A cousin to my sons,
Samuel Swift (1715-1775), was a member of the Sons of Liberty and called a
“martyr for freedom’s cause” by his friend, Samuel Adams
(1722-1803). Samuel Swift was married twice, but at the period of time we’re
interested in, he was married to his second wife, Ann Foster (1729-1788), with
whom he had six children.
Swift died under
British house arrest in Boston, Massachusetts, having contracted an illness
from which he did not recover. I suspect it may have been smallpox or
diphtheria as these were two prevalent diseases during the
Revolutionary War and decimated General Washington’s troops.
Let’s backtrack from
Swift’s death to the events leading up to his house arrest. His good friend,
Samuel Adams, was the founder of the Sons of Liberty. The Sons of Liberty, was
founded in 1765 in Boston and dissolved in 1776. It was a secret organization
organized in all thirteen colonies to advance the rights of the colonists and to
fight taxation by the British government. It played a major role in battling
the Stamp Act and applying pressure to merchants who did not comply with the
non-importation associations (see prior blog). Wherever these groups existed, they were directed in secret by
leading men – Samuel Swift was one of these men.
Image from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Additionally, Swift was
part of Boston’s Committee of Correspondence. Each major city had one of these
committees whose purpose was to maintain contact between colonial cities. The
defined purpose of Boston’s Committee was to “Prepare a statement of the rights
of colonists, and of this province in particular, as men, as Christians, and as
subjects; Prepare a declaration of the infringement of those rights; and
Prepare a letter to be sent to all towns in this province (Massachusetts) and
to the world, giving the sense of this town.” In 1773, this Committee was
charged with managing the “tea crisis” and was the driving force behind the
Boston Tea Party. Samuel Swift – not an actual member of the Boston Tea Party -
is alleged to have been one of the managers of the Boston Tea Party. 1 Though the Committees of
Correspondence were primarily concerned with diplomacy, the Sons of Liberty
were more about action. So, it was probably the Sons of Liberty members (who
were also members of the Committees of Correspondence) who pulled off the
Boston Tea Party.
Samuel Swift was known
for his zeal regarding the revolution, and Samuel Adams said that “Samuel Swift
caused Bostonians to secrete their arms when the British Governor, Gage,
offered the town freedom if arms were brought into the arsenal.” Additionally,
in 1775, Swift was the presiding officer at a Freemasons meeting where it was
agreed to use the concealed arms and, if needed, pitchforks and axes, to attack
the British soldiers stationed in Boston. About June 1775, Gov. Gage got wind
of this scheme and imprisoned Samuel Swift. 2
Swift’s willingness to
resort to violence is seen in a letter he wrote to Samuel Adams on October 24,
1774: “As for my part I am no Swordsman but with Gun or flail I fear no man
more especially my Cause being Good as I think otherwise [sic] I would not
Needless to say,
Swift’s wife, Ann, was distraught about her husband’s house arrest. She and
their children were forced to leave their home and went to live in Springfield,
Massachusetts, about 90 miles west of Boston. Ann was an inveterate diary
keeper.She writes in her diary in June
1775: “Here I am in the woods, Boston being so surrounded by armies that we
could not enjoy our home: no school for the children, and the town forsaken by
the ministers—the pillars of the land.” At the same time, she wrote a letter to
a British officer, Captain Handfield, asking that her husband be able to come
Your kindness in undertaking to me a
pass for me emboldens me to ask the like favor for my dear husband whom I hear
is in a very weak state of health. The anxiety of my mind is great about him. A
word from you would have more weight than all the arguments that he could make
Could I come to him, this favor I
would not ask. I, Sir I trust in your goodness that you will do what you can to
forward Mr. Swift to me and in doing so you will greatly oblige
Your distressed friendANN SWIFT
Should be glad if he would bring
trunks which there is clothing
in that I
want very much for myself and
his wife’s plea, Samuel Swift was not released to go to Springfield. I presume
that despite his illness, Governor Gage, deemed him a threat, sick or not.Samuel Swift died on August 30, 1775. His
wife wrote in her diary: “Departed this life, in the 61st year of
his age, my dear husband, Samuel Swift. He died in Boston, or in other words,
murdered there. He was not allowed to come to see me and live with his wife and
children in the country. There he gave up the ghost—his heart was broken; the
cruel treatment he met with in being a friend to his country was more than he
could bear. With six fatherless children (in the woods) and all my substance in
Ann Foster Swift and Samuel Adams were correct – Samuel Swift, a true
Revolutionary, gave his life for his country, dying a martyr.
Image from Find a Grave
Swift is my sons’ second cousin, nine times removed.
1 - "Committees of Correspondence: The Voice of the Patriots." Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, 5 Mar 2019, www.bostonteapartyship.com/committees-of-correspondence.
2 - Ibid.
3 - "To John Adams from Samuel Swift, 20 October 1774," Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 13, 2018, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-02-0059. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 2, December 1773-April 1775, ed. Robert J. Taylor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977, pp. 192-196.
4 - "North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000." Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. www.ancestry.com. Memoirs of Gen. Joseph Gardner Swift, LL D, USA : First graduate of the United States Military Academy.
One of my great-uncles,
Christopher Swinbourne, was a pioneer photographer in New Zealand. Christopher
Swinbourne (1834-1869), was born in Ireland, and in 1852 emigrated with his
parents, Richard and Ann McGrath Swinbourne, to New Zealand [see previous post].
arrived in New Zealand at a time when photography was being introduced in
Australia and New Zealand. In 1852, the year of his arrival, Australia’s first
illustrated newspaper, The Illustrated Sydney
News, was published. In 1858, the
tintype process reached Australia and New Zealand. And, in 1859 the carte de
visite (a small photographic portrait mounted on a piece of card – 2½”-x-4”)
was introduced. 1
Google Image: Christchurch, Lyttleton, and Akaroa, New Zealand
I have not
been able to find when Christopher Swinbourne started his photography business,
but it is believed that he received his training under a Mr. Elsbee. On August
13, 1859, the Lyttleton Times sang
the praises of Swinbourne’s photographic abilities:
We have always had a strong objection to
praise or seen to puff the excellencies of anything that is a native product,
simply as such; but we cannot refrain, for once, from commending the successful
efforts at photographic portraiture exhibited by Mr. C. Swinbourne since his
arrival in this town . . . . We have seen specimens of Mr. Swinbourne’s
manipulation which speak for themselves of the progress he has made in a very
short time, and which really stand well among the ordinary specimens of the art
which are current in the colonies. We wish this painstaking gentleman every
I was not
able to find out when Swinbourne actually started his own business, but he was in
business by 1859 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Here are some his advertisements. 2 You will
note that in one he advertises the availability of the carte de visite.
article found in the Lyttleton Times,
July 7, 1863, Swinbourne had set up a display in his studio window in honor of
the royal wedding of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra.
There are no
known photographs of Christopher nor are there any known existing photographs
taken by him. 3
Swinbourne, my 3rd great-uncle in my adoptive family, is buried at the family
plot in the Baradoes Street Cemetery, Christchurch, New Zealand.
1 – “Art Sets.
The Photograph and Australia: Timeline.” Art
Gallery NSW, Art Gallery of New South Wales, www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/artsets/51b88k.
Photography, Early Canterbury. “SWINBOURNE, Christopher.” Early New Zealand Photographers, 1 Jan. 1970,
NOTE: All copies of the newspaper advertisements are from the source cited in footnote 2.