Welcome to Swansea

Swansea Historic and Historical Documents & Books

Excerpt from "The Swansea Stage Coach - A Local History" (which is available from the Luther Store Museum or from amazon.com)

"FORMING A TOWN
"We must look to the Tower of London, that French castle which still rises above the British capital city, to understand the beginnings of Swansea, Mass.

"In the Tower's big court yard, Sir Harry Vane was executed by having his head chopped off on the morning of June 14, 1662. This good friend of New England, who had been governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at Boston while still a youth, gave up his life soon after King Charles II was restored to the English throne. For Sir Harry Vane not only had been a leading Puritan in the 10-year republic set up in England under Oliver Cromwell, but he was the much-admired leader of the radical Puritans on both sides of the Atlantic. He had encouraged both Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, who were driven out of the Bay colony for their liberal religious and political views-- before they founded Rhode Island.

"The restored English king, whatever his earlier promises, in 1662 took revenge on those earnest folk who sought to worship as they pleased. Soon after the bloody death of Harry Vane, an Act of Uniformit drove 2,000 independent clergymen out of their small churches in the British Isles.

"To Rehoboth, most western town in Plymouth Colony, fled John Myles, a 40-year-old Baptist minister from Swansea, Wales. With him came several members of his flock, and in Rehoboth they were welcomed by a few families who belonged to a Baptist congregation which had been stamped out there a few years earlier.

"In the middle of the 17th Century, for reasons which today seem odd, Baptists were regarded even by Puritans as dangerous fanatics-- almost as wild as the Quakers, who proclaimed that God spoke to them directly.

"Plymouth took advice from Boston, and Myles had to lead his followers out of Rehoboth. So they built a meeting house amid salt meadowlands on the west bank of the Palmer River in what later became known as Barneyville. Today North Swansea girls and boys fish from a span that is called "Myles bridge"-- an historic site.

"It is still just south of the Rehoboth line.

"This was rather close to the Wampanoag Indians' stronghold and camp grounds in the center and southern end of nine-mile-long Mount Hope Neck. Yet a few English families (Brown, Butterworth, Cole, Willett) (already lived, in peace, close to this heartland of Massasoit's people. In general, these English preferred the Baptist newcomers' beliefs to the established Congregational way at Rehoboth. In an event, old settlers and new joined hardy Thomas Willett and pioneering John Brown, who lived on vast estates sold to them by Massasoit.

"Willett, who spoke Dutch, was made the first mayor of New York City when Britain seized Manhattan Island from the Hollanders in 1665. John Brown's energetic son, James, we have met before, as the husban of Elizabeth Tilley's daughter, Lydia Howland. The graves of these particular pioneers are in Little Neck Cemetary at the head of Bullock's Cove, Riverside, RI. A chimney of the ancient Brown home still stands as part of a newer residence on Willett Avenue at Kingsford Ave.

"Bound by love of the land and their religion, these settlers petitioned Plymouth to let them form a new town. It's name, they suggested, would be Swansea. This happily honored the Welsh home town o the church, and catered to the Puritan custom of sprinkling New England with town names from Old England.

"When their petition was approved by the Plymouth court on October 30, 1667, the permit covered everything south of Rehoboth and Taunton but warned against pressing too closely on the choice lands sacred to the Indians. In effect, the new town was allowed a broad frontier between Taunton and Providence Rivers so long as it did not take anything claimed by anybody else.

"But in allowing the grant, Plymouth employed the following language: "The Court doe also approve that the Township....shall henceforth be called and known by the name of Swanzey."

"This mis-spelling led to some confusion for about 300 years."


Document Icon History of Swansea, Massachusetts 1667-1917 (link to the Dover-Press online document)

Document Icon"Swansea History" (link to material from UMASS interactive course)

Document IconProceedings and addresses at the dedication of the Town Hall, in Swansea, Mass. on Wednesday, September 9, 1891 (link to Library of Congress website where the book can be viewed online or downloaded as a pdf)

Document IconRev. John Myles and the founding of the first Baptist church in Massachusetts; an historical address delivered at the dedication of a monument in Barrington, Rhode Island (formerly Swansea, Mass.) June 17, 1905 (link to Library of Congress website where the book can be viewed online or downloaded as a pdf)

Document IconSwansea Tercentenary Booklet (pdf VERY large file 440MB may not load - to download to your computer, right-click/ctrl-click on title and save)

Document IconSwansea Town Records - from Manuscripts of Colonial and Revolutionary America (link to University of Notre Dame Rare Books and Special Collections website)

Document Icon The Swansea Stagecoach (pdf - no illustrations)

Document IconMASSACHUSETTS INDEX for Swansea, Bristol County (link) - including:

Document IconMap of Bristol County, Massachusetts (link to a map from 1852 which includes names of residents)

Document IconSwansea, MA from "OUR COUNTY AND ITS PEOPLE - A DESCRIPTIVE AND BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD OF BRISTOL COUNTY MASSACHUSETTS" (link)

Document IconBungtown Bridge a.k.a. Myles Bridge - click here for the scan of an article from the 'Swansea News' regarding the history of the bridge

Document Icon"Old Paths and Legends of New England: Saunterings over historic roads, with glimpses of picturesque fields and old homesteads in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire" written by Katharine M. Abbott - from this link, you will also be able to download the book to your computer, in PDF format.