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In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Hester Williams Swift Prescott was born in 1882 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of a doctor, William Nye Swift (1854-1911) and his wife, Anna Hathaway Swift (1855-1933). Hester was brought up in New Bedford, attended Friends Academy, and spent her summers at the family's homes in Padanaram. In 1897, her family spent a year in Berlin while traveling in Europe. Hester spent a year at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1901. She again returned to Europe in 1907 with her family and went to Bermuda in 1909.
Hester became engaged to Henry Dudley Prescott (1875-1945) and married him in 1910. Henry was the son of Charles Dudley and Martha Knowles Prescott. He graduated from Harvard as a doctor and became a surgeon at St. Luke's Hospital. Shortly after their marriage, Henry suffered from a tubercular condition and never recovered sufficiently enough to continue his practice. Hester and Henry spent the winters of 1916 and 1917 in milder climates due to his health. Henry, in spite of his health, was still inducted into the Navy during World War I, but served as reserve status. By 1918, they had settled in at 26 Grove St., New Bedford, a wedding present from her parents. The two continued to spend their summers at Padanaram.
Although weakened by his condition, Henry still continued to be active in civic concerns and social activities. In 1941, the Prescotts donated his parents' house on Ash St., New Bedford, to the local chapter of the Red Cross for use as their headquarters. Hester was also involved in civic concerns. She opposed the proposed demolition of Fort Taber in 1935, volunteered at St. Luke's Hospital, and was a supporter of the tuberculosis center at Sassaquin Hospital in 1960. She became very involved in the writing of the family histories and genealogies and devoted much of her time not only to research, but to contacting various family members for information.
The Prescotts, in 1929-1930, built their own house in Padanaram known as "Windward.” They continued to spent their winters in New Bedford and their summers at "Windward" until Henry's death in 1945. Hester then sold the New Bedford house and lived at "Windward" year round until her death in 1962.
The material in this collection was compiled by Hester Williams Swift Prescott between 1910 and 1960. Dominating the collection are the family histories regarding the Swifts, Nyes, Perrys, Prescotts, Hathaways, and other related families during the years ca. 1940-1960. Materials relating to the early history of the Swift and Nye families include typescripts of letters, genealogical material on the Nyes and Hathaways, histories on the Nye, Hathaway, and Swift families, clippings and photographs compiled between ca. 1945-1955. The transcripts of letters are from Eliza Nye to her father and family while she was in Paris, 1847-1848, during the February Revolution. There is also a section pertaining to Hester's activities between 1940 and 1955 relating to the moving of Plymouth Rock and Thanksgiving celebrations.
A work entitled "Family Tales Dating Back to 1630: History of the Families - Perry, Nye, Swift" includes family histories of the Perrys and Nyes, biographies of individual members of the Swift family and reminiscences of Swift family events, 1880-1900, predominately relating to summers spent in Padanaram, The Snark - a literary and dramatic club and the year spent in Berlin, 1897, as well as photographs and clippings compiled 1935-1960. The clippings include material on the proposed plan to demolish Fort Taber in 1935 and the donation of a Prescott house as the new home for the local Red Cross Chapter, 1941. Also included are clippings on the Grace Dana estate, 1956 and an account of D-Day aboard the USS Chickadee by Lt. William N. Swift, 1944.
The Hathaway family histories contain two works compiled between ca. 1940 and ca. 1950. The first one is primarily about Nathaniel and Anna Hathaway and events up to 1848. There is also information on the Shoemaker, Russell, and Paxson families, the Philadelphia homestead known as Farley as well as notes on the Morgan and Swain families. Also included are extracts of letters by family members including Horatio Hathaway aboard the ship Horatio. Clippings relate to the Julia Delano mansion and a paper read at the Old Dartmouth Historical Society regarding Eliza Rotch Farrar.
The second work contains family and house histories, biographical sketches of individual family members, extracts and typescripts of letters, photographs and clippings. The extract of letters are by Humphrey Hathaway to his son Nathaniel, 1814-1817 and the typescripts are of letters from Hannah Perry to her sister Eliza at Paris, 1848 and copies of Eliza Nye's letters to her father and family while at Paris, 1847-1848. The latter are the same as previously mentioned. The clippings relate to buildings and doctors in New Bedford and a paper read at the Old Dartmouth Historical Society on Henry Plummer's reminiscences of New Bedford.
The Swift family histories include reminiscences of family events from the years 1900 to 1945, as well as a biographical sketch on Henry Dudley Prescott. The reminiscences include activities of the Snark, trips to Europe, attending school in Paris, Hester's marriage and family illnesses and deaths written by Hester. They also include information about Julia Delano and her estate, local doctors and lawyers, anecdotes on her father and the hurricane of 1938 and clippings on weddings, the Roosevelts, etc. There are floor plans for the William C. N. Swift house on Orchard and Bedford Streets. A brief biographical sketch concerning Henry Dudley Prescott written by Hester is also inlcuded.
The genealogies, ca. 1940-ca. 1950, compiled by Hester concentrate on the Swifts, Nyes, Perrys and Prescott families. There is also research material from the years 1911-1959 that Hester used to compile the genealogies along with clippings of obituaries.
The correspondence is primarliy incoming, spanning the years 1916 and 1959. The content is personal and documents family histories as well as genealogical information provided by various relations. The early correspondence reflects Hester's support for the La Fayette Fund of New York City, a war relief organization for France during World War I. There is also correspondence from the Red Cross, both the local chapter and the national, regarding the donation of the Charles Prescott house, 1941. Additional correspondence, 1914-1919, may be found in Mss 64, Series P, Sub-series 43 relating to her support of civilian relief charities during World War I.
There is a scrapbook as well as loose items, 1863-1959, containing wedding invitations, college memorabilia and clippings. There are numerous copies of obituaries and tributes to Drs. William Nye Swift and Henry Dudley Prescott. Also included in the clippings are wedding announcements, obituaries, poetry, and articles on the donation of the Prescott house to the Red Cross and on Rev. Loring, Bishop of Maine.
A final section of miscellaneous family papers, 1871-1952, includes material by William Nye Swift and Henry Dudley Prescott, as well as correspondence, programs and memorials. Papers for William Nye Swift, 1911-1926, contain a copy of his birth certificate and memorials. Henry Dudley Prescott's papers, 1917-1943, consist of military census material and life membership cards and dedication brochure for the Red Cross. Additional material relating to Henry may be found in Mss 64, Series P, Sub-series 42. The miscellaneous correspondence is primarily to Mrs. Edward Dana from Henry B. Worth regarding the history of a Rotch property. There is also a memorial to John H. Clifford and a catalog of an exhibition of his etchings, 1952.
Researchers should note that all original photographs compiled as part of these works have been removed to the photograph collection of the museum. Prior to their removal they were replaced with photocopies in the order as they originally appeared.
Arrangement of Collection
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New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 92, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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Mss 64: Biographical Collection
Materials in this collection were donated to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by Mr. and Mrs. William N. Swift on 13 August 1984.
Processed by: Judith M. Downey, 27 December 1988
Encoded by: Kermit Dewey, 23 April 2012
Please Consult Research Library for Detailed Description of Collection
American Red Cross, New Bedford Chapter, New Bedford, Mass.
Europe--Description and travel--1800-1918
Padanaram (So. Dartmouth, Mass.)--History
Prescott, Henry Dudley, 1875-1945
Swift, Anna Hathaway, 1855-1933
Swift, William Nye, 1854-1911
The Snark, New Bedford, Mass.
Yachts and yachting--Mass.--Padanaram