Swett’s Ferry

1647 (1645 – 21?)Tristram Coffin, an early settler of Haverhill, established an “ordinary” (a tavern) and a ferry at “Holt’s Rocks”, about ¼ mile upriver from the present Rock’s Bridge.

1674: John Swett of Newbury was appointed ferryman

1695 – John Kelly Sr. received permission from Newbury to keep a ferry at Holt’s Rocks near his house. Coffin had moved away by this time. Fare: two pence for man, four pence for horse. (68, pg 460).  This petition required that “Newbury do at their own cost and charge make and maintain a sufficient highway from ye river up to ye country road way, and ye town of Almesbury do ye like on their side of ye river.” (68)

1703 (approx) – John Swett Jr. (Feb 28, 1677-1719) (the oldest son of John Swett and Mary Plummer Swett) arranged with Kelly to move the Haverhill end of the ferry to the public landing at the end of the present Wharf Lane. The landing became known as Swett’s Landing; the lane as Swett’s Lane. (23)

1711, September 25– John Swett, Jr. was licensed to keep the ferry for 7 years. His brother Benjamin Swett (April 11, 1688 – 1738) worked with him – probably on the Newbury side. Benjamin married Mary Wheeler. He and his heirs continued to operate it until 1735. (68, pg 460)

1713, December: “The selectmen of Newbury applied to the General Court for liberty to keep the ferry and pay over annually to the treasurer of the town the amount received for ferriage.” (68, pg 460)

1714, June 10: It was ordered that the profits of the Ferry “be to the Towns of Newbury & Haverhill in equal proportions: this Grant being limited for ye Space of forty years next coming.” (68, pg 461)

1717 John Swett deeded his homestead to his son Benjamin Swett, he to pay his brothers Stephen and Joseph and grantor’s wife Esther. [Stackpole, p. 10. See deed at Salem.](23)

1719 – John Swett Jr. petitioned Haverhill to buy the town’s interest in the ferry and said he would set up a toll.1729 John [34] and his uncle Benjamin [15] continued to operate Swett’s Ferry. As shown by a map of West Newbury dated 15 September 1729, John Swett lived at the Haverhill end of the ferry, and Benjamin Swett lived at the West Newbury end of the ferry. [John J. Currier, Olde Newbury, 1896, pp. 395-97]

This ancient ferry was doubtless controlled by John Swett as ferry- man for many years and was known as Swett' s ferry, located near the old line of Haverhill and Amesbury on the north side of the river, and at Holt's Rocks on the Newbury side, or near where the Rocks bridge spans the river. It was a shipping place of note soon after the ferry was established for the early coasting and West India trade, and the village, from the abundant return from the ventures shipped of a special West India goods, probably took the name of "Jamaica; " but this is conjecture. (25)

1724 – John’s oldest son John Swett (3rd), married Sarah Saunders of Haverhill. They and their three children lived at the Haverhill end of the ferry, at the end of Swett’s Lane. (not sure which house)

1734:  The town of Newbury granted the part of the ferry called Swetts ferre toJoshua Bailey because he said the “ferre be well tended & also to pay four pound a year, yearly for three years”. (68 pg 461)

1735 – John Swett 3rd continued to operate the Haverhill end of the ferry. John lived at and operated the Haverhill end. Benjamin Swett lived at and operated the West Newbury end.  The town of Haverhill granted to John Swett their interest in Rock’s Ferry for 13s, 6d. (38, pg 156)

1755-6, March 9 – David Chase got permission to build a wharf at his own cost at Swett’s ferry. (68, pg 462). He operated the ferry in 1760.

1765 John Swett Jr. was granted a 10 year lease for the Ferry. The Ferry had for forty years previous been kept by his father.(38, pg 338)

1770: John Holt Ferryman

1780 – John Swett 3rd willed his interest in the ferry to his grandson, James White, who apparently operated it until about 1789.

Swett, the ferry man, moved the ferry down to a landing just above the bridge and laid out a way to it called Swett’s Lane and built a house for himself in the Village. Here he kept a tavern for many years.