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William Sweatt

Wrentham residents have skied down Sweatt Hill, played ball at Sweatt Field, swam at Sweatt Beach and enjoyed afternoons in Sweatt Park. All of these special places are named after William H. Sweatt, Wentham's greatest benefactor.


Wrentham's William H. Sweatt was born in Woonsocket, RI, on October 31, 1856, son of Enoch G. and Lucy Farnum Capron. Hel married Lizzie Thompson on May 17, 1882. The Sweatts had one. child, a daughter. Mr. Sweatt learned the fabric business in Woonsocket. In 1900, Mr. Sweatt bought the recently rebuilt City Mills Co. in 1900 under his business name of American Felt. Ironically, his new mill was the one that was destroyed by the massive dam failure at Wrentham's Whitings Pond in 1875. This was the site of today's Eagle Dam by Franklin Street. Whiting's Pond is now known as Lake Pearl.


He enlarged the old Eli Richardson house next to the mill, demolished an old stone store building in front of the old house, and filled the barn with his car collection, including a 1903 White steam car. He also had a huge new barn for horses, only recently demolished. His mansion house and yard was a show piece where he allowed the Town of Norfolk to hold its annual Norfolk Day in the 1920s. He loved his beautifully landscaped property, where he could see the quaint Main St. stone bridge and pond behind it whose water used to power the older mill system.


Mr. Sweatt's excellent relationship with Norfolk came quickly to an end with a needed road construction project. The narrow stone bridge over Norfolk's Mill Brook in front of the house and American Felt mill complex was built 100 years ago for horse and buggy traffic when it was part of the Town of Franklin. Norfolk had not yet been established. The 1920's auto and truck traffic made this road infrastructure entirely obsolete. Some serious road and bridge construction was required.


We have no idea what conversations were held between Mr. Sweatt and the Town of Norfolk, but Norfolk must have taken his front yard for a wider and safer bridge and highway. When Norfolk began taking down trees, Mr. Sweatt was so incensed that he bought the old Hawes house and farm at (now) 289 East St., Wrentham. He then ordered his Norfolk house be demolished and sold his Norfolk business. Hel and his assets were welcomed so much that he immediately wrote his new will including Wrentham as a beneficiary. It was dated April 7, 1926. Sadly, Mr. Sweatt soon thereafter suffered an accident while on vacation in Italy. He passed away in 1929 and was buried in Mt. Auburn Cemetery. His wife, Lizzie Bond Sweatt died several years later.


On March 7, 1932, at Wrentham's Annual Town Meeting, the voters unanimously accepted the provisions of William H. Sweatt's will as pertaining to Wrentham. The Sweatts left the town of Wrentham $200,000 (equivalent in purchasing power to over $3 million today), the interest of which was and still is earmarked for expenditures not covered by the regular town budget. The Sweatt Fund was initially intended primarily for the care of the Town Common and its trees, but over time other local projects and programs have been approved for funding.

Today, we honor the ongoing generosity of the Sweatt Fund and celebrate William Sweatt's legacy. Thank you to all of the Wrentham residents who have volunteered on the Sweatt Fund Committee over the last nine decades.


SUBMITTED BY GREG STAHL



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