Norway, ME


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Norway is a town in Oxford County, Maine, United States. The population was 4,611 at the 2000 census. It is home to Lake Pennesseewassee, a recreation area.
The town was first called Rustfield after Henry Rust of Salem, Massachusetts, a large landowner. It was cleared and settled after 1786 by Joseph Stevens, followed by George Leslie, Amos Hobbs, Jeremiah Hobbs, Jonas Stevens and Nathaniel Stevens, together with their families from Gray. Many who moved here had been soldiers in the Revolutionary War, including Phineas Whitney, who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill. A sawmill and gristmill were established in 1789, and in 1796 the first road was built. Rustfield Plantation was incorporated on March 9, 1797 as Norway. The town had petitioned the Massachusetts General Court to be named Norage, although what the word signified, and why it was changed, is unknown—fire destroyed the town records in 1843. During the Civil War, Norway and other municipalities in Oxford County provided a militia company to the 1st Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment under the command of George Lafayette Beal, who would later rise to the rank of major general and serve as state treasurer from 1888 to 1894.
The town had fertile soil for cultivation. The Pennesseewassee Stream, which drains Lake Pennesseewassee into the Little Androscoggin River, provided water power for industry. At the falls were established two grain mills, a cloth and carding mill, furniture factory, box factory and a shovel handle factory. There was a tannery, with other businesses making harness and trunks. A shoe manufactory was established in 1872. The busy stage route from Paris, the county seat, to Fryeburg passed through Norway. By 1878, there were 32 stores in the town, which for a number of years had the fastest growing population of any similar town in the state. On December 30, 1879, the Norway Branch Railroad opened, running from Norway village on a line 1.45 miles (2.3 kilometers) long to connect with the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad (later Grand Trunk Railroad) at South Paris. But the Great Norway Fire of May 9, 1894 would destroy a substantial portion of the business district. Started in the C. B. Cummings & Sons mill, it was spread by a strong wind down Main Street. The opera house, Congregational Church, tannery, and 80 homes and other buildings were lost. Much of Norway was rebuilt the same year, with several structures in brick.