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Store History

Old Fort WesternThe end of the colonial wars brought a flood of mostly English-speaking settlers to the Kennebec Valley and with them came changes to Fort Western. Former Captain and now local leader, James Howard, purchased the Fort, cut timber from the great pine forests surrounding the site, and opened a store in what had been the military storehouse section of the main house. For the next 50 years, this store was a center of trade between the new settlers on the Kennebec and Boston, New Foundland and the West Indies.  On the store-exhibit shelves are hundreds of items documented in Howard-store account books, in store newspaper ads from the Kennebec newspapers of the 1790's and early 1800's, and on the 1799 probate inventory of store partner, Samuel Howard, one of Captain Howard's sons.

Old Fort WesternIncluded in the store exhibit are the farming and forestry tools so essential to the economic life of the new settlement; a wide variety of ceramics and crockery ware, including utilitarian storage vessels as well as the latest in tea sets and tableware; buckets, shoes, and hardware. Also exhibited are sword knots and sashes for the local militia, pocket knives and razors, andirons, shovels, and tongs, fishhooks, pails, and window glass. Most important are the bolts of homespun and of factory cloth - the Tammy, Baize, Camblet, Moreen, Serge, Indian Cottons, Copperplates, silks, shirting, and blanketing - that were so much a part of changing traditional ways after the Revolution. Finally, there are the casks of pork, beef and fish; boxes of tea, raisins, and chocolate; bags of feathers;barrels of flour and bread; and sides of sole and upper leather upon which the community relied.

Old Fort WesternAt the back of the store are examples of many of the items that store customers used in place of cash during the age of barter. Included are bundles of shingles, red oak and white oak staves for barrels and hogsheads, barrel heading and hoop stock, boards and planks, and the pelts of not only beaver but muskrats, foxes, fishers, sables, and minks, plus bear skins and moose hides, too. 

Copies of two of the surviving Howard-store account books may be examined on the store's desk. There is also a page from the 1765 English Pilot to help document the trade routes followed by the Howards and others as they exchanged the products of the Kennebec forests for the world's goods.

You can browse through this assemblage of English, West Indies, and Kennebec goods today just as you might have so long ago.

Old Fort Western | 16 Cony Street Augusta, ME 04330 | Phone: (207) 626-2385 | Fax: (207) 626-2304 |
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Old Fort Western
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