Monday, August 13, 2012


((Today is the 302nd anniversary of the death of my 9x great grandfather,
Jeremiah Swain, who was prominent in early Massachusetts Bay Colony
history. My discovery of this poem led to a 14 part series of posts on his 
life. First posted in Apr 2009))

On May 29,1844, at the Bi-Centennial Celebration of the Founding of
Old Reading, Massachusetts (now three towns: Reading, North Reading,
and Wakefield), the Honorable Lilley Eaton stepped forward and read a
poem he'd written about the history of the town and some of it's important
citizens. Among these was my ancestor Jeremiah Swain(also spelled
Swayne or Sweyn)

"At my old map I looked again,
And found the house of Major Swayne ;
'Twas situated near the ground
Where Stowell, Issacher, is found.
This Major Swayne, the records say,
Was a great warrior in his day,
And in our ancient Indian wars,
A victor chief, beloved of Mars ;
And when King Philip with his troop,
With tomahawk and dread war-whoop,
With poisoned arrows and firebrand,
Bore down upon the pilgrim land,
Old Major Swayne, with courage true,
Forth to the post of danger flew,
Was made commander of the free,
And led them on victory.
And once, 'tis said, it so fell out,
While Major Swayne was on a scout,
Exploring swamps and other by-land,
Within the State of old Rhode Island,
He found the Indians, whom he sought,
Gathered in force, within a fort.
Our hero's numbers being few,
He wished to hide them from their view,
So lurking near their palisade,
Concealed them there in ambuscade ;
Then bold as e'er a lion was,
His glitt'ring steel the Major draws,
And, mounting on a rising stone,
He cries in loud, undaunted tone,
"We've found the foe, let's storm the fort,
To drive them thence will be but sport;
Come, Captain Poole and Sergeant Brown,
Wheel up your squadrons into line."
The Indians heard this fearless boast,
And thought there came a mighty host ;
With terror struck, and wild dismay,
They quit the fort and ran away ;
Our little band, with triumph then,
Into the empty fortress ran,
Unfurled the flag of liberty,
And gain'd a bloodless victory."

Lilley Eaton & James Flint, Historical Address and Poem: Delivered at 
the Bi-centennialCelebration of the Incorporation of the Old Town of 
Reading May 29, 1844,  (Boston, Ma. S.N. Dickinson, 1844) pp.73-74

Now I'm well aware of poetic license but as I'll show in future posts Lilley Eaton took
quite a bit of it in his description of my ancestor's part in what is also known as the
Great Swamp Battle. Suffice it to say at this point that while Jeremiah Swain would
rise in rank in the Massachusetts militia, he was only a lieutenant at the time of the
battle, and the victory was hardly as bloodless as Mr. Eaton portrays it. But two
hundred years had passed and there was no internet around to consult about the
actual event so Lilley Eaton no doubt relied on tradition in composing his poem.

As I said, there'll be more to come, but for the moment, this is my descent from
Jeremiah Swain and his wife Mary Smith:

Jeremiah Swain m. Mary Smith
Sarah Swain m. John Laughton
John Laughton Jr. m Hepzibah(Hepzibath) Stimson (Stimpson)
John Laughton 3rd m. Jane Adams
John Laughton 4th m. Lydia Ann McGraugh
John Laughton 5th m. Amata Greenleaf
Esther Laughton m. Philip Richardson
Louisa Almata Richardson m. Jonathan Phelps West (my great great grandparents)

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