Otis Olney Wright.

History of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; online

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The Rectory was built in 1908-1909, the Vestry together
with Mr. C. S. Hawkins being the building committee.

The present Rector, the Rev. J. Wynne- Jones was called
from Roslindale, Mass., May 17, 1909.

Religious Work on Gardner's Neck

The oldest resident in this section of the town, Mr. Samuel
R. Gardner, can well remember going with his father and

Churches 123

mother, also of Elder Burnham going from his home seventy-
three years ago to preach in the old school house, (then stand-
ing by the road side a few hundred feet north of the present
Chapel grounds, and now standing on the place of Mr. William
Reagan) where were wont to gather from time to time, the
people, to hold prayer and social meetings.

In the eighties, meetings were held in the east room of the
South Swansea railroad station. Outgrowing this room, they
were held in a building on the grounds of the late Edward M.
Thurston, who with Job Gardner, WiUiam H. Greene, Elihu
Andrews, William P. Shepard and many others, was very
active in the leadership of these meetings, which were still
later held in the new school house, standing at that time at
*' Greens Corner, " so-called, and later removed to its present

More recently, cottage meetings have been held in several
different houses, Mr. Edward Doane's and Mr. Henry DeBlois*
being among this number. About six years ago a Sunday
School was started by Mr. Samuel E. Cole, and it was held for
some time at his home near Davis's Corner, afterward held in
a tent at Ocean Grove, and at the present time being success-
fully conducted by the Superintendent, Mr. Everett Cornell,
at his home.

In October, 1914, with the increased population, there
were many small children, also children of a larger growth, who
were, from varied circumstances, unable to attend the Sunday
Schools of the town. A few loyal-hearted mothers, interested
in the welfare of the children, organized a Sunday School with
the following officers : — Mr. Abram L. Burdick, Superintendent ;
Mr. James Mercer, Assistant Superintendent; Mrs. Chester
R. Gardner, Secretary and Treasurer. They took the name
of The South Swansea Sunday School. The first year it was
held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Chester R. Gardner. During
this time a society was formed called the South Swansea
Sunday School Corporation, its object being to buy land and
build thereon a Chapel. An executive committee of six was
chosen to solicit pledges of assistance. Mr. Abram L. Burdick,
President; Mr. A. Homer Skinner, Treasurer; Mr. Chester
R. Gardner, Secretary; Mr. James Mercer, Mr. Charles
Howell, and Mr. Frank J. Arnold constituted this committee.
On November 17, 1914, the ladies formed The Ladies Aid
Society with the following officers: Mrs. Abram L. Burdick,
President; Mrs. Chester R. Gardner, Vice President; Mrs.
Frank J. Arnold, Secretary and Treasurer. The gentlemen
joining as honorary members, helping the finances to a great
degree. The object was to assist the Sunday School.

124 History of Swansea

Their united efforts enabled them to purchase the land
for the Chapel, of Mr. Edwin C. Gardner in November 1915.

In the month of August 1915, an evening service being
much desired by the community, the home that had cradled
the Sunday School was oflPered for this service. In November
a building just north was obtained and services continued
there to the present time each Sunday evening, being much
enjoyed and very helpful in binding the hearts of the people
in Christian fellowship and love.

The Sunday School Corporation from its members
selected five, namely, Mr. Charles A. Chace, Mr. Edward Goss,
Mr. Chester R. Gardner, and two ladies, Mrs. Sidney K.
Crittenden, and Mrs. Chester R. Gardner, who should act as a
building committee in all its details, they considering the plana
with the corporation. The plans were later given to a con-
tractor chosen by the committee. The Corner Stone of this
Chapel was laid May 6, 1916; and the Chapel was dedicated
September 10, 1916.

The Universalist Society of Swansea and Rehoboth

About 1862, the Rev. A. M. Rhodes of Seekonk, Mass.
began to preach on alternate Sundays, in former school-house
known as Liberty Hall, Swansea Factory, of late years known
as Hortonville. Later a Union Chapel was erected there, in
which Mr. Rhodes continued to officiate once in two weeks —
for many years.

The late James Eddy, Esq. a well known and highly
esteemed citizen of Swansea, was accustomed to contribute
liberally to the support of this society of which he was a stead-
fast member from its origin. Mr. Eddy and Nathaniel B.
Horton were the founders of the Society ; and largely supported
the services; and since the days of Mr. Rhodes, the Rev.
William Miller of Swansea, and others have held occasional

Swansea Monthly Meeting of Friends

Swansea Monthly Meeting of Friends was estabhshed or
set up by Rhode Island Quarterly Meetings in 9th mo. (Sept.)

Meetings for worship of the Society were first held in the
town of Troy under the care of a committee of Swansea
Monthly Meeting consisting of Benjamin Slade, William

Churches 125

Slade, Eben Slade, David Earle, and Oliver Chace in 1818 as
per record of said Monthly Meeting of 11th Mo. 30th, 1818
and was held in a building called the Troy Mill Dye House
located in front of the original Troy Factory of the Troy Co.,
upon the site of the present office building, and were held in
said place continually until the erection of the first Meeting
house by the Society in 1822, upon the north side of the present
meeting house lot where the present Friends Meeting House
now stands. Which was built in the year 1836, and the first
meeting for worship was held there on the 12th of 12th Mo.
(Dec.) of that year, on both morning and afternoon of that
day, and attended by Murry Lindley Hoag an eminent
minister of the Society from 29 years of age. His morning
discourse occupied one hour and 50 minutes. In the afternoon
of the same day the funeral of John Buffinton, father of the
Hon. James Buffinton was held, at which the above minister
preached, the sermon lasting one hour and fifteen minutes.

Rest House

The Rest House was built and generously endowed by Mrs. Frank S. Stevens, of
Swansea. It is designed as a place for recreation, rest and quiet, in the first place for
the clergy of the diocese, and then for churchmen and women of this diocese who may
wish to withdraw for a few days from the pressure of work for a short holiday in the

Jonathan Hill House



Swansea, first of all is an Agricultural Town — and as such
has held a high rank

Forges and Iron- Works

AS early as 1645, works were set up at Lynn, but the people
P\ objected to them through fear that the use of so much
charcoal would deplete the supply of wood. In 1646,
one Dr. Child, at Braintree, produced some tons of castiron
untensils, such as pots, stoves, mortars, and skillets. But the
works were soon abandoned, perhaps because of the absence of
iron-mines to supply material, and the lack of coal, or other
suitable fuel. In 1652, there came from Pontipool, Wales,
James and Henry Leonard, with Ralph Russell, and at
Raynham, they begun the use of "bog-iron." This was the be-
ginning of the Taunton-Raynham iron-works, which was con-
tinued by the Leonards during seven generations.

Other works of this kind were set up, in Kingston, and in
Middleborough, where considerable deposits of bog-iron were
discovered; and worked with success and profit; such man-
ufactures being, of course, very important to the colonies.

"For generations new deposits of bog-iron were found.
In 1751, a century from the building of the first works, Joseph
Holmes, fishing in Jones' River Pond, Kingston, caught a
fragment of ore on his hook; the bed so revealed was worked
until it had produced three thousand tons, some of which
formed balls for Washington's artillery."

Note. The bog-ore was usually loose on the bottom of
the ponds. A man with a sort of oyster-tongs could get a half
a ton in a day; this made some two hundred and fifty pounds
of good iron, and was worth in the rough state about three
dollars — a large return for a day's work in Colonial times.

Pilgrim Republic,

In the eastern part of Swansea, on a farm now owned by
John Tattersall is a spot that has long been known as "the
iron mine, " probably because traces of iron rust are to be seen
there; and possibly because deposits of ore may have been
worked there in the early history of the town.

That there were forges and iron-works in Swansea, as
indicated by the deed which follows is not surprising.

130 History of Swansea

Deed dated Jan. 29, 1725.

Thomas Wood, John Wood, Samuel Wheaton, John Wood
Jr., Thomas Wood Jr., Hannah Hail Widow all of Swansea
County of Bristol province of Massachusetts Bay, N. England
yeoman. To Jacob Hathaway of Freetown yeoman and Isaac
Chase Showanet yeoman, for 196£, seven fourteenths of a
fourge or iron works, and about three acres of land situated on
both sides of the matapossete river. Thomas Wood conveys
2 shares, John Wood 1 share, John Wood Jr. 1 share, Hannah
Haile, widow 1 share which makes up the 7/14 or the full one
half of the said Fourge.

Witness: Signed,

Isaac Mason Thomas Wood

Joseph Mason John Wood

Samuel Wheaton

John Wood Jr.

Thomas Wood Jr.

Hannah Haile

In the Official Topographical Atlas of Massachusetts
speaking of geological formations, and the distributions of bog-
iron ore, it is said — "As well known, vegetation, especially
the organic acids mixed with marshy water, has the power of
first dissolving the iron oxides from the soil, and then precip-
itating them in the form of bog-ore, or the peroxide. As these
beds would be most abundant where iron was most widely
distributed, even if the percentage was small, the course of the
rock is clearly indicated by these alluvial beds. It was chiefly
their distribution that has enabled us to mark out the area of
those upon the map."

Swansea Factory

Said to be the Second Cotton Factory in this Country

1804, Apr. 2 Benjamin & Philip Martin sold all their
farm left them by their honored father Benjamin Martin in
his will 43 acres together with the dwelling house, barn, com
barn, blacksmith shop, and corn mill to Dexter Wheeler.

1806 Dexter Wheeler sold Nathaniel Wheeler half of the
above farm.

1806, Oct. 1 D & N Wheeler sold Sabray Lawton 1/3 of
an acre with third part of a grist mill thereon.

1806, Nov. 1 Dexter Wheeler, Nathaniel Wheeler, black-
smith and Sabray Lawton, Gentleman convey to Ohver Chace

Business 131

the 1/4 part of a certain piece of land purchased of Benjamin
and Philip Martin containing by estimation one acre with 1/4
part of a cotton factory thereon standing with all the apparatus
belonging and the quarter part of a grist mill and as large
privilege of pondage as it shsdl ever need and of both dams and
a privilege to pass from the highway to said factory and mill
with a cart team and horse where the path is now trod.

The factory and dam was constructed this year by Oliver

1807 D & N Wheeler sold James Maxwell one fifth part.

1809 D & N Wheeler sold James Maxwell, of Warren,
Oliver Chace and Sabray Lawton, of Rehoboth 3/5 of the land
owned by the factory company.

1811 Oliver Chace sold 4/5 of half an acre to James
Maxwell, James Driscoll Sabray Lawton, D & N Wheeler.

1811 Dexter Wheeler sold 1/20 of the Swansea Cotton
Manufacturing Company to Joseph Buffington.

1811 Benjamin Buffington of Somerset bought 1/20 for

1811 D & N Wheeler & Sally Wheeler sold OUver Chace
the farm bought of B & P Martin with all their buildings
thereon except what has heretofore been deeded to O. Chace,
James Maxwell, James Driscoll, Sabray Lawton and Benjamin

1813 Nathaniel Wheeler sold John Martin 1/10 part for

1813 Sabray Lawton sold James Maxwell, James Driscoll
& Oliver Chace all right in the Swansea Cotton Manufacturing

1813 James Maxwell, James Driscoll & Oliver Chace sold
Joseph G. Luther 1/20.

1818 The Swansea Cotton Manufacturing Company con-
sisted of James Maxwell, James Driscoll, Oliver Chace,
Benjamin Buffinton, James Martin William Mason, Joseph
Buffington and Joseph G. Luther.

1827 Oliver Chace sold Thomas Wanning 1/20 part.

1830 Oliver Chace sold Thomas Wanning the farm 35

The factory was burned about 1836 and never rebuilt.

This privilege had the greatest fall of any on the stream.
Oliver Ames has some negotiations concerning its purchase

About the year 1805, Dexter Wheeler, mentioned above,
conceived the idea of spinning cotton by horse power, and for
that purpose he made two spinning frames, a card, and roving
and drawing frame, and moved them by horse power making
as handsome yarn as did Samuel Slater. This he performed on

132 History of Swansea

the place of his father in Rehoboth. This experiment satisfied
those who afterward became associated with him of his rare
genius; and in 1806, they built a small mill in Swansea and
placed therein some two to three hundred spindles.

In the year 1809, our friend with others owning water
power in Rehoboth, commenced and carried forward the
manufacturing of cotton, but, not finding that place capacious
enough for his strength of mind and ambition, in the year
1813, removed from Rehoboth to Fall River, then called Troy,
where in company with some of the residents of the town who
were owners of water power and others from adjoining towns ;
they commenced in the name of the Fall River Manufacturing
Co., the manufacture of cotton.

Mr. Wheeler was principal in the oversight in building the
mill and dam. He also built all the machinery for spinning and
operated in the mill. He was one of those rare geniuses who
could build a mill and the machinery to manufacture cotton
cloth, and operate it. In this mill the first yarn was spun, the
first cotton picker built, and the first yard of cotton woven in
said town by water power — all with the exception of the looms
(which were made by Wheaton Bailey and John Orswell) were
made by Mr. Wheeler.

He with his workmen forged his machinery by the use of
a triphammer in a shop near where the GRANITE BLOCK
now stands.

Swansea Agricultural Library Association

The Swansea Agricultural Library Association was organ-
ized in January 1866, comprising many of the leading farmers,
and others who were interested in farming; and it estabhshed
and maintained an agricultural library. In the Autunm of 1873,
the Association built and furnished a Hall, in which to hold
its meetings, located on the land of James E. Easterbrooks,
one of its active members, at *' Luther's Corners," now more
generally known as Swansea Centre. The organization dis-
banded in 1902, and donated its books to the Free Public

Swansea Grange, No. 148.

The Swansea Grange, No. 148, was first organized Jan.
13, 1888; but, after a while suspended its activities. It was

Business 133

reorganized, Feb. 28, 1913, with the same name and Number,
and at this time, (1916) has 280 members; also took the prize
as having had the largest average attendance in the State


The shores of Swansea have abounded in shell-fish,
though at present, having been overworked there is scarcity.
The tidal-rivers, which make up into the Town used to afford
good fishing also; but of late years, traps have taken the
migratory fish before they get to the mouths of the rivers.
However, "the fishing-privilege" is still sold at auction, with
little or no competition, at the annual March meeting.

As has been mentioned in another connection, there was
a period, at the close of the war of 1812, when fisheries became
"more attractive and lucrative than farming," in particular
to the Gardners of Gardner's Neck, now known as South
Swansea. The war of 1812 having interfered with whaling
interests, the manufacture of oil from menhaden was made
profitable also. And later there was quite a general demand
for dressed and salted menhaden which were shipped to the
Southern markets and to the West Indies.

It is probable that the Indians taught the first white
settlers to use fish in the hills of corn and other crops as
fertilizer; and it became a common practice with the Swansea
farmers. But later, between 1880, and 1890, fish-fertihzers,
as by-products of the menhaden oil industry, became impor-
tant in this town, at the works of Wm. J. Brightman & Co.,
on Cole's River, at Touisset, where "the fishworks" became
a scientific manufactory. Fish scraps from the oil-works at
Tiverton, potash from New York, acid phosphates from the
Rumford Chemical works, and bones from Hargraves of Fall
River were compounded according to formula, to meet the
demands of different kinds of soils and crops. C. M. O'Brien
was the superintendent of the business, and from fifty to
sixty, or even more, men were in the employ of the Company,
varying at different seasons of the year.

The North Swansea Manufacturing Company

In 1879 Daniel R. Child came from Providence R. I. and
built a small shop on the old Ship Yard lot at Barneyville
under the name of D. R. Child Co. He manufactured Collar

134 History of Swansea

Buttons and Sleeve Links and employed four or five men.
After two or three years he moved the building to the spot
where the present Shop now stands enlarging it and employ-
ing more hands, both men and girls.

In 1894 he sold out to J. L. Fenimore who later transferred
it to Lorenzo P. Sturtevant who enlarged it to the present

In 1910 John C. L. Shabeck bought it and ran it about
six months and then sold it to Charles W. Green and Gilbert
R. Church of Warren, R. I. In 1911 Benjamin F. Norton
and Jeremiah A. Wheeler were admitted into the firm and the
name was changed to the North Swansea Manufacturing Co.
They employ between fifty and sixty hands, making Collar
Buttons, Sleeve Links, Tie Clasps and Stick Pins.

Swansea Dye Works Property Covering 74 Years

With the installation of 20 electric motors at the Swansea
Dye Works, it may be interesting to note the changes and
improvements that have taken place at this establishment,
and the other enterprises that formerly stood on the site of the
present flourishing plant. About 1840, the first venture was
a paper mill, where straw paper was manufactured by William
Mitchell. Wood avenue, the road leading to the Dye Works,
was then known at the Paper Mill Lane, and occasionally one
hears that name used now by the older inhabitants.

After lying idle for some time, a bakery under the pro-
prietorship of Howard & Mitchell, was carried on for a number
of years in place of paper manufacture. The firm name was
afterwards changed to Munroe & Howard. Over the bakeshop
was a dance hall, where many of the old-timers enjoyed the
country dances. The next business venture was by Mary I.
Altham, who, with her son, James, carried on a small bleaching
concern for a short time, which was subsequently taken up
and enlarged by Mayall & Hacker, who purchased the prop-
erty of Mr. Mitchell. Hamlet Hacker eventually came into
full possession, later taking into company a Mr. Watson, the
firm being known as Hacker & Watson. During their owner-
ship the mill, a wooden structure, was burned down, but was
afterward rebuilt by Mr. Hacker, who later sold out to John
Monarch, and business was carried on under the name of
Monarch's Bleachery. Later this was bought by James
Butterworth, of Somerset, who was joined by James Kirker,
and it was during their possession that the buildings were
again destroyed by fire. They were rebuilt by Mr. Kirker,

Business 135

who became next owner. Business was somewhat handicapped
by using old machinery which was constantly in need of
repairs. After Mr. Kirker, business was carried on for a few
years by the Eagle Turkey Red Co., after which it came under
the present corporation of the Swansea Dye Works, with
Charles Robertson as superintendent for a number of years.
He was succeeded by Richard Booth, the present superin-
tendent, who has held the position for about 20 years. The
company employs between 50 and 60 hands, including residents
of adjoining towns. With up-to-date interior fixtures, neat
and artistic grounds, and a setting with Lee's River, banked
by Horton & Co.*s 50 acre peach orchard for a background,
and the picturesque rock-banked Bleachery Pond in the fore-
ground, the Swansea Dye Works is an institution of which
Swansea may well be proud.

In the summer of 1916, an addition was made, on the
south side of the building, 50 x 100 feet, and two stories,
increasing the capacity of the works about one third, and
making a department in which a better quality of goods, with
fast colors will be finished.



Macaulay, in his history of England, says: "A people which takes no
pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors, will never achieve
anything worthy to be remembered by remote descendants." —

HISTORY begins with the family; and is outlined in the
lives of the individuals who are the natural leaders in
their day and generation. We find the essential ele-
ments between the blank leaves of the family Bible. Nothing
can be of more abiding interest than personal biographies
and family genealogies. . , , . ,... ^

The founders of the town give the key-note to the hie ot
its successive generations — its manners, customs, and institu-
tions, its politics and rehgion. Their posterities may or may
not keep up to the standard which their ancestors set up for
them in the beginning. They may fall below the ideals and
examples of their forefathers. The public records and the
family histories will indicate in some measure what the life of

the people has been, « , t^., •

Swansea was founded in the spirit of the Pilgrims; and
has never been a Puritan community; though temporarily
under the pohtical rule of Massachusetts Bay. The founders
of the town were men of learning, piety, and large experience;
who deUberately, and firmly stood for civil and rehgious
liberty; and it is significant that "Tolerance" is the watch-
word of our seal. . j j

We ought to honor our parents as a religious duty, and
because it is "the first commandment with promise." Our
highest welfare depends upon it; and indeed, it is the basis of
all human institutions.

We need to know our progenitors in order that we may
understand ourselves; and if each generation could be brought
up to reverence their ancestors, in the long run there would be
ancestors more worthy of worship; and descendants more
worthy of them. . . .

The most important asset of any community is its

140 History of Swansea

Allen Family


William Allin, 1st. Born in England in year 1640 Died year 1685

Swansea Mass. May 4, 1680

Bought by William Allin of Prudence Island.

Mr. John Saffain of Boston Mass. administrator of the estate of Capt.
Thomas Willett, of Swanzey Mass, sold for the sum of £55 of New England
money, to William Allin of Prudence Island, fifty akers of land be it more
or less, in the North purchased Lands, lying on both sides of the seven
mile river, lying and ajoyning to the North side of Samson Masons land.

William Allin settled on Prudence Island In year 1660. He owned a
large stock farm there; and was Constable of the Island, also surveyor of
Cattle for a number of years.

The very cold winter in year 1680 the Bay was frozen over several
inches in thickness from Providence to Newport, and the ground was
covered with snow. Mr. Allin taking advantage of this opputinity to
move his dwelling to Swanzey. With the aid of Indian servants they cut
down several trees and erected a huge sled of same, after a hard and
laborous task they finally raised the dwelling off the ground high enough
to enable the sled to be shoved underneath, 4 oxen were hitched to the sled
and this bulky freight was drawn over the frozen Bay to AJlins Cove; at the
head of the cove, it was drawn up an incHne with great difficulty, they
finally succeeded in landing it on Swanzey soil before dark. The next
summer Mr. Allin built on an addition and made other improvements to
his mansion.

At one time, the Post Office was established in this house.

In his Will— Proved June 29, 1685.

He leaves to — second Son Thomas, My now dwelling house in Swanzey

only one half of it to be for wife Elizabeth for fife, and the stock thereon

equally to Wife and Thomas. He also left to his wife, an Indian Boy, 7

years old.

Inventory. Taken the 27th of the 4th month 1685, the following are

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Online LibraryOtis Olney WrightHistory of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; → online text (page 12 of 27)