Monday, April 2, 2012

Swords General Store

Find all of my posts on Swords in one place - The Swords Project

When the railway brought lumbering to the area in 1894, a store and three workers homes were built on the west side of the Tally Ho/Swords Road.  The store was directly south of the railway (now the Seguin trail).  A Mr. Saunders and a Mr. Rand managed the store until Thomas Sword bought it in 1900.  The store carried everything from feed and flour to hardware and groceries.  A post office was also run out of the store.

The general store acted as a meeting place for the residents of Maple Lake Station, and they would gather on Friday or Saturday nights, depending on the train schedule.

When Thomas Sword died in 1921, his wife Eliza "Lyde" Sword ran the store with the help of her brother, Walter Cornish.  After taking over the store, she decided that she would no longer carry tobacco in her store. She soon learned the error of her ways, though, when a local man begun to sell tobacco, along with a few other sundry items out of his home.  Lyde began to stock tobacco once again.

In 1928 Lyde was granted permission to install a gasoline tank after petitioning the town council.  It was at this time that she remarried to a George Walton and the couple continued to run the store for a couple of years.

The general store was sold in 1930 to John Lawson.  John's son, Wilson and his wife Harriet ran the store from that time until it closed for good.  I'm not sure when the store ceased operation, but my Granddad remembers going into the store for hardware thirty-odd years ago when he was building cottages on Mutton Lake.

The building was a permanent residence until 1984, and then used seasonally until rather recently, remaining in the Lawson name.  The tax bill is now payed by a Mr. Frank Tagliamonte of North Bay.  I'm not sure when the property sold, but it had to have been in the last few years.  My husband's Aunt and Uncle were interested in the property when it was for sale, wanting to restore the building.  The structure is too far gone, though.  It's truly unfortunate that the old general store has been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair.

When I was up at the store with my Granddad, he pointed out to me some activity; fresh tire tracks, trees being cut with a chainsaw, and a well that had recently been dug.  These are things that had gone unnoticed by me during my first visit - and I thought  I had an eye for detail. Driving by the other day, I saw that the lot was being surveyed and marked. 

Something is happening!

I wonder what will become of the old general store at Swords.  What of the memories housed within?  I always wonder about what's been left behind.  Who loved these items, what value do they have?  What causes people to walk away from the contents of their home?  I can't imagine.

Sources of information -
Christie Historical Committee, Meanderings and Memories, 1894 - 1995, Christie Township
Andrew Hind, Maria Da Silva, Ghost Towns of Muskoka
Ontario Ghost Towns
Ontario Abandoned Places
Muskoka Blog


  1. That was my wife's grandfather's house. Old Wilson Lawson was a lovely man who died in the mid 80s. The house passed to his three daughters who all lived out of the area. Two of the daughters died early and it's very painful for the remaining sister to return to a house full of memories ... but without her beloved sisters. The house is still in the family (for now at least).
    I was last there in 1979 when my wife was bitten by a rabid cat in the kitchen. That was my last visit until last weekend when I returned for the first time in over 30 years. It's a bit of a shambles and everything of value has been removed or vandalized.
    But the contents are just contents and the memories are priceless.
    It was hard for me to visit and see what it had become after 30 years (and I was only a casual visitor way back when). For those that lived there and remembered the vibrancy that was once housed in those walls is almost too much to bare.
    By the way I am your father-in-law Gary's cousin.

    1. Thanks for sharing and for visiting my blog!

    2. I believe my grandfather worked at the Swords store. Something about skeletons, so I was told.

  2. I am related to the old owners twice over. Thomas Sword was my great-grandfather's brother.
    And Wilson Lawson was my beloved great-uncle. The current taxpayer (Frank Tagliamonte) is Wilson and Harriet's son-in-law.
    One of my happier memories is a day when I drove by and noticed three women sitting outside at the side entrance - Anna, Marie and Helen (daughters of Wilson and Harriet, and my mother's cousins). I got to hang out and visit with them while my sons spent a glorious couple of hours exploring the old building.

  3. Hey, my name is Arron. This house belongs to my family.

    I used to spend every summer up here from when i was about 5 (1989) until I was 12 or so. My nana Marie (my mom's mom) and her two sisters owned this house, and they would spend a lot of time up here. Usually it was my aunt Helen and my nana Marie, and my parents would come up too.

    There were always people coming by and hanging out or staying for a few days, mostly my cousins and relatives, sometimes just local friends of my aunt and grandma.

    I had so many good times up here as a kid, going fishing, swimming, playing euchre and cribbage with my cousins. I remember as a kid this house was so cool. It is a really huge house, there was 3 or 4 extra bedrooms upstairs in the old part of the house and had room to sleep for probably 15 or 20 people. The old general store I wasn't allowed to play in by myself but I remember there was hundreds of little cubbyholes filled with old papers, deeds, stuff like that. I think it used to be the post office for the village of swords years ago. There was a giant safe in there too probably big enough for me to fit in as a kid.

    I used to have a 4 wheeler and I'd ride up and down the seguin trail for hours. (I think this was illegal, as I was about 9 or 10 years old, lol) My grandparents and my aunts owned a few lots of land on maple lake and we'd spend a lot of time there, just hanging out at the lake.

    My nana died when I was 14, her and her husband Dave were living in Bracebridge at the time. I miss her a lot, she was an amazing woman. I spent days with her as a kid and never got bored. At 60 years old or so she loved playing video games and was up on the latest video games at the time and we'd always call each other when we were stuck on video games like Super Mario 64 and Zelda.

    I drove by here today with my family and took a look at the place, there was a few new looking deck chairs on the porch and a 'no trespassing' sign but didn't look like anyone had been maintaining the place in a long time.

    I felt kind of sad that it probably wasn't owned by my family any more but I am really glad to hear that it still is still owned by Frank Tagliamonte, I remember "Tag" my great uncle, Anna's husband. I didn't see my aunt Anna as much but I remember her husband Tag, he was a geologist I think and I remember him teaching me things about rocks. not sure if that is his name (Frank) or Frank is one of his descendants, but still makes me feel better that this is still in our family.