Ben H. Swett
Colonel USAF (Retired)
31 July 2002

The first Joseph Swett in Marblehead was born 28 November 1657 at Newbury, son of Stephen and Hannah (Merrill) Swett, and grandson of John Swett of Newbury. When he grew up, he moved to Marblehead. About 1688 he married Mrs. Hannah Knott, twice widowed daughter of John and Ann Devereaux. [Everett S. Stackpole, Swett Genealogy, Lewiston, Maine, circa 1914, head of family #7, p. 10]

Joseph Swett, Jr., the only child of Joseph and Hannah (Devereaux) Swett, was baptized 25 August 1689 at Marblehead. [Stackpole, head of family #16, p. 16]

On 16 December 1710, Joseph Swett, cordwainer, of Marblehead, and Hannah his wife, deeded all their property to their son, Joseph Swett, Jr., cordwainer, of Marblehead. [Stackpole, p. 11. See deed at Salem.]

Although Joseph Swett, Jr., started his adult life as a cordwainer (shoemaker), like his father and grandfather, and probably his great-grandfather, he became the first truly successful businessman in Marblehead. More than 300 years after he was born (1997), when I and my son Scott visited Abbot Hall in Marblehead, where the great painting "The Spirit of '76" is displayed, we asked about the Swett family, and were told: "Joseph Swett put this town on the map." How it happened will be described at the end of this paper.

Joseph Swett, Jr., married Ruth Parker, daughter of Stephen and Susanna Parker of Watertown. The Marblehead Church Records for 27 March 1715 read: "Entered Joseph Sweat & Ruth Sweat, his wife." They had five children:

Hannah, baptized 16 September 1716, died young
Ruth, baptized 8 January 1719, married Robert Hooper in 1735
Joseph, born 23 April 1721, married Mary Palmer in 1745; of Portland, ME
Stephen, born 3 March 1724, was not named in his father's will
Hannah, born 15 March 1725, married Joseph Lemmon in 1742
Ruth (Parker) wife of Joseph Swett, Jr., died 4 April 1725, about three weeks after the birth of her last child.

He married (2) Martha A. Stacey, 13 September 1725. They had four children:

Martha, born 12 June 1726, married Jeremiah Lee in 1745
Mary, (birth date unknown), married Henry Saunders
Samuel [42], baptized 9 November 1729, married Anna Woodbury in 1752
Henry, baptized 5 August 1733, was not named in his father's will
Martha (Stacey), second wife of Joseph Swett, Jr., died in late 1733 or 1734.

He married (3) Mrs. Hannah Strahan, daughter of Jabez and Sarah (Browne) Negus of Boston, 23 September 1734. They had two children:

Sarah, baptized 23 February 1735, married Benjamin Marston in 1755
Rebecca, baptized 12 September 1736.
In 1734, Joseph Swett of Marblehead drew a lot in Amherst, NH, "for his brother Stephen Swett." This was Joseph Swett, Sr., then 77 years old. These lots in Amherst were given to veterans of King Phillip's War or their closest male heir. [Stackpole, pp. 8, 10-11]

Joseph Swett, Jr., was 55 years old when he died. His will, dated 20 March 1744 and probated 16 April 1745, names wife Hannah, sons Joseph and Samuel, and five daughters: Ruth wife of John Hooper, Hannah wife of Joseph Lemmon, Martha Swett, Sarah Swett, and Rebecca Swett. [Stackpole, p. 16-17]

Martha Swett, daughter of Joseph Swett, Jr., and Martha (Stacey) Swett, married Jeremiah Lee on 25 June 1745. He became one of the wealthiest men in America. The Jeremiah Lee mansion at 161 Washington Street, Marblehead, which he built in 1768, now includes the offices of the Marblehead Historical Society.

The heirs of Joseph Swett, Jr., gave a silver flagon to the Marblehead Church:

Jan: 3: 1759. Joseph Sweet, Esq., having left Pound 12:10 L.M. a legacy to the
Church, and, his heirs desiring that it should be made into a flagon for the
communion table, the Church having voted the appropriating of it to that
use, it was accordingly made into a Flagon, with additional sums sufficient
therefore from the Heirs -- Mr. Samuel Sweet, Mrs. Ruth Hooper, Mrs.
Martha Lee, and Mrs. Joseph Lemmon -- and this day brought down &
presented to the church for which the Pastor of the Chh returned thanks to
the several heirs. (total 25:13:4 value) [Marblehead Church Records]
This silver flagon, dated 7 May 1759, has been preserved by the First Church of Christ (Old North), 41 Washington Street, Marblehead. It is kept in a bank-vault, and used in worship services about once a year. I had it photographed in 1998 and have attached the photographs to this paper.

The inscription on the bottom of the flagon is in Latin:

Hoc Legatum Josephi Sweett Ar.t una cum Additamento ejus Haeredum,
Di S. Sweett, Dae R. Hooper, Dae M. Lee, et Di J. Lemmon, ad Usum
sacrosanctae Caenae, in prima Christi Ecclesia apud Marblehead,
consecratum: Mau 7, 1759. oz 55:12:0
The following account, written in 1766, explains how the Rev. John Barnard and Joseph Swett, Jr., "Put this town on the map."

The Rev. John Barnard was chosen co-pastor to the aged Rev. Samuel Cheever on 10 February 1715, and was ordained pastor of Marblehead Church by Dr. Cotton Mather on 18 July 1718. [Church Records]


[From Two Centuries of Travel in Essex County, Mass. MS 8555, p. 2-1, 2-2]

This description relates only to one town -- Marblehead, but it is so vivid that
it must not be overlooked. Rev. John Barnard was born in Boston in 1681
and after assisting Dr. Coleman of the Brattle Street Church and serving as
Chaplain in the expeditions against Port Royal in 1707, he preached as a
candidate in several pulpits and at last became the assistant of Rev. Samuel
Cheever at Marblehead and there he remained for the rest of his life. He
must have been a fine type of the dignified old-time minister for in the
discourse preached at his funeral it was said -- "His presence restrained
every imprudent sally of youth, and when the aged saw him they arose and
stood up." The following is reprinted from an autobiographical account
printed in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 3rd Series,
Volume V. (1836)

When first I came [1714], there were two companies of poor, smoke-dried,
rude, ill-clothed men, trained to no military discipline but that of "whipping
the snake," as they called it; whereas now [1766], and for years past, we are
a distinct regiment, consisting of seven full companies, well clad, of bright
countenances, vigorous and active men, so well trained in the use of their
arms, and the various motions and marches, that I have heard some
Colonels of other regiments, and a Brigadier General say, they never saw
throughout the country, not in their own regiment, no, nor in Boston, so
goodly an appearance of spirited men, and so well exercised a regiment.

When I came, there was not so much as one proper carpenter, nor mason,
nor tailor, nor butcher in the town, nor any thing of a market worth
naming; but they had their houses built by country workmen, and their
clothes made out of town, and supplied themselves with beef and pork from
Boston, which drained the town of its money. But now we abound in
artificers, and some of the best, and our markets large, even to a full
supply. And what above all I would remark, there was not so much as one
foreign trading vessel belonging to the town, nor for several years after I
came into it; though no town had really greater advantages in their hands.
The people contented themselves to be the slaves that digged in the mines,
and left the merchants of Boston, Salem, and Europe, to carry away the
gains; by which means the town was always in dismally poor circum-
stances, involved in debt to the merchants more than they were worth; nor
could I find twenty families in it that, upon the best examination, could
stand on their own legs; and they were generally as rude, swearing,
drunken, and fighting a crew, as they were poor. Whereas, not only are the
public ways vastly mended, but the manners of the people greatly
cultivated; and we have many gentlemenlike and polite families, and the
very fisherfolk scorn the rudeness of the former generation.

I soon saw that the town had a prize in its hands, and it was a pity they had
not the heart to improve it. I therefore laid myself out to get acquaintance
with the English masters of vessels, that I might by them be let into the
mystery of the fish trade, and in a little time I gained a pretty thorough
understanding of it. When I saw the advantages of it, I thought it my duty
to stir up my people, such as I thought would harken to me, and were
capable of practising upon the advice, to send fish to market themselves,
that they might reap the benefit of it, to the enriching themselves, and
serving the town. But alas! I could inspire no man with courage and
resolution enough to engage in it, till I met with Mr. Joseph Swett, a young
man of strict justice, great industry, enterprising genius, quick appre-
hension, and firm resolve, but of small fortune. To him I opened myself
fully, laid the scheme clearly before him, and he hearkened unto me, and
wise enough to put it in practise. He first sent a small cargo to Barbadoes.
He soon found he increased his stock, built vessels, and sent the fish to
Europe, and prospered in the trade, to the enriching of himself; and some of
his family, by carrying on the trade, have arrived at large estates. The more
promising young men of the town soon followed his example; that now we
have between thirty and forty ships, brigs, snows, and topsail schooners
engaged in foreign trade. From so small a beginning the town has risen
into its present flourishing circumstances, and we need no foreigner to
transport our fish, but are able ourselves to send it all to the market.

Silver flagon given to the Church of Marblehead, Massachusetts,
by the heirs of Joseph Swett, Jr. (1689-1745). His name, their names,
and the date 7 May 1759 are engraved on the bottom of the flagon.
The engraving on the right is his Coat of Arms.

Photographed by Rick Ashley, 22 September 1998

Coat of Arms of Joseph Swett, Jr. (1689-1745)
Marblehead, Massachusetts
great-grandson of John Swett of Newbury

Photographed by Rick Ashley, 22 September 1998

Because it does not have the crest (a pierced star between two gillyflowers), this Coat of Arms does not descend from the grant of Arms and Crest to Adrian Swete of Traine Manor, Modbury, Devon, England, in 1712. For the same reason, it does not descend from the award of Arms and Crest to Guy Swete of Traine by King Edward the Fourth in 1473. Because the shield is the family identifier, and a crest is an extra honor, this shield represents a family tradition that predates 1473. [Fox-Davies, A Complete Guide to Heraldry, 1978 ed.]

Inscription on the bottom of the silver flagon
presented to the Church of Marblehead, Massachusetts,
by the heirs of Joseph Swett, Jr. (1689-1745).

Photographed by Rick Ashley, 22 September 1998

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