Lisa Sweet Cambridge is a communications professional writing about all that retirement brings to her life ... some of it is sweet and some requires grit.

Friday, October 21, 2016

New England - Stepping Back in Time

During the first week in October, Dan and I spontaneously took a trip to New England. Spontaneity isn't exactly at the core of who we are ... we don’t usually buy plane tickets on a Sunday for a flight that leaves in a week nor is it our normal approach to vacation planning to arrange hotel accommodations for only one night out of six and then take each day as it comes. But, then, life for us right now isn’t exactly normal.

So, that’s what we did … bought plane tickets, rented a car and took off across New England. It was fabulous! We couldn't have chosen a better time to participate in "leafpeeping," track ancestors and visit friends.

Day 1 – Monday, Oct. 3

We arrived in Providence/Warwick, R.I., on the evening of Monday, Oct. 3, and spent the night at a Best Western located directly across the street from the airport. This was the one advance reservation we made. Glad we did, because our connecting flight had been delayed several hours and we weren’t going to do any sightseeing. All we wanted was a place to lay our heads. The Best Western Airport Warwick was more than sufficient for our needs – a decent bed and a free breakfast.

Day 2 – Tuesday, Oct. 4
Matteson Family Cemetery – Earliest Known Grave of Sweet Ancestor
First on our agenda was to locate the gravesite of one of my Sweet ancestors. Thanks to my sleuth husband, we were able to locate the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery No. WGO76 in West Greenwich where there is documentation of the grave of Mary Griffin Sweet. Mary is my sixth great-grandmother, born 1662 and died 1751. The Matteson family cemetery is located in the woods on farmland outside West Greenwich.


Mary Sweet
2 May, 1752

We took a dirt road until we saw a walking path that went downhill into the woods. That path forked and fortunately we took the right (and correct) fork to find the cemetery. The gravestones are primitive with only initials and date of death. It is very difficult to read and most of them only show the top 12 inches or so of the headstone But, we found her!

Look closely and you can see the engraved MS. The picture doesn't do it justice, but at ground level, you can also see her date of death: May 2, 1752.

There is no record of her husband’s, my sixth great grandfather, Captain Henry Sweet, burial in this cemetery or any other place, nor any record of his date of death. He most likely served in the Army of the King and during the Indian uprisings. He sired his last child in 1711, so perhaps he was killed in service during Queen Anne's War. That's just a wild guess with nothing to document it.

Another educated guess is that Mary was buried in the Matteson cemetery because she lived with at one of her three daughters, Alice, Ruth or Hannah, all of who married Matteson brothers. Alice and Ruth were twins and Hannah was the youngest child of Henry and Mary.

The Sweets’ First Stomping Grounds in America

Our second stop was in Providence to trace our ancestor who brought our branch of the Sweet family to America, John Sweet. In 1631, John and his family of four (wife and three small children) sailed from Devonshire, England, to Narraganset Bay. John is my eighth great-grandfather. This Sweet family along with about 20 other people were part of the religious freedom movement and settled in Providence with Roger Williams, founder of the Baptist Church.

Williams granted 6-acre lots of land to those families. John Sweet’s lot is where Rhode Island’s Old State House, the original capitol, is now situated. (See Lot # 18, Map of Providence Home Lots). Of course, we stopped in and I tried to claim back rent, but they weren't in the least bit intimidated.
Map of Providence Home Lots
Rhode Island Old State House
(located on the site of John Sweet's home in 1637)

Artist's rendering of homebuilding by the first settlers of Providence
For interested Sweet family members: John Sweet was married to Mary Periam (or Westcott; there is some discrepancy between sources as to her last name). They had three children, John, James and Meribah. (There is also a reference to a child named Thomas who died when he was 6 years old, before the family migrated to America.)

John Sweet I died in 1637. His wife, Mary, our eighth great-grandmother, remarried within a year of John I’s death to Ezekiel Holiman who, by the way, had received the grant to Lot #25. Records show that a disposition of John's Providence land took place in 1638 due to “moved to Warwick.” Sons John and James (who would have been 18 and 14 years of age) did indeed settle in Warwick where John (our seventh great-grandfather) subsequently built a grist mill, married Elizabeth Jeffries (Jeoffries) and had nine children. All but one lived to adulthood, which is remarkable for that time.

A quick Sweet ancestral summary:
  • John Sweet and family arrived at Narraganset Bay, Mass., in 1631 and moved from there to Salem to Providence where he died in 1637.
  • His son, John, moved to Warwick, R.I., built a grist mill and married Elizabeth Jeffries. They had nine children, one of which was Henry Sweet.
  • Henry married Mary Griffin and they had 13 children. There is documentation that 12 of them lived to adulthood. Again, rare for that time.
  • Mary is buried in Matteson Family Cemetery near West Greenwich, R.I.

From Providence, Dan and I drove to Plymouth, Mass., home of Plymouth Rock and Plimouth Colony which will be covered in my next blog. This historical city has significant meaning for the Sweet's Pilgrim ancestors who came to America on the Mayflower.