Swansea was established on October 30, 1667, when Pastor John Myles, Captain Thomas Willett and their neighbors petitioned the Court at Plymouth to establish a town. The fourth town founded in Bristol County, Swansea originally extended from the boundaries of Taunton and Rehoboth to Mount Hope Bay. The area was reduced three times, first by the incorporation of Barrington as a town in 1717, then by the annexation of Warren by the state of Rhode Island in 1747, and finally by the incorporation of Somerset as a separate town in 1790. The first state census taken in 1765 showed Swansea's population to be 1,840. The 1994 town census showed a population of 15,100.
Swansea is a suburban/rural community founded on the premise of religious tolerance for all. Unfortunately, the town also turned out to be the starting place of King Philip's war in 1675 and the site of the first bloodshed of the war. Before that war there were several historic Indian settlement sites and trails in the town. Colonial settlement began in 1663 and the town was named after a minister's home village in Wales. In 1664, King Philip had conveyed the land in the community to William Brenton of Newport and by the start of the Indian war, there were 70 people staying in the garrison fortified house in town and several occupied houses on the Neck. During the war, Indian attacks destroyed every house in town including the garrison.
After the war, forges, ironworks and fishing on the town's rivers made up a substantial part of the community's economy. The small villages that made up the community were the sites of stores, cotton mills, grist and yarn mills and fishing boats. When the bigger industrial cities such as Fall River, Taunton and Providence absorbed the town's industries, Swansea's large agricultural capacity remained important. In the 1890's, the street trolley connected Swansea to Fall River and Providence and suburban and summer homes were developed. A picnic grove called Shady Isles was established by the streetcar company and brought city people out to the country on day trips.
Now a suburban community with much of its agricultural land still open, Swansea also retains Colonial houses.
It is located in southeastern Massachusetts, bordered by Barrington and Warren, Rhode Island, on the west and southwest; the mouth of the Taunton River on the south; Somerset on the east; and Dighton, Rehoboth, and Seekonk on the north. Swansea is about 4 miles west of Fall River; 47 miles south of Boston; 12 miles southeast of Providence, Rhode Island; and about 190 miles from New York City.