I’m retired– My hobby is–

I have many hobbies but as most adults discover they take a back seat to earning a living or raising a family. As a parent of four kids, (1 boy, 3 girls) I have found time to support and encourage them in their many endeavors, as a T-ball coach, 4-H leader, Cub and Boy Scout leader, and Girl Scout cookie sales father. And of course, I have always been active in my church. For years, I would occasionally squeeze out a small amount of time to pursue my hobbies, always wishing I could spend more time enjoying them.

As I said, I have many hobbies. Over the years, some of my many hobbies have been camping, outdoor cooking, bass fishing, rock collecting, model railroading, building model sailing ships, reading mystery novels centered on lawyers or game wardens, and my favorite reading material, historical fiction.

Of course, my main hobby is family history. I first became interested in my family tree after reading “Roots” back in the 80’s. I come by it naturally, as my mother had been researching our family history since 1946, and as many Swishers know, she spent her entire life corresponding with relatives and building our family tree. After “Roots,” I would visit my folks and always the question I would ask my mother was “have you got any more family records I could look at.” Her response was always, “you have seen them all.” I knew better and would say “Mom, just bring me another box to look at” and invariably in those boxes I would find new gems I had not seen before.

Fast forward through the years and my family research, would continue as I had time in my busy schedule, but I was not able to commit to steady research until I retired. My mother passed away in 2004 and I inherited all those many boxes, and I’m still finding gems in them.

In 2009 I retired and discovered that I am busier now than I ever was when I was working. There is just something about being retired, that causes one to say, “now that I am retired, I can do—.” How true that is. In August 2013, after attending the Kansas Swisher Reunion, I started work on the Swisher Reunion DVD set. By the time I finished it in time for the Oklahoma Swisher Reunion in August 2014 I have estimated that I spent approximately 3,000 hours on the project. That’s more than full time (which would only be about 2,000 hours) so, so much for taking it easy in retirement.

Then there is my volunteer work for my church. For the last twenty years I have been a church coordinator for Angel Tree, a program of Prison Fellowship, that provides gifts to the children of incarcerated parents, since it is impossible for them to do so themselves. That process keeps me busy every fall, and three years ago, I was asked to become the Area Coordinator for Angel Tree. That means I not only coordinate that work in my local church, but also now am responsible for finding churches to sponsor Angel Tree in an eight county area. That volunteer work is really a “full time” job from the beginning of October to Christmas. So much for retirement, but I would not have it any other way.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that I have been working on a Christian board game that I am developing and that I hope to be able to publish. The idea for it came back in the late 70’s and had to be put on hold since I did not have the time to devote to it. After retirement, I determined to bring it to completion last year, but just did not have the time to do so. Too many other retirement projects, so it was put on hold again. My goal now is to publish it by next August. I wonder if in my leisure years of retirement, I can meet that goal.

And then there is my continued Swisher Family History research, which I would love to put into print just like I did with my mother’s life story, and the Swisher Reunion DVD set. Anybody know where I can find a few extra hours in my leisurely retirement?

Coming Soon-Swisher Reunion Two-Volume DVD Disc Collection

Over three thousand pages from the nineteen volume set of Jerome Bonaparte Swisher Reunion notebooks, digitized and set in a slide show format. If runJasper William Swisher Log Home in Oklahoma uninterrupted, the slide show will last over 4 ½ hours. (Pictures inserted in this blog are examples of what will be in the DVD collection.)

One DVD formatted to run as a PowerPoint slide show, and searchable by chapters (notebooks) and major subjects.

A second DVD formatted to run as a video slide show on a TV, with menu options to view sFamily Group Sheetelected chapters, or the entire collection.

Each year at the Swisher Reunion, held in alternate years in Kansas and Oklahoma, all nineteen notebooks are on display for anyone to look through. However as reunions go, there is very little time to look through the notebooks and one would be lucky to look at only one or two notebooks for a very short timJasper William Swisher and Uriah Morgan Swishere because of the many other things on the reunion agenda.

The reunion officers were concerned that the possibility existed for a major catastrophe to destroy this irreplaceable collection. The collection consists of photos, newspaper clippings, and vital statistic documents. Many, many family group sheets, descendant charts, and notes by Swisher researchers. Reunion photos, old letters, first-hand accounts of many historic events in the Swisher history, tombstone pictures as well as other items collected over the years. This collection began with the first Jerome Bonaparte Swisher Reunion held in 1922 and with additions from Swisher relatives over the many years of annual reunFirst Reunion  1922ions since then.

The reunion officers authorized me, at the Kansas Swisher Reunion in August of 2013 to digitize this collection. I will be presenting a copy of this DVD set to both the Kansas and Oklahoma Reunion officers at the Oklahoma reunion, August 17, 2014. Location of the reunion not yet been announced.

In addition, I amFirst Hand Account of the Oklahoma Strip making this two-volume set of DVD discs available for sale to anyone interested in having this collection in their own library. Cost will be minimal to cover the cost of materials and a small amount for well over one thousand hours of work on this project. Final amount and shipping costs is yet to be determined.

If you are interested in having a set, please let me know now so that I can have an idea how many to prepare and I can insure that you get an order form when available.

Later, approximately early May, I will have the final price set, and an First Page of Oklahoma Strip Accountorder form will be available for a pre-release special, with a deadline set for payment. Those that pre-order by the deadline, will receive the set at the Swisher Reunion. For those pre-ordered and are unable to attend, the DVD’s will be shipped immediately after the reunion. There will be a minimum number of sets available first come, first served at the reunion, and order forms will be available at the reunion.


Note: I wrote this article and submitted it to the Morgan Newsletter. I waited until it was published there (it came out in the March – May 2014 issue) before I published it here. Since it has been published, I am now releasing it here.

“In 1747 Jacob Prickett, Nathaniel Springer, James Chew and Zackquill Morgan came up the Monongahela River looking for a good place to start a new settlement and stopped at the mouth of Little Creek,…Nathaniel Springer located a trading camp here which was later called Newport (Catawba).”1 Thus the beginning of a very historic town that I consider “back home in West Virginia”. Catawba is approximately five miles north east of Fairmont, on the Monongahela River.

My name is Curt Swisher and I am a descendant of those early settlers in Catawba. My great-great grandfather, Jerome Bonapart Swisher, left Catawba and moved by covered wagon to Kansas in the 1870’s, but I have always considered my roots to be Catawba West Virginia.

In 1836, Jerome’s grandfather, “Jacob River Swisher, son-in-law of Colonel Zackquill Morgan, sold lots and started the village of Newport. It was the shipping center for many products from Little and Pricketts Creeks area.”1

The village name of Newport later changed to the current name of Catawba in 1885. 2 “The name ‘Catawba’ is said to have been derived from a tribe of Indians by that name that once had a camp there. Few will doubt this fact as Indian relics of all types have been found near this community.”2 According to W. L. Balderson in Fort Prickett Frontier and Marion County, this large tribe of Indians had a trail passing there which was called the “Catawba Trail and led from the South to the Iroquois of the North, who were their traditional enemies. A Macadam Indian road extended from Catawba through Hoult to the Forks of the Monongahela at Pettyjohns before the arrival of the whites.”1

Apparently Newport (Catawba) was a very successful river port in those days as some of the industries located there were sawmills and gristmills. There was even a casket company. However, probably the most important industry was shipping. There was a boat yard there that produced flat boats, and lumber from sawmills were floated down stream on the Monongahela River to Pittsburgh and beyond. Even log rafts were constructed and sent by way of river to market. “The steamboat ‘Winfield’ was built at Catawba by Jacob Morgan in 1855. Later Pig Iron was shipped from Piney Run Iron Furnace above Winfield.”1 There also was a ferry boat that traveled between Montana and Rivesville (1795) operated by Mr. Prickett. A hotel was also located there.1

“From the old 1886 ‘ATLAS of Marion & Monongalia Counties by D. J. Lake’, we find Catawba homes listed in that year as: (along the river) N. Haun, W.A. Michael, S. Harden, J. McDonald, and N. Swisher. Just across the street were these homes: E. E. Powell, Q. Haun, L. Summers, L. L. Malone, Stephen Heirs. J. L. Swisher and also a house owned by the Fast Heirs.

Store and Post Office
Store and Post Office4

“Across the railroad tracks from south to north were: Store and Post Office, Hutchinson & Co., D. Kisner, Mrs. Armstrong, and M. Powell.

“The row of homes below the cemetery from south to north included: Mrs. S. Harris, B. Radcliffe, D.A. Harris, J.P. Kisner, C.C. Haun, and G. Summers. In that same area were C. E. Haun, Mrs. S. Kisner, S. Harden, and J. Joliff. Across the stream was the Methodist Church. Several of these properties may have been owned by the same individual.”4

Catawba Methodist Church
Catawba Methodist Church3

I wonder if some of those names are recognized by the readers as one of their direct ancestors. I know I recognize several.

Although the town of Catawba is not as large or influential, as in its early days, as the boat yard is gone, leaving just a few houses along the river, there is one institution still thriving today. That is the Catawba Methodist Church.

The Catawba Methodist Church was founded by my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Jacob River Swisher and his wife Drusilla Morgan, daughter of Col. Zackquill Morgan in 1841 in their home.2

“In warm weather, the Rev. John Clark, pastor of the Middletown (Fairmont) circuit preached out-of-doors, standing upon a large rock by the river bank.”2 The first church was built in 1854 on the same sight of the present church building. The ground was donated by Jacob Swisher.”3 Jacob Swisher also donated the ground for the Catawba cemetery, on the hill overlooking the church. Even though I grew up in Kansas, I am very proud of my Catawba heritage.

  1. Fort Prickett Frontier and Marion County by W. L. Balderson. (This book found in Marion County Genealogical Club Library in Fairmont, West Virginia). p. 175-176.
  2. A Local History, “We Spend Our Years As A Tale That Is Told” [Winfield District] compiled by FrankSpevock, 1961 (This book found in Marion County Genealogical Club Library in Fairmont, West Virginia). p. 54-56.
  3. Newspaper article from “Times-West Virginian,” Fairmont, W. Va., Sunday, September 29, 1963
  4. Memory’s Lane, compiled by Frank Spevock, 1975, (This book found in Marion County Genealogical Club Library in Fairmont, West Virginia), p. 67-69.

Is this the David Provance who raised Jacob River Swisher?

Since I first started tracing my roots, I have always wondered who raised my Great, Great, Great, Grandfather, Jacob River Swisher. How was he orphaned, and how did he know the family that raised him. The documentation available was very little. Most of it consisted of information apparently first recorded by professional genealogist, Clifford Hoard (which I am not sure anyone has the original document he wrote). Most all Swisher researchers since, refer to his writing, and of course when something is passed on to another, multiple times, the details change somewhat, get embellished somewhat, and therefore get farther from the truth, even if the original could or could not be verified as the truth.

Below is some of the traditional facts (or supposed facts) passed on from researcher to researcher.

Jacob River Swisher, born near Winchester, Frederick County, Virginia in May 1785
His death certificate says he was born in Pennsylvania
Orphaned at a very young age Raised by a “friend” (some writings say “friend of the family”), David (some say John) ProvidenceNear Geneva or New Geneva or Providence Bottoms
His parents were John and Sarah
“At 18, Jacob was employed as a guide by the old pioneer settlers from Morgantown., WestVirginia to Winchester as they made long trips across the mountains for salt and supplies. He was a farmer and guide.” From “A Time To Laugh, A Time To Cry” by Emily Bogan Swisher

So here I am in 2014, still trying to break the wall down and find the truth. I have just found a few records that for me give a glimmer of light in the tunnel. Now I want to ask those who are reading this to chime in with their insights. I have tried over the years to pin down this David Providence in census records of Pennsylvania or Virginia, but with no success. Of course, I was never sure of the correct spelling for Providence.

I found an article on Ancestry.com that lists names in a Bible belonging to Joseph Yard Provance. One of the names was David Provance who was born August 8, 1788. This date indicates that David and Jacob were within three years age of each other.

In another article on Ancestry.com, I found a reference to the death of John William Provance.

“This is a speculative theory of the death of John William Provance. In June 1782 an expedition of Pennsylvania and Virginia militiamen under Col. William Crawford marched into Ohio to attackIndian villages on the Sandusky River. The attack failed and the militia fought a running battle back to the settlements in western Pennsylvania. Between 70 and 100 militiamen were killed orcaptured and executed by various tribes, including Col. Crawford….Other members of the   company include John and David Casto and George and Joseph Rankins. Provance Bottoms and the homestead of John William Provance was located in relatively close proximity to that of William Crawford….”

Notes on another tree in Ancestry  says “Joseph Yard Provance (son of Thomas Provance and Sarah Yard) was born 31 March 1764 in Frederick Co., Virginia, and died 16 May 1843 in New Geneva, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. He married Elizabeth Casto on 31 March 1784 in Masontown, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, daughter, daughter of David Castro Sr. and Phebe Gandy.”

I also found one more article on Ancestry and that was the will of Joseph Y. Provance, Fayette Co., PA, 1833. It states among other things, “Thirdly I will and dispose of my home farm in manner following to wit: I give and bequeath to my son David Provance seventy acres of land, on the hill where he now lives.”

According to other details in the will, it appears like Joseph had a total of 1,879 acres that he divided among his children. Those acres were in several locations.; 270 acres along the Monogahela River in Fayette County, PA; 109 acres on Dunkard Creek in Green County, PA; 500 acres in Lewis County, VA; and another 1,000 acres on Mill Creek in VA.

Also there are some orphan court documents in Pennsylvania that indicate that some of the Provance families did take in orphans, although Jacob is not mentioned in the documents I saw.

Finally from an article by Clifford HOARD, the professional genealogist mentioned at the beginning of this writing, he says:

“According to SWISHER family tradition Jacob R. SWISHER was orphaned at an early age. He wasreared by David PROVANCE who lived on Provance Bottom near New Geneva PA.

“As a young man, Jacob piloted the early settlers from Winchester VA to what is now WV. Atthat early date, around 1800 the pioneers were quite willing to pay an experienced guide to leadthem over treacherous trails through a rough mountainous region.

“There is no mystery as to how Jacob R SWISHER met Drusilla MORGAN. The old MonongahelaRiver, a stream of traffic always, was the meeting place for scores of young folks and Jacob and Drusilla met somewhere along its shore.

“In the census of 1850 Jacob R. is listed as a farmer. Farming in 1850 and for many years later was a subsistence occupation. Jacob was more than a struggling farmer. He initiated a towncalled Newport. His sale of lots for this business venture gave him an excellent monetary return.

“During the formative period of New Port there existed a boat building dock. The boatsconstructed were small in size as the steam boat was not a factor this far south on theMonongahela River. Three coopers lived in New Port between 1840 & 1880. They were: Elisha SUMMERS, and the SWISHER brothers, Morgan M, and William D. The barrels, tubs and churnsthat they fashioned were in great demand…”

To sum all of this up, I think that all of the above information indicates to me that the Provance families listed above may very well be the people who took Jacob River Swisher in as an orphan. He may very well have been raised by the David Provance listed above, in or near Provance Bottoms  near Geneva, PA.

So my question to the readers is: Have any of you come in contact with these Provance individuals in your family records or research. Can you add insights into the possibility that this information is correct.  Finally, can any of you tie Jacob River Swisher to any of these individuals? I would appreciate any comments or suggestions for further research you might have.

How Many Homes Does One Man Build?

One of my desires as I research family history is to learn the “what’s and whys” of my ancestors. Why did they move in the first place. Why did they settle where they did? What were the obstacles that they faced? What made them to be the kind of people they became? In essence, I want to know their story.Jerome B Swisher

I came across my Great Grandfather, Jerome Bonaparte Swisher’s story in one of the “Swisher Notebooks” that I am working on for a special project for the Swisher Reunion. Here is his story, spelling and grammar errors included. Jasper William Swisher is my Grand Uncle.

“Taken from a handwritten account by Jasper William Swisher (Esther Swisher Mielke’s father).

“Marion County West Virginia

“Jerome B. Swisher born in March, 1840 united in marriage to Emza M. Davidson in 1860. Enlisted in the Union Army in 1865 for one year or during the war. Mustered out at close of war after about three months service.

“In 1866 he made his first attempt to establish a home–building a log house on Liek Run. He hired to a man who had a contract to get out logs for a sawmill. Contractor went broke and failed to pay. This was in Cladrige County WV.

“In 1867 he made his second attempt at building a home. He brought six acres of land on Toms Fork (a small stream in Doddrige County) and built a house. The following winter he taught the district school (my first school).

“In 1868, he sold his land and went West. Filed on a quarter of land in Marion County Kansas. Here he made his third attempt to establish a home by building a house. A short time after returning to WV he got word a prairie fire had burned his house down.

“After this he worked in the sawmill with his brothers until the spring of 1870. In April 1870, he with his family of three boys and two girls moved to Doniphan County Kansas. Here he made his forth attempt at a home building–an addition on his Uncle’s house living there two years. Then he moved to a different part of the county, rented 40 acres, bought a team, and farmed for two years. Here is where he did his first carpenter work which he followed the rest of his life. In 1874 the well remembered grasshopper year. With his family of nine, he moved with two wagons (one drawn by oxen–one by a horse and mule) to Salina County Kansas where he homesteaded 80 acres of land and here he made his fifth attempt at home building.

“In 1879 he worked in Colorado. In 1880 he did the carpenter work in a gold mine in Wyoming. After this, he Jerome B Swisher carpenter toolssold his farm and moved to Gypsum City where he built and sold several different houses. He was building homes continually. A home seemed to always be in his thoughts.”

Pictures are of Jerome Bonaparte Swisher and his carpentry tools and GAR sword.

Escapades of Col. Zackquill Morgan, Father-in-Law of Jacob River Swisher

Jacob River Swisher’s father-in-law was Col. Zackquill Morgan who played a very prominent role in the early history of Morgantown  West Virginia. He was also a close friend of George Washington. As I was going through a notebook of Swisher memorabilia, I found a copy of a letter that tells of some of Zackquill’s escapades. True or not, I thought this letter is worth the time to read, so I have copied it here. I do not have a date as to when it was written, but the copy that I have was made in 1992, so this letter predates that date.

“Many thanks for your letter. You asked about Zackquill and I will relate some of the stories about him.To write down all that he did would require a novel.

“As you already know, he was the founder of Morgantown, West Virginia, home of West Virginia University, the first place of business there was a saloon (opened by him).

“Prior to the Revolution, George Washington and he were friends. After the war, Washington came to visit him at Morgantown to inquire about routes that could be turned into canals to the Ohio River. In Washington’s diary he speaks of him as Zacky and apparently took his word as a close friend. Yet, in the election of 1758 Morgan Morgan (Zack’s father and first settler in West Virginia) voted against Washington and Zack didn’t even bother to vote. (Probably down deep he considered Washington to be a rich political clown which was against all that Zack stood for.) But, I do note that Zack’s Father-in-law, Dennis Springer, voted for Washington.

“The Morgans along with others in the same area manufactured whiskey, which they named Monongahela Rye. They would build rafts and float to New Orleans by way of the Ohio River. In New Orleans they would sell the rye and walk back to Morgantown, which is an almost unbelievable feat in itself. Yet, we must remember that our ancestors were a special breed of people who feared nothing or no one. The Indians were in constant fear of the Morgans, because they would kill them. Now back to the barges of whiskey, on one occasion, Levi (Zack’s son) went with the barge to New Orleans. There he met a Cajun queen and didn’t return home for six years. In the meantime, his family thought him dead and sold all his property. When he returned to Morgantown, he sued all his brothers and sisters. (Our great great grandfather, Jacob Swisher, was included.)

“The one story that I think brings out what Zack was really like is this one. He was made a colonel in the home guards in order to protect the Monongahela Valley from Indians and Tories during the Revolutionary War. He received orders to go to Pittsburgh to arrest a loud-mouthed Tory who was raising a group to cause trouble in the Valley. After arresting this man, he and two other Morgans were bringing the prisoner back across Cheat River on their way to Richmond for trial when the canoe overturned. The prisoner drowned. Zack was arrested and sent to Williamsburg for a hearing. He was acquitted when his men of 500 strong refused to fight without him. Zack said later that his trouble was caused by upper Monongahela Valley loyalists to the king. This was their way of getting him out of the valley so that they could do as they pleased about making trouble. When the canoe overturned, he couldn’t help it if the Tory couldn’t swim. (He forgot that the prisoner was leg shackled and hand cuffed at the time.) I think it was apparent that Zack and the others threw the Tory out of the canoe so that they didn’t have to leave their families alone. I might add that after this happened, the big concentration of Tories at Pittsburgh ran to Detroit to get away from the Morgans. Included in this group was the infamous halfbred Simon Girty.”

Home is Where the Heart is


Where is my home?

 I think everyone of us at one time or other questions where our home is. As young adults, we leave the “nest” and venture out into the world. Some to college, some to the military, and some get married establishing a new home together with their spouse, but all of us have to decide where home is. For those going away to college or the military, those places become temporary homes and when they have completed their commitment, they return “home.”

So what makes us call where we grew up home? Continue reading Home is Where the Heart is

Birth Place of Jacob River Swisher

In my research I have been able to trace my roots back to Jacob River Swisher. From multiple sources, tradition tells me that as a young man he was employed as a guide for those traveling west over the Allegheny mountains. Continue reading Birth Place of Jacob River Swisher