Family History Notebook

A Utah Pioneer - George Swindle 1824 - 1882

In 1857 George Swindle, his wife Ann Reed and surviving son George migrated from Trimdon in County Durham, England to Salt Lake City, Utah, United States.

Suzanne Swindle Johnston has given me permission to reproduce her biography of her great-grandfather George Swindle .

George Swindle Jr. (1848-1923) accompanied his parents on their migration

George Swindle Jr. was born 30 October 1824 in Felling, Durham County, England, to George Swindle Sr. and Elizabeth Miller. Felling is in the northeast section of England.

It is known as the bleak coal-mining center, near Newcastle-On-The-Tyne, one of the most important coal mining centers and shipping ports of England.

The house that George Swindle grew up in is a two story stone house, with a slate roof. You enter the house through the kitchen, which is still equipped with a dirt floor, so that in the winter, the sheep can be brought into the house. There is a large wood-burning stove, which can also handle peat. A hallway leads to a parlor which is the place where the family probably lived. The room has a large fireplace, which is the only source of heat in the house, except for the kitchen stove. Outside of the parlor are the stairs which lead upstairs, where the bedrooms are located. They have wood floors. There is no heat, nor any indoor plumbing. Each bedroom was probably equipped with a pitcher of water and a basin. Today, that water typically freezes over in the winter.

This house is still standing, and is still lived in by a family. It is reached through a very long unpaved road, that passes through many gates before the end of the road, which is them. It is very remote. As they do today, they probably traveled most places they were going on foot. The house is located right next door to the church which is also a rock building. It is surrounded by a burial ground, as are most English churches. This is marginal farming land. The men in the family most likely worked in the mining industry, but they surely had a small farm to supply the family with food, and raised a few animals for the meat, milk, wool etc. They were probably quite self-sufficient, providing for most of their own needs. The family living there today lives in almost the same way as George Swindle and his family. We visited with them, and it was like going into a time-warp. They lived without electricity, heat, or indoor plumbing and the family had never been out to dinner.

George grew up in a family of three children, having a brother and a sister. We can imagine the life he lived as a child and as a young man working in the coal mines for a mere existence. He is listed as a coal miner in the 1851 census and probably entered that occupation at a young age. By the time he was 15 he had moved away from the Gateshead area, and by the time he reached adulthood he and members of his family lived in County Durham.
Trimdon Grange ( 
Trimdon Grange 40 years after George left

George Swindle married Ann Hopper Reed 15 November 1848. They were married in Trimdon, Durham. George and Ann had five children born in England. George, the eldest son, was the only child to survive. His three brothers and sister had all died in the first two years of life, of such things as Whooping Cough and Teething.

As George’s parents got older, they were unable to support themselves, and had to go to the poor house to live. They both died there in 1854, just a few days apart, of cholera. George died first. His wife Elizabeth went to register his death, came home and died of the same disease that day. Two years later, his sister Mary died of consumption or tuberculosis following the birth of her eighth child.

You can imagine the state of mind that George and his brother John were in when they came in contact with the Mormons. Joseph Doxford, a Latter Day Saint missionary converted George to Mormonism. He was baptized the 30th of August 1856; ordained a Priest 14 September 1856; and an Elder 21 December 1856. He then labored a short time as a missionary. The realization of the truthfulness of the Church and the testimonies received, along with the promise of a better future made him have a burning desire to go to America and to Utah to join the Saints in Zion. It was with this in mind that he with his wife and son left his native land. His brother John and his family did not join the church, but had the same desire to leave England. So, also in the month of March in 1857 John and his family sailed for Melbourne, Australia, arriving there 140 days later.

George and Ann's route
George and Ann sailed from Liverpool, England on Saturday, 28 March 1857, on the ship George Washington with Captain Cummings in command. The records have listed among the passengers George Swindle (31) his wife (32) and son George (7). There were 8117 Saints aboard under the supervision of three missionaries, James Park, Jessie Bigler Margin, and Charles P. Dana. Several people died on the three week journey. They arrived in Boston 20 April 1857. From Boston, they traveled by rail to Iowa City, where their missionary supervisor, Jessie Bigler Martin, was placed in charge of the wagon company to cross the plains in the early part of June.

George had paid $31 toward the purchase of a handcart in Liverpool. This credit was forwarded to Iowa City, dated 6 May 1857. A copy of the receipt was found in some of the family letters.
Handcart statue TS4 
Mormon handcart pioneer statue on Temple Square honoring those who traveled across the plains to Utah

"The ox train consisted of 192 souls, 34 wagons, 130 oxen, 7 cows and one horse." From Iowa City they had nearly 300 miles to travel to Florence, Nebraska They crossed the Missouri on a ferry and it was here that Apostle Taylor passed them on his way from New York.

The great plains stretched endlessly ahead. This was a very frightening time for the Saints, not only for those crossing the plains, but for those in Utah as well. The President of the United States, James Buchanan, had decided the time had come to assert federal authority over the Mormons. On 26 May 1857, he ordered an army of 25------ men under Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston to march against Utah. News was that they were coming to destroy the Saints and their property.

"The government started its military expedition from the Missouri in small contingents as rapidly as units became available. Baggage trains proceeded these on the assumption that the slow moving oxen would advance less rapidly than troops. Thus, by Autumn, food trains and marching units dotted a thousand miles of western landscape."

The wild tales of the army following them was a terrifying experience to this little band of pioneers who never in their wildest dreams envisioned real frontier life, but who had a real purpose at heart and became strong willed, undaunting men and women overnight with the firm belief God would protect them.

From biographies of others in this company, "We had singing and prayers every night in our camp. As the journey lengthened many treasured articles, brought from across the sea had to be discarded along the wayside and goods had to be rationed. Each night someone had to stand guard with t he cattle. All went well until we came to the Platte River bottom, where there were lots of buffalo. We had problems with the cattle stampeding and runnning off. One morning when we were yoking our oxen they stampeded, running over people, killing an old man, a little boy, and injuring others. When the cattle's feet got tender we had to throw them down and shoe them.

The Isreal Evans handcart company caught up with us. Sometimes they were ahead of us and sometimes behind all the way to Salt Lake City."

The Evans and Christian Christiansen handcart companies were the last for two years because of the problem with Johnston's Army and the Utah War. The next group didn't come until 1859.

Handcart company (re-enactment)
The Salt Lake Valley 
The first group of Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley through Emigration Canyon between 22 and 24 July 1847.

On Saturday, September 12th, the Jessie B. Martin Company and the two handcart companies arrived in Salt Lake City and fourteen days later the first of the army supply wagons arrived at Green River and were stopped by the Mormon Scouts at the marker bearing the letters "U.T.", Utah Territory.
There has been a letter found dated November 1858 written at Spanish Fork from George to his brother John in which he talks about how their life has been. All in all, he sends a good report. It is clear that he is very homesick for family, and that he misses his brother. He mentions that he has 15 acres and has raised some grain. In the 1860 Census of Utah, we find the family located in Spring City, Sanpete County, where George is listed as a farmer of 200 acres. In the 1870 Utah Census he is found in Fountain Green, and is even more prosperous. While in Sanpete County, he and Ann had three additional children Elizabeth on the 3rd of September 1858, David on the 14th of November 1860 and Charles Henry born in 1864.

The following letter found in an old trunk was written by George to his brother, John Swindle, living in Australia. It was never mailed nor was it finished. It gives an interesting picture of the trip to Utah and life in Spanish Fork.

Spanish Fork
November 25, 1858
Dear Brother and Sister; I take this opportune of writing to give those few things to you. Hoping you are in good health and spirits as it leaves me at present, which I thank my Heavenly Father.
Dear Brother and Sister, I thank the time long of have a letter from you. I have had a letter from Margaret Temple the only letter I have got from England, which told me you were sick and doing badly which I am sorry to hear.
Dear brother, it makes me sad when I heard it. I know you would have know one to care for you when your money is gone.
Dear brother, I long to have a letter from you. Write to me and tell me your mind. I would if you could think about it to come to me. I know you would never leave me again. We many times talk about you and your little ones. I hear that Ana has been put to bed with twins.
Dear brother, you will want to know something about the country and our journey. We came across the sea in twenty-one days. We land at Boston, then from Boston to Iowa on the rail which was 1500 miles which we completed in a week. We stopped here a month getting fit out, our cattle and teams. We started to cross the plains which was 1300 miles. We landed in the valley September 15. We had a pleasant journey. If it were possible for you to come it would help in your shortness of breath.
Dear brother and sister, you will want to know how I am got on. I am doing very well. I have built two houses, 15 acres of land. I have got a yoke of cattle, a good cow, 4 pigs and other things. I have raised 115 bushel of wheat and corn and potatoes and other things, much as w uld do me.
Dear brother, I am my own master. I can go to work when I like and come home when I like. Dear brother, I am doing very well. Ann has been put to bed, we have a daughter. She had a good time of it. She around a week confined till did her own turn.
Dear brother, you will have heard many stories about the Mormon s. We have had a little worry, but all is peace now. We expect that two gold mines will start here in the strong only 300 miles from us, which will make thousands to come here.
(not finished)
"Brigham's Shanties at Provo City" or, in other words, Fort Utah), illustrated in Harper's Weekly in 1858.

Hundreds of converts were coming into Utah to seek a new life and by 1864 President Brigham Young was sending out scouts to locate good water sources and land where the saints could live. It was at this time that thirty-two families from the towns of Spanish Fork, Nephi, Fountain Green, Moroni, Ephraim and Gunnison were asked to settle in Monroe, which was known as South Bend and afterward as Alma (in honor of the Book of Mormon Prophet).

W. T. Allred presided over the settlement as the first Bishop or Presiding Elder and Fred Olsen the second. The names of the families of the first company were: W. T. Allred, Walter Barney, Richard Davis, Benjamin Davis, George Swindle, John McPerson, Moses Gifford, George Robinson, Anthony Robinson, Andrew Anderson, Walter Jones, David Griffith, John Knighten, George Moody, Samuel Mackey, John Edmond, George Wilson, Henry Lamb, Niels Sorenson, Fred Olsen, John W. Bohman, James Stephensen, Parley Allred, Thomas Hunt, Andrew Rasmussen, Augustus Johnson, John Wilson, William Cordingly, Adolph Thompson, Niels Toolgren, Bert Swain.

George Swindle moved his family from Spanish Fork to Richfield in September 1864. A son Charles was born there on 8 November 1864. The family then moved to Alma which was ten miles south. "Early in 1865 the settlers built a fort enclosing one block of the town survey. It was built of log houses on three sides and a ten foot rock wall protected the fort on the other side. This fort was built in nine days."

In July 1865, Indians attacked the settlement and a battle took place between the mounted militia and the Indians. In 1867, on the advice of President Brigham Young, every settlement in Sevier Valley was being evacuated due to the mounting ferocity of the Indian attacks in the area. The mountains east of the valley were the strong hold of Black Hawk and his allies who were determined to drive the white invaders from the Indian hunting grounds.

"A troop of mounted militiamen led the long procession out of the settlement of Richfield on a pleasant April day in 1867. Behind them followed a noisey herd of cattle, sheep and pigs driven by an almost as noisy gang of shouting boys and barking dogs.

A group of townsmen mounted on their horses were next in line to see that none of the livestock got away from the boys and to round up the stock and drive it to safety in case of Indian attack. Then came the wagons loaded with everything the settlers could pile on. Women drove some of the teams because their men wer needed for other duties in the caravan."
George Swindle took his family back to Spanish Fork. In 1868, he received a letter from John Wilson, as follows::
Springville, Utah
March 10, 1868
Dear Brother:
In a letter I received today from Brother Olsen he states that he had written to you desiring to notify the Alma brethren living in Spanish Fork of the privilege we have of returning to Alma this summer but he was afraid you might not be home and therefore desired to ascertain if the brethren had notice. The conditions are, 30 men armed to meet and organize at Fort Gunnison in 14 days from date and then go up the river and put in crops and build fort, no families to go and little stock as possible. The brethren who want to go are to write to Bro. Olsen and let him know as soon as possible. I expect you have received Bro. Olsen's letter which will give you particulars. If convenient drop me a line to Springville and tell me you have got the letter and how you feel.
With kind regards to your wife and family. I remain your brother,
Yours truly, John Wilson

History tells us that Fred Olsen, the former President of Alma and others made an attempt to resettle the place but were attacked by Indians at North Ridge between Salina and Richfield. One man was killed and a number wounded. They had to turn back.

We are not certain that George was with this group, but because of a receipt we have, one feels that he brought his family as far as Gunnison then went with the Fred Olsen party. When the men were unsuccessful in going back to Alma he returned to Gunnison. He stayed here and on 6 March 1869 bought a house and lot.

George Swindle Jr. married Mary Magdalena Witzig Diggleman on 4 March 1872, in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. She was a native of Switzerland and had been in Utah just a year. She had been living in Manti with relatives and was on a visit to Gunnison when she met George Swindle and became his plural wife. She had three children of a previous marriage, Mary, Lydia and Herman. Her first husband was lost at sea.

George moved his families back to Alma where he built log houses and homesteaded a farm. It is interesting to note that only eleven families of the original thirty-two families returned. Four children were born to George and Mary - Ann, Heber, Joseph and Ellen. George participated in many church activities and was chairman of the building committee in the construction of the old North Ward Church. He assisted in building the old canal from the Sevier River. It was hard work and was done mainly with pick and shovel. He was appointed Justice of the Peace 6 August 1877. He had a knowledge as well as an intense interest in mining, which he had worked at for many of his younger years. It was not surprising that he did some prospecting and was fortunate (not financially) in locating many mines which have proven to be valuable. Among them were the Deer Trail Mine and the Billy Boy Mine.

It was while he was on a mining expedition that he became ill and was brought home. The illness was fatal and he died 28 June 1882. "He was a man of charitable make-up and was kind and considerate of his families as far as he could be."

OBITUARY: Obituary notice of George Swindle found in Deseret News (Serial 650 7, pt. 19F Utah) (S 18c News Vol. 31, page 438), Genealogical Society. In Monroe, Sevier County, Utah, George Swindle died 28 June 1882. Born in Felling, Durham, England, 30 October 1824, age 57 years, 7 months and 24 days. He leaves a large family to mourn his loss. He was a good faithful Latter-Day Saint and highly respected by all his associates and though his loss is deeply felt by those he left behind, his example is left worthy for us to emulate.