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Manuscripts of Colonial and Revolutionary America
Swansea Town Records, 1671-1807

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Introduction to the Swansea Town Records

The Swansea Town Records are an accumulation of 49 single-sheet documents issuing from, or directed to, the various instruments of town government in Swansea, Bristol County, Massachusetts, mostly during the 18th century. Colonial Swansea—or Swanzey, as the name was typically spelled—was located along Mount Hope and Narragansett Bays in southeastern Massachusetts. It was incorporated as a town within the Plymouth colony in 1667, initially as a refuge for Baptists. With the rest of Bristol County, it became part of Massachusetts Bay in 1691, when the Plymouth colony was dissolved. The original boundaries of the town encompassed land now in Barrington, Rhode Island (separated in 1717), Warren, Rhode Island (1747), and Somerset, Massachusetts (1790).

More than half the documents in the collection date from the years between 1718/9 and 1757; perhaps a half-dozen can be dated earlier than this. In only a few instances does more than one document relate to the same specific town action or issue. The types of actions to which the individual records pertain are very diverse, and would include land issues; the appointment of town officers; economic regulations and taxes; church affairs; Swansea's relations with neighboring towns; Swansea's relations with the colonial government; and improvements to the town infrastructure. Most of the records pertain to one or more of the following agencies of town government: 1) the Swansea board of selectmen; 2) Swansea town meetings; 3) the Swansea town proprietors; and 4) the town treasury. Selectmen were the town's highest elected officials, and its chief administrators. The most commonly encountered document type within the collection is the town meeting warrant (11), issued by the selectmen to a town constable to "notify and warn" all qualified residents to assemble in meeting for some specified purpose. Another document type issuing from the selectmen is the "warning out of town" (3), a warrant used as a first recourse against undesirables who had entered the community. There are also a number of petitions of varying purpose directed by townspeople to the Swansea selectmen, as well as several petitions from the selectmen to the governor of Massachusetts Bay. In addition to the town meeting warrants mentioned above, town meeting documents in the collection include several memoranda, with proceedings and/or records of voting. The term "proprietors," in the context of the 18th century New England town, indicated those privileged residents (and, increasingly, non-residents) who held joint ownership of the "common and undivided lands" of the town, whether because they were the heirs or assigns of the town's original grantees, or because they had purchased such rights. The proprietors thus had absolute control over the division of town lands; their influence was not political per se but territorial. The half-dozen memoranda and other proprietors' meeting documents in the collection all ultimately pertain, then, to the division of land. As for the town treasurer's records, the most interesting, perhaps, indicates expenses incurred in conducting a town lottery, for the rebuilding and maintenance of a bridge (1749/50).

Other manuscript collections at Notre Dame with items relating to Swansea are the Bristol County, Massachusetts Court Records (MSN/COL 2717) and the Luther Family Papers (MSN/COL 0502).

Provenance note: The collection of Swansea town records was assembled by the University Libraries over the years 2002 to 2005. Items were purchased from Dan Casavant Rare Books of Waterville, Maine; from Paper Trails of Rochdale, Massachusetts; and from Lonn B. Leach of Davie, Florida.

Bibliographic note: For a history of Swansea see Otis Olney Wright, History of Swansea Massachusetts 1667-1917, Swansea MA, 1917.

Index of Documents

MSN/COL 2718-1Swansea town meeting memorandumDecember 5, [1684?]
MSN/COL 2718-2Land survey committee reportDecember 20, 1686
MSN/COL 2718-3Treasury receiptMay 13, 1703
MSN/COL 2718-4Church petitionFebruary 13, 1718/9
MSN/COL 2718-5Proprietors meeting memorandum October 31, 1722
MSN/COL 2718-6Trustees receipt1722-1726
MSN/COL 2718-7Town meeting warrantNovember 4, 1727
MSN/COL 2718-8Treasury accounts and town meeting memoranda September 23, 1728
MSN/COL 2717-9Notice of proprietors meetingOctober 30, 1728-January 1728/9?
MSN/COL 2717-10Proprietors committee account sheetJanuary 28, 1729/30-July 15, 1730
MSN/COL 2717-11Proprietors meeting committee reportc1730-May 14, 1745
MSN/COL 2717-12Town meeting warrantMay 9, 1732
MSN/COL 2717-13Oliver Eddy, et al. warning out of townNovember 27, 1732
MSN/COL 2718-14Town meeting warrantMay 3, 1735
MSN/COL 2718-15Samuel Bleathen and Elizabeth Perry marriage noticeFebruary 21, 1735/6
MSN/COL 2718-16Notice of proprietors meetingOctober 1738
MSN/COL 2718-17Proprietors meeting memoranda[February 1, 1738/9]
MSN/COL 2718-18Town meeting warrantNovember 23, 1744-December 4, 1744
MSN/COL 2718-19Michael Eddy indentureApril 18, 1746
MSN/COL 2718-20Selectmen petitionsMay 28, 1746-1748
MSN/COL 2718-21Town meeting warrantAugust 23, 1746
MSN/COL 2718-22Town meeting memorandaMay 13, 1747-February 1, 1747/8
MSN/COL 2718-23George Barker warning out of townNovember 18, 1747
MSN/COL 2718-24Town meeting warrantFebruary 17, 1747/8
MSN/COL 2718-25Account of lottery expensesDecember 20, 1749
MSN/COL 2718-26Andrew Cole petitionMay 8, 1750
MSN/COL 2718-27Treasury accountFebruary 19, 1752/3
MSN/COL 2718-28Perambulation recordSeptember 27, 1754-March 11, 1755
MSN/COL 2718-29Tax collection warrantJune 24, 1757
MSN/COL 2718-30Joseph Cole estate inventorySeptember 19, 1757
MSN/COL 2718-31Enoch Chase, et al., marriage noticeOctober 22, 1757
MSN/COL 2718-32Town meeting noticeMay 5, 1779
MSN/COL 2718-33Town meeting warrantNovember 12, 1782
MSN/COL 2718-34Town meeting warrantJune 4, 1783
MSN/COL 2718-35Constant Smith petitionFebruary 23, 1786
MSN/COL 2718-36James Simmons warning out of townMay 14, 1791
MSN/COL 2718-37Treasury account settlement[May 1795]
MSN/COL 2718-38Treasury account settlement[May 1797]
MSN/COL 2718-39Town meeting warrantApril 22, 1803
MSN/COL 2718-40Treasury account settlement[June 1803]
MSN/COL 2718-41Town meeting warrantOctober 26, 1804
MSN/COL 2718-42Town meeting warrantMarch 20, 1805
MSN/COL 2718-43Freeholders petitionFebruary 25, 1807
MSN/COL 2718-44Samuel Luther and Thomas Estabrook land survey record[nd]
MSN/COL 2718-45Metapoiset road survey record[nd]
MSN/COL 2718-46Thomas Eastabrooke land survey record[nd]
MSN/COL 2718-47Highway committee report[nd]
MSN/COL 2718-48Highway committee report[nd]
MSN/COL 2718-49Tax collection warrant[nd]

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