Almira Swett, Come-Outer

The following is from Standard History of Essex County, Massachusetts, Boston: C.F. Jewett & Company, 1878 pg 128 

No movement in Georgetown was ever of a more important and stirring character than that of the early agitation of the question of anti-slavery. In it were enlisted many men and women, who hearts were fully committed to the agitation.

Among the leaders in this reform were Theodore G. Eliot, Moses Wright, James H. Swett, Asa W. Swett, Mrs Almira Swett, and others. The speakers frequently heard here were William Lloyd Garrison, Parker Pillsbury, Frederick Douglas, Wendell Phillips, and the long line of early advocates of that cause. They carried the discussion to the doors of the churches, and where then committed to silence. Rev. Mr. Braman was unfriendly to the agitation, which added warmth and interest to the debate. These speakers were bold and incisive in their utterances, which made the conflict between them and the conservatives, as they were called, a warm one.

Mrs. Almira Sweet was one of the boldest of the female supporters of the cause, and when she attended church, was accustomed to take her knitting-work with her, which led her to be arrested for contempt of the worship. For this and for the defense of her brother, who was before the church for waywardness upon this subject, she was arrested and tried, being charged in the forms of law, with “assault and batter”; she was convicted and sentenced to Ipswich. When arrested, she told the officers she “could not leave home at that time; that her family needed her attention.” She offered no resistance, simply declining to comply with the request of the officer. Assistance was procured, and Mrs. Swett lifted into the sleigh, and carried into the court-room in the same way. After trial, and conviction, she was borne back to the sleigh and carries to Ipswich, but the keeper of the house of correction declined to receive her, declaring that “those who had brought her there deserved, more than she, to be retained.”

The meetings of the come-outers were held on the steps of churches, in groves, and in barns. Thomas P. Beach was once rotten-egged while speaking from the steps of a church. To avoid this indignity in barns, the women were seated, and the speaker stationed before them, when the doors were opened to accommodate the listening crowd without. On one occasion, Sewell E. Jewett, then a citizen of Georgetown, organized an all-day Sunday meeting in “Major Dole’s thicket,” now “Little’s Grove,” which thinned the attendance at the churches. Refreshments were advertised, and a barrel of crackers, a cheese, codfish, &c with cool, spring water, were supplied. The meeting continued from 8 o’clock A.M, till night. This record comes from well authenticated traditional sources.

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