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Full text of "Proceedings and addresses at the dedication of the Town Hall, in Swansea, Mass. on Wednesday, September 9, 1891"

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Ar>MY & Milne, Fine Book and Job Printers, 




In jilxoJaangQ 
A:n3r. Anu. SoO. 

25 11 ^SO*^ 

Swansea, Oct. 1st, 1891. 
Mil. Job Gardner, 

Chairman of Dedication Exercises of Swansea Toivn Hall : 

Dear Sir : — At a meeting of the Board of Selectmen of 
Swansea, held this day, it was voted to request you to confer with 
the orator and other speakers who took part in the exercises at the 
dedication of the Town Hall, for permission to have their addresses 
printed and published in pamphlet form. 

William P. Mason, ') Selectmen 
Daniel Hale, >- of 

Samuel G. Arnold, ) Swansea. 

Swansea, October 2nd, 1891. 
Mr. Job Gardner, 

Dear Sir : — In behalf of the citizens of Swansea we request 
that you cause to be prepared and published a Memorial volume 
containing an account of the exercises which took place on Wed- 
nesday, Sept. 9, 1891, at the dedication of the Town Hall ; and 
also a copy of the deed given by the Hon. Frank S. Stevens to the 
town of Swansea. 

William P. Mason, ^ Selectmen 
Daniel Hale, >- of 

Samuel G. Arnold, ) Swansea. 


I HE formal dedication of the handsome new Town Hall 
-^ at Swansea village, the gift of Hon. Frank Shaw 
Stevens, occnrred on Wednesday, September Ninth, A. D. 
1891, with appropriate and deeply interesting exercises. 

It was a great occasion for the historic old town, and 
many of her sons and daughtei's who make their present 
home in other communities gathered from far and near to 
do honor to the occasion, and renew their allegiance to the 
town from which they went forth to the fields of their life's 
activities, with its trials and its triumphs. 

The towns-people were early on the scene, and when 
Mr. Job Gardner opened the formal exercises at 11 o'clock, 
the hall was crowded to repletion with a noble gathering of 
the people of Swansea and their friends. 

The weather was of a delightful character, clear, cool 
and inspiring, and this fact contributed much to the success 
of the occasion. The ladies of the town sent a committee 
to decorate and adorn the hall and its rooms with beautiful 
flowers. They did their work in an excellent manner, and 
the result was seen on the platform of the hall, in the pub- 
lic library and in the selectmen's room. 


On the speaker's stand, in tlie center of the platform, 
was a basket of handsome flowers, while in the front was a 
row of beautiful potted plants. At each end was a bank of 
flowers, — ferns, golden rod, lilies, etc. These were arranged 
by Mrs. I. W. Pierce and Miss Laura E. Allen, while an 
attractive display of ferns and golden rod, with bright flow- 
ers to show a contrast, was placed in the selectmen's room 
and in the public library room by Miss Julia R. Wellington, 
the librarian, and her assistant, Miss Carrie A. Chase. 

The exercises were announced to commence at eleven 
o'clock, but an hour before that time the hall was filled with 
a distinguis]ied company of people, and late comers were 
oblio-ed to stand either in the corridor or the rooms to be oc- 
cupied by the selectmen and public library. While the peo- 
ple were gathering the Swansea Brass Band gave an inter- 
esting concert on the lawn in front of the hall. 

Hooper's Steamer Puritan Orchestra rendered the fol- 
lowing concert programme in a manner that elicited fre- 
quent applause and gave much pleasure to those who lis- 

March — Steamer Puritan 

Overture — Aukl Lang Syne D. Miller. 

Descriptive Piece — A Trip to Great Britain. . Loesch. 

Selection from " Faust" Gounod. 

Overture — Jubal Weber. 

The following named gentlemen were seated upon the 
platform : 

Mr. Job Gardner, president of the day ; Hon. Frank S. 
Stevens, the donor of the building ; Hon. John Summerfield 
Brayton, the orator of the day ; Rev. Percy S. Grant of Fall 
River, chaplain of the day ; the venerable Rev. Benjamin 
H. Chase of Swansea ; Maj. James Brown of Taunton, the 
first Swansea man to graduate from college ; Jonathan M. 


Wood, Esq., of Fall Kiver ; Hon. E. L. Barney of New 
Bedford ; D. A. Waldron of Barrington ; Edmund Arnold, 
Dr. J. M. Wellington, Obadiah Chase, E. M. Thurston, of 
Swansea ; Wm. P. Mason, Daniel Hale and Samuel Arnold, 
selectmen of Swansea ; Levi Cummings, ex-selectman ; Jere- 
miah Gray, William C. Davol, Jr., Rev. Pay son W. Lyman, 
John S. Brayton, Jr., eTohn P. Slade, Benjamin Buffinton, 
Henry S. Fenner, George Slade, David F. Slade, Esq. ; the 
venerable William Mason of Fall River, a native of Swan- 
sea ; Jonathan Slade, Hon. Wm. Lawton Slade, Hon. Daniel 
Wilbur, of Somerset ; Rev. George E. Allen, Hon. Weaver 
Osborn, Robert Adams, Job B. French, Wm. Lindsey, T. D. 
W. Wood and others of Fall River ; Rev. O. O. Wright of 
Newton, Conn., and others. Mr. Gardner arose and wel- 
comed the people. He said : 

" Ladies and gentlemen : — To me has been assigned the 
pleasant duty of presiding on this occasion. In view of 
what is to follow, however, I will not detain you with any 
extended remarks. I heartily welcome you here on this 
auspicious day, and trust that it will prove to all, one of 
memorable interest, pleasure and profit." 

Prayer was then offered by Rev. Percy S. Grant of 
Fall River, after which Mr. Stevens, the donor of the build- 
ing, was presented by Mr. Gardner, who said : "I now have 
the pleasure of presenting to you, the Honorable Frank 
Shaw Stevens, who is too well and favorably known in this 
community to need an introduction." 


Address and Presentation 


I ^j^-REAT applause greeted Mr. Stevens as lie rose to 
^-^ respond to the call of the chairman, and the high 
esteem in which he is held by his towns-people was manifested 
frequently during the progress of his brief but characteristic 
address. Mr. Stevens said : 

Mr. Cliairinan^ ladies and gentlemen : — 

The occasion for which we have met here today is one 
of the greatest pleasure to me. Although not to the manor 
born, I have been a resident of the town and your neighbor 
for more than thirty years. I believe I can safely say there 
is no one who feels a greater interest or takes more pride in 
the prosperity of the town and its people than I do. 

The first town meeting I ever attended here was held in 
the vestry of the Christian Church, and the town meetings 
were held there for a number of years after. When the 
Christian Society decided that politics and religion did not 
harmonize very well, it notified the town officials that they 
would have to procure other quarters, which they succeeded 
in getting at Swansea Factory ; and our meetings and elec- 
tions have been held there since that time. I must say that 
they were very inadequate quarters, particularly so when 
politics ran high. When the warrant was issued calling 
the annual town meeting to be held in March 1890, there 


^^. (^i^^d^/^m @^^^^^. 


was a clause to see if the town would vote to build a town 
hall and make appropriations therefor. When I saw it, I 
made up my mind to propose at the town meeting to build a 
town hall and present it to the town : which proposition was 
unanimously accepted, and the building we are now in is the 

I wish to put myself on record by saying that I had no 
selfish or personal motive in wishing the building located 
here, as I think anyone giving anything to a city or town 
ought to do it so as to benefit future generations as well as 
the present. For the past four or five years when in conver- 
sation with citizens and others interested in the town, I have 
casually asked them what part of the town they thought was 
going to increase in value and population the most in the 
next fifty years. I can safely say without an exception they 
said '^ Gardner's Neck." When asking them their reason, 
they said because of its location, it being bounded on the 
east by Lee's River, on the west by Cole's and on the south 
by Mount Hope Bay, and it also had railroad facilities which 
no other part of the town enjoyed. Taking the last ten 
years as a basis, I think they were right in their judgment. 

With this object in view, some four or five years ao-o 
when making alterations in my will, I left some thousands of 
dollars to the town for the purpose of erecting a hall, and I 
left it without any restrictions of any kind, having confi- 
dence in the good judgment of the voters of the town that 
they would erect a building in the proper place. 

I do not take any credit to myself for the tower, clock 
and bell, as that was the suggestion of a friend of the town, 
and mine as well. A few days after it became public, I re- 
ceived a communication something like this : it commenced, 
" My Venerable Friend :— I see by the papers that you are 
going to erect a hall and present it to your fellow citizens. 
I think tliat it is a very nice thing for you to do, and one 


that will be appreciated. I have a suggestion to make 
which is, do not fail to have a tower and put in a clock and 
bell : for when the belated traveller is passing along and 
hears the bell striking the hour of the night he will say, 
' God bless the donor of that clock and bell.' " He closed 
by saying *' I can give this disinterested advice as I do not 
have to pay the bills." 

The manner in which this thing was put pleased me 
very much, and the tower, bell and clock are the result. 

Mr. Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, I now have 
the pleasure of presenting to you the deed of this property 
and the keys to the building, with the hope that the citizens 
of the town will have as much pleasure in receiving, as I 
have in making the gift. 

As Mr. Stevens handed the important document and 
the keys to Mr. William P. Mason, the chairman of the 
selectmen, the applause of the audience was enthusiastic 
and long continued. 

Mr. Mason, chairman of the selectmen, accepted the 
munificent gift in a brief address. He spoke as follows : 


" Mr. Stevens : — In behalf of the citizens of Swansea, 
allow me to thank you for the generous and beautiful gift 
you bestow on us, and we know that within its walls we shall 
find among us men who can govern our town in such a 
manner as will be acceptable to all our citizens. I know the 
citizens of this town will all join with me in wishing a long- 
life, combined with health and happiness, to Swansea's best 
friend and most liberal benefactor." 

Hooper's Orchestra then rendered a selection, and con- 
tributed delightful music at intervals during the exercises. 



The President then introduced the Hon. John Summer- 
field Brayton of Fall River, a native of Swansea Village, 
who would deliver the historical address of the day. 

Mr. Brayton spoke in a clear voice, and held the un- 
divided attention of the large audience for more than one 
hour, during the delivery of an address rich in historical in- 
formation, choice in language, and eloquent in the presenta- 
tion of facts that made every one present honor the name of 


Historical Address 


QWANSEA to-day dedicates its first town hall. An 
}<^ honored and generons citizen has erected this sightly 
and commodious structure, adapted to the uses of the town 
and library, and has in your presence presented the same, 
with its appointments, as a free gift to the town Thus, this 
ancient and historic municipality comes into possession of a 
town hall, worthy of its name and fame. Few rural towns 
in the Commonwealth have been so signally favored. 

For nearly two centuries and a quarter, town meetings 
have been held here, but never yet in any town building other 
than the meeting house. From the first the town meeting 
was regarded as of high importance. In 1670 it was "or- 
dered that whatsoever inhabitant of this town shall absent 
himself from any town meeting to which he shall be legally 
warned, he shall for every such absence, forfeit four shil- 
lings." Affairs of the greatest importance were there dis- 
cussed and settled, and it was felt to be every citizen's duty 
to share in public decisions. What was a duty was also 
generally regarded as a privilege. 


Originally these assemblies were held at the meeting- 
house in what is now Barrington, afterwards at North Swan- 
sea, at private dwellings, in the meeting house at Luther's 
Corner, and recently in the hall at Swansea Factory. The 
dwellino- house of Jonathan Hill and his son Caleb Hill, 
now the residence of Mrs. Kate F. Gardner in this village, 
was thus frequently used, as were also the houses of James 
Brown, James Luther and of Caleb Slade, the latter now 
the residence of Deacon Arnold. For four years just prior 
to the division of the town the house of Capt. Joseph 
Swazey at the north end of Somerset was thus utilized. 

As lono- ao-o as 1812 a vote to build a town house was 
passed, but it was speedily reconsidered, and the proposition 
has never since been successfully carried through, although 
frequently discussed in town meetings. The contention has 
been happily settled by this day's events. We congratulate 
Swansea upon receiving this tangible proof of the loyalty and 
affection of her adopted son, and we congratulate him that 
by this act he has raised in the hearts of this people a mon- 
ument more enduring than the pile he has reared. The wise 
man says, '' The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that 
watereth shall be watered also himself." 

We are here to revive the memories of the old town, to 
recall briefly some ' of the scenes, and some of the leading 
actors in its long and honorable history, and to sketch, 
though it can only be in outline, the course of events which 
have given it celebrity, and which merit more elaborate re- 
cord than they have received, or than can now be given. 

Its ancient territory included the home of that justly 
celebrated and honored Indian chief, Massasoit, who became 
the fast and inalienable friend of the English of Plymouth 
Colony, and whose home was at Sowams, within the territory 
now covered by the village of Warren. Its soil was prob- 
ably first trodden by Englishmen when a visit was paid to 


Massasoit In the summer following the Pilgrim's landing, by 
Edward Winslow, afterwards Governor of Plymouth Colony, 
and Stephen Hopkins. The object of the visit was to ex- 
plore the country, ascertain the strength and power of the 
sachem, procure corn, and strengthen the mutual good un- 
derstanding. They reached Massasoit' s residence July 4th, 
havlno; crossed the TIticut or Taunton river about three miles 
from Taunton Green, and passed through what is now the 
town of Swansea from east to west. 

The next visit of the colonists was that of Capt. Miles 
Standish and fourteen of the English to the home of Corbi- 
tant, a petty sachem under Massasoit, who lived " at the head 
of the Neck," called by the Indians Metapolset, now Gard- 
ner's Neck. Corbitant's residence could not have been far 
from this place. Some historians locate it in this village. 
Capt. Standish and his party came to take vengeance on 
Corbitant, In case a rumor that he had taken the life of 
Squanto, a friendly Indian, was true. They attacked his 
wigwam in the dead of night, badly wounding three of its 
Inmates. As It was found that Squanto had not been slain, 
no harm was Inflicted on Corbitant. The wounded were ta- 
ken to Plymouth for treatment and afterwards returned with 
their wounds healed. 

In March, 1623, Winslow accompanied by John Hamp- 
den paid his second visit to Massasoit, having been informed 
of his serious Illness. They came down the east side of Taun- 
ton river to what Is now Slade's Ferry ; where they were told 
that Massasoit was dead. Anxious, in that case, to concili- 
ate Corbitant, Winslow decided to visit him at Metapoiset. 
Finding on their arrival that he had gone to visit Massasoit, 
and being assured that there was no certain news of the death 
of the chief, Winslow sent a messenger to Sowams who 
brought back word that he was still alive. Winslow then 
hastened to Sowams and found Massasoit apparently near 


death, but by the judicious use of remedies he was able to 
save his life. This liuiuane act determined the long and 
effective friendship of Massasoit for the colonists, and so 
proved of the greatest value. Winslow and Hampden de- 
parted from Sowams followed by the blessings of the sachem 
and all his people. At Cor bi taut' s invitation they, on their 
way home, si)ent a night with him here, being treated with 
most generous hospitality. 

During the twenty years next succeeding, the colonists 
added to Plymouth the six settled towns, Duxbury, Scituate, 
Taunton, Barnstable, Sandwich and Yarmouth. A trading 
post was located in Sowams as early as 1632, in which year 
Massasoit fled for shelter from the Narragansetts " to an 
Enoiish house at Sowams." But there was no settlement in 
this vicinity sufficient to warrant a town organization till 
1645, when Rehoboth was incorporated. The same year 
John Brown bought Wannamoisett Neck of Massasoit. 
Three years later the church of Rehoboth suffered a " serious 
schism," the '' first real schism" in religion which had taken 
place in the colony. Obadiah Holmes and eight others with- 
drew, set up " a meeting by themselves," and afterwards 
joined a Baptist church in Newport, whither some of them 

The same year a Baptist church was organized in 
Swansea, in Wales, under the pastorate of John Myles, who 
for the previous four years had preached with great success 
in various places. This was in the first year of Ci^mwelFs 
protectorate. Under the religious freedom thus gained, the 
church at Swansea grew to a membership of three hundred. 
Mr. Myles became the leading Baptist minister in Wales. 
When the monarchy was restored the act of uniformity was 
passed, which drove two thousand of the best ministers in 
England from their places. Mr. Myles, with some mem- 
bers of his church, came to America in 1663. Finding that 


in Relioboth there were persons holding his faith, he went 
thither and formed a church of seven members. 

Their '' holy covenant " is a remarkable document, both 
in respect to the piety, and the spirit of Christian fellow- 
ship, which it evinces. They declare that union with Christ 
is the sole ground of their union, and of the Christian fel- 
lowship which they seek and will give. 

Nevertheless, as soon as it became known that a Bap- 
tist church had been organized, the churches of the colony 
solicited the court to interpose its influence against it, and 
Pastor Myles and James Brown were fined each £5 and 
Nicholas Tanner 20s. for setting up a public meeting with- 
out the knowledge and approbation of the court, to the dis- 
turbance of the peace. They were further ordered to desist 
from their meeting for the space of a month, and advised to 
remove to some place where they would not prejudice any 
other church. This colonial disfavor towards those holding- 
Baptist views is the fundamental fact in the origin of 

A plain house of worship was at once built, just over 
the southern border of Eehoboth, in New Meadow Neck, 
the members gradually settling near it. The catholic spirit 
of Mr. Myles drew thither not only Baptists, Init others who 
were tolerant of their opinions. 

Being without town government, these settlers thought 
to secure for themselves that measure of civil autonomy. 
Previous to Oct. 3d, 1667, Plymouth granted to Thomas 
Willett and his neighbors of Wannamoisett the privilege of 
becoming a town. On the above date they signified their 
desire for incorporation. To the new town was given the 
name borne by the place in Wales whence Pastor Myles had 
been driven, Swansea, the Sea of Swans. It lay between the 
two upper forks of Narragansett Bay, south of the Relioboth 
and Taunton lines, and extended from Taunton to Provi- 


dence rivers. It consists of a series of five main peninsulas 
or necks projecting* southward, and separated by arms of the 
bay and the streams flowing into them. The first neck on 
the east is Shewamet, now Somerset, lying between Taunton 
and Lee's rivers ; the next is Metapoiset, now known as 
Gardner's Neck, between Lee's and Cole's rivers ; the third 
is Kickemuit, between Cole's and Warren rivers. This tract 
is traversed by the Kickemuit river, which, where it broad- 
ens towards the bay, divides the tract into Toweset and Mont- 
haup (or Mount Hope) Necks. The fourth is New Meadow 
Neck, between Warren and Barrington rivers ; and the fifth 
is Wannamoisett Neck, between Barrington and Providence 
rivers. The area of the old town has been three times re- 
duced : first in 1717, by the separate incorporation of Bar- 
rington ; second by the settlement of the line between Massa- 
chusetts and Rhode Island in 1747, whereby Little Comp- 
ton, Tiverton, Barrington, Cumberland and the part of 
Swansea now known as Warren fell to Rhode Island ; and 
third in 1790, when the tract known as Shewamet was made 
a separate town by the name of Somerset. 

As we have seen, the motive to this settlement was 
religious. Ecclesiastical freedom was the goal which led the 
founders hither. The church was thus the basis of the town, 
and the town organization was in order that, in gaining eccle- 
siastical liberty, they need not sacrifice the high privilege of 
American citizenship. Some of those who were active in 
planting the church and town were not Baptists. They, how- 
ever, saw that underneath the difference which separates Bap- 
tists from their fellow Christians, there was a fundamental 
adhesion to the essentials of the faith. Hence they were 
willing to co-operate with Baptists in extending the bounds 
both of the kingdom of God and of the Commonwealth. This 
diversity of opinion resulted in a town where a larger meas- 


ure of religious liberty was enjoyed than anywhere else in 
the colony. 

Historians agree in calling Pastor Myles and Capt. 
Thomas Willett the fathers of the town. To Capt. Willett, 
with four others, was given the trust of " the admittance of 
town inhabitants.'' The terms of membership which Willett 
proposed were laid before the church, and, after considera- 
tion by that body, a reply was made by Mr. Myles and John 
Butterworth. This document is a careful *' explication" of 
the sense in which the proposals are to be understood and 
accepted, and reveals the scholarly and trained mind of the 
pastor. Like all other documents relating to the settlement, 
this clearly shows the religious motive to have been domin- 
ant. The " explications" made by the church were agreed 
to by the trustees, and the proposals, as thus explained, were 
adopted by the town February 20th, 1669. 

On the foundation thus laid, Swansea was built. Un- 
til this time Baptists had been excluded from every colony 
in New England except Khode Island. The organization of 
this town on the basis of religious toleration was thus an im- 
portant epoch in the history of religious opinions and of ec- 
clesiastical life. This church, which still lives and worships 
at North Swansea, was the first Baptist church formed in 
Massachusetts, and the fourth in the United States. Thus 
this town may justly claim to be the cradle of that branch 
of the Christian church in this Commonwealth. 

At the close of King Philip's war, owing to the broken 
condition of his church, Mr. Myles labored three years in 
Boston. Finally the urgent entreaties of his people caused 
his return. As the settlement was mainly broken up, and 
a new one had been started further down the Neck, a parson- 
age and a church were there built. The death of Mr. Myles 
in 1683 closed a faithful and fruitful ministry of thirty-eight 



In the original partition of the public lands, there was 
reserved a pastor's, a teacher's and a schoolmaster's lot. 
This shows, that, at the outset, the people counted on the 
establishment of schools. December 19, 1673, it was order- 
ed " that a school should be forthwith set up in this town for 
the teaching of grammar, rhetoric and arithmetic, and the 
tongues of Latin, Greek and Hebrew, also to read English 
and to write," and " that Mr. John Myles the present pastor 
of the church here assembling be schoolmaster," or " to have 
power to dispose the same to an able schoolmaster during the 
said pastor's life." The salary was to be " X40 in current 
country funds," but on condition that Mr. Myles and his 
successor should accept whatever the people would bestow in 
a weekly contribution for their ministerial services. Mr. 
Myles accepted the proposition and held his school in vari- 
ous parts of the town on successive months, to suit the con- 
venience of pupils. Thus he deserves grateful remembrance 
not only as the first pastor but also as the early schoolmaster 
and teacher of youth who laid the foundation of the public 
schools of Swansea. 

After his death no mention is made of a school till 
1698, when Jonathan Bosworth was employed at £18, one- 
fourth in money and the rest in provisions at money prices. 
He was to teach the first month in Wannamoisett Neck, the 
second in New Meadow Neck, the third in Kickemuit, the 
fourth in the Cole neighborhood, and fifth on Metapoiset, 
and so in succession. Later, John Devotion was engaged at 
X12 and board and X20 for feeding a horse, to keep a school 
in succession " in the four quarters of the town." In 1709 
he engaged for six years, and in 1715 for twenty years more. 
At this time it was voted that he should " teach our youth 
to read Inglish and Lattin and wriglit & sifer as their may 


be occation." He was to teacli five montlis each year, from 
October tlirougli Februaij, the first two months near his 
own dwelling, and the other three in other parts of the town. 
His compensation was £11 10s. a year, three ponnds of 
which was to be paid for the nse of the schoolmaster's lot. 
Such were the beginnings of our public schools. 


To the trustees of the town was also assigned the duty 
of dividing the public lands. The method of division was 
as undemocratic as it was unprecedented. The men were 
divided into three ranks, according to the judgment of the 
trustees as to their standing. Promotions and degradations 
were made from time to time by a committee appointed by 
the town. The men of the first rank received three acres to 
two granted those of the second and to one granted those in 
the third. The majority were of the second rank, though 
more were of the third than of the first. For ten years this 
ranking system was in force. But it broke down when in 
1681 the committee granted to five men, their heirs and as- 
signs forever, ''the full right and interest of the highest 
rank." It was all these freemen could stand to have a landed 
aristocracy. But to have it made hereditary they would 
not endure, and so the town by unanimous vote repudiated 
the act of the committee, and from that time the practice 
went into disuse. 


Of Capt. Thomas Willett much might be said. One 
of the last of the Leyden colony to come to Plymouth, he 
early secured and always enjoyed the confidence of the col- 
onists. Their agent at the Maine trading posts, successor 
of Miles Standish in military command, largely engaged in 


coastwise traffic, long an assistant in the Plymouth govern- 
ment, an arbitrator between his colony and lihocle Island on 
boundary disputes, chosen by Governor Stuyvesant of New 
Amsterdam as a man of fairness and integrity to represent 
the Dutch in their controversy with the English. " More 
acquainted with the manners and customs of the Dutch than 
any Englishman in the colony," and hence the leading advis- 
er of the English in the negotiations which resulted in the 
surrender of New Amsterdam ; prominent in organizing New 
York, its first mayor, and who " twice did sustaine the 
place," trusted beyond any other man by English, Dutch 
and Indians, a settler in Swansea as early as 1659 or '60, 
and until his death its foremost citizen, dying Aug. 4th, 
1674, less than a year before Swansea was ravaged by Philip's 
Indians, buried with his wife near the head of Bullock's cove 
in East Providence ; such in outline was the life of Capt. 
Thomas Willett. 

KING Philip's war. 

The gradual alienation of their lands to the English, 
and the consequent growth of English settlements, threatened 
the ascendancy if not the existence of the Indian tribes. 
Against the latter contingency the colonists sought to guard. 
When the Plymouth authorities gave Capt. Willett liberty 
to purchase lands in Swansea, they added the express proviso, 
" so as he do not too much straiten the Indians." But by 
his land sales, Philip, son and successor of Massasoit, became 
shut into Mount Hope peninsula, so that his only land route 
out lay through Swansea. 

We cannot now refer to the events which led to Philip's 
fierce and fatal outbreak, which, in its course, despoiled 
New England of a dozen towns, six hundred dwellings, and 
as many of its choicest young men. Swansea was destined 
to suffer the first baptism of blood and fire. 


Convinced that war was impending, Maj. James Brown 
of Swansea, on the 14th of June, 1675, laid the facts of the 
case before Gov. Winslow, and two days later Capt. Benja- 
min Church brought to Plymouth conclusive evidence that 
war was at hand. Measures were at once taken to oppose 
force to force. On Sunday, June 20th, the predicted out- 
burst occurred. Some of Philip's men raided Swansea, en- 
tering houses, helping themselves to food, shooting cattle 
and committing other acts of lawlessness. Most of the men 
were in church, but one was found at home, whose cattle 
were shot, and whose house was entered and liquor demanded. 
When it was refused, violence was resorted to, whereupon 
the householder shot one of the Indians, inflicting a serious, 
though not fatal wound. 

A son of Major Brown at once bore tidings of the out- 
break to Plymouth. A fast was proclaimed for Thursday, 
June 24th. The troops of all the towns were ordered to 
rendezvous at Taunton, Monday night, and messengers were 
sent to Boston to urge prompt assistance. A stone house, 
upon the farm of Gov. Brenton, at Metapoiset, occupied 
by Jared Bourne, was used as a garrison, which the Bridge- 
water company was ordered to re-enforce. This company 
reached the garrison Monday night and found there seventy 
persons, all but sixteen, woman and children. The next 
day, a part of the soldiers having escorted Mr. Brown to 
his home, on their return met thirty Indians, and a little 
later met some of the men of the garrison going to a barn 
for corn. Though warned of their danger, the men pro- 
ceeded and were assailed, six of them being killed or mortally 

Thus the first blood of the war was shed on Gardner's 
Neck. The Bridgewater troops remained at Bourne's gar- 
rison until re-enforced, when the in)nates were conveyed 
down Mount Hope Bay to Ehode Island, and the house 

The Garrison 

House of John Myles. 


abandoned. This honse stood on the farm long occupied by 
Mr. Saunders Sherman. 

On the next day, June 23d, another man was shot 
within the bounds of Swansea, and his wife and chikl scalped. 
On Thursday, the appointed Fast Day, some of the Swansea 
settlers returning from church were attacked. One was 
killed, another was wounded, and two men going for a sur- 
geon were slain. On the same day in another part of the 
town others were killed. 

" By this time half of Swansea was burned." By 
Monday night, June 28th, two companies of foot and one of 
cavalry from Boston had joined the Plymouth forces already 
assembled at the garrison house of Pastor Myles, which is 
now standing near Myles's Bridge, at Barneyville. This 
bridge spans what is now known as Palmer's river, from 
Walter Palmer, an elderly settler of Rehoboth, its first 
representative at Plymouth, whose farm was on its banks. 
Across this bridge a detachment of cavalry pushed, but were 
fired upon and driven back with the loss of one killed and 
two wounded. Tuesday morning several Indians having 
appeared, were driven across the bridge and five or six of 
them slain. That night, Philip fearing that he should be 
caught in his own narrow peninsula, escaped to the Pocas- 
set country, Tiverton, across the Mount Hope Bay. Major 
Savage, who had been placed in command of the Massachu- 
setts troops, having arrived, the combined forces marched 
into Mount Hope Neck, in search of Philip. On their way, 
at Kickemuit, near the present village of Warren, they saw, 
set upon poles, the heads of the men who had been slain at 
Metapoiset. They continued their march down the Neck, 
but they found the wigwams untenanted and no Indians to 
be seen. 

Thursday the Massachusetts troops returned to Myles's 
garrison, the cavalry going on to Rehoboth for better quar- 


ters. Keturniiig the next morning tliey came upon some In- 
dians burning a building, and killed four or five of them. 
On Sunday, July 4th, Capt. Hutchinson brought orders for 
the Massachusetts troops to go to Narraganset country, and 
seek an agreement which should hold that tribe back from 
the support of Philip. 

The next two weeks saw the expedition of Capt. Fuller 
and Church to the Pocasset and Seaconnet country, which 
revealed the bitterly hostile temper of these tribes ; the 
two expeditions which Church led to the Pocasset Swamp, 
in one of which Philip lost fifteen men, the march of 
the major part of the Plymouth force by way of Ta-unton 
toward the swamp, the apparently successful negotiation of 
the Narragansetts, their return to Swansea and their junction 
with the Plymouth troops, at Pocasset Swamp, within which 
Philip had taken refuge. Philip eluded his besiegers on 
the night of the last day of July, crossing Taunton river, 
probably near Dighton Rock. Though assailed while cross- 
ing Seekonk plain by the men of Rehoboth who slew some 
thirty of his men, he escaped into the Nipmunk country. 
Thus he was launched upon a life and death struggle with 
the colonists. 

With unabated fury the contest raged through the re- 
mainder of 1675 and the first half of 1676. But the san- 
guinary and ferocious conquest of the Narragansetts, the 
desertion of many of his confederates and the death of many 
more, left Philip in an almost hopeless plight ; and after 
a year's absence he seems to have been resolved to meet his 
fate in the beautiful land which held the graves of his 
fathers, and which had been his home. Abandoned by his 
confederates, betrayed by his friends, his most faithful 
followers fallen in battle, his wife and son in the hands 
of his deadly foes, liunted from wood to wood, from swamp to 
swamp, he had come to his ancestral seat to make his last 


stand. Yet such was his temper that he wouhl not hear of 
peace. He even struck dead one of his own followers for 
suggesting it. A kinsman of the man thus slain brought 
news of Philip's hiding place to Capt. Church, who with his 
soldiers was on Rhode Island. They at once crossed to 
Mount Hope. The informer acting as guide, they made 
their way up the west side of the Neck, toward the swamp 
within which Philip had taken refuge. Creeping stealthily 
up, in the dark of the early morning, the force completely 
invested the knoll on which Philip was encamped. When 
the alarm was given, he plunged into the swamp, only to 
meet two of his besiegers. By one of them, the Indian 
Alderman, he was shot. Thus the renowned chieftain, who 
had been the terror of New England, fell, pierced through 
the lungs and heart. And thus ended the mortal career of 
the most noted Indian in American history. 

In the times immediately succeeding his uprising and 
overthrow, no epithet was too bitter for the use of those 
against whom he rose. 

But history has, in a measure, reversed their judgment. 
Though all must rejoice in the failure of his attempt, yet we 
can sympathize with the motives which actuated him. In 
the classic words of Irving : " He was a patriot attached to 
his native soil, — a prince, true to his subjects and indignant 
of their wrongs, — a soldier, daring in battle, firm in ad- 
versity, patient of fatigue, of hunger, of every variety of 
bodily suffering, and ready to perish in the cause he had 
espoused." " With heroic qualities and bold achievements 
that would have graced a civilized warrior, and have ren- 
dered him the theme of the poet and the historian, he lived 
a wanderer and a fugitive in his native land, and went down, 
like a lonely bark, foundering amid darkness and tempest — 
without a pitying eye to weep his fall, or a friendly hand to 
record his struggle." 



Among" the best known of Swansea's early settlers was 
Maj. James Brown, brother of Capt. Willett's wife. He 
was one of the original members of the Swansea Church, 
one of the five citizens who were to admit to the town, and 
divide its lands, long a leading citizen and officer, represen- 
tative in the Plymouth Court in 1671-2, a local leader in the 
campaign against Philip, and successor of Capt. Willett, as 
an " assistant in Plymouth Colony." 

Another name not to be forgotten is that of Lieut. 
Hugh Cole, an original member of the church, an early se- 
lectman, representing the town seven of its first fifteen terms 
in the General Court. Like the immortal Washington, 
Lieut. Cole was a land surveyor. 

In 1669 he bought of Philip five hundred acres of land 
on Toweset Neck, on the west side of the river to which his 
name was given. 

When the Indian War broke out, two of his sons were 
captured and taken to Philip's headquarters. Philip released 
them with the advice that their father should seek safety on 
Rhode Island. He at once took his family thither, probably 
down the Bay, but he had hardly gone when his house was 
fired. After the war he settled on the west side of the Neck 
upon Kickemuit River. His farm, and the well which he 
dug the year after Philip's death, are still in possession of 
his descendants. 

With Willett and Brown as the town's first trustees was 
associated Nathaniel Paine, who afterwards settled on the Mt. 
Hope lands, and became one of the founders of Bristol, and 
the third Judge of Probate for Bristol County. The first 
Judge of Probate was John Saffin, an early jjroprietor of 
Swansea, admitted to the first rank among its inhabitants in 
1680, a son-in-law of Capt. Willett, a member of the Gener- 


al Court for Boston from 1684 and Speaker from 1686 till 
the usurpation of Andros, settling in Bristol about 1688, 
Probate Judge from 1692 to 1702, and also Judge of the 
Superior Court one year. 

An Associate Justice of the first court established in 
Bristol County was John Brown of Swansea, a grandson of 
the first John Brown. 

One of the early large proprietors of Swansea land was 
Governor William Brenton of Newport, who bought Meta- 
poiset Neck of the Indians in 1664. Here he lived for a 
time after King Philip's War. He had been Governor of 
Rhode Island Colony from 1666 to 1669, having been pre- 
viously Deputy Governor four years. He became a very 
extensive land owner. His Metapoiset land was cultivated 
by Jared Bourne, whose house was garrisoned during the 
war. He bequeathed it to his son Ebenezer, who in 1693 
sold it to Lieut. Samuel Gardner and Ralph Chairman for 
£1700. Mr. Gardner took the south part and Mr. Chap- 
man the north. Mr. Gardner had been a prominent citizen 
of Freetown, representing it in the General Court, and hold- 
ing the offices of town clerk, treasurer and selectman. To 
the latter office he was at once chosen in Swansea, but did 
not long survive his removal hither. 

In 1779, Col. Simeon Potter, a native of Bristol, one of 
Rhode Island's prominent men, settled on Gardner's Neck. 
His homestead farm extended from Lee's to Cole's rivers. 
He was the owner of other large tracts of land. For more 
than a quarter of a century he was one of the prominent 
figures of this community, a hospitable and generous house- 
holder, surrounded by whatever wealth could command, 
owning also a number of slaves. Col. Potter was represen- 
tative in 1784, to the General Court from Swansea. In 1795 
he gave a valuable parcel of land in Newport to support in 
that city a free school forever for the advantage of poor 


children of every denomination. A large school honse erect- 
ed in 1880 is called the Potter school. He bequeathed a 
small farm to one of his former slaves, in the possession of 
whose heirs it still remains. His homestead farm and the 
house in which he lived are now owned by Mrs. Macomber.* 


The immediate successor of Mr. Myles in the Swansea 
pastorate was Captain Samuel Luther, a founder and early 
proprietor of the town, in whose affairs he wielded great in- 
fluence, sustaining nearly every civil and military office in 
the gift of his townsmen. He was ordained two years after 
the death of Mr. Myles, and held the pastorate thirty-two 
years. The old meeting house at North Swansea, which 
was familiar to many of you, was built the year after his 
death, in 1717, and stood until 1845, when it was taken down 
and the present house of worship erected. Ephraim Wheaton 
who had been his colleague, became his successor. He was 
a man of respectable property, of influence and of power, 
and successful in the ministry, adding to the church by bap- 
tism about one hundred persons in seventeen years. 

Next come Samuel Maxwell and Jabez Wood, followed 
by Charles Thompson, probably the most distinguished man 
in the long line of Mr. Myles' s successors. He was valedic- 
torian of the first class graduated at Brown University, a 
chaplain in the American Army, and pastor in Warren. 
When his church and parsonage in that place were burned 
by the British soldiers in 1778, he was taken prisoner and 
confined a month in Newport. His people sought and were 
welcomed to temporary membership in the Swansea church, 
of which lie shortly became pastor. During his twenty-two 
year's pastorate one hundred and seventy-six were baptized 
into the fellowship of the church. He was a scholarly man, 

* See Appendix Xo. 2. 

The old meeting house at North Swansea, erected in 1717 and 

taken down in 1845, it being the house of worship of the 

first Baptist church organized in Massachxisetts. 


a schoolmaster for many years, a man of great pnlpit power, 
of commanding voice, fine figure, expressive features, tender 
sympathies, plain and forcible in speech, exalting the great 
truths of the evangelical system, and using them effectively 
as the weapons of his spiritual warfare, often a preacher on 
public occasions, and considered a leader in the denomina- 
tion whose ministry he adorned. 

Under some of the leaders who followed, the church for 
a while lost the fellow^ship of the adjacent churches of its 
order, but recovered it under the ministry of Rev. Abiel 
Fisher who served it faithfully from 1836 to 1846. More 
brief pastorates have brought the church down to the present 
time, and it still stands for the faith once delivered to the 
saints, in its two hundred and twenty-eighth year. Long may 
it continue a light to lead the community in ways of truth 
and righteousness. 


The distance of the church after its removal to the lower 
end of New Meadow Neck, caused the residents of the cen- 
tral portion of Swansea to establish religious services near 
Luther's Corner, as early as 1680, four years after the death 
of Philip. Organization was effected and a pastor ordained 
in 1693. If this be counted a Baptist Church it was the 
thirteenth in America. Its record book styles it a " Church 
of Christ in Swansea." No doctrinal tests, but only evidence 
of Christian character, were required for admission. Thomas 
Barnes, one of the original proprietors of the town, was 
chosen and ordained pastor at the time of organization, his 
death closing a successful ministry of thirteen years. His 
successor, Joseph Mason, was a son of Samson Mason, who 
was a soldier of Oliver Cromwell, and who on coming to 
America settled in Rehoboth. Another of his sons was the 
first deacon of the church. John Pierce became colleague 


of Joseph Mason in 1715. These two men " continued in 
good esteem in their offices until the death of Elder Mason in 
1748 and of Elder Pierce in 1750, being each of them near 
ninety years old." 

Ten years before the death of Elder Mason, upon the 
request of the two pastors for a colleague, his nephew, Job 
Mason, was appointed. He proved a judicious pastor and 
an able preacher, so that, in later years, the era of his pastor- 
ate was regarded as the golden age of the church. His 
brother Russell became his associate in 1752 and his success- 
or in 1775, ministering to this people forty-seven years and 
dying just before the dawn of this century. A cousin of 
these two, Benjamin Mason, became the colleague and the 
successor of Elder Russell, his labors continuing to his death 
in 1813. 

Thus, for one hundred and seven consecutive years, the 
pastoral office in this church was filled by a son or a grand- 
son of Samson Mason. With the latest of the line, Philip 
Slade, Jr., was associated in 1801, whom he succeeded in 
1813, being dismissed in 1820. He was succeeded by Ben- 
jamin Taylor, who spent ten useful and successful years in 
the ministry here, being held in honor throughout the region. 
Want of time forbids even the merest mention of his suc- 
cessors. Two years hence this church will pass the two hun- 
dredth anniversary of its organization. It is, perhaps, the 
oldest church in the Commonwealth which has never had any 
legal connection with a town. 

Some of the older members of the Second Church, not 
satisfied with the dismission of Elder Philip Slade, left the 
church and held services under his conduct at the house of 
Deacon Ellery Wood, about a mile north of Luther's Corner. 
They were organized as a church by the Six Principle Bap- 
tists. Deacon Wood bequeathed his homestead for the 
maintenance of worship and it became the home of Elder 


Comstock, (the only pastor after Elder Slade,) and the honse 
of worship as well. The proceeds of the property which has 
been sold, are now held in trnst for the benefit of the denom- 


Her contributions for the support of the war for national 
independence constitute an im^jortant and honorable chapter 
in the history of Swansea. 

At a meeting held Sept. 26th, 1774, the town chose Col. 
Andrew Cole, Capt. Levi Wheaton, Capt. Philip Slade, 
Richard Cornell and Capt. Luther Thurber a committee to 
meet with the delegates from the other towns of the county, 
in Taunton " then and there to deliberate and devise meas- 
ures sutabel to the exigency of the times." 

A Hampshire county convention had just been held " to 
consult upon measures to be taken in this time of general 
distress in the province, occasioned by the late attack of the 
British Ministry upon the constitution of said province." 
That attack had come in the shape of an act of Parliament 
" For the Better Regulating of the Province of Massachu- 
setts Bay." The principle of this act, Bancroft says, " was 
the concentration of all executive power, including the courts 
of justice, in the hands of the royal governor. Without a 
previous notice to Massachusetts, and without a hearing, it 
took away rights and liberties which the people had enjoyed 
from the foundation of the colony" with scarcely an excep- 
tion. It superseded a charter, " which had been the organic 
law of the people of Massachusetts for more than eighty 
years." It provided that the Governor's Council should be 
appointed by the King, rather than chosen by the representa- 
tives of the people. The Governor appointed by the Crown, 
without even consulting his council, might appoint and re- 
move all judges and court officers. The selection of jurors 
was taken from the freeholders and given to the sheriffs, who 


were appointees of the Governor. Worse than all, the regu- 
lating act sought to throttle the town meeting, that dearest 
of all institutions to New England, whose people, as Ban- 
croft so well puts it, " had been accustomed, in their town 
meetings, to transact all business that touched them most 
nearly, as fathers, as freemen, and as Christians. There 
they adopted local taxes to keep their free schools ; there 
they regulated the municipal concerns of the year : there 
they chose their representatives and instructed them : and 
there most of them took measures for the settlement of min- 
isters of the gospel in their congregations : there they were 
accustomed to express their sentiments upon any subject 
connected with their interests, rights, liberties, and religion." 

The new act allowed only two town meetings annually, 
in which town officers and representatives might be chosen, 
but no other matters introduced. Every other assembly of 
a town was forbidden, except only upon written leave of the 
Governor, and then only for business expressed in that 
leave. Thus the King trampled under foot the customs, 
laws, and privileges of the people of Massachusetts. 

This act went immediately into effect, and at once 
forced a choice between resistance and submission. 

In this juncture, the Committee of Boston sent a circu- 
lar letter to all the towns in the province, in which they 
said : '' Though surrounded by a large body of armed men, 
who, having the sword, have also our blood in their hands, 
we are yet undaunted. To you, our brethren, and dear 
companions in the cause of God, we apply. To you we look 
for that advice and example which with the blessing of God 
shall save us from destruction." This urgent message 
roused the State : William Prescott of Pepperell, who in 
less than a year was to stand at the head of a band of 
American soldiers to dispute with the British regulars the pos- 
session of the Bunker Hill redoubt, expressed the mind of 


'the State, when he wrote for his neighbors, " We think, if 
we submit to these reguhitions, all is gone. Let us all be 
of one heart and stand fast in the liberties wherewith Christ 
has made us free." Everywhere the people were weighing 
the issue in which they were involved, and one spirit ani- 
mated the country. 

This was the situation in view of which Swansea sent 
Col. Andrew Cole and his associates " to deliberate and de- 
vise measures sutabel to the exigency of the times." And 
this was why in a town meeting which the new regulating 
act interdicted but whicdi was nevertheless held, Swansea 
chose Colonel Andrew Cole, Col. Jerathmiel Bowers and 
Capt. Levi Wheaton as ''a committee for said town to meet 
with other committees of the several towns in the province, 
at Concord to act on measures agreeable to the times." This 
was why later, they chose a Committee of Inspection to ex- 
ecute the wishes of the Continental Congress. 

Thus by their votes in town meeting. New England 
everywhere bade defiance to Great Britain. In this town 
twelve of these meetings were held in one year. 

Committees of Inspection, Correspondence and Safety 
were appointed by all the towns, composed of their leading- 
men. Through them the authorities reached the people at 
large, and secured the execution of their plans. 

The events of the fateful morning of Aj^ril 19, 1775, 
are known to all. The six companies of Rehoboth are all 
on record as responding to the Lexington alarm. It is not 
likely that the three Swansea companies, which with those 
of Kehoboth constituted the first Bristol regiment, failed to 
respond to the call, though no record of such response has 
come to my knowledge. The town, two days later, ordered 
the Selectmen to provide 40 '' gons" 250 lbs. of powder, 700 
lbs. of lead and 600 flints, and directed " that fifty men be 
enlisted to be ready at a minute's warning." May 22nd a 


Committee of Insi^ection was appointed, and it was voted 
" that the town will secure and defend said committee and 
empower them to follow and observe such directions as 
they shall receive from time to time from the Provincial 
Congress or Committee of Safety." At this time five sliill- 
ings penalty was imposed for wasting a charge of powder, 
and the offender's stock of ammunition was forfeited. 

In order to ascertain Swansea's response to the call for 
troops the muster rolls of the Revolution have l)een examined 
and a book has been placed in the library into which such 
parts of them as relate to Swansea have been transcribed. 
An indexed alphabetical list has been prepared which shows 
that not less that four hundred and sixteen Swansea men 
bore arms in the War for Independence, many of them how- 
ever, only for brief periods along our own shores. On this 
list the surnames which occur oftenest are Peck, Martin, 
Anthony and Bowers, which each have seven representatives, 
Kingsley nine. Wood and Pierce each eleven. Cole and 
Barney each twelve. Mason eighteen. Chase nineteen, while 
Luther leads all the rest with a record of twenty-seven. 

From such rolls as are extant the following facts are 
gathered : Seven Swansea men served at least five months 
of 1775 in Col. David Brewer's regiment near Boston, as 
did a few in other regiments doing duty there. Probably 
many more did actually serve that year. The alarms of war 
were brought close home to this section. From the time 
when the British took possession of the island called 
Rhode Island in December, 1776, till they abandoned it two 
years later, the militia were often called into service. Troops 
were repeatedly called to Slade's Ferry, Rowland's Ferry, 
(now the Stone Bridge in Tiverton) to Bristol, to Warwick 
Neck, (a part of which is now known as Rocky Point) and 
even to the Island itself. 

In May 1779, it was '^ voted that there be a guard on 


each of the necks for safety of the good people of the town." 
Later in 1779 " voted 22 men to guard the shores." Eight 
Swansea men served in the artillery company of Capt. Tales 
of Taunton, at Blade's Ferry in December, 1776. 

Of three militia captains of this town Peleg Sherman, 
afterwards Colonel, was a leading factor in the conduct of 
Swansea's relation to the great struggle. He was often 
moderator of town meetings and at the head of important 
committees on military affairs. He was in active service 
along our shore during the British occupation of Rhode 
Island, e. (/. at Slade's Ferry from January 6 to June 5, 
1777, and at Bristol later in the same year. He also served 
the government as commissary for the supply of stores to 
the troops. His home, where at one time troops were quar- 
tered, was at Shewamet Neck, at what is now known as the 
the Henry H. Mason place, where he died Nov. 20, 1811, 
aged sixty-four. 

Philip Slade, another of the militia captains, was also 
often on important committees. He was selected to wait 
upon General Sullivan, " to represent to him the fenceless 
condition of the town, and pray him to be pleased to order a 
gard for us against our enemies on Rhode Island." He 
was on July 5th, 1779, appointed one of the committee "to 
confer with General Gates at Providence upon some meas- 
ures for the safety of the town," and at the same meeting 
he and John Mason " were chosen deligates to represent the 
town at Cambridge in forming a new constitution." 

The same thing can be said in perhaps less degree of 
the third Captain Peleg Peck, whose company served fre- 
quently along our shores, as for instance, at Bristol, in 
December 1776, on a secret expedition to Tiverton, where 
it was stationed from Sept. 29th, to Oct. 30th, 1777, at 
Warwick, R. I., from January to April 1778, and later in 
the same year, on Rhode Island about six weeks. 


A pay roll for the Continental pay of Capt. Peck's 
company who were called ont by an alarm to Tiverton, 
states that " by order of Col. Peleg Slead all the men in 
Swansea were joined in one company under Capt. Peck," 
to respond to an alarm at Tiverton. The roll bears one 
hundred and seventy-eight names, and shows that the men 
served from four to nine days. In the expedition of Gen. 
Sullivan on Rhode Island, Col. Carpenter's regiment of 
Rehoboth and Swansea men distinguished themselves for 
their bravery, Benjamin Smith of Swansea being wounded 
by a bursting shell. 

Another of the local leaders in this struggle was Col. 
Peleg Slead, one of the largest land owners of the town, who 
was called to fill many important offices of town and State, 
and who proved himself an ardent friend of his country's 
cause. He died Dec. 28, 1813, at the age of eighty-four, 
and is buried in the cemetery on his homestead farm, not 
far from this village. 

On a muster roll dated Sept. 16th, 1777, eight Swansea 
men are returned as enlisted for the present war in Col. 
Henry Jackson's regiment, which was probably in service 
on the Hudson. On the 19th of June, 1778, ten men were 
drafted for nine months from their arrival at Fishkill, and 
about the same time three for nine months from their ar- 
rival at Springfield. 

April 10th, 1778, the General Court having ordered 
2,000 men to be raised to recruit the State's fifteen battalions 
of Continental troops for service either in Rhode Island or 
on the Hudson, twenty-six Swansea men were sent to Col. 
William Lee's regiment. In 1779, twelve Swansea men 
were in Continental regiments on duty in Rhode Island. 
During this year one-seventh part of the male population 
was ordered under arms in the national service. Swansea 
was behind on its quota only three men, few towns showing 


a better record. 1780 and 1781 saw other men in small 
numbers enlisted for three years or the war. 

Thus, with constant drafts for men and money, the 
war wore on to its triumphant close in 1783, when the 
people had the joy of knowing that the last British soldier 
had left our shores, and that through great sacrifice in blood 
and treasure Independence was secured. 


One of the earlier industries of the colonies was that of 
ship building. 

For several years the immigration of shipwrights was 
encouraged, and special privileges were given them, such as 
exemption from the duty of training, and from the taxation 
of property actually used by them in their business. These 
inducements brought hither a number of good carpenters. 
In 1694 a sloop of forty tons burden was built in Swansea, 
and in 1697 a ship of seventy-eiffht tons. In the early part 
of the last century, Samuel Lee came to this country in the 
interest of English people, to look after timber land. He 
settled on Shewamet Neck and built a house near the resi- 
dence of Mr. Levi Slade, establishing a shipyard at the land- 
ing, where for several years he carried on a large industry. 
In 1707 a ship of 120 tons, — a large craft for those times — 
was launched. In 1708 abrigantine of fifty tons and a ship 
of one liundred and seventy tons, in 1709 two brigantines of 
fifty -five tons each, and in 1712 a sloop of eighty tons were 
built in Swansea. The river upon which Mr. Lee located 
his yard soon after his advent took and has since retained 
his name, Lee's River. 

Vessels have been built near the residence of Mr. Wil- 
liam H. Pearce, on Cole's river. 

Prior to 1801, when he moved to New York, Jonathan 
Barney built several small vessels on Palmer's river. In 


1802 his son, Mason Barney, being then less than twenty 
years of age, contracted to build a ship. Although young 
Barney was acquainted with the nature of ship building, 
through his father carrying it on, he himself did not know 
the use of tools. His courage and self reliance in takino' 
such a contract, when so young and inexperienced, fore- 
shadowed the character of the future man. By his zeal, en- 
thusiasm and determined will he overcame the great difficul- 
ties which to most men would have been insurmountable. 
From this beginning sprung up the ship building business 
at Barneyville, and Mr. Barney's subsequent great promin- 
ence in business circles. He sometimes employed two hun- 
dred and fifty men, annually disbursing large sums of money. 
The sails of the good substantial vessels, which in the course 
of a half a century he built, whitened almost every sea. 

During his business career he built one hundred and 
forty-nine vessels, from the small fishing smack to the ship 
of 1,060 tons, the largest vessel that had then been launched 
in this section of New England. 

It has been publicly stated, without denial, that Mr. 
Barney built more vessels than any other man in this coun- 
try had then built. 

The financial crisis of 1857 found him with two large 
ships upon his hands, with no market. In them he had invest- 
ed a large part of his fortune, which was thus entirely dissi- 
pated, and he was compelled to give up business. With him 
passed away the ship building interest of Swansea. 

Mr. Barney died on the first day of April, 1869. The 
house in which he was born in 1782 is still standing, and 
dates from old colonial times. 

He was a fine specimen of an earnest, enthusiastic and 
persevering man. He was unaffected, original in his charac- 
ter, simple in his tastes and habits, always genial and hospit- 
able. In his death the community lost an enterprising, 
honest and eminent citizen. 



Richard Chase began the manufacture of shoes here in 
1796, and pursued the business for nearly fifty years, em- 
ploying more people than any other man in town except Mr. 

Other industries have been pursued in a small way, 
such as the making of paper and the manufacture of cotton, 
which last industry was commenced at Swansea Factory in 
the year 1806 by Oliver Chace, and it was also carried on 
at a small mill at what is now Swansea Dye Works ; cotton 
was carded and spun, and the yarn sent out to be woven into 
cloth by farmers' wives and daughters, as was the case in all 
cotton manufactories in those days. 

All these early industries, with others of which I cannot 
now speak, have passed away. 


The first post-office in Swansea was established on the 
first day of Jnly, 1800. Mr. Reuben Chace was appointed 
post-master. He opened an office at his dwelling-house, for 
many years known as ''The Buttonwood," some three 
quarters of a mile west of Swansea village. 

On the 17th day of June, 1814, Mr. John Mason was 
appointed post-master, and he removed the office to the 
village, where it has since been located. Mr. Mason con- 
tinned in office until the 12th day of June, 1849, when Mr. 
John A. Wood was appointed post-master, who retained the 
office until the sixth day of June, 1853, when Mr. John 
Mason was again appointed, and who remained in office until 
the 23d day of March, 1864, when Mr. John A. Wood was 
reinstated as post-master. Mr. Wood held the office until 
the 18th day of June, 1867, when his son, Mr. Henry O. 
Wood, was appointed his successor. Mr. Henry O. Wood 
served as post-master for twenty years, having resigned on 


the 24th day of May, 1887, when Mr. Lewis S. Gray, the 
present post-master was appointed. 

A post-office designated ^' Barney ville " was established 
at North Swansea, and Mr. Mason Barney appointed the 
first post-master on the 20th day of February, 1830. The 
name of this office was subsequently changed to North Swan- 
sea. Mr. Barney was superseded as post-master by Mr. 
Alvan Cole on the 28th day of June, 1836. Mr. Cole re- 
tained 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 reappointed 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 the 
present post-master, Mr. William 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 now holds that office. 

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

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 Railroad Company. Mr. Frank J. Arnold 
was appointed post-master, and began the business of the 
office on the 20th day of November, 1890. He is the present 


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 has never been exceeded save 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 bnt steadily rising. In 1890 the number was 1,456. 

The stationary character of Swansea's population is due 
largely to the fact that its chief industry is agricultural. At 
the hist 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 oc(nipied by the lineal 
descendants 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 
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 William Mason and Samuel Gardner, 2d, of 
Swansea, took two each. Mr. Mason soon added to his 
holdings, 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 ex- 
tensive scale. He took one tenth part of the stock in the 
new company, wdiile an equal amount was taken here by 
Benjamin Slade, Moses Bui^nton, Oliver Earle, Joseph 
G. Luther and Joseph Bufftnton, 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 prominent business men of these cities originated here. 
Fall River's first mayor, the Hon. James Buffinton, who so 
long and ably represented this district in Congress, spent 
years of his boyhood in this 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, recently deceased, who filled a marked 
place in the military and professional history of Rhode Island. 


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

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 ser- 
vice, in all nineteen years. Next to him in length of service 
comes Daniel Haile, with fourteen terms ; Ephraim Pierce, 
with twelve; Christopher Mason, with eight; Hugh Cole, 
with seven ; Ezekiel Brown, with six, and Joseph Mason, 
Jr., with five. 

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

Hon. John Mason, a life-long resident of Swansea vil- 
lage, 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 Federalist in politics. In 1821, John 
Mason was bronght forward by the Democrats as the only 
man who conld 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 fol- 
lowing year he was elected to the House, in which he served 
two terms, after which lie 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. Aus- 
tin 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 constitution, met in convention to choose a person to 
fill the vacancy from the two defeated candidates who receiv- 
ed 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 

The Hon. Frank Shaw Stevens, whose name appears 
upon the tablet on the outer walls of this building, was sen- 
ator from this district in 1884. He modestly declined a re- 
election, 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 lo- 


cated 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 medi- 
cine, to which he devoted his entire life, dying in 1838. 
Though their patients were widely scattered, yet these 
physicians never drove in a wheeled vehicle, always trav- 
elling 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 phy- 
sicians were here together in the practice of their profession. 
Dr. A. T. Brown began here, in 1836, a successful prac- 
tice of sixteen years duration. 

For nearly half a century Dr. James Lloyd Wellington, 
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 phy- 
sician of this place. By his self-sacrificing devotion to the 
noble but exacting profession he adorns, he has won, what 
is far better than wealth, the gratitude of the whole commu- 
nity which he has served so skilfully and successfully. 
Long may he continue to be to this people, what he has 
already been to two generations, the trusted friend, the wise 
counselor, and the good physician. 


Several lawyers, previous to the year 1832, lived and 
practiced their professions here, among whom were the 
Hon. Pliny 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 in 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. 


This structure in which we are now assembled occupies 
the site of a Union meeting house which was built by the 
joint efforts of people of several denominations resident here. 
In the dedication which occurred Dec. 29th, 1830, Method- 
ists, Baptists, Swedenborgians and Universalists partici- 
pated. 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 by any one 
denomination, timely and needed repairs were not made, for 
want of which it became unfit for use and was finally demol- 
ished. 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 public building suited to the needs of the 

Thus, in the order of occupancy, upon this spot there 
has been reproduced a picture of early New England. 
The primary 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 worshi]), and 
now the hall for municipal use and the library. 



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

The Kev. 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. 


In May, 1845, Kev. 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 
church was organized January 7, 1846. A Sunday school 
was established and superintended by Dr. Geo. W. Che vers, 
a physician of Fall River, afterward a clergyman, who dur- 
ing 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 subsequent pastorates has been brief, though that of 
Rev. N. Watson Munroe lasted eleven years. 

The only survivor of those who were active in the or- 
ganization is the Rev. Benjamin H. Chace, who when about 
40 years of age gave up his secular occupation, and prepared 
himself for the ofEce of the Christian ministry, being or- 
dained in 1854. In the serene evening of a long and useful 


ministerial life he has returned to this his native village to 
await the call of the Master to come up higher. With the 
work of the church which he and his wife did so much to 
establish, he is in active sympathy. 


The war to preserve the Union, on account of its near- 
ness to our time, interests us more deeply than does the war 
which made us an independent nation. But in some re- 
spects 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 Philip's and 
the Revolutionary wars. It was not so long continued nor 
financially so disastrous 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 f 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 dis- 
union. 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 required. 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. Your rebellion 
record contains the names of one hundred and thirty soldiers 
who went from or who were hired by and for this town. 

Your sons were widely scattered among our State or- 
ganizations 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 Chancel- 
lorsville, with Burnside at Fredericksburg, with Sheridan 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 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 Peninsu- 
la campaign, and dying within a few hours. Joseph T. Bos- 
worth 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. Conch, which followed the varying 
fortnnes of the Army of the Potomac and shared its ex- 
perience of battle and of blood. Early in the victorions 
bnt 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 Ehode Island, who at the battle of Gettys- 
burg fell beside his gun, with his arm and shoulder torn 
away. With the other he took from his pocket his Testa- 
ment 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 hallelnjah," on his lips, 
his soul went marching on — a striking illustration of the 
spirit which breathes in the immortal words of Horace, 

Dulce et decorum est iwo 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 

An address on an occasion 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 quarter centuries 
deserve elaborate record. Let it be one of the offices of the 
Library Association, for whose literary stores and work 
ample provision has been made within these walls, to gather 


all tliat has been or may yet be written of Swansea, to 
cultivate tlie 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, for whose use 
this structure has been reared, rise to the level of their his- 
tory and their high j^rivilege ? Let them emulate the ex- 
ample 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 these massive walls. 

The oration of Mr. Bray ton was followed by brief ad- 
dresses by Jonathan M. Wood, Esq., of Fall River, Maj. 
James Brown of Taunton, and Hon. E. L. Barney of New 
Bedford, all natives of Swansea, who have distinguished 
themselves in Bristol county as honored members of the legal 

The president, in presenting the next speaker, said : — 
I have the honor of introducing to you Jonathan M. Wood, 
Esq., of Fall River. It may not be out of place to remark 
that Mr. Wood is one of four brothers, natives of Swansea. 
In the war of the rebellion his three brothers served respect- 
ively in the cavalry, infantry and navy. Each in his depart- 
ment did faithful service. One was severely wounded and 
taken prisoner at the battle of Pittsburg Landing. 




Ladies and Gentlemen : 

I have a right to claim Swansea as my birthpLace, 
for on the western hillside, where linger the last rays of the 
setting sun, in the centre of a hundred acre farm, near the 
old brick mansion house, is the old family burial ground 
where sleep six generations of ancestors and kindred. And 
there was plenty of room for the progeny to multiply, for 
until within a few years there were five contiguous farms in 
the family name. 

The place of my birth being one of the reasons of the 
honor done me to-day, I may be indulged in referring to an- 
cestral lineage, for few families, even in this ancient town, can 
trace a longer continuous line of ownership and residence on 
the same farms, and within its borders ; and to-day one of your 
citizens is of the eighth generation, still continuing the farm 
and the old mill in the family name. And the old mill flume 
repeats the murmurs of more than two hundred years ago : 

"That mill will never grind again 
With the water that has passed." 

In common with many of the citizens, my first impres- 
sions were formed in Swansea, in the toil of the field, and 
that best of all schools, — the old district school, — the influ- 
ence of which upon the public mind as far surpasses that of 


the higher institutions of learning, as the im])ressions of 
youth are more lasting than those of later life. 

Swansea is more than twice as old as the government it- 
self of which it forms a part. More than half of its political 
existence as a municipal corporation was passed in colonial 

A reference to its map shows the inconsistency of grants 
and charters. It would seem that, for some reason, in the 
adjustment of boundary lines, Swansea got piqued and in re- 
taliation made a sharp point on Barrington, Seekonk and 
Rehoboth. The same irregularity appears also on the east- 
ern boundary. Until recently one could not drive between 
North and South Somerset without getting one wheel into 
Swansea. The shape of the town shows that even in old 
times things were not always done on the square. 

Swansea is fortunate in her natural location, her rivers, 
her fisheries, her clam shores. It is a high recommendation 
of a town to have good roads. This title to favor Swansea 
can claim. Good roads are a source of wealth. Even the 
hundred years old walls, though not horse high, bull stout 
and hog tight, are yet so far serviceable that they never 
allow the claim of a fraudulent title to pass over them. 

Swansea has contributed liberally to peopling the far 
west. She has sent forth to the cities some of the best me- 
chanics and builders in the land. Her sailors and command- 
ers have been upon every sea ; and her merchants to all parts 
of the world. 

In her sacrifices for the country on sea and land, in 
bloody battle, in hospitals, in rebel prisons, in glorious graves 
and in widows' and orphans' homes, her record has been most 

In most of the Western States, a township means, not 
a municipal organization but thirty-six square miles of land, 
in sections of one square mile. In New England a town 
has greater powers than anywhere else in the Union. A town 


here is a small republic, — ^a municipal corporation, possess- 
ing political powers. The people tax themselves ; make their 
own appropriations for highways, for the support of schools, 
paupers and police. They choose their own town officers, 
selectmen, assessors, collectors, school officers and the like. 
The town meeting is their legislature, and every voter a 
member ; every voter has a voice in more than three fourths 
of all the laws he lives under in the land. 

This building has been given to the town of Swansea. 
The gift is the greater because by a citizen of the town, and 
it is dedicated to the noblest purpose in a free government. 

The citizens will meet here in free town meetings, and 
their children after them. Under the constitution of our 
State it is their right also peaceably to meet and discuss 
public questions, to instruct their representatives and to 
petition to those in office for redress of grievances. 

Free schools, free churches, the free town meeting and 
free discussion, have been, as we hope they will continue to 
be, the promoters of a citizenship worthy of the town and 
this great republic. 

Let us all hope that not only the years, but the centuries 
shall be many before the people of the town of Swansea, 
with its hills and its valleys, its rocks and its rivers, shall en- 
joy less blessings than those that flow from free schools, free 
town meetings, and happy homes. 




Introducing Major James Brown of Taunton, tlie presi- 
dent said lie was the first native inhabitant of Swansea to 
graduate from a college, and was highest in rank of Swansea's 
sons who participated in the civil war. His response was 
substantially as follows : 

Mr. President : — 

I thank you for your highly complimentary introduc- 
tion. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, directly in front of me, 
across the street, not three hundred feet from where I stand 
is the place of my birth. The old two-story house is gone, 
and a beautiful cottage has taken its place. The big wil- 
low tree that stood in the corner of the yard, the pear tree 
and the apple trees are gone, but I revere the spot, and I 
love my native village with greater intensity as the years 
roll by. Memory of the playmates of my childhood, the 
pleasures of youth, and the steadfast friendships here of 
maturer years bind me to you as with " hooks of steel." I 
have always been proud to say I was born in the ancient 
town of Swansea. I firmly believe that breathing its health- 
giving air during my childhood and early youth contributed 


largely to the robust health I have always enjoyed. My 
aiieestors from the earliest colonial times — seven generations 
— were tillers of the soil in the town of Swansea. They 
were farmers, and as a farmer boy I lived and toiled among 
you. I cannot claim that I took to its duties with that 
avidity which evinced a strong and abiding love for plough- 
ing ftnd planting during the cold days of the spring, pulling 
weeds and hoeing in the early summer days, pulling potato 
vines and onions in August and September, together with 
milking the cows at sunrise and again at sunset, and the 
other varied duties of a farmer boy. 

I am introduced here as the first native inhabitant of 
Swansea to graduate from a college. My home was here 
until I was admitted to the bar just before I was 24 years 
of age. A man's surroundings have great influence in 
determining his course of life. In my childhood and early 
youth religious polemics were the order of the day.- The 
Methodists discussed doctrinal points with Baptists, and the 
Universalists with both the others. In passing let me 
remark that there never was a Congregational Society in the 
town of Swansea. Nothing but Baptist meeting-houses had 
been built within its present limits. The beautiful edifice of 
the Episcopal Church was erected when I was well advanced 
in my youth. The Union meeting-house, as has been said by 
the orator of the day, was on the site of the building we now 
dedicate. My father's house, directly opposite, was a com- 
mon resort for Methodists, Baptists and Universalist min- 
isters. My parents received and entertained them in a 
most hospitable manner, and I heard much of their dis- 
cussions. I listened to their arguments as I grew older, and 
begun to take part in their discussions at an early age, 
involving a thorough study of the Bible, and a familiarity 
with its doctrinal passages, together with a study of the 
controversial books, a few of which were within my reach. 


Then came the old debating society. The Hon. John 
S. Brayton, the orator of the day, as well as myself attended 
it, as its youngest members. Among them were the Eev. 
Benjamin H. Chace and Hon. Daniel Wilbur, who sit here 
on this platform with us to-day ; there was Royal Chace 
of Swansea, one of the most brilliant and gifted young men 
among us ; there were also Peleg S. Gardner, Avery P. Slade 
and Benjamin G. Chace of Somerset, Edward F. Gardner 
of Swansea, and Nathaniel B. Horton of Rehoboth, and 
others I do not at this moment recall ; but I must not omit 
to mention that our records were kept, regularly read, and 
signed by Joseph Shove, clerk. 

The meetings we held in this village, Somerset town- 
house, Swansea Factory, Rehoboth and elsewhere, were 
always well attended and excited the most lively interest. 
Political questions, involving research of history, biography, 
and the writings and speeches of great men, were frequently 
discussed. The question " Does man act from necessity or 
from free will ?" excited deep interest. These discussions 
were oreat incentives to studv, and awakened a desire for a 
solid and thorough education. 

I then conceived the idea of going to college. My 
father, with a good and well-stocked farm, could not afford 
to pay the expense of two years preparation and four years 
sojourn in college. I doubt whether there was then a farmer 
in Swansea that could, from the profits of his farm. I was 
told that I could have a comfortable home there, and I 
always did. My dear mother ever afterwards did all she 
could (and more than she ought) in caring for my wants 
during the struggle that followed. My father was always 
ready to lend a helping hand. 

After teaching school, boarding round, four months at 
$15 per month in the Nathaniel Mason district in Somerset, 
John S. Brayton and I entered Pierce Academy at Middle- 


boro during the last week of Mareli 1846, and we eliuninied 
together, paying 11.75 per week for our board and wasliing. 
Before then I had never seen a Latin or a Greek grannnar, 
and I think my chum had not, though he did not then begin 
to prepare for college. In June 1850, 1 had passed my final 
examinations, and received my degree of Bachelor of Arts 
at the Annual Commencement at Brown University in Sep- 
tember. My labors during the first two or three years in col- 
lege commenced at half past four in the morning ; by lamp- 
light during the frosts of winter, and when the birds began 
to sing in the spring, and by daylight in the early summer. 
Yes, my friends, it was work — constant, continuous work, — 
work with a free will. It might be said the task was accom- 
plished so soon, by necessity of earning the means as I went 
along. I taught school fifty-four weeks during the time. My 
friends, you are acquainted with my life since, and know 
how dearly I have loved to visit old Swansea during the 
years that have followed. 

But, Mr. President, you introduced me also as the 
highest in rank of Swansea's sons who participated in the 
civil war. I was not aware of this. I am proud to say that 
having belonged to a company of the volunteer militia for 
five or six years prior to the civil war, playing soldier for 
fun, upon call of the Governor April 16, 1861, I went with 
my company (G. 4th Regt.) as corporal, and had the good 
fortune, as right company of the regimental line, to be a 
part of the first company of organized troops that trod upon 
rebel soil, and subsequently to be in the first organized duly 
planned battle of the rel)ellion between organized troops, 
that of Big Bethel, June 10, 1861. The fact that I after- 
wards became a field officer and rode on horseback, you 
have alluded to. Every man, officer or private who went 
forth to do battle in that conflict and performed his duty, 
came home justly proud that he went. If I have added 


anything to the laurels of the sons of old Swansea, I am re- 
joiced indeed. 

Swansea Village was my home. It has changed, greatly 
changed during the last forty years. As a business locality, 
except at the old paper mill, it no longer exists. In 1840 
in this village there were no less than five places where shoe- 
makino- was carried on as an active and remunerative in- 


dustry, employing some fifteen to eighteen men. Now as 
a regular business it is not carried on at all, and in fact 
there is no active mechanical or manufacturing business here. 
The same is true of the neighborhood of Swansea Factory, 
where my maternal grandfather, Benajah Mason, carried on 
an extensive business as a tanner, currier and a manufacturer 
of boots and shoes, employing a dozen or more men accord- 
ing to the season. That has passed away, as well as Swan- 
sea Factory itself, once a flourishing manufactory within two 
miles of this village. What has been the cause of this 
change ? It was not from lack of enterprise here, but it is 
to 'be found in the superior advantages of the then small 
villages, through which the lines of railroad were run. With 
better facilities for transportation they started forward and 
soon left the outlying villages far in the rear. Stagnation 
soon commenced, and the result was an abandonment of all 
mechanical or manufacturing industry where a railroad 
station was not near at hand. Brockton and other villages, 
now cities, have grown with phenomenal ra])idity, and the 
old familiar landmarks known to the village boy of forty or 
fifty years ago are covered with big blocks built of brick and 
mortar, and the peaceful quiet of the country village is 
disturbed by the rattling of machinery, the hum of business, 
and the crowding of people in the streets. 

Now, my friends, so far as I am concerned, I am glad 
that Swansea Village remains as she is. It is selfish, I 
know, but it is a selfishness engendered from a love of the old 


scenes as they were in my boyhood. Nearly every dwelling- 
house and shop are still standing-. The trees on the street 
planted by the villagers some fifty years ago, (Rev. Ben- 
jamin H. Chace leading in the enterprise) have justified the 
predictions of those who toiled to put them in their places. 
The residence of Mr. Stevens, with its beautiful grounds and 
surroundings add new attractions to our beloved village. It 
is truly the most charming rural retreat in this section of 
the State. When Mr. Stevens first came here with his wife, 
some thirty odd years ago, the thought did not occur to him 
that this might become his permanent home. Leading, as 
he had, an active and busy life, full of adventure and ex- 
citement, it was not natural for us to even hope that he 
would settle down and become a citizen of the ancient town 
of Swansea. But the place grew upon him. He began to 
love it and the people, and they in return loved him and his. 
They learned to respect him and be guided by his counsels. 
He has been a leader among business men and in the councils 
of the State. The name of Frank S. Stevens has lono- been 
a synonym for all that is good, noble and generous in thought 
or deed. This beautiful building, which we dedicate to-day 
is a tribute of love from him to the people among whom he 
has cast his lot. How many of us may envy him. In the 
dreams of our youth we may have looked forward to the 
time when we might be author of some substantial benefaction 
to the people of the place where we were born. That dream 
is seldom realized. Mr. Stevens is not " native and to the 
manor born," like many'of us. He did not play as a child 
in the street, here, as we did. He did not mingle with us, 
as boys and girls together, and have impressed upon him 
scenes that last for a lifetime. Here he cannot say with us, 

" How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood 
When fond recollection presents them to view, 
The orchard, the meadow, the deep tangled wild wood, 
And * Abram's Rock' that my infancy knew." 


But he can say, " how dear to my heart are the place 
and the people with whom I have lived during the last gen- 
eration of men. Happy is my home, where peace and 
affection abide. Respected and beloved of my fellow men, 
the heart's fondest wishes are satisfied." 

If he has sorrows of mind or heart we know them 
not. To-day we know his heart must beat tumultuously 
in response to our grateful appreciation of this noble bene- 
faction. This building, so unique in design, so perfect as a 
specimen of architecture, so well adapted to its purposes, will 
stand through the centuries as a monument perpetuating 
the memory of Frank S. Stevens. " Sculptured stone or 
ever 'during brass" could never attain that end so well as 
this beautiful and useful benefaction. 

Mr. Gardner, in introducing the next speaker, said : — 
In the very excellent historical address to which you have 
listened, honorable mention has been made of Mason Barney. 
I have the pleasure of introducing to you his grandson, the 
Hon. Edwin L. Barney of New Bedford. Mr. Barney is 
also a native of Swansea. His extensive law practice has 
not only made his name familiar in Southeastern Massachu- 
setts, but also in other parts of the State. * 




Ladies and Gentlemen of Swansea. : 

Not as a stranger coming into a land which he knows 
not, and where he is not known, but as a native among his 
okl friends and neighbors, I join with you to-day. Although 
my labors are in other scenes, my coming here is not after 
many years and much wandering. It has been my good 
fortune to be near my old home all my life, and to visit 
it often. I feel that I know Swansea's people, not as old 
acquaintances merely, but as townsmen, fellow townsmen. 
I am proud of the town ; I am proud of her people. I re- 
joice to be present to-day and participate in this dedication. 
Not only the fact that we are here for the purpose of throw- 
ing open and accepting this grand building, is before us ; 
but the great generosity of the giver and the inestimable 
benefit of the gift appear to us, and you ought, and I think 
you do, fully appreciate them. 

This edifice is worthy of its noble donor. It is beauti- 
ful in its architecture and complete in all its arrangements. 
Frank S. Stevens has shared his prosperity with you. He 


lias built for the people. As I stand here it occurs to me 
how wisely and judiciously he has made and constructed 
this house for the whole people ; with what fidelity to all 
has his plan been wrought out. This structure is not for 
one purpose only. Built to accommodate the various uses 
of town government, education and recreation, it is not too 
small for either, and is fully adequate for them all. Monu- 
mental to the liberality of the name of Stevens, this building- 
shall no less stand symbolical of the loyalty of the good 
people who shall maintain and protect it. 

This Town House is not of stone finished and trimmed 
by the skillful hand of the mechanic ; not huge blocks of 
granite or brick pressed to a severe smoothness ; not arti- 
ficial or manufactured substance, but of the natural boulders 
that have lain for years in the soil, or marked the boundary 
lines of your forefathers ; rock upon rock, boulder upon 
boulder, does not the house they make, represent the natural 
solidity of character the building commemorates. 

My friends, Mr. Stevens has been wise ; he has made 
a fitting combination of beauty and great utility in this 
bountiful work he has done for his adopted home. He has 
been generous, and with a lavish hand has made you part- 
ners of his good fortune. A monument to his honorable 
name, a standing tribute to good citizenship, and a light- 
house for future advancement, let this edifice be accepted 
by you. Here you, and future generations, can come to ex- 
ercise the right of elective franchise, the highest political 
privilege of American citizenship. Within these walls you 
will elect and choose your town officers. This place shall 
be the scene of your balloting for State officers, and here 
you will manifest your choice for a President of the United 
States. Beautiful as is this building, so is the right to bal- 
lot as sacred. 


In search of learning the yonng will come. From the 
volumes they can study political economy to guide them 
in their action as voters, or they can pore over the pages of 
history and science to aid them in their knowledge of the 
world in which they live. In fiction they can find a pastime ; 
in the graver works they can seek instruction. Confined to 
neither sex alone, it belongs to you all, — truly, in every 
sense of the words, it is the Town House. What noble 
acts may the walls echo ! 

How changed is all this from a century and more ago. 
If the dead could look down from the skies and see the work ■ 
that is done upon the earth, what would old John Brown, or 
Major James Brown, Thomas Willett the first mayor of 
New York, Eev. John Myles the fighting pastor, John 
Myles his son, the first town clerk of Swansea, Samuel Myles 
the second pastor of King's Chapel, Boston, Rev. Samuel 
Luther, Hezekiah Luther, Hugh Cole, Thomas Easterbrooke, 
John Butterworth, Francis Stevens, and of more recent date 
Mason Barney, Thomas Peck, John Mason and a host of 
other immortal spirits, who used to walk these fields and 
gather in the old meeting house that stood upon this spot, 
what, I repeat, would they say ? Would they not rejoice 
with us ? Would they not delight in our good fortune ? I 
almost think that the redeemed and regenerate soul of King- 
Philip would be touched in beholding the very stones his 
feet may have trod, in his wild and weird chase of the white 
man, two hundred and odd years ago, rising into a building 
on almost the very spot that English blood was first spilled 
in the Old Colony. Commemorative of Old Swansea, typi- 
cal of the present progressive age, and exemplifying the 
open-heartedness of your leading citizen, this building shall 
stand through the years to come. 

Of a family whose name is historical comes Frank S. 
Stevens. We find it often in the records of the Plymouth 


and Massachusetts Colonies. As early as 1658 a Francis 
Stevens held property and had his residence in this town, 
and now 233 years afterwards we have with us a high-mind- 
ed, liberal, patriotic and distinguished man of the same name, 
who worthily upholds the family distinction. 

Ladies and gentlemen of Swansea, see to it that the 
purposes for which this pile was erected are not averted. 
Keep it as befits the honor of the town. Encourage its use 
by all. Do this and the future generations will be nobler, 
better, more independent and enlightened. 

Adherence to high principles, fidelity to the causes of 
progress, patriotism and liberality, cannot fail to produce 
what Tennyson felt when he wrote, — 

" Yet I doubt not through the ages, 
One increasing purpose runs, 
And the thoughts of men are widened 
With the process of the suns." 

The chairman then asked if there was any business be- 
fore the meetinof. 

Mr. James H. Mason moved that the selectmen be re- 
quested to convey to the Hon. Frank Shaw Stevens the 
grateful thanks of the citizens of Swansea for his gift of 
this beautiful and commodious town hall ; and that the pro- 
ceedings of this meeting, together with this vote, be incor- 
porated in the records of the town. 

Mr. E. M. Thurston moved that a vote of thanks be 
extended to the Hon. eTohn S. Brayton for his very interesting, 
instructive and valuable address ; also, to Messrs. Wood, 
Brown and Barney for their interesting addresses, and that 
a copy of each address be requested for publication. 

Both resolutions were adopted. 


The interesting exercises were then brought to a close 
by the venerable Rev. Benjamin H. Chase, of Swansea, who 
pronounced a benediction. 

The audience then dispersed ; many people took ad- 
vantage to press to the platform and thank Mr. Stevens for 
his sjilendid gift, and Mr. Brayton for his magnificent address. 

There were none in the audience more deeply interested 
in the proceedings then the special guests of the honored 
donor of the building : 

Mrs. Louisa E. Stevens, of Cleveland, Ohio, mother of 
Hon. Frank S. Stevens ; Mr. N. C. Stevens, of Toledo, Ohio ; 
Mrs. A. K. Spencer, of Cleveland ; Mr. and Mrs. Geo. H. 
Allen, of New York ; Mrs. J. Barstow, of New York ; Mrs. 
F. Hoard and Miss H. M. Kelton, of Providence. 

The ushers of the day, who performed their duties in a 
successful manner, were Messrs. Henry O. Wood, Nathan 
M. Wood, James Easterbrook, Mason Barney and Elijah P. 

At the close of the exercises in the hall, the Swansea 
Brass Band gave an elaborate clambake, near the hall, and 
entertained a large crowd in a satisfactory manner. 




Knoav all Men by these Presents, that 1, Frank 
S. Stevens of Swansey in the State of Massachusetts, in con- 
sideration of one dollar and other considerations to me paid 
by the Town of Swansey, a municipal corporation situate in 
the County of Bristol and State of Massachusetts aforesaid, 
the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, do hereby re- 
mise, release and forever quitclaim unto the said Town of 
Swansey the following lots of land situate in said Town. 
The first lot is bounded beginning at the southeast corner of 
the lot to be described on the northeasterly side of the high- 
way, and running thence northerly by the fence, building, 
and wall now there, one hundred and two feet (102) by land 
of Elizabeth R. Stevens to a wall, thence westerly one 
hundred and sixty feet (160) by the burying ground and 
the wall as it now stands, to a wall and land of the heirs now 
or formerly of Mason B. Chase, thence southerly by said 
last named land and wall sixty-five feet (65) to the highway 
aforesaid, thence westerly by said highway one hundred and 
eighty-six feet (186) to the point of beginning, containing 
by estimation fifty-five rods more or less. Said tract of land 
is subject to a right of way to and from the highway and 
the burying ground. 


Also, one other lot of land situate in said Swansey and 
bounded beginning" at the southwest corner of the lot to be 
conveyed, thence running by the wall forty feet to the pass- 
way, thence northerly by said passway to the lot formerly 
occupied by John Mason, Esq., thence west by said Mason lot 
to the wall, and thence by the wall to the first named corner, 
being the lot conveyed to me by John S. Sprague by deed 
dated June 16th, 1890. 

Also, one other lot of land situate in said Swansey and 
next to the lot last described above, and bounded beginning 
at the southeast corner thereof by the lot first described 
above, thence running northerly by the wall twenty-four (24) 
feet for a corner, thence westerly by a lot now or formerly 
owned or occupied by Richard Chase to the center of the 
path, forty-four feet (44), thence southerly l)y said path 
twenty-four feet (24) to a wall, thence easterly by said wall 
forty-four feet to the point of beginning, being the lot con- 
veyed to me by William H. Chase and others by deed dated 
June 25th, 1890. 

This conveyance is made upon the express and precedent 
conditions that the building which said Frank S. Stev^ens is 
erecting or has erected upon said land for a Town Hall and 
Public Library, and which is conveyed by him as a free gift 
to said Town as part of the premises included in this con- 
veyance, shall be devoted to public purposes and forever used 
as a Town Hall and Public Libraiy by the inhabitants of 
said Swansey ; that the room designed for the use of a Pub- 
lic Library shall be used, rent free, for library purposes by 
the organization known as the Swansey Public Library, or 
such other library as may succeed to or take the place of 
the same, and that any Christian denomination desiring the 
use of said Town Hall for funeral services shall be allowed 
to use the same, subject to such equal and reasonable regu- 
lations as the Selectmen of said Town may prescribe. 


To have and to hold the granted premises, with all the 
privileges and appurtenances thereto belonging to the said 
Town of Swansey and its successors and assigns, to their 
own use and behoof forever. 

And I do hereby, for myself and my heirs, executors 
and administrators, covenant with the said grantee and its 
successors and assigns, that the granted premises are free 
from all incumbrances made or suffered by me, except the 
right of way aforesaid, and that I will, and my heirs, execu- 
tors and administrators shall warrant and defend the same 
to the said grantee and its successors and assigns forever, 
against the lawful claims and demands of all persons claim- 
ing by, through, or under me, except said right of way, but 
against none other. 

And for the consideration aforesaid I, Elizabeth R. 
Stevens, wife of said Frank S. Stevens, do hereby release unto 
the said grantee and its successors and assigns all right of or 
to both dower and homestead in the granted premises. 

In witness whereof, we, the said Frank S. Stevens and 
Elizabeth R. Stevens, have hereunto set our hands and seals 
this twenty-third day of June, in the year one thousand eight 
hundred and ninety-one. 

Signed, sealed and delivered ( Frank S. StevenS. ( Seal.) 

in presence of ) 

Andrew J. Jennings to F.S.S. ) _ ^ ^ 

N. C. Stevens to E. R. S. ( ELIZABETH R. StEVENS. ( Seal.) 

Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

Bristol ss. June 24, 1891. Then personally appeared 
the above-named Frank S. Stevens and acknowledged the 
foregoing instrument to be his free act and deed, before me. 

Andrew J. Jennings, 
Justice of the Peace. 



[Copy of a communication from the Newport corre- 
spondent of the Providence llorning Star, published in that 
paper on the 15th day of December, 1880.] 


The new school house to be erected and presented to 
the city by the trustees of Long Wharf, is to occupy 18,000 
feet of land on Elm street, and the trustees have decided to 
christen it, " The Potter School House," for the following- 
reason : In 1795, Simeon Potter of Swansea, Mass., made 
a free gift to the trustees of an estate owned by him near 
the wharf, which the following copy of Mr. Potter's letter, 
making the donation, will more fully explain : 

SwANZEY, Aug. 16, 1795. 

Messrs. George Gihhs and George Champlin : 

Gentlemen : — I saw in the Boston Centinel a scheme 
of a lottery, for the laudable intention of re-building Long- 
Wharf in Newport, the building a Hotel, and more especially 
establishing a Free School, which has determined me to make 


a free gift of my estate on the point called Easton's Point, 
which came to me by way of mortgage, for a debt due from 
Hays and Pollock, if you will accept of it in trust to support a 
Free School forever, for the advantage of poor children of 
every denomination, and to be under the same regulations as 
you desired the Free School should be that you designed to 
erect. If you, gentlemen, will please to get a deed wrote 
agreeably to the intentions here manifested, I will sign and 
acknowledge the same, and send it to you for recording. I 
would only mention that if the situation is agreeable to you, 
the house and garden would do for a school-master, and the 
oil-house, which is large, might be fitted up for a school-house. 
This as you may think proper. There is no person here who 
understands writing such a deed, or I would have sent it to 
you completely executed. 

I am, gentlemen, with respect. 

Your very humble servant, 

Simeon Potter. 

It is needless to add that the gift was accepted and the 
property used as proposed, a free school having been main- 
tained there for many years, or until the State, through the 
" School Fund Lottery," which many will remember as exist- 
ing for many years, took charge of the education of its youth. 




The Town Hall, of which the cut on the frontispiece is an 
illustration, is the gift to the town of Swansea of Hon. Frank 
S. Stevens. The building is located upon a lot nearly oppo- 
site the residence of its donor. The dimensions of the land 
are 193x122 feet. It is placed about the center of the lot, 
some 30 feet back from the street, and its dimensions are 
61x80 feet. The building is of rough field stones, taken from 
the walls on farms owned by Mr. Stevens, with Longmeadow 
brown-stone used for trimmings, all laid in pure Portland 
cement. The arched entrance seen in the cut, is eight feet 
in width and handsome blue-stone steps lead to the entrance. 
The vestibule is spacious, being a square room twelve feet four 
inches. Directly in front, to one entering this vestibule, are 
wide folding doors opening directly to the town hall. By the 
only condition of the donor this is to be open to every and 
any religious society desiring to hold funeral services there. 
The hall is a magnificent room, 40x50 feet, with recess for 
a stage 10x34 feet. The platform extends slightly into the 


hall, and its dimensions are 16x30 feet. The hall -is finished 
with a dado four feet high, and has a cove ceiling on all 
sides 16 feet above the floor, which height marks the tie 
beams of three ornamented trusses, 10| feet apart. The 
vaulted or dome ceiling, 29x13 feet, is designed to break 
sound waves and assure good acoustic properties. For further 
decoration the cove ceiling is broken by wooden ribs, form- 
ing panels three feet wide and the height of the cove around 
the hall. The finish is of hard pine, in shellac. The 
seating capacity of the hall is 500. On the west side a fire- 
proof vault for the town records is provided, lined with brick 
and with vaulted ceiling, with double steel doors. Besides 
the folding doors to the vestibule, similar doors open into 
the library and selectmen's rooms at the front of the build- 
ing, thus increasing the capacity of the main hall, should 
occasion require. Heat is provided by furnace. 

The southwest corner of the building is for the library 
and reading room. Book cases run the whole width of its 
walls and to the ceiling. The dimensions of the room are 
23x18 feet exclusive of an alcove, 6x13, with open fireplace. 
Spacious window seats are provided at the front windows. 
The southeast corner is the selectmen's room, 18x20 feet, 
and opening into a circular stairway that leads to the bell 
deck and clock tower. A fireplace ornaments the east side 
of the room, and both this and the library are heated by 
grates sufficiently large for the purpose. Provision has been 
made whereby an extension can be made on the east for a 
room for kitchen purposes on festal occasions, though this 
was not contemplated in the original plan nor in the cut 
presented. This vestibule entrance formed by the tower is 
finished in brick, and in one of the sides a bronze tablet will 
be set suitably inscribing the gift and the purpose of the 


The perspective of the building, as seen by the ilhistra- 
tion, is very pretty and pleasing. The style at once excites 
commendation from all who see it. It is nearer " rustic" 
than anything else, and the architect has evidently had ever 
in mind the location for which it was intended. The tower 
shown is 13 feet square and 56 feet high, and its roof is 
covered with red slate, while the roof of the main buildino- 
is of dark blue. The tower, with its bell and clock, marks 
the memorial feature of the structure. A memorial tablet, 
cut from a slab of brown freestone, bears the inscription : 





One of Howard's best movement clocks has been fur- 
nished, and a fine-toned bell of 715 pounds weight accom- 
panies it. It will be noted that the ornamentation of the 
building is all in front, the roof being kept j^lain, and so 
easily in repair. The front is ornate with brown stone and 
carving. The tower treatment, its rounded arches marking 
the Romanesque, is indeed picturesque, and the turret for 
the clock is a distinctive and important feature for this part 
of the tower. The chimney, for the library fireplace, is 
carried on the tower on the opposite side and as a balance 
to the clock turret, and rises to a height of 52 feet above 
grade. Another architectural feature to show that the tower 
is for a bell as well as for a clock is seen in the large opening 
below the clock, through which the bell will show, and the 
sound waves have nothing to check and subdue them. 

As the building is only designed for the three rooms 
which have been described, a town hall, library and select- 



men's room, there being no second story, the roof is designed 
in keeping with this fact. The large roof covers the large 
hall only, and the roofs are low over the other two rooms. 
And to make the alcove a distinctive architectural feature 
of the front it is marked by a steep gable, which also acts as 
a screen for the roof of it. 

The building is piped for gas. Mr. J. Merrill Brown 
of Boston, was the architect, Mr. J. J. Highlands of Fall 
River, did the masonry, and Mr. Angus McDonald of Boston, 
the carpentry work. 




The donor of the town hall, was born in Rutland, 
Vermont, Ang. 6, 1827. He received a common school edu- 
cation, and at the age of seventeen entered a store in West- 
field, N. Y., as a clerk. He served in this capacity four years, 
when the California gold fever excitement allured him to the 
great West, and he joined his fortunes with a company of 
Forty-niners for a trip across the great American Desert, 
in the spring of 1849. They left Omaha in May of that 
year for Sacramento, Cal., and reached their destination in 
the latter part of August. Mr. Stevens did not like the life 
or the work of a miner, and soon gave up this business for 
something more to his liking. He entered into partnership 
with Mr. Henry Durfee, for the purpose of hauling goods 
and provisions to the miners and travellers in the mountains. 
The enterprise was proving to be a profitable one when high 
water came on and they were obliged to give it up. He then 
successfully engaged in the restaurant business and after- 
wards ran a staae line from Sacramento to Placerville. In 
1854 all the stage lines in California united to form the 
California Stage Company, and Mr. Stevens was chosen vice 
president, having charge of one of the most important di- 
visions until 186G. In the fall of 1858 he came to Wash- 


ington, D. C, to look after the interests of his company, and 
made several trips to and from California from that time to 

In 1858 he visited Swansea for the first time, and in 
1866 he settled in the town which has since been his home. 
In 1862, he became a member of the firm of Paris, Allen & 
Co., of New York. Mr. Allen died abont a year ago and 
Mr. Paris died September 2, 1891. 

Mr. Stevens has been prominently identified with the 
business interests of Fall River for nearly a quarter of a 
century, and at the present time is president of the Globe 
Street Eailway Co., president of the Fall River Merino Co., 
vice president of the Metacomet National Bank, and a direc- 
tor in the following corporations : Bourne mills, Chase Ele- 
vator Co., Edison Electric Illuminating Co., Fall River 
Electric Lighting Co., Fall River and Providence Steam- 
boat Co., Granite mills. Mechanics mills, O shorn mills, 
Richard Borden mills, Slade mills and the Stafford mills. 

Up to the opening of the war of the rebellion Mr. Stevens 
was a Democrat, but since that time he has been actively 
identified with the Republican party. He was a member 
of the Republican State Central Committee from this district 
for several years, and in 1884 was a member of the State 
Senate, declining a re-election the next year. 

He was a delegate to the National Republican conven- 
tions of 1884 and 1888. 

Mr. Stevens has been twice married. In July, 1858, 
he married Julia A. B., widow of James E. Birch, of Swan- 
sea. She died in February, 1871, and on April 22d, 1878, he 
married Miss Elizabeth R. Case, of Swansea. He is an at- 
tendant and supporter of the Protestant Episcopal church 
of Swansea. His farm is one of the finest in the vicinity of 
Fall River, and is well stocked with fine horses and a large 
herd of pure Jersey cattle. 

Table of Contents, 


Letters of the Selectmen of Swansea, - - - - 3 

Dedication of the Town Hall, ----- 5 

Presentation, Address of Mr, Stevens, - - - . - 8 

Portrait of Frank Shaw Stevens, - - - opp. 8 

Response of Mr. Mason, the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, 10 

Historical Address of Hon. John S. Brayton, - - - 12 

Vie\v of the Garrison House of Ptcv. John Myles, - - 23 

View of the Old Meeting House at North Swansea, - - 31 

Address of Jonathan Wood, Esq., - - - - - 55 

Address of Major James Brown, _ _ _ - 58 

Address of Hon. Edwin L. Barney, - - - - - 65 

Vote of Thanks to 

Messrs. Stevens, Brayton, Wood, Brown anrl Barney, - 68 

Appendix I. 

Deed of Mr. Stevens to the Town, - - - - 70 

Appendix II. 

Letter of Simeon Potter, _ - - - - 73 

Appendix III. 

Description of Town Hall, - - - - - 75 

Appendix VI. 

Frank Shaw Stevens, Notice of, . - - - 79