Swansea is a town in Bristol County in southeastern Massachusetts.
It is located at the mouth of the Taunton River, just west of Fall River, 47 miles (76 km) south of Boston, and 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Providence, Rhode Island. The population was 15,865 at the 2010 census.
The villages of Hortonville, Barneyville and Ocean Grove are located in the town.
Swansea was named for the Welsh city of Swansea, which had been the hometown of some original settlers. John Miles, the founder of the first Baptist Church in Wales, moved to Swansea in 1662/3. William Brenton had purchased the land from Native Americans. Parts of its territory were originally part of Rehoboth, Massachusetts.
In 1667 the first Baptist church in Massachusetts relocated to Swansea from Rehoboth after experiencing religious intolerance there, and Swansea was incorporated as an independent town. Initially, the town established a committee to assign rank of 1, 2, or 3 to the residents with the first getting 3 acres of land, the second 2, and the third 1. The committee could promote and demote residents as it saw fit. The system collapsed in 1681 when the committee voted to make five residents the highest rank and to make the rank hereditary. The town unanimously voted to abolish the system.
On June 20, 1675, the first Indian attack of King Philip’s War had all 70 settlers confined to their stockade. The attack had taken place at the Miles Garrison, near the Coles River. By June 25 the entire town had been burned, although a handful of the colonists escaped to Taunton. When the active war ended in 1676, the town was soon rebuilt. The Miles (or Myles) Garrison stood the test of time, but was demolished in the 1970s. The plot it was on remains overgrown, free from construction, and a commemorative marker was placed there by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1912.
After the war, many small industries, such as forges, ironworks and fisheries, opened up in the town. Many would later leave, and there remains a large agricultural sector.
What is now Barrington, Rhode Island (part of Massachusetts until 1747) was separated from the rest of Swansea in 1717, over religious differences.
In the late 1890s, trolleys connected the town to Providence, Fall River and Taunton, and the town has retained a suburban residential feel. Today Swansea is well known for its retail areas.
Swansea gained national attention in 1985 when Mark Hoyle, a young hemophiliac who had contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion, was allowed to attend public schools by Jack McCarthy, Superintendent of Schools. It was the first time in the U.S. that a student known to have the disease was allowed to enter public schools. The case came to national attention around the same time as that of Ryan White in Indiana, and helped many children with HIV attend schools throughout the country. Hoyle died one year later, and a new elementary school was named in his honor.
The Swansea Public Schools serve the town, with four elementary schools (Joseph G. Luther Elementary School at Luther’s Corner, Gardner Elementary School in the South Swansea-Ocean Grove neighborhood, Elizabeth S. Brown Elementary School near the town center, and Mark Hoyle Elementary School in North Swansea), as well as Joseph Case Junior High School and Joseph Case High School, both located in the town center. Case High School (as it is commonly known) has the school colors of maroon and gold, and its mascot is the Cardinal. High school students also have the option of attending Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fall River, or Bristol County Agricultural High School in Dighton.
There are two Christian schools in town, and there are also local Catholic schools in nearby Warren and Fall River.
Eastern Nazarene College offers Adult Studies/LEAD classes in Swansea.
As of the census of 2000, there were 15,901 people, 5,888 households, and 4,539 families residing in the town. The population density was 689.4 people per square mile (266.2/km2). There were 6,070 housing units at an average density of 263.2 per square mile (101.6/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.91% White, 0.38% African American, 0.08% Native American, 0.36% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.27% from other races, and 1.00% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.60% of the population.
There were 5,888 households, out of which 31.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.6% were married couples living together, 8.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.9% were non-families. 19.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.67 and the average family size was 3.06.
In the town, the population was spread out, with 22.2% under the age of 18, 6.7% from 18 to 24, 28.4% from 25 to 44, 27.0% from 45 to 64, and 15.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.3 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $52,524, and the median income for a family was $60,567. Males had a median income of $40,056 versus $27,072 for females. The per capita income for the town was $21,776. About 3.4% of families and 4.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.9% of those under age 18 and 11.0% of those age 65 or over.