Otis Olney Wright.

History of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; online

. (page 26 of 27)
Online LibraryOtis Olney WrightHistory of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; → online text (page 26 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

surprised to find that they exactly fitted the marks left by his
Satanic Majesty. He must have had several feet, judging by
the different sizes of footprints. In one place he must have
forgotten and shown his real self, for they found a hoof print
instead of the human form. A short walk brought them to the
"Devil's Table," and while it is immense, one wonders if it
were really large enough to accommodate all his followers.
These rocks are on very high ground. In one place one can

Places of Interest 239

see the B. M. C. Durfee High School in one direction, and by
turning around, the top of the Turk's Head building in Provi-
dence may be seen. On account of its height it was used by the
Indians, and the soldiers of the Revolutionary war, to flash
their messages by bonfires from place to place.

A crawl through the underbrush brought them to "Mag's
Cave," immortahzed by the story of Hezekiah Butterworth.
It was in this cave that Margaret entertained the hunted
preacher, Roger Williams, during that long cold journey when
he was driven from Salem. To-day there is only a shelving
rock, but this rock formed the back of Margaret's home. Mr.
Maker acted as guide through the woods, and told the boys
how he had found sixty different kinds of wood in this forest, and
had made a log cabin of them. After a rough tramp through
the woods the boys came to *' King's Rock, " where they ate
their supper on the very spot where the Indians from all over
New England came to celebrate their victories. In the quiet
fields where a son of Portugal was planting his peas, the boys
in imagination saw the victims of war burned at the stake,
and passing through all the other tortures which the Indians
themselves tell us actually took place at this very spot.

In this rock can be seen the old hollow where the Indian
women ground their corn for the feast, and the actual print of
their knees as they knelt there for years, can still be seen in the
rock. There is also a hole in the rock where it is said that the
Indians pounded corn, but fine as the story is, that will have to
be attributed to a later date. Another cave, a mile beyond,
told the sad story of more recent years. In this cave dwelt a
negro and his wife. They were very pious people, and were
annoyed at the attitude of the young people at evening meet-
ings. One Sunday night the old man had been unusually
severe in his denunciation and the boys, thoroughly angry, set
fire to his home. The fire started in front, and as there was
solid rock at the back, there was no possible way for them to
get out. The last sounds from the ca e were the quavering
voices of the old couple singing, '* Jesus, Lover of My Soul."
Their walk also led them through a forest of immense oaks
sown by Levi Bushee, who has been dead nearly 50 years, and
who was over 80 when he died. He used to tell that when he
was a small boy he helped to plant the acorns in rows.

Afterwards the boys visited the old oak on the farm of
Mrs. A. A. Manchester near Touisset. This oak is the oldest
tree in this section and according to folk lore Roger Williams
spent a night in the hollow trunk when a storm overtook him
on his way from Salem to Rhode Island. The tree stands
almost on the boundary between the two states.

240 History of Swansea

Dorothy Brown Lodge

Early in the year 1893, a number of Odd Fellows, belong-
ing to different lodges in the vicinity, but residing in Swansea,
decided to start a Rebekah Lodge in this town, and began to
make plans to that end. They gave a clambake and lawn
party, and raised funds. They were granted a Charter,
August 11, 1893; and the Lodge was instituted, in the Town
Hall, December 11, 1893, as the Dorothy Brown Rebekah
Lodge, No. 122, L 0. 0. F., this name being chosen, on the
suggestion of the Hon. John S. Bray ton, because it was the
name of the wife of John Brown, one of the early settlers of
Swansea, and an important man in the Colony. Her son
James Brown, and her grandson John Brown were also prom-
inent in the community. She was long resident in this town,
and died here, January 27, 1674, at the age of ninety years;
and four direct descendants of hers have been members of this

The organization began with about sixty charter members;
and the place of meeting was at first in Case's Hall. The
present Lodge Hall, built in 1899, was dedicated March 29,
1900; and it is said that this is the only Rebekah Lodge in this
country that owns its Hall, and has invested funds. The
present number of members, (1916), is one hundred.

The Swansea Free Public Library

A Sketch by its founder, the Rev. Otis Olney Wright, formerly the
rector of Christ Church, Swansa, 1881-1888

The Swansea Free Public Library is of humble origin ; and
of slow but steady growth.

In September, 1882, the writer being then the rector of
Christ Church, and realizing the value of good books to read,
started the " Christ Church Book Circle. " This circle was com-
posed of twenty-one members whose names are as follows : —
Mrs. James H. Mason, Miss Ellen S. Austin, Mrs. F. S.
Stevens, Miss Mary A. Case, Miss Fanny E. Wood, Miss
Carrie A. Chase, Mrs. Betsy E. Winslow, Mrs. Katharine F.
Gardner, Miss Helen L. Wellington, Miss Juha R. Wellington,
Miss J. Blanche Chase, Mrs. Ella A. Jones, Miss Ruth E.
Pearse, Mrs. A. A. WilHams, Mrs. Lauretta B. Chase, Henry 0.
Wood, Miss Sarah L. Gardner, Jeremiah Gray, George C.
Gardner, Samuel G. Arnold, and Rev. O. 0. Wright.

Places of Interest 241

The circle selected and purchased twenty-one books, at
a cost of $1.12 per member.

The following is a list of the works, which were passed
around the circle, in order, as they were read: —

"Madeline, " Mary J. Holmes; "Stories from Old English
Poetry;" "Lost in a Great City," M. Douglas; "Patience
Strong's Outing," Mrs. Whitney; "Madam How and Lady
Why,'' Kingsley; "My Study Window," Lozx^e//; "My Winter
on the Nile," Warner; "Infelice," Evans; "Henry Wads-
worth Longfellow," Underwood; "Roman Days," Marjory
BsLW.'' Aldrich; " Oldtown Folks, " Mr5. *S/ow;e; "A Reverend
Idol," 0. W\ Holmes; "His Majesty, Myself," Baker;
"Blessed Saint Certainty," Baker; "Warlock, O'Glen War-
lock," Macdonald; "The Guardian Angel," Holmes; "With-
out a Home," E. P. Roe; "Unknown to History," Yonge;
"Thomas Carlyle," Froude; "The White Elephant," Twain,

The Swansea Public Library Association was organized
May 9, 1883, according to the provisions of Chapter 40 of the
Public Statutes of Massachusetts for the organization of
"Social Library Corporations."

The Officers and Board of Directors were as follows:
President, Rev. O. 0. Wright; Vice President, James H.
Mason; Secretary, Miss JuHa R. Wellington; Collector and
Treasurer, Frank R. Stebbins; Trustees, Henry 0. Wood,
Frank S. Stevens and Job Gardner; Librarian, Rev. 0. 0.
Wright; Assistant Librarian, Mrs 0. 0. Wright.

The warrant for the meeting for this organization was
issued by James H. Mason, Justice of the Peace, on the petition
of Otis 0. Wright, H. 0. Wood, F. S. Birch, Thomas J. Jones,
Henry C. Brown, Joseph H. Northam, Hiram B. Babcock,
Frank R. Stebbins, Carrie A. Chase, Ellen S. Austin, J. L.
Wellington, Jeremiah Gray, F. S. Stevens, Jonathan Slade,
N. R. Wellington, Mary E. Mason, Betsey E. Winslow, Helen
L. Wellington, Julia R. Wellington, Job Gardner.

A constitution and by-laws were adopted, and printed for
distribution, a copy of which may be found in the records of
the Association.

The object of this corporation was: "To provide a
library and reading-room, and to promote literary and social
intercourse among its members."

The book circle donated its books to the Public Library
Association, June 14, 1883.

Narragansett Lodge, No. 58, Independent Order of Good
Templars, having voted to surrender its charter, gave its
libraryofeighty-sevenvolumes to the Association, June 23, 1883»

The library was located during its first year, at the res-

242 History of Swansea

idence of the librarian, known as the Israel Brayton house,
owned by Joseph S. Chase.

Money for the support of the institution was raised by
means of an annual membership fee of one dollar, a life
membership fee of ten dollars, and public entertainments.

The first purchase of books was made November 21, 1883,
when twenty-two cloth-bound volumes, and nine in paper
covers were added, at an expense of twenty dollars ($20).

About the first of June, 1884, the library was removed to
the vacant store-building owned by Mrs. Katharine Gardner,
where it remained until October 1, 1885, when it was located
in the old store and Post Office building, so long occupied by
Hon. John Mason, at that time the property of Hon. Frank
S. Stevens. Here it continued until its removal to the library-
room provided for it by the conditions of Mr. Stevens' gift of
the Town Hall to the town of Swansea, which was in Sep-
tember, 1891.

The following minute, taken from the records of the
Public Library Association, brings us to the close of the history
of that corporation, and to the beginning of the Free Public
Library: — *'In March, 1896, the town voted to establish a free
public library, and under provisions of the Library Act of
1890, received $100 worth of books from the Free Pubhc
Library Commission." In May following, the association
voted to present its books and other property, with the annual
interest of $200, "subject to certain conditions" to the town.

The conditions referred to are these: "Voted, — That the
Association tranfer to the Trustees of the Swansea Free Public
Library all its books, money (which must be kept as a fund,
the interest only to be used), and all effects, on the following
conditions: 1st. The Library shall permanently continue in its
present locality. 2nd. In case the town fails to make the
necessary appropriations for its support, the Library fund and
all effects shall revert to the Association, the above conditions
having been accepted by the said Trustees, subject to the
approval of the town at its next annual meeting, a copy of
which acceptance is on the records of the Association."

The gift was accepted, and the Swansea Free Public
Library was opened September 26, 1896, with a delivery
station at North Swansea, in charge of Mrs. Mary E. Greene ;
another at Swansea Centre, in charge of John B. Eddy; and
a third at Hortonville, in charge of Mrs. DelmEu* A. Cummings.

It may be of interest to note here, that this is not the first
attempt to establish a library in this town. June 26, 1841, at
four o'clock P. M., a legally notified meeting was held in the
Union Meeting House, which stood where the Town Hall now

Places of Interest 243

stands, and the "Swansea Athenaeum," as it was called, or
legally speaking ,the "Swansea Social Library" was organized.

The warrant for this meeting was issued by John Mason,
"Esq.," as he was usually called, Justice of the Peace, on the
petition of J. D. Nichols, James H. Mason, Joseph F. Chase,
Joseph Case and James T. Chase.

The officers were as follows: John Mason, President;
J. D. Nichols, Clerk and Librarian; John A. Wood, Treasurer
and Collector; A. Z. Brown, J. E. Gray, Directors.

This corporation appeau's to have been a stock company
of forty-eight shares.

September 13, 1850, it was voted to divide the funds and
books equally among the members; and the last meeting of
which there is any minute was held Sept. 14, 1850.

It is also worthy of remark that most of the famihes
interested in this earlier movement were represented forty
years later by the promoters of the Public Library Association,
which, so far as we know, is the only other effort which has
been made in this direction. J. D. Nichols was an uncle of
Miss Ellen S, Austin ; James H. Mason one of the petitioners
in 1841, was the Justice of the Peace who issued the warrant in
1882, and Vice President of the Association; Joseph F. Chase
was father of Mrs. Katherine F. Gardner; Joseph Case, the
father of Miss Mary A. Case and Mrs. F. S. Stevens; John A.
Wood, the father of Henry 0. Wood, one of the Trustees of the
Association, and of the Free Public Library; Dr. A. Z. Brown,
brother-in-law of Dr. J. L. Wellington.

Many of the books of the present library were donated by
individuals residing in the town, or formerly located here,
natives of Swansea living elsewhere, and occasional visitors,
especially during the period of the Association. It was the
custom to make a minute of each gift, and to enter the names
of donors upon the records.

For example, Mrs. Mary E. Chase, of New York, gave
numerous volumes, in the name of her son, the late Frederick
T. Chase, and Mrs. Sarah C. White, of Pawtucket, left a
bequest of about eighty volumes.

A circulating library of nearly two hundred volumes was
bought and presented to the Association by the Hon. F. S.

Money was also donated to the corporation from time to
time, especially by Mrs. Mary B. Young of Fall River, Elisha
D. Buffington of Worcester, the Hon. John S. Brayton and
the Hon. Frank S. Stevens.

In such wise the library grew, increasing in favor and

244 History of Swansea

At first the people at a distance were a little shy, perhaps,
regarding it as simply a parish, or village enterprise, and of
little importance in its day of small things; but it gradually
won its way, and extended its influence into the midst of the
community at large, until the Town was willing to adopt it as
its own.

During the first years, but few new books were added at
any one time, and yet enough as a rule to meet the growing
interest of its patrons. Some of the standard works formed
a part of each purchase, and new publications were carefully
selected to meet the tastes of the readers. It was, to a certain
extent, a personal work to lead its patrons on from the desire
for good to the appreciation of the better and the best liter-

The practical benefits of a good public library may not
be easily estimated, and are not quickly appreciated, perhaps,
but can not be seriously doubted.

The management of the library was, for a long time, very
simple. A list of the books with their numbers was the only
catalogue. An alphabetical list of members was kept by the
librarian; and each was charged with the numbers of the
volumes taken, and the numbers were crossed off when the
books were returned. The volumes were placed on the shelves
without regard to class, number or author; and each person
handled them as he pleased and selected for himself.

The growth of the reading habit, and the evolution of
literary tastes may be clearly traced along the fine of this

If sometimes the pretty cover, the striking title, or the
open form of the printed page determined the choice of the
book to be taken, it was only the common event known to
every observing librarian, whose chief delight is to have every-
body learn to read and appreciate good literature.

The Rev. 0. 0. Wright was librarian from the organiza-
tion of the Association, May 9, 1882, until his removal from the
town in February, 1888. But it is only fair to state that much
of the care of the library devolved upon others during that
period. Mrs. 0. O. Wright, frequently during the first year,
assisted in taking account of the books ; and for several years,
the children, Henry K. and Lucy Wright often performed the
duties of librarian; and, sometimes, the door being unlocked,
a slate was placed on the table with this notice written on it:
"Please help yourself, and write your name and the numbers
of the books returned and taken."

Miss Carrie A. Chase, now Mrs. Elmer D. Young, being
assistant librarian that year, acted as librarian from February

Places of Interest 245

to May, 1888, and has often rendered valuable service in the
running of the library.

Mrs. Thomas C. Chase, another devoted patron and
helper, has given much care and labor towards the success of
this good cause.

Miss Julia R. Wellington, the first and only Secretary of
the Association, was elected librarian June 2, 1888, and has
continued to serve in that important office to the present time.
The catalogues, old and new, have been made by her, the
later after the Gutter system. Miss Wellington has labored
with enthusiasm and intelligent zeal to make the hbrary of
practical use to the teachers and pupils of the public schools ;
and it is only justice to her to say that the success of the
Swansea Free Public Library is largely the fruit of her faithful
and inestimable services.

It ought to be recorded in this connection that Miss
Mary A. Case, who has taken a deep interest in this work from
first to last, has also counted it a privilege and a pleasure to
make a painstaking study of the selection of suitable books,
and has done a large share of that laborious service, in these
eighteen years of the library's growth.

The first officers elected under town management were as
follows: Chairman, Henry O. Wood; Secretary, James E.
Easter brooks, and the Rev. F. E. Rixby.

Mr. Easterbrooks died previous to the opening of the
Free Public Library, and Job Gardner was chosen Trustee in
his place.

In 1896, the officers were: Trustees, Job Gardner, Chair-
man; Henry O. Wood, Frank G. Arnold, Miss Mary Case,
Mrs. Mary E. Greene, and Mrs. Esther M. Gardner. Librarian,
Miss Julia R. Wellington.

A few comparative statistics and this sketch is concluded.

The first report of the librarian of the Association, 1883,
shows that there were then 229 volumes on the fist bound in
cloth, and 31 volumes in paper covers not entered. At that
time there were two life members, and twenty annual members.
The circulation of books was 407.

The filial report of the librarian of the Association, 1896,
recorded 40 members, and it was estimated that there were
103 readers. There were 1733 volumes, including books in
paper covers and magazines, and the total circulation was

The first report of the librarian under Town management
refers to 1,495 bound volumes, and shows that 230 cards had
been issued for the drawing of books, and that the circulation
was 2,241.

246 History of Swansea

Statistics for the year ending Jan. 31, 1900, shows that
there were 561 names on the list of cards drawn; that the
number of books belonging to the library exclusive of mag-
azines and pamphlets was 2,451; and that the circulation was

The general character of the library at that date, is indi-
cated by the classes and numbers of volumes which follow:
History, 133; Biography, 159; Geography and Travel, 118;
Science and Art, 185; Poetry and Drama, 56; Literature and
Language, 64; Fiction, 1,385; Philosophy and Religion, 65;
Miscellaneous, 238; Reference, 48.

Throughout the history of the Association, at every stage
of its progress, one name appears as chief among its generous
promoters. Frank S. Stevens was ever ready to anticipate its
growing wants and to rejoice in its increasing usefulness. And
so, when the time came for its adoption by the Town, as a
Free Public Library, he was among the first to co-operate with
the State Librarian, C. B. TiUinghast and E. M. Thurston, to
secure the necessary action.

Under the present management (1896) the town makes an
annual appropriation of $350 for its support; and it also
receives the interest of the Association fund of $200 together
with the proceeds of occasional entertainments and individual
gifts, notably, the "Around Town Dramatic Club" donated
90 volumes at one time.

In the event of Mr. Stevens death, which occured April
25, 1898, by the terms of his last will and testament, the Town
of Swansea received the income of $2,500 for the purchase of
books for a free public library, and the executors were directed
to expend $10,000 in erecting and furnishing a pubhc Hbrary
on the lot occupied by the Town Hall, erected by the testator,
to be known as the "Stevens Public Library Building."

It seems fitting at this point that brief mention should be
made of the new building, the corner-stone of which was laid
Oct. 31, 1899. By the provisions of Mr. Stevens' will, the sum
of ten thousand dollars was given to the executors, in trust,
to erect a library Building of stone or brick on the town hall lot.
For the erection of such building as seemed needed and proper
it was found that there was not sufficient available frontage.
To provide for this, Mrs. Stevens deeded to the town the estate
adjoining, thus furnishing a most desirable site, and added
$10,000 to the building fund.

Mr. Henry Yaughan, of Boston, was chosen the architect,
and by a generous increase of the original sum by Mrs. Stevens,
the erection and furnishing of this structure was made possible.
The entire work was done under the daily supervision of a

Places of Interest 247

respected townsman, Mr. Valentine Mason; and was ded-
icated Sept. 19, 1900.

The executors and those to whom Mr. Stevens was most
dear, have labored lovingly, faithfully, and, they hope, well, to
fulfill the trust and erect a fitting memorial. How well, time
and those who may for years to come use the library, can best

The Hbrary building is the result of a bequest of $10,000
for the purpose contained in the will of Frank S. Stevens. It
is understood that Mrs. Stevens, in order to better carry out
the wishes of her husband had he Hved, has given in addition
a sum equal to the original amount. Mr. Steven's will also
contained provision for a fund of $2500 which has been
increased by Mrs. Stevens to $5000 for the purchase of new
books. The structure is handsomely and substantially built of
granite, with brown stone trimmings and slated roof. It
stands back some 50 feet from the street, on which it has a
frontage of 70 feet. The interior is finely finished and fur-
nished in complete detail in solid oak. The reading room is
27x16 feet and has an inviting looking fireplace with antique
andirons of wrought iron. There is another such fireplace in
the librarian's and binding room. There is also a room for the
trustees of the library, a delivery room and a stack room, the
latter having a capacity for 10,000 volumes. There is also
ample room on the upper floor for the storing of magazines,etc.

The town voted, in March, 1896, to establish a free
public library, and under the library act of Massachusetts
received books valued at $100 from the State Library Com-
mission and in May, 1897, the library association gave its
property to the public library. Delivery stations were
estabHshed at North Swansea, Swansea Centre and Horton-
ville. In January, 1900, the library possessed 2,451 volumes;
there were 561 holders of cards and the circulation was 8686,
The institution received at that time, an annual appropriation
of $350 from the town, and the interest from the Hbrary fund,

Miss Julia R. Wellington, after many years of faithful
service as librarian retired, and Oct. 1, 1912, Otis 0. Wright
became librarian. In 1913, a card-catalogue was made; in
1914, the building was lighted by electricity.

At the present date (1916) the town appropriates $600
per year for current expenses; and maintains four stations
where the people receive books: Touisset, Swansea Centre,
Hortonville, and North Swansea. At last report, (1917) the
number of volumes catalogued was 8,000, the number of cards
in force 500 and the circulation was 11,486.

248 History of Swansea

Swansea Today — 1917

The population in 1905 was 1,839, (State Census). In
1915, (State Census) it was 2,558 showing an increase of 719
in ten years. In 1910, (the U. S. Census), there were enu-
merated 1,978; and the increase in five years following was 580.

The valuation of the town :

















The town has 22 miles of macadamized roads; and main-
tains 363 electric street lights.

There are 10 district schools, under Town management,
two of them having primary and grammar grades, and the
Stevens School having primary, intermediate, and grammar
grades. At the Annual Town Meeting, March 1, 1915, it was
voted — "To establish and maintain a high school as required
by Sec. 2, Chap. 42 of the Revised Laws." "Before this vote was
passed Mrs. Elizabeth R. Stevens caused an announcement
to be made that if the voters felt they could bear the expense
of maintaining and equipping a High School, she would give a
building for that purpose. "

Town of Swansea

(Last available Census) Products 1905.

Value Percentages




Dairy products,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 26

Online LibraryOtis Olney WrightHistory of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917; → online text (page 26 of 27)