JOSEPH SWETT (1622-1689)

Ben H. Swett
Colonel USAF (Retired)
26 December 2002


Joseph Swett (John1) married, Oct. 1651, as church record says, Elizabeth Taylor. Newbury confirmed to him a grant of six acres on Deer Island in 1655. Removed to Boston. Married (2) after 1671, Mary, widow of Thomas Buttolph and dau. of Nicholas Baxter. His will, made in London, Eng., 20 Aug. 1689, was probated there 24 Jan. 1695. It names no children. Her will, 12 Jan. 1711-12 -- 10 Apr. 1721, "widow, of Boston, being very aged and weak," names son, Nicholas Buttolph, dau. Mary wife of Robert Gutteridge, dau. Abigail wife of Joseph Belknap, all probably children by her first husband. Her will makes no mention of her children by Joseph Swett. He is called a mariner. The following children are recorded in Boston.

[ ] Joseph b. 26 Oct. 1658.

Children by second marriage:

[ ] Benjamin b. 12 July 1673.
Phebe b. 7 Feb. 1674.
Anna, twin to Phebe.
Elizabeth b. 7 July 1676.

1622 January 21: Joseph Swett, son of John Swett, was baptized 21 January 1621-2 in Wymondham Parish, Norfolk, England. [Parish records: LDS Film # 1911510] [Stackpole # 3]

1642 March 12: A pasture agreement at Newbury called "The Stint of the Ox and Cow Common" is the first record we have of this family in New England. Joseph Swett was 20 years old.

1650 December 11: "[---]ra Swett" died in Newbury. [Newbury VR, Vol. 2, p. 733] No relationship is given. Therefore, the assumption that Sarah was the wife of John Swett of Newbury is not supported. She may have been the first wife of John Swett, Jr., who was 37 years old in 1650.

1651 October: Joseph Swett married Elizabeth Taylor. [Stackpole] Newbury VR has "Swett, [Joseph], and [torn] [16__ ?]." Other records confirm that her first name was Elizabeth, but I have not been able to find her parents or where she was born.

1651 October 14:

The Court made another abortive attempt to regulate the fashions of the people, to prescribe what certain classes of persons should not wear, and what exceptions ought to be made to the general rule. They declared that 'intolerable excesse and bravery hath crept in upon us and especially among people of mean condition' and their utter detestation and dislike that men of mean conditions and callings should take upon them the garb of gentlemen by wearing gold or silver lace, or buttons, or points at their knees, to walk in great boots, or women of the same rank, to wear silk or tiffany hoods or scarves, which though allowable to persons of greater estates, or more liberal education, they judge it intolerable in persons of such like condition. They order that, 'with the exception of magistrates or any publick officer of this jurisdiction, their wifes and children, military officers or soldiers, or any other, whose education or employment have been above the ordinary degree, or whose estates have been considerable, though now decayed, or who were not worth two hundred pounds, no person should transgress this law under penalty of ten shillings.' [Coffin's Newbury, p. 55]
1652 January 13: Died at Newbury, "old" John Swett. [Newbury VR, Vol. 2, p. 732. Quotation marks in the original.] He was Joseph's father.

1653 September 27:

The wife of Nicholas Noyes being presented for wearing a silk hood and scarf, upon proof that her husband is worth above two hundred pounds is cleared of her presentment. The wife of Hugh March and the wife of Richard Knight were charged with the same offence, but were discharged on proof that their husbands were worth two hundred pounds each. The wife of John Hutchins was discharged upon testimony of her being brought up above the ordinary ranke. At the same court the wife of Joseph Swett and the wife of William Chandler were convicted and fined ten shillings for wearing a silk hood and scarf. [Ipswich Court Records, vol. i, leaf 34. Rolfe, p.4. Currier, p. 122-123]
1654 May 14: Joseph Swett signed the Lt. Robert Pike petition in Newbury. My paper about Benjamin Swett includes the story of this petition.

1655 May 25: Joseph Swett petitioned the court to confirm to him the grant of "Deer island, which the selectmen of Newbury have granted him, which is not above six acres of land and is not above six or eight rods from Newbury shore." [Rolfe, p. 4]

1658 October 26: Joseph Swett, Jr., was born in Boston son of Joseph and Elizabeth Swett. Joseph [son] of Joseph Swett of Church of Newberry was baptized at First Church of Boston 31 October 1658. [Boston VR, Vol. 9, p. 65 and 68]

1660. Boston city records have Benjamin son of JOSEPH and Elisabeth Sweete born 22 January 1659-60, but First Church of Boston records have Benjamin son of JOHN Swett of Church of Newbury baptized 29 January 1659-60. (Stackpole has 29 November 1659 from misreading the Puritan date "29 day 11 mo 1659") [Boston VR, Vol. 9, p. 70 & 73] These two records apparently refer to the same Benjamin, baptized a week after he was born, but whose son was he? JOHN may be a clerical error for JOSEPH in the baptism record. If so, this Benjamin died before Joseph Swett and his second wife Mary Baxter named their son Benjamin in 1673. On the other hand, later records show that John Swett, Jr., had a daughter-in-law, so he must have had a son. At present, the parentage of this Benjamin is unresolved.

I have found nothing on the death of Elizabeth (Taylor) Swett, and no definite proof of where Joseph Swett lived from 1660 to 1672. This 12 year gap in the available data suggests they may have had other children, not born in Boston.

Some indications of where he was, and thus where they may have lived, are found in a series of legal documents on the Maryland State Archives website, as follows:

1661-2 February 12: Fobby Roberts "resident and present in Boston, New England, seaman" gave his power of attorney to Mr. Joseph Swett. [Maryland Provincial Court Proceedings, 1661, pages 525-526]

1662 April 18: Frederik Gisbertson, a merchant "lyving att Amsterdam in the New Neatherlands" [which was taken by the English and renamed New York in 1664] gave his power of attorney to "Mr. Joseph Swett of Boston in New England, mariner, now att port ready to sett sayle for Virginia" concerning debts owed to Mr. Gisbertson by a Mr. Samuel Smith then "lyving in Maryland or elsewhere in Virginia." [Maryland Provincial Court Proceedings, 1663, pages 68-69]

1662 May: Joseph Swett of Boston in New England, mariner, gave substitute power of attorney to "Mr. Robert Slye of St. Maries County in the Province of Maryland, merchant" and resigned his own power of attorney for Frederik Gisbertson. This document was signed by Joseph Swett in the presence of Thomas Gerrard, Notary, in St. Mary's County, Maryland. [Maryland Provincial Court Proceedings, 1663, pages 69-70] Thomas Gerrard was the Lord of St. Clements Manor by patent dated 18 July 1652. Robert Slye of Bushwood was his son-in-law. [St. Clement's Manor Court Proceedings, 1659-1672, page 631] St. Clement Bay and the town of Bushwood are a few miles west of Leonardtown, Maryland.

1663 April 10: Thomas Burditt of the province of Maryland in the County of Charles signed a bill obliging him to pay Joseph Swett and Bartholomew Cadd 1395 pounds of tobacco in caske, "to be paid at Nanngemy or at St. Maries at or upon the tenth day of October next ensuing." [Maryland Provincial Court Proceedings, 1668, page 274]

1663 April 22: Henry Savage of the province of Maryland in the County of St. Maries, planter, signed a bill obliging him to pay Joseph Swett and Bartholomew Cadd 1109 pounds of "good sound merchantable tobacco and caske, to be paid in St. Michaels hundred at the lower end of the towne at or upon the tenth day of October next ensuing." One of the witnesses was Fobby Roberts who apparently had removed from Boston to Maryland. [Maryland Provincial Court Proceedings, 1668, page 274]

1663 May 16: Richard Games of the province of Maryland in St. Maries County signed a bill obliging him to pay Joseph Swett and Bartholomew Cadd 2054 pounds of tobacco in caske. [Maryland Provincial Court Proceedings, 1663-64, page 96]

1663-4 January 9: Fobby Roberts, acting as attorney for Joseph Swett and Bartholomew Cadd, filed a lawsuit against Richard Games in St. Maries County, Maryland, for 2054 pounds of tobacco which "the said Richard Games hath not paid and yet refuseth to pay to the said Joseph Swett and Bartholomew Cadd to the greate damage of them both." [Maryland Provincial Court Proceedings, 1663-64, page 96]

1665 May 6: "Phebe Swett, widow" died in Newbury. [Newbury VR, Vol. 2, p. 733.] She probably was the wife of John Swett of Newbury, and the mother of Joseph Swett.

1665 October 5: "Joseph Swett of Boston in the Massachusetts Colonie of New England, marriner, Daniel Turin of the same Boston, blacksmyth, and Mary Cadd of said Boston, widdow, the relict and administratrix to the estate of the late Bartholomew Cadd of the said Boston, marriner, her late husband deceased" gave their individual and collective power of attorney to "William Hollingworth of Salem in the said Collony, merchant," to recover all the debts owed to them in Maryland and New York. This document was signed in Boston. [Maryland Provincial Court Proceedings, 1666, pages 91-92]

1672: Joseph Swett married (2) widow Mary (Baxter) Buttolph about 1672, place unknown. She was born in February 1640 daughter of Nicholas and Ann Baxter. [Boston VR. Stackpole has December 1639] She married (1) Thomas Buttolph 5 September 1660. He was born 12 August 1637, son of Thomas and Anne Buttolph, and died about 1669. Four children of sister Mary Buttolph, widow, were baptized at First Church of Boston on 1 October 1671: Thomas, Mary, Abigail, and Nicholas. [Boston VR]

1673 July 12: Benjamin Swett was born in Boston son of Joseph Swett and Mary Baxter. First Church of Boston baptisms: "Benjamin of sister Swete 18 day 5 mo 1673" (Puritan dating for 18 July 1673). [Boston VR, Vol. 9, p. 129 & 130]

1675 February 7: Phebe and Anna Swett were born in Boston, twin daughters of Joseph Swett and Mary Baxter. First Church of Boston baptisms: "Phebe of bro. Sweat 14 day 12 mo 1674. Anne of bro. Sweat 14 day 12 mo 1674" (Puritan dating for 14 February 1675). [Boston VR, Vol. 9, p. 134 & 135]

1676 July 7: Elizabeth Swett was born in Boston, daughter of Joseph Swett and Mary Baxter. [Boston VR, Vol. 9, p. 139]

1677 July 29: Captain Benjamin Swett, brother of Joseph Swett, was killed in battle with the Indians at Black Point, on the Scarborough Peninsula, in Maine.

1689 February 21: Inscriptions from the Granary Burying Ground, Boston, have: "Joseph Sweet, Sr., died Feb. 21, 1688-9 aged 69 years." This was probably Joseph Swett, son of John Swett of Newbury. However, "aged 69" is either a transcription error for "aged 67" or he was two years old when he was baptized on 21 January 1622.

1693 May 18: John Swett, Jr., brother of Joseph Swett, died in Charlestown.

1693. Stephen Swett, brother of Joseph Swett, died in Newbury late in the year.

1695. Joseph Swett [Jr., age 37] died aboard the Royal Navy ship HMS Defiant in late 1695. He was a cooper; that is, he made and repaired barrels and casks. His will, dated 20 August 1689 and probated at London 24 January 1696, names no children or other relatives. [Peter Wilson Coldham, English Estates of American Colonists: American Wills and Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1610-1699. p. 56. PROB 11/433/148]

Will of Joseph Swett late of Boston in New England, dated 20 Aug 1689, 1 Wm and Mary. Constitute my friend John Gill of Wapping, co. Middx., waterman, my lawful attorney to collect all debts, wages, salary, pensions &c., pursuant to their Majesties Declaracon of 23 May last past, and in case of death the said John Gill sole Exor. Wit: Thomas Woodman, Jeremiah Foreman, signed and sealed 6 Sept. 1689 in presence of Sam Wells Jr at Wapping newstairs. Pro. at London, 24 Jan. 1695-6 by Exor. [NEHGS Register 1900-190.]
1712. In her will dated 12 January 1712 and probated 10 April 1721, Joseph Swett's widow Mary Baxter mentions three children by her first marriage, but does not refer to any of her children by Joseph Swett. He is called a mariner. [Rolfe, p. 4]


The life of Joseph Swett isn't well documented. He and his first wife, Elizabeth, may have left Boston and lived somewhere else, possibly in New York or Maryland. Additional research is needed to find when and where she died, and whether they had any children who were not born in Boston. The lives of his sons Joseph, Jr. (1658) and Benjamin (1673) are almost entirely unknown.

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