the local U.S. Post Office Station No. 12 was located in the store.

Walter was born in 1882 and married Nellie Drummond in Portland in 1912. He was 30 years old when they married and Nellie was 33; they did not have children. Nellie helped out in the store and, after Walter’s death in 1930, she continued operating the store and post office as the sole proprietor.

In 1934, she hired Russell Newton who became her chief store clerk. Around 1940, Nellie had retired and sold the business to Russell Newton. Newton was listed as proprietor of the drug store from 1940 through his death in 1950.

Albert and Eva Thurrell lived in this home at 179 High St. It was built by Albert’s father, James. South Portland Historical Society photo

While Russell Newton was running the store, he hired Paul E. Kierstead, circa 1946, to clerk in the store. After Russell’s death in July of 1950, Paul and his wife, Edna Kierstead, took over the management of the store. Through his estate, ownership of the building passed to Newton’s only surviving heir, his sister Helen Cook. Helen sold the property in 1955 to Paul Kierstead. Paul and Edna continued running the drug store together until 1965.

South Portland Historical Society offers a free Online Museum with over 16,000 images available for viewing with a keyword search. You can find it at https://sphistory.pastperfectonline.com and, if you appreciate what we do, feel free to make a donation by using the donation button on the home page. If you have photographs or other information to share about South Portland’s past, we would love to hear from you. South Portland Historical Society can be reached at 207-767-7299, by email at sphistory04106@gmail.com, or by mail at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at sphistory04106@gmail.com.

Dow Drug Store in 1955. South Portland Historical Society photo

In this earlier view of Sawyer Street, looking northerly toward Portland, Thurrell’s Apothecary can be seen on the right. South Portland Historical Society photo

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