Jonathan Swift home and tavern – Swift’s Corner

The term crossroad is defined as where two or more roads intersect. Webster also includes the definition: “The meeting place of the scattered inhabitants of a countryside.” Both descriptions are appropriate for considering Swift’s Corner.

It is difficult to imagine the separation of the pockets of settlement that comprised the early town of Norway. The distance that we now so easily and quickly cover by motor vehicle was once little more than an ungraded dirt road. Inhabitants moved around by horse or oxen power or on foot. What couldn’t be grown or manufactured at home had to be purchased, probably on credit, from a merchant located at a convenient crossroad.

Swift’s Corner was originally known as Fuller’s Corner.
Benjamin Fuller, a man of financial means, arrived in June of 1793 from Middleton, Massachusetts. He and Silas Merriam had purchased land north of the area that would later carry Fuller’s name. Through much of the summer, they cleared land and, in August, returned to Middleton. According to Charles Whitman’s account in the History of Norway, Fuller and Merriam returned in the fall with a horse and yoke of oxen.

On the land that they had cleared, they planted winter rye before traveling back to Massachusetts for the winter. Before leaving, Fuller arranged for Amos Upton to construct a house and barn for him the following spring.

When Silas Merriam and Fuller returned the next April, accompanying them was a young man named Aaron Wilkins, who was described as being in the service of Benjamin Fuller, and Joseph Dale who had been hired by Fuller and Merriam to assist them with planting and establishing their farms. Snow was still on the ground. They cleared more land and eventually planted grain, corn, and vegetables.

Fuller returned to Middleton, packed up his family and, once again made the trip to Maine. Upon arrival, they discovered that Amos Upton had not even begun to build the house and barn. The Fullers stayed at the Upton home until into the autumn. At that time the barn was completed and then the 20′ x 38′ house was ready for habitation. The Fuller property was located on a rise a bit west of the corner. (The Charles Whitman History of Norway )

Silas Merriam, whose farm was located north of the corner, married Amos Upton’s daughter Hannah in 1798.

In 1801 Amos Upton built a grist mill on the brook just west of the corner. In 1808 Daniel Towne began blacksmithing nearby and Stephen Latham began the manufacture of nails. Aaron Wilkins was a teenager when he arrived in the area in the employ of Benjamin Fuller. In 1810 Wilkins began operating the store at Fuller’s Corner and became very actively involved in local and state affairs.

The Whitman History of Norway reports that, “He did a considerable amount of conveyancing and other business transacted by Justices of the Peace.” Aaron died in 1858 at the age of 78. His wife, Maria Martin was 20 years younger and their home is identified on the 1858 map as belonging to Mrs. Wilkins.

The Fuller family only lived in their home for a few years before selling to his brother-in-law, John Needham. Their new home was located to the southeast of the original one and here he operated a tavern, which has been described as a “resort for travelers” (Bradbury’s Norway in the Forties). People came from all around to get the latest news and enjoy some refreshment. This is the point at which the area became known as Fuller’s Corner.

In 1820, Fuller again moved, this time swapping property with Samuel Pingree who continued to operate the tavern.

In 1817, William Pingree took over the store that Aaron Wilkins had run. A year later the business was sold to Jonathan Swift and Ansel Field, both formerly of Paris. Swift bought out Field two years later and operated the store for many years after, and the locale became known as Swift’s Corner. Jonathan Swift also operated a grist mill and shingle mill on a small stream that proved insufficient during dry times.

In 1827, Swift built a large house near his store with the intention of operating an inn and tavern. This endeavor, however, proved not to be profitable. Mr. Swift was an active participant in local and state politics, serving as a selectman, county commissioner, state representative, and state senator. When he died on January 6, 1858, he left no will so his son, Newton Swift, was appointed administrator of the estate.

His property included: land, house, store, stable and barn, a woodlot in Greenwood, grist mill and shingle mill owned with his son, other acreage, goods and chattels, cash $63.03. Every item in the store was listed. There was an extensive inventory of fabric, buttons, etc. for clothing as well as the usual hardware, tools, tobacco, chewing gum, spices, baking goods, and household needs. Also listed were amounts owed by customers. The total estate was valued at $2993.72. Newton Swift continued to operate the store until he eventually moved to Bethel.

Later, the area became most commonly known as Norway Center.

The Norway Museum and Historical Society continues to be open to the public from 9 – 12 on Saturdays. Visit us at www.norwayhistoricalsociety.net.

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