Swamp Yankee

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14 comments on this post.
  1. Fay Lane:

    I grew up with my grandfather saying we were swamp yankees. I always thought it meant poor farmers. Or dirt farmers was another name.

  2. Bill Adams:

    I am the Swamp Yankee. I live on Cape Cod in the town of Barnstable in the village of West Barnstable,Ma.
    AKA swampmapleyankee. I can be reached at swampmapleyankee@yahoo.com

  3. James:

    The term Swamp Yankee dates to King Phillips War. During the war, there was a battle in the Great Swamp near South Kingtson 1675. The Narraganett Indians eventually were routed, killed and exiled. True Swamp Yankees are those whose ancestor fought in that battle.

  4. Maggie:

    Myself, and my family, are natives of western Massachusetts. I grew up hearing my mother use the term “swamp yankee,” usually in a slightly derogatory way. It was a term akin to “white trash,” but not as harsh– essentially it describes the rural, under-educated poor (which, at least in this part of the state, generally means poor whites). For example, we got a new washing machine, and the old one sat out in our driveway for a few days, waiting to be picked up by the people who were getting rid of it for us. My mother was quite distressed to have this in the yard, frequently remarking “We look like a bunch of swamp yankees, with that thing sitting out there!,” during that time. I don’t know where Ms. Schell got the idea it was limited to RI, CT, and southeastern MA. Although, I will admit that it was a term probably passed down to my mother from my grandmother (born in 1916), and our family in particular seems to use more old fashion expressions that most (something I found out in high school when I would use a familiar saying and find that no one else had ever heard it before…).

  5. Myron:

    I am here to tell ya that I am a Swamp Yankee and dam proud of it. My gradfather was interviewed for both Yankee Magazine and the Providence Journal (RI) as to what a Swamp Yankee was since he was one. We hail from Foster, RI, a very rural area of NW RI and go back 8 generations. The definition of Swamp Yankee is a person dating backing many generations in the same area having much common sense with out formal education. I am so proud of my heritage I own a buisness called Swamp Yankee BBQ

  6. Jhon Reyes:

    Having lived until 12 in a town on Cape Cod with less than 1000 in 500 sq mi and with numerous DAR sorts I nevertheless never heard the term until many years later by folks with educational pretensions in Falmouth on Cape Cod.
    More importantly I have heard the term used for ostensible southerners who were considered counterfeit, but never understood if they were carpetbaggers or migrants before the civil war.

  7. Randy DiStefano:

    I grew up in southeastern Ct. and I remember my grand Mother Saying we were swamp Yankees. And since you don’t or didn’t know her, she was one not to be argued with

  8. Rich:

    Very educational. Until reading these comments I had no idea RI was actually big enough to have both urban and rural areas. ;)

  9. Cate:

    I grew up in Southeastern Connecticut and my father always identified as a swamp yankee and it was never a derogatory term nor did he or our family see it that way. Yankees are hearty stock, frugal and hard working, but never white trash or redneck as mentioned in previous posts. (he was a Professor) Most settlers and American Indians often started settlements near rivers which were abundant with fish, shellfish and rich, farming soil. Not to mention the draw of deer to the water which provided meat. This also plays into the “swamp” factor of the title.

  10. Mike:

    Living in southeastern Mass., swamp Yankee was always used to describe a very frugal English decent person. Frugal to the point of being anal about it.

  11. William T. Pittsley:

    My name is W. Pittsley, and I was born into one of Southeastern, Massachusetts oldest Swamp Yankee families.I was brought up in the back woods of Rochester and Freetown when there was still back woods in Massachusetts. My ancestors and cousins carry the surnames of Braley, Reynolds,Clark, Pierce, Pitts, Piggsley’s, Hoggsley’s
    Haskell, Jaquet, DeMoranville, Adams, Westgate, White, Brownell, Cornell, Wilson, Davis, Russell, and Hathaway. These Swamp Yankee families and mine have fought in every conflict this nation has ever known. From the first Indian War in the Connecticut Valley to the present wars of today. My family the Pittsley’s have been called everything from Swamp Yankee to Jucket, pink eyed Pittsley to Cape Cod Albino;which is a myth that was started in the 1870’s by a
    Brockton news paper reporter looking for a story to tell. He claimed that in Southeastern, Massachusetts there was a peculiar race of native white men who never leave their back woods camps and possess pink eyes; white hair, and a savage
    demeanor. The article claimed that these people had their own colony and spread over Bristol and Plymouth counties.

  12. William T. Pittsley:

    Americans must be made aware that before the Pilgrims settled Plymouth,(according to my Grandfather, Horace Lewis Pittsley’s elementary school teacher), French and English Neutralists from Arcadia and Quebec were and had been for decades before exploring and traded with the Native American Indians of New England. It is believed that the Pittsley’s, Jaquet’s (Juckets), Reynolds and Clarks were some of these neutralists and that they had winter settlements along the Acushnet and Dighton Rivers. Evidence of this is every where. For example; Dighton Rock. They claim that the mysterious symbols inscribed upon The Dighton Rock were put there by Vikings.Why would Vikings use x’s and scibles when they at the time and before that time used a viking alphabet to write the Viking Saga’s. Who ever put there brands upon the Dighton Rock were clearly staking their claims to that part of the river or to let others know that they went and were further up that river. A skilled stone mason can chisel his name in sand stone in less than a half hour. Those markings are the markings of individuals who were trying to keep their identity a secret from the English Government while they were trapping furs and taking on riches from the New World, which at the time England considered it’s own. Another example of the Pittsley’s and other neutralist’s exploring and capitalizing upon the wealth of Southeastern Massachusetts is the Pittsley, Reynolds Cementary on Quanopoag Road in Freetown MA.. The back part of that cementary hides over one hundred stones that are still standing but weather worn to half their size.When I was a child my uncle Warren Pittsley and my Granfather told me that when they were children over one hundred years ago they knew the dates upon some of the stones there to be as early 1600’s and to carry the surnames Pittsley, Reynolds and Jaquet.How can there be that many people buried there at that early, early time? And at the same time cementaries in Dighton, Taunton, Middlborough, Rochester, Marion, Lakeville, and all along the Dighton River right into Southearn Rhode Island you can find the surname Pittsley and Reynolds at that early time. I have A theory. When the news was out that the English had successfully Colonized Plymouth the Pittsley who were probably originally french gathered up their families in Arcadia, Quebec, and France and immediately relocated them to Southeastern MA., a region were they for decades before had profited from and were familiar with. To fit in with the English and to avoid conflict with the English due to nationality, upon arrival most of them adopted the surename Pittsley, just like a lot of immigrants do today to avoid persecution due to their religion or race. There is so much more evidence that the Pittsley’s and Reynolds and other Freetown Families were French Neutralist who possibly winter havened and explored Southeastern MA long before the Pilgrims settled New England. In the 1880’s the reporter who wrote of the Pink Eyed Pittsley’s even claimed that the Pittsley’s and The Sweet and Pious Evangeline were some how related. So, If you are a Pink Eyed Pittsley or a Reynolds; or a Jucket be proud of who you are. Oh, one more thing; the defensive tower in Rhode Island was not built by Vikings. In my opinion it was built by Capitalists of that day and age that it was built to protect themselves from the Wompanoags.

  13. Aaron:

    Hi W. Pittsley,

    Thank you for the history lesson. My Grandmother was Priscila Pittsley (maiden name), from E. Freetown. She married my Grandfather, Harold Cunningham, and had 4 boys whom were all raised in E. Freetown. We all grew up with Pittsleys, Cornells, Westgates etc. . We all picked on the Lucas’s, and were told they were the Albino family in town,(by other children, not our parents!) I guess we all need someone to pick on !

  14. Charles Russell:

    My father was born and grew up in West Townsend, Mass. – when someone would comment to him that he must be a Yankee he would say – “I’m not just a common Yankee I am a Swamp Yankee”.
    I always understood that he meant that his New England heritage was strong and deep and that his personal roots were rural.

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