St. John Hastings Farm
June 14, 2011
About the year 1900 if you wished to drive to the Hastings Farm in North Bethel from the village of Bethel Hill, you would direct your horse and carriage down Church Street, cross the railroad bridge and one half mile later cross the Androscoggin River traveling through the 400 foot long two lane covered bridge over the river into Mayville. The dirt road you traveled would be only slightly wider the your carriage wheels. As you pass through Mayville, the distance between houses would gradually lengthen until traveling up a slight hill you would pass the farm and homestead of Jacob A Thurston. Mr. Thurston’s farm abutted the southern boundary of the St. John Hastings farm. Mr. Hastings was a well known farmer in not only the Mayville and North Bethel area but throughout all of Bethel. Mr. Hastings was considered a modern farmer with a silo and also a had ferry road and river crossing within his domain.
By the time you had arrived at the curve in the road seen in the photo to the left, you would be crossing into the Hastings Farm property. You might recognize this point in the road as the place where in 2010 the road to Sunday River branches off to the left and the main road (US Route 2) continues along a line that is parallel to the river. (The “new” stretch of road along the river opened in 1937.) In 1900 however, the main road and the Sunday River road were one and the same at this point. Continuing on you would be able to see the Hastings homestead in to the distance to your right.
Less than half a mile after rounding the curve in the road, you would be passing the home of Charles Swan on your right. Mr. Swan was the North Bethel Postmaster at that time. His home was built around 1791 by one of his ancestors, Nathaniel Swan, who was the first of his family to settle in North Bethel—causing the name, Swan’s Corner, to come naturally.
A few rods past the Swan home, the road divided with the Sunday River road continuing straight ahead and the road to Newry, Rumford and the Hastings Farm bearing off to the right. At this intersection, a dowel mill owned by the same Mr. Thurston whose farm you recently passed would be on your left. Now you have arrived at the banks of Sunday River whose channel will parallel the road for another third of a mile.
Although the area you are passing through is overgrown with brush and trees today (2010) in 1900 you have a pretty clear view of your surroundings—open fields and over your shoulder you can see Locke Mountain or Old Bessie as it was known to many at that time. Looking ahead you can now see the Hastings farm homestead of a large house and two barns—all of which is surrounded by elms and beyond them wide fields. As your horse turns into the driveway you can see from the beauty of the property why it is so well known and respected.
St. John Hastings (1832-1904)
St. John Hastings was a grandson of General Amos Hastings one of Bethel’s earliest settlers. Early town meetings were held in the Amos Hastings home at Middle Interval. Amos Hastings later crossed to the opposite side of the Androscoggin River where he established a new farm in North Bethel. This was continued by his son Timothy Hastings who married Hannah Bean. They had six children of which St. John was the sixth.
Capt. Timothy Hastings was considered one of the leading men of the town; he died at age 53.
Bethel historian William Lapham described St. John Hastings as a farmer who lived at the Hastings homestead near the mouth of Sunday River; he married Elizabeth Wyman Atherton, daughter of Josiah and Betsey Carter Atherton of Waterford. (1850 census shows the Josiah and Elizabeth Atherton living on Jesse Barker property in Newry and in the same household as Jesse Barker; 1858’s map of Oxford Country shows the Josiah Atherton family residence at “Swan’s Corner” in the house noted on the 1920 census as the residence of Lewis Spinney). Children:
1. Fannie Carter Hastings (1855-1937)
2. Maria Atherton Hastings (1857-1920)
3. Sarah Sewall (1859- )
4. Major William Hastings (1861-1939); lived on the homestead farm
5. Henry Harmon Hastings (1865-1934)
6. Charles Harris Hastings (1867-1951); married Alice Duncan Otis of Brunswick in 1895
7. Cora Walton Hastings (1872-1899)
8. Carrie Jewett Hastings (1875-1968)
Eva Bean wrote that on the opposite bank of the Androscoggin River Bezaleel Bean operated Kendall’s Ferry which was a boat without cable that crossed the river to the Hastings farm. St. John Hastings was ferryman for a while after 1883. Note in the photo below that at the time it was taken, the ferry operated by current of the river and guided by a cable.
Bethel Maine History
June 14, 2011
The Bethel Journals
The Swan house about 1900—stands today (2011) and is occupied.