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John William SWILLING, Sr.

Male 1830 - 1878  (48 years)


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  • Name John William SWILLING 
    Suffix Sr. 
    Born 1 Apr 1830  Red House Plantation, Anderson County, SC Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Name John William "Jack" SWILLING 
    Died 12 Aug 1878  Yuma, Yuma County, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Yuma Cemetery, Yuma, Yuma County, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Notes 
    • (1) "Jack Swilling," from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, accessed May 17, 2011:

      John W. "Jack" Swilling (April 1, 1830 - August 12, 1878) founded the city of Phoenix, Arizona, in 1867. Other pioneers and travelers had seen and commented on the ancient Hohokam canals in that area, but it was J. W. Swilling who organized the first successful modern irrigation project in Arizona's Salt River Valley. The "Swilling Irrigating and Canal Company" started the small farming community of Phoenix that since has grown into a major metropolitan area.

      Swilling earlier had an important role in the opening to settlement of the previously unexplored central Arizona highlands in the vicinity of modern-day Prescott, Arizona. His discoveries resulted in a major gold rush to the new area, and this in turn led to the establishment of Arizona's first Territorial Capital at the brand-new town of Prescott.

      Jack Swilling was a teamster, prospector, mine and mill owner, and a saloon and dance hall owner. He also was a visionary, a canal builder, farmer, rancher, politician, and public servant. Swilling was also a Confederate States Army minuteman and a civilian aid to the United States Army during the American Civil War. All of this was accomplished while he suffered from periods of excruciating pain resulting from major injuries he suffered in 1854. He took morphine to assuage the pain, which led to dependency problems for the rest of his life.

      Biography

      Early Life

      Jack Swilling was born on April 1, 1830, at Red House Plantation, Anderson, South Carolina, to George Washington Swilling and Margaret Farrar Swilling, the eighth of their 10 children. George Swilling was the son of the plantation manager, while Miss Farrar was the owner's daughter. Farrar's parents did not approve of the marriage, so the young couple eloped. It took three years for her parents to accept the match. In time, George Swilling became owner of the plantation. When Jack Swilling was 14 the family moved from South Carolina to Georgia. Three years later he and an older brother enlisted in a mounted battalion of Georgia volunteers for service during the Mexican-American War. After the war, the two young men returned to Georgia. Jack Swilling drops out of sight for a time then, although he was reported in Georgia for the Christmas of 1849.

      The next recorded events in his life are his marriage at Wetumpka, Alabama, in 1852 to Mary Jane Gray and the birth of their daughter Elizabeth a year later. Swilling wrote that in 1854 he suffered serious injuries - a broken skull and a bullet lodged in his back - in unstated circumstances. Those injuries plagued him for the rest of his life and led to a dependency on drugs and alcohol. In 1856, on his 26th birthday, something happened to cause him to leave permanently for the West.

      There is over a year's break in the record, but he apparently joined the Leach Wagon Road Company, at Fort Smith, Arkansas, in the summer of 1857 as a teamster, probably staying with the slow-moving oxen-drawn wagon train until its arrival a year later at Mesilla, in Traditional Arizona which was then part of New Mexico Territory.

      The years between Swilling's arrival in Arizona in 1858 and the founding of the Phoenix settlement almost a decade later were active and varied ones. Following are some highlights:

      After his arrival in Arizona, Swilling moved to southern California, where he joined in a gold rush near Los Angeles. A few months later he was drawn back to Arizona by the gold rush at Gila City where he also worked for the Butterfield Overland Mail Company.

      Apache Wars and the American Civil War

      He was elected captain of the Gila Rangers militia company that was formed for protection from Apache stock raids on the miners and the stage company. The Gila Rangers with the support of warriors from the friendly Maricopa tribe - made a January 1860 expedition to the unexplored Bradshaw Mountains of central Arizona to "chastise" Apache raiders. That expedition resulted in some noteworthy discoveries: the existence of the Hassayampa River and traces of mineral riches, including gold, in an area that looked well suited for ranching and farming. However the area was too remote and dangerous for settlers at that time.

      Soon afterwards, the Gila City gold deposits ran out and Swilling followed his good friend Colonel Jacob Snively to Pinos Altos, where he both mined and ran a saloon and dance hall. When the Union Army withdrew from New Mexico Territory at the beginning of the Civil War, the men of Pinos Altos formed a militia company they named the Arizona Guards for defense against Apache attack. By then Confederate Arizona had been established which included all of New Mexico Territory south of the 34th parallel. Swilling was elected second in command of the company, or First Lieutenant, and retained that rank when the Arizona Guards were absorbed into the Confederate Army. Swilling likely fought at the Battle of Pinos Altos, a Confederate victory and a battle which killed his commander; Lieutenant Thomas J. Mastin.

      After a time spent defending against Apaches and acting as the de facto police force for the area around Pinos Altos, he led a portion of the Arizona Guards that reinforced the militia garrison of Tucson in 1862. Swilling is believed to have commanded a party of rebels who burned Stanwix Station and skirmished with the Union army. He was involved in the noted incident at Ammi White's flour mill at the Pima Villages when Union Captain James McCleave was captured.

      Following the Capture of Tucson, Swilling's company retreatred and he became a civilian employee of the United States Army, first as a dispatch rider between General James Carleton's California Column and Union forces up the Rio Grande, and later as a scout in an anti-Apache campaign. He was involved in the campaign to take Mesilla which ended with a Union takeover of Confederate Arizona's capital. Near the end of that employment, he encountered the Joseph R. Walker exploratory party near Pinos Altos when Swilling led the capture of the famous Apache chief Mangas Coloradas.

      Further Prospecting and Marriage

      Swilling's war ended there and he convinced Joseph Walker and his group that there was gold in the central highlands of the new Arizona Territory. He then guided them to where the first Yavapai County mining district was formed just a few miles south of present Prescott on May 10, 1863. They called it the Pioneer Mining District, and the rules they adopted were the area's first recorded laws.

      Swilling left the Walker party shortly after the formation of the Pioneer Mining District and joined up with the Paulino Weaver/Abraham Peeples exploratory party which arrived in the area shortly after the Walker group. He made a small fortune from the unusual surface gold mine at Rich Hill between Wickenburg and Prescott. News of his successes spread eastward when two gold samples from Swilling's claim sent to General Carleton were forwarded for presentation to President Abraham Lincoln.

      Next, he was briefly part owner of a flour mill in Tucson apparently in partnership with his neighbor Charles T. Hayden. Quickly tiring of Tucson, he returned to Yavapai County where he prospected, owned gold mines and gold milling operations, and farmed. In addition he also was the mail contractor between Prescott and the Pima villages below the Salt River Valley on the Gila River. And then he had the inspiration to form the Swilling Irrigation and Canal Company that would reopen the Salt River Valley to farming.

      In the midst of all this activity, Jack Swilling married a young Mexican woman of Spanish heritage named Trinidad Mejia Escalante. They were married on April 11, 1864, at Tucson's San Agustin Cathedral when Trinidad was about seventeen. Over the next fourteen years they had seven natural children, five girls and two boys, and adopted two Apache orphans, a boy and a girl.

      On November 16, 1867, he formed the Swilling Irrigating and Canal Company at Wickenburg. Soon after, a small group of men headed by Jack Swilling started construction of the first modern-era irrigation canals in the Salt River Valley. The following summer the first crops of wheat, barley and corn were harvested.

      Swilling claimed a quarter section south of what became Van Buren Street between 32nd and 36th Streets for his own farm. He built a nine-room, 4,700-square-foot (440-square-meter) home there, which became known as Swilling's Castle. His farm was a local showplace, featuring an artificial pond with tame ducks, a vineyard and an orchard with a variety of fruit trees.

      He was involved in the planning and construction of additional canals, including the first ditch south of the Salt River in partnership with an old acquaintance, and business partner, Charles T. Hayden, the founder of Tempe, Arizona and father of long-time Arizona Senator Carl T. Hayden.

      In the early days, Jack Swilling was one of the most prominent leaders of the Phoenix settlement and he was its first postmaster and first justice of the peace. However, once Phoenix was well established and the so-called "original townsite" was located over three miles (5 km) to the west of his holdings, he lost interest and moved his growing family back to central Arizona. There he mined, farmed and ranched in and around the area of Black Canyon City until, tragically, he became a suspect in a stagecoach robbery near Wickenburg.

      Death

      Briefly, the facts of Swilling's incarceration and death are these: By the spring of 1878, he and his family were living in the small mining community of Gillette, a few miles south of today's Black Canyon City. His health was failing, and his drinking had become a problem. Trinidad Swilling suggested that he go on a trip to recover and rebury the remains of their old friend, Colonel Jacob Snively, who had been murdered by Apaches in a wilderness area called White Picacho.

      While Swilling and two companions were on this journey of Christian charity, three hooded men-one tall, one medium size, and one short - robbed a stagecoach near Wickenburg. Tragically this description matched that of Swilling and his companions and they became suspects in the robbery. His tendency to tell wild tales while drinking also was a factor. A series of legal complications brought him to Yuma where he died in the county jail while awaiting a hearing. The real robbers - led by a man Swilling and others had publicly accused - were identified only after Swilling's death.

      Swilling was buried in a Yuma cemetery before his family could be notified. If there ever was a grave marker it is long gone and the precise location of Jack Swilling's remains is unknown.

      After his death, Swilling's unwarranted reputation as a badman grew so fast that by the end of the 19th century a prominent Arizona historian would write of him as a "typical desperado." By many accounts he was a joker and yarn spinner and while drinking he spread tall tales about his exploits to all who would listen. That, for example, is one reason he became a suspect in the Wickenburg stage robbery.

      Friends remembered Jack Swilling as an honest, hard-working, and generous man always ready to help those in need of a meal or a place to sleep. He was known to put his own life at risk for others, literally riding to the rescue when help was needed in the face of Apache attack.

      In the end his use of a combination of narcotics and liquor - to relieve the pain caused by old injuries - ruined Jack Swilling's health and his reputation.

      (2) A presentation entitled "Jack of All Trades: J.W. Swilling in the Arizona Territory" appears on the Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project website. See http://www.apcrp.org/SWILLING,%20Jack/JACK_OF_ALL_TRADES_MASTER.htm. A timeline entitled "John William (Jack) Swilling & Trinidad Escalante Swilling - Time Line" also appears on that website. See http://www.apcrp.org/SWILLING,%20Jack/Time_Line_CN_070407.htm.

      (3) A household headed by John SWILLING is listed in the 1855 AL state census of Autauga County, AL. [His surname is listed as SURLLING in the index to the 1855 census.]

      Listed in John's household are 1 white male under 21 years of age; 1 white male over 21 years of age; 2 white females under 21 years of age; and 2 white females over 21 years of age.

      Assuming that John is the free white male listed in the 1855 census as then being over 21 years of age, he would have been born before 1834, according to the 1855 census.

      Assuming that John's wife is one of the free white females listed in the 1855 census as then over 21 years of age, she would have been born before 1834, according to the 1855 census.

      The compiler is unable to identify the other 4 persons in John's household.

      (4) J. W. SWILLING is listed in a household headed by Frank HIGGINS in the 1860 census of Pi??o Alto [Pi??os Altos] Gold Mines, Do??a Ana [now Grant] County, NM.

      J. W. is listed in the 1860 census as a miner who was then 33 years of age; therefore, according to the 1860 census, he was born in about 1827. According to the 1860 census, he was born in GA.

      (5) A household headed by J. W. Swilling is listed in the 1870 census of Salt River Valley, Yavapai County, AZ.

      J. W. is listed in the 1870 census as a farmer who was then 40 years of age; therefore, according to the 1870 census, he was born in about 1830. According to the 1870 census, he was born in SC.

      Listed with J. W. is his wife, T., who was then 26 years of age; therefore, according to the 1870 census, she was born in about 1844. According to the 1870 census, she was born in México.

      Also listed with J. W. is his daughter, G., who was then 5 years of age; therefore, according to the 1870 census, she was born in about 1865. According to the 1870 census, she was born in AZ.

      Also listed with J. W. is his daughter, M., who was then 2 years of age; therefore, according to the 1870 census, she was born in about 1868. According to the 1870 census, she was born in AZ.

      Also listed with J. W. is Mary Ann SWILLING, who was then 13 years of age; therefore, according to the 1870 census, she was born in about 1857. According to the 1870 census, she was born in AZ. The relationship between J. W. SWILLING and Mary Ann SWILLING is not listed in the 1870 census, but Mary Ann was an Apache Indian who is believed by the compiler to have been adopted by J.W.

      Also listed with J. W. is Gavilan SWILLING, who was then 10 years of age; therefore, according to the 1870 census, he was born in about 1860. According to the 1870 census, he was born in AZ. The relationship between J. W. SWILLING and Gavilan SWILLING is not listed in the 1870 census, but Gavilan was an Apache Indian who is believed by the compiler to have been adopted by J.W.

      Also listed with J. W. are 4 apparently unrelated farm workers.

      (6) www.findagrave.com:

      Jack William Swilling
      Birth: Apr. 1, 1830, Anderson County, South Carolina, USA
      Death: Aug. 12, 1878, Yuma, Yuma County, Arizona, USA

      Jack William Swilling was born as John William Swilling in South Carolina in 1830, most of his life was known by or referred to, as Jack Swilling. Jack Swilling was known as the Father of Phoenix. He was the original settler and founder of Phoenix, Arizona. He arrived in the Salt River Valley of Arizona in 1867. He was fascinated with the ancient Hohokam ruins and artifacts. Swilling was also amazed in the extensive network of canals the ancient Indians had dug to irrigate the fields. He thought it was a good area for a new town, since it seemed free from attacks by the Yavapai Indians and the Apache Indians.

      Jack was an Indian Fighter and gold prospector by trade and a former Union Scout and Confederate Officer. He was married twice, his first [?] wife, Trinidad Escalente, died early, leaving one child, a daughter. He remarried and had four more kids. Though another report listed he had 7 children. Jack was known as compassionate and sympathetic, never turned away a hungry, homeless stranger. But he also had a dark side. In his lifetime killed a dozen or so men, once killing a man in Wickensburg, Arizona in self-defense, then scalped him. He was addicted to Morphine due to old battle injuries, and abused alcohol. When drunk, could become mean and unpredictable.

      Jack built a farm in the area of Phoenix and grew vegetables, he began looking for new irrigating ventures east of Phoenix, his new town of Phoenix consisted of a store, restaurent, post office, and flour mill. He moved back to Black Canyon and the Agua River in 1873, where he continued prospecting for silver and gold. A Mine named Tip Top was born and became very prosperous. The town of Gillette, Arizona grew around this flourishing Mine. Shortly after settling in Black Canyon, him and two others were arrested and convicted of a Stagecoach Robbery, though they were proven innocent later on, and the real culprits were apprehended and confessed. A Wells Fargo Detective had heard a remark that came out of a Saloon about Jack making a comment of robbing a stagecoach, but was only joking around and bragging, while intoxicated. He was their prime and only suspect at the time, because of the $20.00 gold pieces he was flashing around. The evidence was circumstantial. They were jailed at Prescott in Yavapai County, but the Judge ruled insufficient evidence and they were set free. But since the robbery happened in Maricopa County of Arizona, they were rearrested. They were taken to Yuma County Jail to await the decision of a grand jury. Jail officials took him off his morphine medication. He wrote in a letter declaring his innocence and predicted he'd be found dead in his jail cell from his daily suffering and torment. As predicted, he was found dead in his jail cell, from natural causes in August of 1878, he was only 47 years old. He left a young wife and 5 children. His friends took up a collection to help his family.

      Family links: Spouse: Trinidad Mejia Escalante Swilling Shumaker (1847 - 1925)

      Burial: Yuma Cemetery, Yuma, Yuma County, Arizona, USA

      Created by: Bonnie Knapp - Wichita, Kansas
      Record added: Feb 03, 2006
      Find A Grave Memorial# 13213283
    Person ID I26208  Frost, Gilchrist and Related Families
    Last Modified 5 Aug 2021 

    Father George SWILLING,   b. 1791, Anderson County, SC Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 Sep 1875, Dawsonville, Dawson County, GA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 84 years) 
    Mother Margaret Prince FARRAR,   b. 18 Aug 1796, Pendleton, Anderson County, SC Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Apr 1856, Cherokee, Forsyth County, GA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 59 years) 
    Married Abt 1815  Anderson County, SC Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F11427  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Mary Jane GRAY,   b. Abt 1835, AL Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 May 1886  (Age ~ 51 years) 
    Married Abt 1852  Wetumpka, Autauga [now Elmore] County, AL Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. Harriet SWILLING,   b. Abt 1852, AL Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Aft 18 Aug 1870  (Age ~ 18 years)
     2. Elizabeth Price Davis SWILLING,   b. 2 Apr 1853, AL Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 3 Jan 1897, Elmore County, AL Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 43 years)
     3. John SWILLING,   b. Abt 1857, AL Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Bef 18 Aug 1870, AL Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 13 years)
    Last Modified 5 Aug 2021 
    Family ID F11421  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Trinidad Mejia ESCALANTE,   b. 15 Apr 1845, Hermosillo, Sonora, México Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 Dec 1925, Phoenix, Maricopa County, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 80 years) 
    Married 11 Apr 1864  San Agustin Cathedral, Tuscon, Pima County, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. Mary Ann SWILLING,   b. Abt 1857, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location  [Adopted]
     2. Gavilan SWILLING,   b. Abt 1860, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location  [Adopted]
     3. Georgia Elizabeth SWILLING,   b. Aug 1865, Wickenburg, Maricopa County, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 15 Feb 1890, Phoenix, Maricopa County, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 24 years)
     4. Matilda SWILLING,   b. Abt 1868, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 19 Oct 1875, Black Canyon City, Yavapai County, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 7 years)
     5. Lillie SWILLING,   b. May 1872, Phoenix, Maricopa County, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 Aug 1907, Tucson, Pima County, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 35 years)
     6. Berry Burton SWILLING,   b. Abt 1874, Maricopa County, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 20 Oct 1922, El Paso, El Paso County, TX Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 48 years)
     7. Matilda Adeline SWILLING,   b. 1876, Black Canyon City, Yavapai County, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Nov 1879, Phoenix, Maricopa County, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 3 years)
     8. John William SWILLING, Jr.,   b. 24 Jun 1878, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 31 Jul 1947, Plattsburgh, Clinton County, NY Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 69 years)
    Last Modified 5 Aug 2021 
    Family ID F11423  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 3 Benigna RIBERA 
    Partners Abt 24 Dec 1863 
    Children 
     1. Leandro Ribera LARA,   b. 24 Dec 1863, Do??a Ana County, NM Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 23 Jan 1952, Tolleson, Maricopa County, AZ Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 88 years)
    Last Modified 5 Aug 2021 
    Family ID F11442  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

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    John William SWILLING
    John William SWILLING