The Swain Migration Chronology, Part III: Recent History

This, as you will see, is the very definition of a work in progress.

In sum, it is the best attempt on the parts of my cousin Elisha Lee and myself to reconstruct the family’s history from the point where the Transcript article leaves off to Howard T. Swain’s departure from Copake for Exeter, and from there for Boston.

Small moves…



Part II: Recent History

The Swain family continued to live in the Hampton, NH and Hampton Falls, NH area until the late 1700’s, where we pick up the current trail.

The genealogy during this period is, at this point, conjecture. Once a generation or two is forgotten, you can’t say anything for sure. Certainty only reappears, as we go back from the present.

As of this writing we can go as far back as John Swain and Eunice Rogers Swett, residents of Hampton Falls, NH… THE remaining mystery is nailing down John Swain’s father, who may be either John Swain b. Jan 11, 1685, husband of Martha Tongue, or alternately, William Swain (IV), b. 1724, husband of Judith Gove. If the former, John would have been about 58, with a 37 yo 2nd wife when he had Levi. If the latter, he would have been younger, but that man has no dates. Once this link is established, we’ll know how to connect the entire line. On the whole, the evidence best suggests the John Swain / Martha Tongue option.


  • …John Swain’s wife Judith Page, by whom he has had five children, dies [date?]. Meanwhile, Moses Swett, husband of Eunice Rogers Swett also dies [date?].
  • John Swain and Eunice (Rogers) Swett Swain are married [no date on entry] and live in Hampton Falls, NH. — Vital Statistics of Hampton Falls, NH through 1899.
  • Levi Swain is born to them in Hampton Falls, November (12 or) 14, 1777. — Vital Statistics of Hampton Falls, NH through 1899.
  • John and Eunice Swain, and sons John, Theophilus, and Levi [maybe others too], move (possibly) to Poultney, VT, and then, before 2/2/1785, to Gilmanton, NH where they buy land. [According to Hampton Falls VR, Levi was born in Hampton Falls, NH (see above); according to Levi’s death certificate, he was born in Poultney, VT; according to his son Joel’s death certificate, Levi was born in Gilmanton, NH. …This is why this research is frustrating.]
  • John Swain dies, and his estate is settled in Gilmanton, NH  Oct 4, 1798. His wife Eunice is rendered an account there on Feb 21, 1801.
  • [A John Swain and John, Jr. appear in Gilmanton in the 1800 Census, and then Castleton in the 1820 Census, but neither dies there. Are these Levi’s father and brother or brother and nephew?]
  • John and Eunice’s son, Levi Swain, moves to Brattleboro, VT before 1808.
  • Levi marries Rhoda Eaton, then of Brattleboro, Vermont, 7/20/1808.levi-and-rhoda-swain-wedding-entry-in-the-vr
  • Levi is counted in Brattleboro for the 1810 Census.
  • Levi’s signature, just because… (It took me a long time to find it.)levi-swain-autograph
  • Children Joel Eaton Swain, Julia Ann Swain, are born to Levi and Rhoda in Brattleboro, 1810 and 1813, respectively.
  • A somewhat lengthy aside: for much of the last decade, the parentage of Rhoda was in some doubt, at least as far as I was concerned, but the matter has been put to rest.
    • The first and strongest possibility, suggested by multiple people on the web, was that she was the daughter of Simeon Eaton and Rhoda Clark of West Brattleboro, Vermont. Two points bearing on names: one, the mother of this family also is named Rhoda, arguing for a connection; two, this family had a son, Joel Eaton, who died in 1805. This would explain Rhoda’s choice of the name Joel Eaton Swain for her first son in 1810.
    • Another possibility, though, was that she was the daughter of Abner and Abelina Eaton, of Underhill, a town near Burlington, and there is a document – a relatively modern transcription of an original town record –  to attest that an Abner and Abelina had a daughter, Roda, in Underhill, c. 1783. roda-eaton-dau-of-abner-and-abelina-eaton-1783-copyHowever, J.J Monahan’s online History of the Town of Underhill maintains that the first child to be born in Underhill was not born until 1787, and was named NancyThe first settlers in this town were Elijah BENEDICT and Abner EATON in 1786. Mr. EATON located in North Underhill and resided there to the time of his death. The first deed executed in town was from Thomas BARNEY to Caleb SHELDON, and dated August 25, 1789. The first child born in town was Nancy SHELDON, daughter of Caleb SHELDON, on the 10th of September, 1787.” Thus, this Rhoda was supposedly born in Underhill four years before the town’s actual first child. A mistake, one or  more, clearly occurred somewhere
    • Based on the similarity of names – Rhoda, Joel Eaton – I felt the weight of the evidence was on Simeon and Rhoda as her parents.
    • Fortunately, I recently found Simeon’s will, and in a codicil, after appointing his son Simeon executor, and mentioning his one other surviving son, Stephen, he names his daughters, including Rhoda Swain, Sally Nash, and Esther, Miriam, and Clarissa Eaton, and gives them each $1.  simeon-eaton-codicil-1asimeon-eaton-codicil-1bMystery solved!
  • Levi and Rhoda’s son, Joel Eaton Swain, dies in Brattleboro, 1813. [He is buried in the West Brattleboro Cemetery off Mather street amongst his aunt Sally Nash’s family, including Azor, Esther, Moses, and Grace Nash. His grandparents, Rhoda and Simeon Eaton, are there as well, between Watson and Desiah and Chs. H. Crosby, and Waitstill and Elizabeth Orvis.]
  • Levi and Rhoda and family move to Colrain, MA before 1820, when they are counted in the Census. The move may have happened in 1814. [See next bullet point re Emily Swain.]
  • Emily Swain is born to Levi and Rhoda, 1814. (She later dies in South Hadley, MA on 11 May 1848. Her death entry lists Colrain as her POB.)
  • Sarah P. (Perkins?) Swain is born to Levi and Rhoda, place uncertain but presumably Colrain, 1817. (She later dies in South Hadley, MA on 15 August 1839.)
  • Theophilus Swain, Levi’s half-brother, dies in Gilmanton, NH, Feb 5, 1818. [His handwritten family record survives.]
  • Rhoda Eaton Swain dies in Colrain, MA, 8/13/1822.
  • Levi then marries Salome/ Sarah Hall, born in Keene, NH. [Any connection to the Sally Eaton of Loudon who married Levi Swain of Gilmanton, 9 January 1827 ?  Also interesting that the name Eaton pops up again.]
  • Levi appears, living in Colrain, MA, in the 1840 Census.
  • William Dexter Swain, Joel Swain, and Samuel H. [Hall?] Swain are born to Levi and Salome in Colrain, MA
  • The 1850 Census shows Levi, with Salome, in Colrain, and states both of them were born in NH.
  • A year later, in 1851, Levi dies in Colrain, and his death entry state his place of birth was Poultney, VT.
  • Their son, William Dexter Swain, moves to Rowe, MA where he is included in the 1850 Census as a farmer. [Later in life he would hold a job as a mechanic, before becoming a physician.]
  • Salome Hall Swain dies in Colrain, MA, June 1854.
  • William Dexter Swain marries Ellen Dodge in Rowe, MA, Sept 1854.
  • William Dexter Swain and Ellen Dodge Swain live in Rowe, MA.
  • Marion Salome Swain is born in Rowe, 1855; Frances A. Swain  is born there, 1858.
  • On August 24, 1858 the Selectmen of Colrain petitioned Judge Charles Mattoon to appoint a guardian for Joel, as he was “a person of unsound mind, of irregular, wandering and idle habits, which renders him incapable of taking care of himself and his property, and the said town to charge and expense for his support.”  Additional paperwork includes receipts for his guardian’s reimbursement for “Joel’s support at Vermont Asylum”.
  • William D. Swain and Ellen move to Albany, NY.
  • William Frederick Swain is born in Albany, 1862.
  • Ellen Dodge Swain dies, perhaps in Albany; her death possibly related to childbirth. She is buried, however, apart from her husband in Rowe, MA. “Our mother awaits us.” is the inscription on her stone.
  • Around this time, probably the fall of 1862, at the age of 36, Wm. D. Swain begins medical school in Albany.
  • Sometime before 1868, Wm. D. Swain marries Millicent Niver, born in Schodack, NY.
  • Sometime before 1868, the couple moves to Bath-on-Hudson, NY.
  • Howard T. Swain is born in Bath-on-Hudson, NY, May 1868.
  • Sometime in 1869, according to Columbia County Gazeteer, the family again moves, this time to Copake, NY.
  • Franklin Swain is born in Copake, NY, 1869.
  • William D. Swain lives out his life in Copake with Millicent.
  • Howard T. Swain leaves for Exeter, NH, to attend high school a second time at Exeter Academy, and then – skipping college entirely – proceeds to Boston, MA, and Harvard Medical School…


If you really made it through all that, you deserve a glass of wine, or maybe a shot of something stronger. Congratulations!

In closing, I’ll just say I know there is plenty of conjecture here. Lots of chances to be wrong, but we [Elisha and I] have given it what we have, and that will have to do.



Post Script:


If you happen to Google around, eventually you’ll find this… My guess is that it’s wrong, in that it shows Reuben as father of Levi, not John. But, I’m adding it all the same in case someone finds it later.

From  American AncestryGiving the Name and Descent, in the Male Line, of Americans Whose Ancestors Settled in the United States Previous to the Declaration of Independence, A.D. 1776, Volumes 1-2, p.123.







2 thoughts on “The Swain Migration Chronology, Part III: Recent History

  1. Matthew D Swain October 9, 2022 / 7:52 pm

    Ok, whew. That was alot to digest. But well worth the read. I’ve got an interesting one for ya. My great grandfather Lewis Emerson Swain, I’m told by my late grandmother, was of a group they called “The Chosen 8 of God”. Apparently it referred to the TEN that bought Nantucket way back when. Anyway, L.E. Swain was a whaler out of Nantucket and New Bedford from the limited research I’ve done. He settled in the Hilo Hi. area. Married a Hawaiian princess (of which there were plenty I’ve been told back then). Jenny, the Hawaiian dairy farm owner and “princess”, died young after having two boys, Charles & Lewis. L.E. Swain went down to the docks to find a new wife n came back home with a blonde Portuguese girl named Malinda Agusta. Proceeded to have 6 more children with her, 5 daughters & one son in 1894, my grandfather, the youngest. James Babtiest Swain. My dilemma is, I found records that show L.E. Swain traveling back n forth to New Hampshire & Brattleboro Vt to be involved in politics. Unfortunately I can’t seem to track his parents. I was hoping your articles might give more insight with the enormous amount of data you’ve compiled. Sadly, I STILL am running into walls when it comes to finding anything prior to L.E. Swain. If you’ve got anything or have ever heard of him and his ‘exploits’….PLEASE let me know.

    • LSL October 11, 2022 / 10:14 am

      Hi Matthew—

      Thanks for writing! Your background info on this line of the Swain family struck me as incredibly interesting, and so yesterday I (and a colleague) did some digging.

      To your most immediate question, “Who were the parents of the original/ first Lewis Emerson Swain?” I think I can give you a reasonable educated guess. It’s not proof, to be sure, but I believe it’s a decent surmise.

      A quick search of online family trees reveals a general consensus that Lewis was born either in 1829 or 1830 in either Brattleboro, VT or Reading, VT. I couldn’t find any sort of registry of his birth in town records and the like, but on Findagrave I did come across a tantalizing photograph and rubbing of the gravestone of a young woman named Mary Charlotte Swain or Mary C. Swain, the only daughter of Alva and Marian (Collins) Swain. [URL of main page: ; link to photo here: ]

      It reads:

      “Sleep on my Sister ’till the day,
      When called in Glory Christ shall come,
      To wake from death they sleeping lay,
      And welcome thee to Heaven thy home.
      Erected by L.E. Swain”

      The note where this is added on FamilySearch then reads, “Lewis Emerson Swain, her brother”.

      This might seem to be a bit of leap, until you look at the rest of the names in this Swain family cemetery, located in reading, which holds two Swain children named “Lewis,” and one woman with the maiden name of “Emerson.” [URL: ]

      BTW, I’ll point out in passing that the death date listed for Mary Charlotte Swain on Findagrave and in a few other places (6 April 1853) is wrong. It was misread from the worn stone. According to vital records, she actually died 5 Apri 1855.

      At any rate, if the stone *was* erected by a man named Lewis Emerson Swain, in 1855 or soon after, and he was her brother, we can make the reasonable assumption that he was the son of Alva and Marian (Collins) Swain. (Alva only had one wife.)

      Looking a little further, Alva’s dates are 24 September 1795 – 16 May 1844, and Marian’s are about 1802 – 4 August 1861.

      Alva on Family Search:
      Marian on Family Search:

      Their family trees are also listed in varying degrees of completeness and accuracy on Ancestry in several trees, but here is a pretty  good summary of it on FamilySearch:

      Buyer beware: the early Swains on FamilySearch are routinely damaged/ disrupted by well-meaning but poorly trained amateur genealogists, and I have not vetted what’s there. In other words, there’s no guarantee that that lineage is actually historically correct. But you can judge that for yourself. Also note that Marian (Collins) Swain was said to be born in Rhode Island, c. 1802, but I have not been able to find her parents. That’s a project for another day…

      Hopefully this gets you to the next step of your research journey.

      Thanks again for reaching out.

      All the best, LS

      PS I’m sending you an email with some relevant photos and screen shots for your files. If you don’t see it, check your spam folder.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s