Buzzell’s Hill, as shown on the 1871 F.W. Beers atlas. The elder Dr. John D. Buzzell lived in the home on the north side of Barren Hill Road (Highland Avenue). His son, also named Dr. John D. Buzzell, had lived in the home on the opposite side of the street (the home marked “H. Nutter” on the atlas); the son moved to Portland circa 1858 and would later sell that home on Highland Avenue to Henry Nutter. Contributed / South Portland Historical Society

The Rev. John Buzzell, a well-known minister in Parsonsfield and founder of the seminary there, was the father of Dr. John D. Buzzell, for whom Buzzell’s Hill in South Portland is named. Contributed / South Portland Historical Society

If you look at the old F.W. Beers atlas from 1871, you can see how the name “Buzzell’s Hill” covers the area of upper Scamman Street, where it intersects with Highland Avenue. While we’ve known that Buzzell’s Hill was named for Dr. John D. Buzzell, who had a large home on Highland Avenue, knowing exactly who that is turned out to be a little tricky, as there were two Dr. John D. Buzzells. Let’s take a look at the father and son who shared the same name and occupation.

The elder Buzzell, for whom the hill is named, was born in 1798 in Middleton, New Hampshire. He was the son of the Rev. John Buzzell, one of the early leaders of the Free Will Baptist Church in New England. Shortly after John D. Buzzell’s birth, Rev. Buzzell moved the family to Parsonsfield, Maine, where he headed the church there, established the North Parsonsfield Seminary and co-founded the Morning Star, the newspaper of the Free Will Baptists. Rev. Buzzell served as editor of the newspaper for seven years.

John D. Buzzell grew up in Parsonsfield, apprenticed with Nicholas Doe to be a saddler (a maker and repairer of saddles, harnesses, bridles, halters and other equipment used with horses) and married Deborah Doe of that town. After he married, he decided to begin studying medicine under the tutelage of Dr. Moses Sweat of Parsonsfield, and then with Drs. Briggs, Gilman and Merrill in Portland.

As early as 1830, Dr. John and Deborah Buzzell were living here in Cape Elizabeth. In 1829, John purchased a house and fish house at Cushing’s Point. In the 1830s and especially throughout the 1840s, John purchased and invested in a large number of properties in Cape Elizabeth.

Dr. Buzzell and his wife settled in a large home/farm on Highland Avenue (known as Barren Hill Road in those days). Not surprisingly, they were believers in the Free Will Baptist faith and were very active members of the Baptist church on Sawyer Street. John and Deborah had at least seven children – Benjamin (died in infancy), John (died in infancy), John, Nancy, Charles, James and Maria. The Buzzell home was in the area that today is where Rosewood Avenue intersects Highland Avenue, between Anthoine Street and Scamman Street. In those days, there was no Scamman Street; when that street began, it was known as Buzzell Street and the first homes built along the upper part of the street were on land that had been subdivided off of the old Buzzell farm.

Dr. Buzzell advertised his remedies in local newspapers, such as this ad that appeared in the Daily Eastern Argus in 1843. Contributed / South Portland Historical Society

Dr. Buzzell was very well respected in the Cape Elizabeth community. In 1837, at a caucus of the Democratic-Republican party of Cape Elizabeth, Buzzell was chosen by his peers to serve as the chairman of the meeting.


He was known for his proprietary “family medicines” that were designed to cure chronic diseases. By 1843, he had begun advertising his medicines in local newspapers. His ads indicated that he was making his pills, powders, ointments and elixirs from his dispensary in Cape Elizabeth (South Portland). We believe this dispensary to have been located in his home or on his property.

Buzzell died in 1872 at the age of 74. He is buried with his wife Deborah and many other family members at Bay View Cemetery in South Portland.

Two of his sons would die at a fairly young age. Both Charles and James had started out farming on their father’s property. James died in 1854 when he was only 20 years old. Charles died in 1861 at the age of 33 when he had gone for a sail with friends. They stopped in at Diamond Cove to have lunch, and when they set off to sail home, a squall hit and the boat capsized; six of the men drowned, with only one man surviving.

Buzzell’s son John, also named John D. Buzzell, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. He studied medicine at Bowdoin College and, after completing his dissertation on “Dysentery,” graduated in 1850. Returning to Cape Elizabeth, he started his practice here. In 1854, he married Susan Whitmore (an interesting side note: Susan was the sister of Rebecca Whitmore Pickett, wife of the master shipbuilder Benjamin W. Pickett). John and Susan Buzzell lived in a home across the street from his parents’ home on Highland Avenue. They had at least four children – William (died in infancy), Mary, Annie and Benjamin Franklin (who went by the name Frank).

The younger Dr. Buzzell practiced medicine in Cape Elizabeth from 1850 through 1858, keeping an office in Knightville. In late 1858, he moved to Portland where he first carried on his medical practice from his home on the corner of Pleasant and Park streets. He would later move his home and office to 143 High St., near Congress Square. In his obituary, it was stated that “Dr. Buzzell had never been a strong man, and had often been compelled to leave his practice for rest and change, and had consulted some of the most experienced members of the profession abroad as well as at home.” This “rest and change” would sometimes take place at the Buzzells’ summer residence in Highland Park in Fryeburg, or at their summer home in Baldwin, which they purchased in 1888. In the late 1880s, Buzzell appeared in the news several times as the conductor of a Portland choir that put on several concerts.

Buzzell was at work in Portland when he died in 1890 while on a house call on Cumberland Avenue. He collapsed with a heart attack and some members of his family were able to get there quickly and were with him when he died. He was 64 years old.

South Portland Historical Society offers a free Online Museum with nearly 17,000 images available for viewing with a keyword search. Go to 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 hope you will reach out to us. South Portland Historical Society can be reached at 767-7299, by email at, or by mail at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo, executive director of the South Portland Historical Society, can be reached at

In 1858, the son Dr. John Buzzell moved to Portland and practiced medicine from his home on the corner of Pleasant and Park streets, shown here, middle left. Contributed / South Portland Historical Society

Comments are not available on this story.