Norwegian Historical Society / Swift’s Corner – Lewiston Sun Journal


Jonathan Swift House and Tavern – Swift’s Corner

The term junction is defined as the place 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 population which constituted the first city of Norway. The distance we now travel so easily and so quickly by motor vehicle was once little more than an un-leveled dirt road. The inhabitants moved on horseback or oxen or on foot. What could not be grown or made at home had to be purchased, probably on credit, from a merchant at a convenient crossroads.

Swift’s Corner was originally known as Fuller’s Corner.
Benjamin Fuller, a man of financial means, arrived in June 1793 from Middleton, Massachusetts. He and Silas Merriam had purchased land in the north of the region which would later bear Fuller’s name. For 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 a yoke of oxen.

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

When Silas Merriam and Fuller returned the following April, they were accompanied by a young man named Aaron Wilkins, described as being in the service of Benjamin Fuller, and Joseph Dale who had been hired by Fuller and Merriam to help them plant and to establish their farms. The snow was still on the ground. They cleared more land and eventually planted grains, corn and vegetables.

Fuller returned to Middleton, packed his family, and once again made the trip to Maine. Upon arrival, they found out that Amos Upton hadn’t even started building the house and barn. The Fullers stayed at the Upton House until the fall. By this time the barn was complete and the 20 ′ x 38 ′ house was ready to be inhabited. The Fuller property was located on an elevation a little to the west of the corner. (Charles Whitman’s 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 flour mill on the creek just west of the corner. In 1808 Daniel Towne began blacksmithing nearby and Stephen Latham began making nails. Aaron Wilkins was a teenager when he arrived in the region to serve Benjamin Fuller. In 1810 Wilkins began operating the Fuller’s Corner store and became very involved in local and state affairs.

Whitman’s story from Norway reports that “he has carried out a considerable amount of property transfers and other matters handled by justices of the peace.” Aaron died in 1858 at the age of 78. His wife, Maria Martin, was 20 years younger and their house is identified on the 1858 map as belonging to Mrs. Wilkins.

The Fuller family only lived in their house for a few years before selling it to their brother-in-law, John Needham. Their new home was located south-east of the original one and here he operated a tavern, which has been described as a ‘traveler’s seaside resort’ (Bradbury’s Norway in the 1940s). People came from all over to get the latest news and enjoy a refresh. It was at this point that the area became known as Fuller’s Corner.

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

In 1817, William Pingree took over the store run by Aaron Wilkins. A year later the company was sold to Jonathan Swift and Ansel Field, both formerly of Paris. Swift bought Field two years later and operated the store for many years thereafter, and the place became known as Swift’s Corner. Jonathan Swift also operated a flour mill and a pebble mill on a small stream which proved insufficient during dry periods.

In 1827, Swift built a large house near his store with the intention of operating an inn and tavern. This business, however, turned out to be unprofitable. Mr. Swift has been actively involved in state and local politics, serving as an elected official, county commissioner, state representative and state senator. When he died on January 6, 1858, he left no will and his son, Newton Swift, was appointed administrator of the estate.

His property included: land, house, store, stable and barn, woodlot in Greenwood, flour mill and shingle mill owned by his son, other acreage, property and movable property, $ 63.03 in cash. Every item in the store has been listed. There was a large inventory of fabrics, buttons, etc. for clothing as well as the usual materials, tools, tobacco, chewing gum, spices, bakery products and household needs. Also listed are amounts owed by customers. The total estate was valued at $ 2,993.72. Newton Swift continued to operate the store until he finally moved to Bethel.

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

The Norwegian Museum and Historical Society remain open to the public from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays. Visit us at

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