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Swansea Town Records

Identifier: MSN/COL 2718

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of 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. 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. 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 half-dozen memoranda and other proprietors' meeting documents in the collection all ultimately pertain 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).


  • Creation: 1671-1807

Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

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).

Selectmen were the town's highest elected officials, and its chief administrators. 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.


49 folders.

Language of Materials



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.

Related Materials

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

Swansea Town Records
George Rugg
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556