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William Franklin Swaim

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William Franklin Swaim

Posted: 30 Oct 2003 1:19PM GMT
Classification: Biography
Surnames: Swaim, Vickery, Hines, Irwin, Worthington, Back, Colbert, Sutton, Miner, Thurston, Thompson, Elliott, Shaffer, Mills, Phillips

From Biographical Memoirs of Huntington County, 1901, pages 328-333

William Franklin Swaim, ex-county auditor and one of Huntington's best known citizens, is a native of this county and for many years has been a leading factor in its industrial and material development. Mr. Swaim traces his paternal ancestry back through many generations to the early settlement of Delaware and New Jersey by the Swedes and Finns, and later finds the family represented among the first pioneers of the historic old state of North Carolina. From the most reliable information obtainable, the Swaims appear to have been descended from both the above nationalities, and the name is first found in the local annals of Delaware and New Jersey as far back as the year 1638. In the tide of emigration southward, a little later than the above date, were a number of Swaims, a descendant of one of them being John Swaim, our subject's great-great-grandfather, whose birth occurred many years ago in Randolph county, North Carolina.

John Swaim married in North Carolina Elizabeth Vickery, who bore her husband several children, and who died in 1833 at an advanced age. Among their children was Christopher Columbus Swaim, who was born in Randolph county, North Carolina, December 24, 1774, and who there married Sallie Hines, a descendant of one of the earliest permanent settlers of that state. A son of the above, Simeon W. Swaim, also a native of North Carolina, was born in the county of Randolph March 18, 1799, and on December 21, 1819, married Nancy Irwin, whose father, Samuel Irwin, was born in Guilford county, North Carolina. The mother of Samuel Irwin was Mary (Means) Irwin, a native of Ireland, where her birth occurred in the year 1726. Mrs. Mary Irwin departed this life in North Carolina in 1829, at the remarkable age of one hundred and three years.


Samuel Irwin spent his early life in the state of his nativity, and there married Elizabeth Worthington, whose birth occurred in Randolph county, North Carolina, in 1760, and who departed this life in Huntington county, Indiana, in the year 1848. The father of Mrs. Samuel Irwin was John Worthington, also a pioneer of North Carolina and a descendant of a very old and highly connected English family that was represented in the eastern colonies many years prior to the war of the Revolution.

Christopher C. Swaim moved to Huntington county, Indiana, when the settlements were mere niches in the deep, primeval forests, and after bearing his part in opening and developing a farm was called to his final reward about the year 1851. His son, Simeon, grandfather of William Franklin, left North Carolina in the fall of 1833, immigrating to Preble county, Ohio, where he made his home for a period of about three years, removing at the end of that time to Huntington county, Indiana, where he arrived in April, 1836, and laying claim to two tracts of land, eighty and forty acres, respectively, for which he obtained patents from the government May 30, 1837. The former tract is still in possession of the family, the patent for the same bearing the signature of Martin Van Buren, who was at that time president of the United States. Mrs. Simeon Swaim was born February 27, 1799, and died at her home in Huntington county September, 1865; she bore her husband children, as follows: Samuel Hines, Ann Elizabeth, Christopher Columbus, Cynthia Albany and Ruth Caroline.

The first in order of birth, Samuel Hines Swaim, the father of the immediate subject of this sketch, was born October 25, 1820, in Randolph county, North Carolina, and was a youth of sixteen when the family settled in the wilds of what is now Salamonie township, Huntington county, Indiana. At a very early age he manifested a decided longing for books, and was able to read with ease when most children are bending all the powers to master the mysteries of the alphabet. The advantages of an education being somewhat limited in the neighborhood where he resided, he made good the deficiency by home study, and when fourteen years old he had mastered such books as fell into his hands, among which were the old English Reader, Columbian Orator, Webster's Easy Standard of Pronunciation, Pike's Arithmetic and a few others whose names cannot be recalled. During the three years in Ohio and after coming to Indiana, school privileges were exceedingly meager, accordingly he continued his home study as he could find time from the work of the farm. This application in due season bore legitimate fruitage, as he soon became one of the best read young men of the neighborhood, and as his wide and varied store of knowledge caused him frequently to be consulted by his friends, he indeed became somewhat of an oracle upon all matters of general information.

In the year 1844 he began teaching, which he followed during the succeeding twenty years, and while thus engaged earned the reputation of a very efficient and painstaking instructor. He was reared a Baptist, the family for generations being of that denomination, his grandfather, C. C., being a Baptist minister, but our subject's father was converted at a campmeeting, in 1840, and joined the Methodist Episcopal church, from which body he obtained license as a local preacher in May, 1847, besides, at different times, being called to other positions in the denomination, including that of deacon in 1855, and elder in 1859. For a number of years Mr. Swaim exercised the duties of his sacred office very efficiently, his services being frequently demanded upon occasions of weddings and funerals and in places where no regular circuits had been organized. He was a close and diligent Bible student, his familiarity with the scriptures being almost akin to the marvelous. His daily life was in harmony with the religion he professed, and by example as well as precept he was instrumental in inducing hundreds to abandon the ways of sin and seek the higher way leading to peace and holiness.

Reared in the old Democratic school, Mr. Swaim was an ardent supporter of that party until 1856, but upon the organization of the Republican party his political convictions underwent a radical change, and from that time until 1882 he gave to the latter party his allegiance. In the year last named he became a supporter of the Prohibition party and continued as an ardent advocate of its principles during the remainder of his life.

While by no means an officeseeker or partisan in the sense the term is usually understood, Mr. Swaim always took an active interest in public matters, and in 1852 was induced to run for county surveyor, to which position he was triumphantly elected, serving in that capacity to 1854. He was also largely instrumental in establishing schools throughout the country and his words and influence were always in behalf of public improvements as well as for the moral and intellectual upbuilding of the community.

Mr. Swaim was married to Elizabeth P. Back, a daughter of Aaron and Margaret Back, the father a native of Madison county, Virginia, and a soldier of the war of 1812. He was born June 18, 1785, and died December 1, 1868; Mrs. Back was born in Rockbridge county, Virginia, December 16, 1788, and departed this life on the 12th day of January 1851, both lying side by side in the beautiful cemetery near the town of Warren.

To Mr. and Mrs. Swaim were born seven children: William Franklin; Mahala Margaret, born July 11, 1845, married Lemuel Colbert, died February 27, 1869; Harriet Ann, born December 11, 1847, wife of Aaron Sutton, of Warren; Simeon Aaron, born April 23, 1850, died April 25, 1861; Mary Albany, born March 2, 1853, married Loran B. Miner; Elizabeth A., born February 18, 1854, wife of Joshua C. Thurston, resides on the old home farm; and David Samuel, whose birth occurred on the 10th day of February, 1858.

Mr. Swaim was indeed a man of noble aims and high ideas, and during his long residence in Huntington county maintained an unspotted reputation and a character void of offense towards God and man. He died April 16, 1895, deeply lamented by all who knew him, and it is praise worthily bestowed to say that Huntington county never knew a broader minded man of affairs, a sincerer friend, a more consecrated Christian, or a more polished and upright gentleman.

William Franklin Swaim, to a brief review of whose life the remainder of this sketch is devoted, was born March 16, 1843, on the old home farm in Salamonie township, two miles east of the thriving town of Warren. He spent his youthful years in the routine of farm work, attending during the winter seasons the district school in which for about sixty days of the year he studied the common branches until he mastered the curriculum. In his studies he was ably assisted by his father, under whose instructions he made such rapid progress that while still in his minority he obtained a license entitling him to teach in the common schools. He began his work as an educator in 1863, but his career in this capacity was cut short by the war which then raged so fearfully throughout the southern states.

In December of the above year he enlisted in Company D, One Hundred and Thirtieth Indiana Infantry, and for some time thereafter remained at Kokomo, thence went to Nashville, Tennessee, where the regiment saw active service until the ensuing March, when it was ordered to join Sherman's army in Georgia. The One Hundred and Thirtieth was assigned to the Second Brigade, First Division, Twenty-third Army Corps, under General Schofield, being the flanking corps during the celebrated Atlanta campaign, and as such it participated in many of the stirring scenes which marked that eventful service during the great rebellion. On July 22nd, while engaged before Atlanta, Mr. Swaim was taken sick, which necessitated his removal from the front to the field hospital, and later the character of his indisposition made it imperative to remove him to Knoxville, where better treatment could be obtained.

September 20, 1864, he left the hospital upon furlough, and until December following recuperated his strength under the care of relatives and friends at home. Rejoining his regiment at Nashville, Tennessee, Mr. Swaim took part in the bloody battle at that place, after which he accompanied his command in pursuit of the rebel General Hood to the Tennessee river. Later his regiment embarked on the Tennessee and made its way down that river and up the Ohio to Cincinnati, where it took train for the national capital. After spending a month in Washington, the command proceeded by water from Alexandria to North Carolina, landing at the mouth of Cape Fear river, from whence it was ordered to Forts Anderson and Beaufort. After a short stay at the latter places an order came to proceed to Newbern, North Carolina, from which place the regiment, with others, made a long and tiresome march across cypress swamps and badly broken country to Goldsboro, taking part in the battle of Kingston on the way. Joining Sherman they went to Raleigh, thence to Greensboro, where Mr. Swaim witnessed the surrender of Gen. Johnston, an event which broke the backbone of the Confederacy in that part of the south. For some time thereafter the regiment did guard duty at Charlotte, North Carolina, and in August, 1865, a part of the regiment was ordered to Lincolnton, where it remained until November following. In September, 1865, Mr. Swaim was detailed to serve as clerk to the captain of his company, who was inspector general, district of west North Carolina, in which capacity he continued until mustered out of the service at Charlotte, North Carolina, December 2, 1865. Eleven days later he was honorably discharged at Indianapolis, Indiana, after which he returned to his home and once more took up the peaceful pursuit of civil life.

During the two years succeeding his leaving the army Mr. Swaim operated his father's farm, and subsequently purchased eighty acres on his own account. He continued the pursuit of agriculture quite successfully from 1868 to 1881, working at the carpenter's trade at intervals, but finally disposed of his farming interests and moved to Warren. In partnership with his brother-in-law, Franklin Shaffer, Mr. Swaim operated a planing mill in Warren for a period of four years, when he disposed of his share in the concern and engaged in teaming and looking after various other business interests. In 1890 he was elected a member of the board of trustees of Warren, and three years later was complimented by being chosen town treasurer, the duties of which position he discharged satisfactorily to all concerned for two terms.

In May, 1894, Mr. Swaim was the Republican nominee for county auditor, to which office he was elected after an animated campaign, by the handsome majority of four hundred and three votes. Upon taking charge of the office he removed to the county seat, where he still lives, having practically retired from active life at the expiration of his official term. As a servant of the public Mr. Swaim discharged the duties of his office in a manner highly creditable to himself and satisfactory to the people of the county, and against his record no word of blame or censure was ever known to have been uttered. Painstaking and obliging in his relation with the public he won a degree of popularity which made him many friends not only in his own party but among those opposed to him politically, and who tried to effect his defeat at the polls.

On the 21st of February, 1864, Mr. Swaim was united in wedlock with Miss Mary Thompson, who was born in Salamonie township, November 20, 1841. She is the daughter of John H., who was born November 12, 1802, and Mary (Thompson) Thompson, who was born February 14, 1807, both parents natives of Kentucky, from whence they moved to Huntington county, Indiana, in the autumn of 1840. John Howard Thompson was one of the prosperous farmers and representative citizens of Huntington county, a man of unimpeachable honor and integrity and a leader in all moral and material movements for the well being of the community. By his first marriage to Dorcas Elliott he had four sons: Ebenezer, born June 22, 1823; Elijah, born July 12, 1825; George S., born January 5, 1828; John Howard, born February 23, 1830, the only one now living, and who is at this time a well-known farmer of Huntington county. To his second marriage were born as follows: Margaret, born October 3, 1833, resides in Warren; Susan, born May 20, 1835, wife of Frank Shaffer, died September, 1894; William E., born July 31, 1847, died early in youth; Robert H., born January 10, 1840, a soldier in the Civil war, living at this time in Wells county; Mary (Mrs. Swaim), born November 20, 1841; James P., born June 10, 1844, died at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, while in the Union service; Nancy A., born December 22, 1846, married Lewis C. Mills; and Alfred P., born February 12, 1849, died June 6, 1874. Mrs. Thompson's mother was the daughter of James and Mary (Phillips) Thompson, the former for many years a government employe (sic) in Washington city.

John H. Thompson followed farming until 1870, when he disposed of his place and removed to the town of Warren, where his death occurred October 26, 1889; his wife preceded him to the grave, departing this life February 3, 1880. They were both pious members of the Christian church and were held in grateful remembrance in the community where they so long resided.

Mr. and Mrs. Swaim's marriage has been blessed by the birth of one child, a son, Alfred Edward, who first saw the light of day September 16, 1868. He married September 1, 1889, Amelia M. Irwin, and is the father of one daughter, Edith Marie, whose birth occurred November 8, 1890. Alfred Edward Swaim was his father's deputy during the latter's incumbency as auditor and at this time is assistant cashier in the Citizens' Bank of Huntington.

In March, 1857, Mr. Swaim united with the Methodist Episcopal church, since which date his life has been that of an earnest, self-denying follower of the man of Nazareth. He exemplifies his faith in his daily walk and conversation, takes an active interest in the affairs of the local congregation with which he is identified, and is foremost in all movements having for their object the public welfare. He is also a member of the Odd Fellows fraternity, belonging to the lodge meeting at Warren.


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