Biography of Humphrey H. Swift
Bristol County, MA Biographies

Swift, Humphrey Hathaway, the fourth son who grew to manhood of Jireh and Elizabeth (Hathaway) Swift, was born in Acushnet village, a part of New Bedford, November 30, 1819. He is descended from William Swift, sr.1, who came from England to Dorchester, Mass., about 1630; William, jr.2; Jireh, sr.3; Jireh, jr.,4 who moved from Sandwich to Acushnet, where the family have since resided; Jireh, 3d, a minuteman who was twice called into service during the Revolutionary war, in which his son Jonathan also served; and Jireh, 4th,' who married Elizabeth, daughter of Stephen and Abigail Hathaway, whose ancestors came from England in the early history of the Massachusetts colony. Mr. Swift's ancestors on the mother's side were Quakers. He was educated at Paul Wing's school in Sandwich and prepared for college at Medford under Professor Anger, but instead of taking a collegiate course decided to enter mercantile life. In 1841 he went to Pernambuco, Brazil, as a clerk in the leading American exporting house of Henry Forster & Co., which was founded in 1832 by Henry Forster, and which has ever since continued under that name, as the leading American commercial house. On the death of his brother inlaw, in 1847, Mr. Swift became the head of the house, whose extensive and important affairs he ably administered until 1879. Meantime, in 1860, he established a mercantile house in New York city, which he actively conducted until 1886. While in Brazil he was a prominent and influential factor in all public matters. During the first three years of the American Civil war he rendered valuable servkes to this government, for which he received a personal letter of thanks from William H. Seward, then secretary of state. During Grant's second term he was appointed American consul at Pernambuco. which post he resigned after a year, on leaving for home. Mr. Swift was long one of the most popular and esteemed residents of not only Pernambuco, but of all Brazil. His enterprise as a business man, his philanthropic spirit and masterly energy, his prominence in connection with the abolition or antislavery movement, and his activity in all public affairs brought him conspicuously to the notice of the Brazilian emperor, who in 1868 decorated him a Knight of the Order of the Rose "for valuable services rendered to Brazil." While there he was also interested in a line of coast steamers; he established the first tug boat service in Brazil and financed the laying of the street railway system in Pernambuco. He still retains his connection with a New York importing house, though he has for several years lived a retired life in the home in Acushnet, New Bedford, in which he was born. In 1863 he became one of the original members of the Union League Club of New York. Mr. Swift was married in 1846 to Jane Elizabeth, daughter of Alfred Gibbs of New Bedford. She died in 1851, leaving three children: Alfred Gibbs Swift and Thomas Nye Swift. both deceased, and Jennie Gibbs (Mrs. Edmund Grinnell), of New Bedford, Mass. In 1865 he married Bertha, daughter of Dr. Robert Wesselhoeft, who came to America from Germany about 1841. Their children are Bertha Wesseihoeft, Anne Hathaway (wife of Dr. Charles Burton Gulick, Greek Department of Harvard University), Humphrey Hathaway, jr., Robert Wesselhoeft, and Ruth.

Our county and its people
A descriptive and biographical history of
Bristol County, Massachusetts
Prepaired and published under the auspices of
The Fall River News and The Taunton Gasette
With assistance of Hon. Alanson Borden
The Boston History Company, Publishers, 1899.

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