Friday, October 12, 2012

Seth Sweetser of Tring and Charlestown, MA *

english origins
Seth Sweetser was born in Tring, Hertfordshire, England to James and Joanne Sweetser. He was baptized, not born, on 18 May 1606 at the church of St. Peter and St. Paul. His parents had been married in the same church on 15 August 1598. This is what seems to be the standard information written about him. But the parish records  show a marriage on 2 November 1596 between James and a Elizabeth Soweth, and I cannot find in the IGI the marriage to Joanne. There is also a child born to a James Sweetser prior to the marriage date with Joanne.

St. Peter and St. Paul Tring
Other children found in the IGI are the following (note these are the dates of baptism and not births)
Elizabeth 26 June 1597
James 25 March 1599
Benjamin 6 April 1600
Elizabeth 5 April 1602
Seth 18 May 1606

I cannot find a death in the IGI for James, Joanne or Elizabeth, despite these dates being seen frequently on the internet, I am not sure of the source for those dates.

marriage and children
On 20 Jan 1630 Seth Sweetser married Bethia Cooke in Tring, their daughter Anna  was baptized there on 27 Nov 1631 and buried on 28 July 1636. (These dates are found in the IGI) Bethia may have been from nearby Flamstead where there were quite a few Cooke families. Other children of Bethia and Seth were:
Benjamin  bapt.8 Dec 1633 Tring, England
Mary bapt. 20 Feb 1635 Tring, England
Sarah b. 1637 Charlestown, Mass
Hannah bapt. 12 Nov 1638 (from 1st Church of Charlestown records)
Elizabeth bapt. 27 Nov 1642 (from 1st Church of Charlestown records)

Seth, Bethia and their surviving children, Benjamin and Mary left Tring in 1637 for a new life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They may have left for religious reasons or because Seth was the youngest son, for economic ones, as the family land would probably go to an older brother. In any case they left family and friends forever.  Once there they got down to business. Seth took the Freedman's Oath on March 14, 1638/9, he joined the First Church of Charlestown on November 8,1638 and Bethia on July 9, 1639.  Being a full fledged church member was not always easy, but it was necessary if you wanted to vote and play a bigger role in the new colony.

see the Charlestown neck in this 1775 map
In 1637 Seth had a 10 acre lot on the Mystic river side of Charlestown. (this is not part of modern day Charlestown) From John Baker he bought a house and 4 acres in the neck, 5 acres on the Mystic side and 3 acres in the Cow Common, all for 35 pounds. The "neck" was the small strip of land that joined the Charlestown peninsula to the mainland. He eventually owned a house and 40 acres of land in various parcels. Other writers have interpreted "in the neck" to mean in Charlestown proper.

As well as farming, Seth was a shoemaker.  In 1660 he deeded land to his son Benjamin and called himself a shoemaker and Benjamin a "heelmaker".  In a letter written to him from his cousin Daniel Field in Tring, dated 10 May 1642, he is told he will receive a butt of leather, presumably sent from England, the leather was most likely for the making of shoes and boots. The letter mentions various family in Tring. Daniel also sends his greetings to William Phillips, who was an inn keeper in Charlestown. The letter mentions his brothers and his sister Elizabeth.

Bethia died in January of 1660 and Seth remarried  in April of the next year to the widow Elizabeth Oakes. He died on 21 May 1662 aged 56, he was buried in the "Old Phipps Street Burying Ground".
Here is his will:
The last will and testament of Seth Sweetser of Charlestown this four and twenty day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and sixty two.I, Seth Sweatser, being in my right memory and composure of mind and senses, though weak and sick of body do make and consititute this my last will and testament, wherein I commit my body to ducst and my soul to God that gave it and my estate as followeth.Item: To my son Benjemene his full portion on Charlestown Side in his possession already.Item: that my wife Elizabeth Sweetser which now is, that she shall have all her own estate which I had with her, paying all her own debts out of it which she owed before I had her-moreover my will is that she shall have the third of my estate that I have now in present possession after my debts are paid, during the time of her life, and if it should prove she should be with child, my will is that the child should have twenty pounds out of her third, after her death, and I will also in case she be in want in time of her widowhood that she may expend of the principal according to the discretion of the executors and overseers.Item: my will is that my daughter Sara shall have a third part of my estate now and in possession , after my death-moreover I give onto my daughter Sara that third part remaining after my wif's decease in case I have no child by her then she to have whole third that was my wife' will is that my other third may be thus divided-to my son Samuel Blanchard I give unto his tem shillings beside what he had before-to my daughter Mary Blanchard Twenty pounds to be at her own proper use and disposing I give her but which I desire may be left in the hands of the executors and overseers to be disposed of to her need as they see good and see to return to her nex remainng child.I give onto my daughter Hana Fitch twenty pounds over and above what she hath had already.I give unto my wife's three children Forty shillings that is to say twenty shillings to the son and ten shillings to the daughters apiece and the rest of the third of my estate after the discharge of my sickness and burial the remainder of this third of ny estate be returned to my daughter Sara.Also I constitute and ordan these my loving friends my executors of this my last will and testament that is to say Edward Drinker and my son Benjemen Sweetsur. Also my honoured friend Mr. Richard Russel and my brother Thomas Gold to be my overseers of this my will.(Signed) Seth Sweetser
Witnesses:Thomas EmonsThomas Osburne"Seth Sweetser's estate was probated on 17 Jun 1662, and the inventory judged to be worth 270 pounds 2 shillings 1 pence. However, on 13 Dec 1662, this inventory was reduced by 20 pounds 7 shillings 5 pence due to a loss on certain items, several small debts not originally included in this inventory and a mistake of 9 pounds in adding the values.

His daughter Mary Sweetser married Samuel Blanchard, son of Thomas Blanchard of Charlestown.
Benjamin, his only son, was a founding member of a Baptist church in Charlestown.


"England Marriages, 1538–1973 ," database, FamilySearch( : accessed 15 October 2015), James Swetzer and Eliz. Sowth, 02 Nov 1596; citing Tring,Hertford,England, reference ; FHL microfilm 991,338.

NEGHR vol. 3 p. 96
NEGHR vol 18 p. 290
Wyman, The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown

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