Swansey Massachusetts, 1890

Swansey* lies on the line of Rhode Island, in the southwesterly part of Bristol County, 48 miles south of Boston. The post-offices are Swansey, North Swansey and Hortonville. Other village names are Luther's Corner in the south part of the town, and Swansey Factory in the northwest on Warren River, formerly Barneyville. The Warren and Bristol Branch of the Old Colony Railroad, connecting Providence and Bristol, has its Swansey station on Gardner's Neck, the extreme south of the town. Seekonk, Rehoboth, and Dighton bound it on the north, Somerset on the east; its southern angle lies on Mount Hope Bay; and Warren and Barrington, in Rhode Island, bound it on the west. The general form of the town is triangular, with a long parallelogram, constituting the "Two-mile Purchase," projecting between Rehoboth and Dighton.

The assessed area is 12,787 acres. There are nearly 5,000 acres, of woodland. Lee's River is partly on the Somerset line, and Cole's Brook is medial; both flowing southward to Mount Hope Bay. The land is somewhat hilly in the east, but level in the west. The strawberry and apple crops, and the poultry and milk products, are specially large. The value of the yield of the 211 farms in 1885 was $248,526. The manufacture of jewelry employed 14 men ; of carriages and wagons, 8; of fertilizers, 7; and of cotton goods, 7. The value of these and other goods made in the last census year was $52,644. A dozen fishermen marketed clams and eels to the amount of $2,521. The population was 1,403, of whom 414 were legal voters. The number of taxed dwelling-houses in 1888 was 321 ; when the valuation of the town was $733,700, with a tax-rate of $11.60 on $1,000. There are ten public school-houses, valued at upwards of $10,000. There are a public library and a collection of nearly 1,000 volumes belonging to the "Swansey Agricultural Library Association." The "Record" is a local weekly journal. The churches consist of one each of the Baptist, Free Baptist, Episcopal, Christian Connection and Universalist.

The Indian names applied to this place are Mattapoisett, Wannamoiset and Ashuelot. It seems to have been established as the township of Wannamoiset on October 30,1667 ; and was incorporated as a town, March 5, 1668 deriving its name from Swansea in Wales. Within its original limits were the present towns of Somerset, in Massachusetts, and Barrington and the larger part of Warren, in Rhode Island. The Rev. John Miles, who came with a part of his church from Wales in 1663, was the first minister.

The town is memorable as being the spot where the first English blood was shed in Philip's War. Of this the Rev. William Hubbard gives the following account : --
"On the 24th of June, 1675, was the alarm of war first sounded in Plymouth Colony, when eight or nine of the English were slain in and about Swansey ; they (the Indians) first making a shot at a company of English as they returned from the assembly, where they were met in a way of humiliation on that day, whereby they killed one and wounded others ; and then likewise at the same time they slew two men on the highway sent to call a surgeon, and the same day barbarously murdered six men in and about a dwelling-house in another part of the town : all of which outrages were committed so suddenly that the English had no time to make resistance.

Another writer adds:--

At this period the house of Rev. John Miles was garrisoned. It stood a short distance west of Miles's Bridge ; probably near the site of the tavern of Mason Barney, Esq. Intelligence of the murder of the Swansey people having reached Boston, a foot company under Capt. Henchman, and a troop under Capt. Prentice, immediately marched for Mount Hope ; and, being joined by another company of 110 volunteers under Capt. Mosely, they all arrived at Swansey on the 28th of June, where they found the Plymouth forces under Capt. Cudworth. Mr. Miles's was made headquarters. About a dozen of the troop went immediately over the bridge, where they were fired upon out of the bushes, one killed, and one wounded. This action drew the body of the English forces after the enemy, whom they pursued a mile or two until they took to a swamp, after having killed about half a dozen of their number. The next morning, the troops commenced their pursuit of the Indians. Passing over Miles's Bridge, and proceeding down the east bank of the river till they came to the narrow of the neck at a place called 'Keckamuit,' or 'Kickemuit,' they found the heads of eight Englishmen that the Indians had murdered, set upon poles by the side of the way. These they took down and buried. On arriving at Mount Hope, they found that Philip and his Indians had left the place."

Swansey furnished 120 men for the service of the Union in the late war, 13 of whom were lost.

*The spellings of this name are almost as numerous as the authorities. The State Census and the Old Colony Railroad have it "Swansea;" the U.S. Post Office Department and the State Department of the Commonwealth, "Swanzey;" another authority has "Swanzea;" and the official atlas of the State (Walling and Gray), and the Plymouth County Record, in the entry of its incorporation, have "Swansey," -- which is also the local form. It is generally best in such matters to follow intelligent local usage.

pp. 631-633 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890