Jonathan Swett, possibly born 1720, worked 1753-1774




Newport, Rhode Island

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Little is known about Newport joiner Jonathan Swett. On December 18, 1752, he billed Newport mariner Robert Dunbar fifty pounds for a "beaufatt & case." Dunbar failed to pay this debt and was subsequently sued by Swett in November, 1755, at the Newport Inferior Court of Common Pleas.(1)

Swett was a soldier alongside Abraham Shoemaker in the 40th Regiment in 1763. They were "billeted at Silas Spencer of East Greenwich, by order of Justice Comstock from the 16th day or February, 1763, to the 27th day of July (Except some days they were absent)."(2)

Swett appears five times in the account book of Newport cabinetmaker John Cahoone between the years 1749 and 1760. Swett was one of several journeymen cabinetmakers to provide case furniture for Cahoone's apparently thriving business.(3) As was typical for journeymen in this period, Swett was never wealthy enough to pay taxes or own property.(4) Swett was still living in Newport in 1774 and is listed in the census as having a household with three males above sixteen years of age, one male under sixteen, three females above sixteen years of age, and one under sixteen.(5) He may be the Jonathan Sweet born in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, in 1720 to Benjamin Swett.(6)

Benjamin W. Colman and Patricia E. Kane

1. Jonathan Swett v. Robert Dunbar. A copy of Dunbar's account with Swett presented as evidence in case 176 in November, 1755. Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. E, p. 176 Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, R.I.

2. Silas Spencer bill for 39 week billet, General Treasury Accounts Allowed, February 1764. Rhode Island State Archives, Providence.

3. Margaretta M. Lovell, ""Such Furniture as Will Be Most Profitable": The Business of Cabinetmaker in Eighteenth-Century Newport" Winterthur Portfolio 26, no. 1 (Spring 1991): 57.

4. Jeanne Vibert Sloane, "John Cahoone and the Newport Furniture Industry, " Old Time New England 72 (1987): 95.

5. John R. Bartlett, comp., Census of the Inhabitants of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 1774 (Providence, R.I., 1858. Reprinted with an index by E. E. Brownell. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1969), 31.

6. Dartmouth Vital Records to the Year 1850,1:265.