Otis Olney Wright.

History of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; online

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twenty years, having resigned on the 24th day of May, 1887,
when Mr. Lewis S. Gray was appointed. The present post-
master, Miss Fanny E. Wood, has served 21 years.

A post-office designated " Barney ville" was established
at North Swansea, and Mr. Mason Barney appointed the first

90 History of Swansea

post-master on the 20th day of February, 1830. The name of
this office was subsequently changed to North Swansea. Mr.
Barney was superseded as post-master by Mr. Alvan Cole on
the 28th day of June, 1836. Mr. Cole retained the office until
the 28th day of February, 1838, when Capt. James Cornell
was appointed post-master, and remained in office until the
24th day of June, 1841, when Mr. Mason Barney was re-
appointed as post-master. Mr. Barney, Sr., was followed in
office by his son, Mr. Mason Barney, Jr., on the 15th day of
April, 1867, who continued post-master until he was succeeded
on the 12th day of February, 1872, by Mr. WiUiam P. Mason.

The post-office at Swansea Center was established on the
29th day of December, 1888, when Mr. Seth W. Eddy was
appointed post-master, and held that office many years.

The post-office at Hortonville was established and Mr.
L. L. Cummings was appointed to that office on the 19th day
of January, 1885, and served until the office was discontinued.

On the 24th day of October 1890, a post-office, "South
Swansea," was established on Gardner's Neck at the station
of the Old Colony Bailroad Company. Mr. Frank J. Arnold
was appointed post-master, and began the business of the
office on the 20th day of November, 1890. The present post-
master is Station Agent Moore.

The Population of Swansea

The population of Swansea from the time of the first
State census in 1765 has never varied greatly. The total at
that time was 1,840 which was exceeded in 1820, when it
reached 1,933. The lowest point was touched in 1870, when
it fell to 1,294. Since that date it has been slowly but steadily
rising. In 1890 the number was 1,456. 1915 it was 2,558.

The stationary character of Swansea's population is due
largely to the fact that its chief industry is agricultural. At
the last census, though it ranked as low as the two hundred and
eleventh town in the State in population, it stood thirty-sixth
in value of agricultural products.

The fixed tenure of many of its farms is worthy of note.
Some of them are still owned and occupied by the lineal de-
scendants of the first proprietors, having descended from father
and son to the sixth and seventh generation. The Masons,
the Browns, the Woods, the Gardners and other families are
now living on their ancestral acres.

Though the industry of Swansea has been largely agri-
cultural, its citizens have had no unimportant agency in the

Historical Address 91

development of the cotton manufacture in Fall River. When
that industry was there begun, a very considerable portion of
the money invested came from the country towns.

The Fall River Manufactory, the first cotton mill erected
there, was built in 1813. Its capital was divided into sixty
shares, of which WiUiam Mason and Samuel Gardner, 2d, of
Swansea, took two each. Mr. Mason soon added to his hold-
ings, so that one twelfth part of the stock was held in this town,
and at a subsequent date a still larger percentage.

The Troy Cotton and Woolen Manufacturing Company
was organized a little later, the originator of which was Oliver
Chace, who had had some experience in a small way in the
manufacture of cotton at Swansea Factory, and who moved
to Fall River where he could embark on a more extensive scale.
He took one tenth part of the stock in the new company, while
an equal amount was taken here by Benjamin Slade, Moses
Buffinton, Oliver Earle, Joseph G. Luther and Joseph Buffinton,
making one fifth of its entire capital.

Thus Swansea men and Swansea money essentially aided
in the early development of cotton manufacture.

Many of Swansea's young men have become the skilled
mechanics, artisans, and contractors who have been important
factors in the growth and development of the cities of Taunton,
Providence, New Bedford and Fall River. Some of the prom-
inent business men of these cities originated here. Fall River's
first Mayor, the Hon. James Bufiinton, who so long and ably
represented this district in Congress, spent years of his boy-
hood in Swansea village. Another mayor of that city, the Hon.
Samuel M. Brown, was born and reared in Swansea; also the
Hon. Caleb Earle, who was Lieutenant Governor of Rhode
Island from 1821 to 1824, and Col. John Albert Munroe, re-
cently deceased, who filled a marked place in the military and
professional history of Rhode Island.

Representation in the General Court

The first representation of Swansea in the General Court
was in 1670, when John Allen was sent to represent it at

Of the long line of men who, in the last two hundred and
twenty years, have represented the town in the General Court,
Col. Jerathmiel Bowers had the longest term of service, in all
nineteen years. Next to him in length of service comes
Daniel Haile, with foiu'teen terms; Ephraim Pierce, with
twelve; Christopher Mason, with eight; Hugh Cole, with

92 History of Swansea

seven; Ezekiel Brown, with six, and Joseph Mason, Jr., with

Several of its citizens have been honored with a seat in
the State Senate.

Hon. John Mason, a Hfe-long resident of Swansea village,
was colleague in the Constitutional Convention of 1820 with
Daniel Haile, who had then had a dozen terms in the House.
That year Mr. Haile was defeated by Dr. John Winslow, who
was a Federahst in politics. In 1821, John Mason was brought
forward by the Democrats as the only man who could defeat
Dr. Winslow. The two men were next door neighbors, and
with their families were on most intimate terms. Mr. Mason
won by six votes. In the following year he was elected to the
House, in which he served two terms, after which he was four
in the Senate and four in the council of Gov. Levi Lincoln.
Later he was four years a county commissioner, and was town
clerk fifty of the years between 1808 and 1865, and postmaster
forty-six of the years between 1814 and 1864.

At the November election in 1850, three senators were
elected for Bristol County, one of them being Hon. Geo. Austin
of Swansea. Soon after the General Court convened in 1851,
Mr. Taber of New Bedford, resigned his seat and the two
branches of the Legislature, as then required by the consti-
tution, met in convention to choose a person to fill the vacancy
jfrom the two defeated candidates who received the highest
number of votes at the autumnal election. The choice fell upon
Hon. John Earle of this town, and thus Swansea had two
senators, Messrs. Austin and Earle, for the remainder of the
session, an unprecedented honor. Mr. Austin was a member
of the Constitutional Convention of 1852.

The Hon. Frank Shaw Stevens, whose name appears upon
the tablet on the outer walls of this building, was senator from
this district in 1884. He modestly declined a reelection, which
would have been triumphantly accorded him.


As the Masons have been prominent among those who
have ministered to the souls of Swansea people, so the Win-
slows were ministers to their bodily health for three quarters
of a century, from 1765, when Dr. Ebenezer Winslow located
here. He became one of the most widely known physicians in
Southern Massachusetts. He died in 1830, in his ninetieth
year. His son. Dr. John Winslow, rivalled even his eminent
father in the successful practice of medicine, to which he

Historical Address 93

devoted his entire life, dying in 1838. Though their patients
were widely scattered, yet these physicians never drove in a
wheeled vehicle, always travelling on horseback, carrying their
medicines in saddle-bags, the custom of those days. Dr. John
W. Winslow, son of Dr. John Winslow, early became well and
favorably known as "young Dr. Winslow," and gave promise
of eminence in his profession. But he died at the early age of
thirty-two in 1836 For several years these three generations
of physicians were here together in the practice of their pro-
fession. Dr. A. T. Brown began here, in 1836, a successful
practice of sixteen years duration.

For 62 years Dr. James Lloyd WeUington, a Harvard
classmate of Gen. Charles Devens, James Russell Lowell, the
sculptor William W. Story, William J. Rotch and George B.
Loring, has been the highly esteemed physician of this place.
By his self-sacrificing devotion to the noble but exacting pro-
fession he adorns, he has won, what is far better than wealth,
the gratitude of the whole community which he has served so
skilfully and successfully. (See sketch).


Several lawyers, previous to the year 1832, lived and
practiced their professions here, among whom were the Hon.
PHny Merrick, for eleven years an Associate Justice of the
Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth; Hezekiah
Battelle and Eliab Williams, who moved to Fall River and
formed there the law co-partnership of Battelle & Williams,
so long and favorably known is this section of the State.

Among the present leaders of the Bristol Bar, Swansea,
by one of her sons, is represented in each of the three cities of
this county: Hon. Edwin L. Barney of New Bedford, Hon.
James Brown of Taunton, and Jonathan M. Wood, Esq., of
Fall River.

Union Meeting House

The Town Hall now occupies the site of a Union meeting
house which was built by the joint eflforts of people of seversJ
denominations resident here. In the dedication which occurred
Dec. 29th, 1830, Methodists, Baptists, Swedenborgians and
Universalists participated. The hymns sung were composed
by Elder Baker, a Six Principle Baptist clergyman. Services
were maintained some years, but as the building was not owned

94 History of Swansea

by any one denomination, timely and needed repairs were
not made, for want of which it became unfit for use and was
finally demolished. The site was for a number of years disused .
Since it seemed impracticable for a private title to be acquired,
it was finally condemned and taken into possession by the
town, upon the generous offer of Mr. Stevens to erect for the
town's use a pubUc building suited to the needs of the place.

Thus, in the order of occupancy, upon this spot there has
been reproduced a picture of early New England. The pri-
mary organization was the church, as we have seen in the
history of Swansea; after the church the town; so here, we
have had first the house of religious worship, and now the hall
for municipal use and the library.

Universalist Society

Some of the prominent men of this and adjoining towns,
who had maintained occasional religious services, were organ-
ized in 1838 as the First Universalist Society of Swansea.

The Rev. Aaron L. Balch, who was a preacher to this
people before the organization of the society, died in this
village Nov. 4, 1837, and was buried in the cemetery. The
society has not maintained regular services for many years,
and the members have to some extent become connected with
other religious bodies.

Christ Church, Swansea

In May, 1845, Rev. A. D. McCoy, rector of the Church
of the Ascension in Fall River, opened a Sunday evening
service here which he maintained till November, 1847. A
chiu'ch was organized January 7, 1846. A Sunday school was
established and superintended by Dr. Geo. W. Chevers, a
physician of Fall River, afterward a clergyman, who during
the greater part of 1847 conducted lay readings on Sunday,
morning and afternoon.

The services were at first held in the Union meeting house.
A neat and attractive church edifice was shortly erected and
dedicated December 2, 1847. The first resident rector was
Rev. John B. Richmond, who served the church four years
from January 1st, 1848. The duration of most of the subse-
quent pastorates has been brief, though that of Rev. N.
Watson Munroe lasted eleven years. (See sketch).

Historical Address 95

The War for the Union

The war to preserve the Union, on account of its nearness
to our time, interests us more deeply than does the war which
made us an independent nation. But in some respects it
called for less endurance and sacrifice. The clash of arms and
the alarms of war did not vex these hillsides and echo across
these bays as they had done in PhiHp's and the Revolutionary
wars. It was not so long continued nor financially so dis-
astrous as was the war for independence, in which the financial
system of the country went to wreck, and its promises to pay
became worthless, insomuch that, even three years before the
war ended, this town voted $140 for an axe, and $50 a day to
its selectmen. Let us honor the heroic endurance of the
fathers, while we also cherish with pride the valor of their sons,
our brothers, who responded nobly to the call of the nation,
when threatened with disunion. For it is to be said that in the
later struggle this town did its full duty. At the close the town
stood credited with twelve more men than the State had re-
quired. It is true that some of them were not its own citizens,
but hired substitutes; but it is also true that from these farms
and hamlets enough perhaps to balance the hired contingent
went into Rhode Island regiments and batteries. Her rebeUion
record contains the names of one hundred and thirty soldiers
who went from or who were hired by and for this town.

Swansea's sons were widely scattered among our State
organizations and were in all branches of the service. One or
another of them faced the nation's foes on most of the battle-
fields of the Atlantic slope and of the Gulf. They helped to
roll back the haughty and desperate tide of rebel invasion that
was twice shattered on the glorious fields of Antietam and of
Gettysburg. They fought with Hooker at Chancellorsville,
with Burnside at Fredericksburg, with Sherman in the
Shenandoah. They were with McClellan in his march to
Richmond by the bloody peninsula, and they followed Grant
through the Wilderness and beyond, to Richmond and to
Appomattox. Others of them shared the fortunes of the forces
which captured the coast and river cities of the Confederacy,
and raised the blockade of the Mississippi. Every man had
his story. Each looked armed battalions in the face and
sustained the hostile shock of the assault. They heard the
whistle of the rifle ball which was seeking their life, the shriek
of the exploding shell, the clatter of galloping squadrons, the
clash of sabres, the roar of the cannonade, the cries of the
wounded, the groans of the dying, the mournful dirge over the
dead. The blood of some of them was shed, and that of them

96 History of Swansea

all was offered, in defense of the Union. Some languished and
died in hospitals or Southern prisons.

"When can their glory fade?"

Write down, so that your children of coming time may
read, the story of their sacrifices, who perished of diseases
consequent upon the experiences of camp and field. Such
Swansea men were Daniel Tompkins, Frank R. Chase,
Stephen Collins, William H. Hamlin, Martin L. Miller,
Charles H. Eddy, Josephus T. Peck, Joseph Whalen, Captain
Edwin K. Sherman, all of whom by death in hospital made a
soldier's greatest sacrifice.

Look at the roll of the slain: Andrew S. Lawton, a leg
shattered at the battle of Williamsburg early in the Peninsula
campaign, and dying within a few hours. Joseph T. Bosworth
of a Rhode Island battery, killed on the bloody field of
Antietam by an exploding shell. Oliver R. Walton slain when
the war was far advanced, at the battle of Winchester in the
Shenandoah, after nearly three years service. Edward G.
West, like Lawton, a member of the Bristol county regiment
raised by Gen. Couch, which followed the varying fortunes of
the Army of the Potomac and shared its experience of battle
and of blood. Early in the victorious but costly campaign in
the Wilderness, West paid the price of his patriotism by a
soldier's death. Mark the heroism, the valor, the Christian
resignation of Alfred G. Gardner, of Battery B. of Rhode
Island, who at the battle of Gettysburg fell beside his gun,
with his arm and shoulder torn away. With the other he took
from his pocket his Testament and other articles and said,
"Give them to my wife and tell her that I died happy," and
with the words of the soldier's battle hymn, "Glory, glory
hallelujah," on his lips, his soul went marching on — a striking
illustration of the spirit which breathes in the immortal words
of Horace,

Dulce ei decorum est pro patria morL

Who can forget the deeds of such men? Let their names
be written on the enduring granite of the memorial shaft or
tablet, on the page of the historic record, and on the hearts of
their grateful countrymen. And let all who, on the blood-red
field offered their bodies a target to the enemy's assault, whose
deeds of daring and self-devotion we cannot here recite, be
also held worthy of our undying gratitude.

A sketch like this can at best do but scant justice to a
history such as that of which Swansea can boast. The deeds
of these two and a half centuries deserve elaborate record.

Historical Address 97

Let it be one of the offices of the Library Association, for
whose literary stores and work ample provision has been made,
to gather all that has been or may yet be written of Swansea,
to cultivate the taste for historic research, and to collect and
preserve such memorials as will illustrate the past and per-
petuate its fame.

The past is fixed and is amply worthy of record. But
what of the undetermined and oncoming future? Will it
reach the height of the standard set by the achievement of
days gone by? Will it display equal or superior fidelity to the
eternal principles which alone make a community strong?
Will the men of to-day and of to-morrow, rise to the level of
their history and their high privilege? Let them emulate the
example of the brave and godly fathers of the town who laid
its foundations in righteousness and in piety — foundations
more imperishable than the solid boulders which have been
built into massive walls.



First Baptist Church

THE First Baptist Church in Massachusetts was consti-
tuted at Rehoboth, Bristol County, in the year 1663, in

the house of John Butterworth. The names of its
constituent members were John Myles, pastor; James Brown,
Nicholas Tanner, Joseph Carpenter, John Butterworth, Eldad
Kingsley, and Benjamin Alby.

As this is the first Baptist Church formed in this State,
and as its origin was pecuKar, had the events of its early
history been preserved, it would have been a matter of unusual
interest to the Baptists of the present time. Hitherto churches
of this order had been kept out of every New England colony
except Rhode Island. An attempt was made to form one in
1639 in the town of Weymouth, but it was defeated by the
magistrates, and those concerned in it were scattered. After
this no further effort seems to have been made for more than
twenty years.

The history of this church possesses more than a local and
temporary interest, as it relates to the religious and secular
interests of all this region of country for a period of more than
two centuries. Indeed, its history, with that of some of its
pastors, connects it with some of the most important move-
ments in the early annals of these colonies. Several of the
contiguous towns, including Warren and Barrington, now in
Rhode Island, and Somerset in this State, formed a part of
Swansea, and the people were generally interested in the
chm"ch, many of them as members, and most of them as
adherents and coadjutors. Liberal measures were provided
for the education of the young, and for the accommodation of
all the people with the means of religious instruction and
worship. Among the most active of the men thus employed
was Mr. Myles and Capt. Thomas Willett, the latter, who at
a later period of life became the first English mayor of New
York on its cession from the Dutch. Happy would it have
been for the social, educational, and moral prosperity of the
town of Swansea if the same principles could have been carried
to their maturity which were so nobly acted on in the first
period of its history.

It will be seen that the church was, in a manner, the

102 History of Swansea

reorganization of an exiled church driven from Swansea, in
Wales; it will therefore be necessary to go to the history of
that church. It is known that from the earliest times there
were many friends of Christ in that country, who were greatly
multiplied after the Reformation. A little more than two
hundred years ago a number of men of great power were raised
who preached with much success, and many people were
turned to the Lord. Among these men was Rev. John Myles,
the founder of this church. He began his ministry in South
Wales about the year 1645, and was instrumental in raising a
church in Swansea in 1649. This was the first year of the
Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, under whose government the
Dissenters were indulged with greater liberty than before, the
result of which greatly tended to the prevalence of religion.
This church was greatly prospered, so that in ten or twelve
years between two and three hundred were added to it. Mr.
Myles seems to have accepted a support from the government,
and his place was registered as thus supported.

After the death of Cromwell, Charles II. came into power,
and the "Act of Uniformity" was passed in 1662, by which
two thousand of the best ministers were ejected from their
places because they refused to conform to the Church of
England. Among these non-conformist ministers was Mr.
Myles. This act, and afterwards the Conventicle Act and the
Oxford Act, in effect, silenced these men. This was a time of
terror, and it is said that eight thousand persons were imprisoned
and reduced to want, and many to the grave. In this state of
things Mr. Myles emigrated to this country; whether he was
accompanied by any members of the church besides Nicholas
Tanner is uncertain. By whom and for what reason the
records of that church were brought here, as also the circum-
stances of his departure from Wales, and his arrival in this
country are matters to us unknown. The first knowledge we
gain of him in this country is that he was in Rehoboth in 1663,
when this church, now known as the "First Baptist Church in
Swansea, " was organized.

As soon as the fact of its organization and that it was
maintaining the institutions of Christianity became known,
the orthodox churches of the colony solicited the court to
interpose its influence against it. This movement was prob-
ably led on by the same persons who instigated proceedings
against Holmes, Clark, and Crandal, by which they were
imprisoned, scourged, and fined in 1651 for holding public
worship in the town of Lynn. The same sleepless vigilance
which had followed them pursued this httle church, and each
of its members was fined five pounds for setting up a public

First Baptist Church


First Christian Church

Churches 103

meeting without the knowledge and approbation of the court,
to the disturbance of the peace of the place. They were
ordered to desist from their meetings for the space of a month,
and advised to remove their meeting to some other place where
they might not prejudice any other church. Upon this order
and advice Mr. Myles and his church removed from Rehoboth
to New Meadow Neck, a place south of Rehoboth, which is
now Barrington, R. I. Then it was not embraced in any town.
They appear to have erected a house for worship soon after
their removal beyond the bounds of Rehoboth. This house
seems to have been about two and a half miles from the present
house, west.

In 1667 the Plymouth Court granted to this church, with
others, a grant of a town to be called Swansea. The grant of
this town, that the Baptists might have a resting-place, shows
that the Plymouth Colony was much more tolerant than the
Massachusetts Colony. We now find our fathers of this
church, with their pastor, free from oppression. On the incor-
poration of the town the church entered into covenant with
each other, as appears by the covenant itself on record.
Whether they had a covenant before is not known; neither
have we any means of knowing whether the church in-
creased, diminished, or remained stationary.

In 1675 the Indian war commenced, under King Philip,
of Mount Hope. This town and this church first felt the
calamities of that war, which spread such devastation over
much of New England. Here it first began. While this

Online LibraryOtis Olney WrightHistory of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; → online text (page 9 of 27)