John F. Swayne biography

JOHN F. SWAYNE, formerly active and prominent in official life of Tarrant county, a successful stockman, and one of the distinguished citizens of Fort Worth, was born in Henderson county, Tennessee, July 31, 1850. His parents were James W. and Amanda J. (Henry) Swayne, and through both branches he is of excellent and famous ancestry. His father, a native Virginian, born November 6, 1821, was of the noted family of Swaynes who have contributed so many distinguished citizens, especially to the legal profession. Former Associate Justice Swayne of the United States Supreme court was a brother of John Swayne’s grandfather, while of those who have attained distinction in the law in later years might be mentioned Judge Swayne of Memphis. James W. Swayne, the father, who visited Texas in 1849, without locating, however, died in 1856, at the age of thirty-five. His mother, Sarah Hite (Parkins) Swayne, of Winchester, Virginia, was also a brilliant and talented woman. John F. Swayne’s mother, who was born May 18, 1824, in South Carolina and died in Tennessee in 1857, aged thirty-three years, was a descendant of Patrick Henry. The parents were married July 8, 1847.

In keeping with the record of a family of so many of whose members joined the learned professions, Mr. Swayne received educational advantages on a par with the best offered in America at the time. His two years as a student of Washington and Lee University in Virginia were spent when that noted institution was under the presidency of Robert E. Lee, and among the various mementoes which he retains of his life there is one he particularly prizes—an excuse from class duties on account of illness, written and signed by the former Confederate leader. Mr. Swayne came to Texas in 1869, but after teaching school for a year in Titus county returned to his former home in Lexington, Tennessee, where, having pursued his law studies in the meantime, he was admitted to the bar. In 1872 he located permanently in Texas, and at Fort Worth became associated as a law partner with Captain Joe Terrell, one of the historic characters of this city. Business and active identification with affairs proved more attractive to Mr. Swayne as a field of effort than the law, and he soon resigned his active practice and began dealing in real estate. On the organization of the city in 1873 he was elected the first city secretary, and since that time has figured often and prominently in public life. In 1875 he went west for a short time, and in those early days began his experience in the cattle business. After serving for some time as deputy he was elected clerk of Tarrant county in 1880, and, thrice re-elected, served altogether eight years in that capacity, leaving the office in 1888. After this official career he resumed real estate and cattle business and this has been his principal line of activity ever since. The hard times following the panic of 1893 made serious inroads into his fortune, as he at that time held large blocks of Fort Worth realty, which suffered a great shrinkage of values during the financial depression. For several years Mr. Swayne has been well known for his stock-raising enterprise, his herd of registered Jersey cattle containing some splendid specimens, and his success in this line gives him a prominent place among the stockmen of this city.

Mr. Swayne was married in 1874 to Miss May Hendricks, the daughter of Judge H. G. Hendricks, in his day one of the most eminent citizens of Fort Worth. A native of Missouri, he was a lawyer by profession and one of the pioneers of the profession in Texas. He lived for several years at Sherman, Grayson county, and later moved to Fort Worth, where he died in March, 1873. He was one of the original donators who had contributed money for the building of the Texas and Pacific Railway to Fort Worth, the consummation of which work did not take place, however, until three years after Judge Hendricks’ death. In his practice he had been a partner of Peter Smith and also of Major Jarvis, and was noted everywhere for his high-minded citizenship and integrity of character. Of good ancestry, he was a relative of Vice President Hendricks of Indiana.

Also through her mother Mrs. Swayne belongs to a noted family. Her mother, Eliza A. Evarts, who was a member of the same family to which the distinguished. William M. Evarts of New York belonged, died in Fort Worth in 1894. Previous to her death she built the splendid Worth hotel as a memorial to her husband, and left a valuable estate besides. The children who survived her, besides Mrs. Swayne, were Harry, Wallace, George and Mrs. Sallie Huffman. With ancestry direct to Revolutionary heroes, Mrs. Swayne is prominent in the work of the Patriotic Order of the Daughters of the Revolution, being regent of Mary Isham Keith Chapter at Fort Worth. Her ancestry also goes back to the historic Miles Standish, she being in the seventh removed from that ancestor. As a pioneer in women’s club work at Fort Worth she has also been very prominent, and organized and for four years was president of the Woman’s Wednesday Club of Fort Worth, which is probably the most important woman’s club in Texas, its literary and philanthropic work being carried out on a large scope. Mr. and Mrs. Swayne have two children: Mrs. Mattie Swayne Moffett and Mary Newton Swayne.

Hon. James W. Swayne, who for several years has been a prominent lawyer and citizen of Fort Worth, having served some time as county attorney, is a brother of Mr. John F. Swayne. The former is at present engaged in the oil business in Louisiana.

Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 64-65.