FAMILY HISTORY AS TOLD TO ME BY GRANDFATHER SWAILS
by Melinda Jacquier
There were two brothers came from England and settled at Acton, Indiana. Their
names were George and Robert Swails. As we know very little about the descendants
of George, we will tell what we know about Robert as we are his descendants.
He married a lady by the name of Goldsborough and they all must have been
quite proud of this name as it has been carried down to the present
generation. (I had a brother named after her and we nick named him
'Goldie.') When their first child was born they named him Robert Goldsborough
Jr. and this was my grandfather.
My grand father grew up in Indiana and married a German lady by the name of
Albright. It seems about this time there was some quarreling in the Swails
family over an estate and my grandfather moved away, going to the northern
part of Missouri where they raised their family of six boys and two daughters
(Jacob, John, Walter, Oscar, Edward, Ira, Josephine and Viola.)
My mother knew very little about her people as her mother died when she was a
baby. Her father's name was William Roles and he married a lady by the name of
Pell at Union (see note 1), Nebraska. To them were born three little
girls, Susan, Emma, and Ellen. (see note 2) After the mother passed away,
these three little girls were taken care of by two of the mother's sisters.
(The Pell Sisters) In later years the father, Wm. Roles remarried and
made a home for his family. He moved from Union, Nebraska to Missouri
close to where the Swails family lived.
In 1881 Jacob, and his brother John married two of the Roles sisters, Emma and
Ellen, and moved on a farm close to Clarksdale, Missouri and i was born to
John and Ellen on August 3, 1882 on this farm.
In the fall of 1883 these two families moved from Missouri to a farm near
York, Nebraska, where they lived only one year and in the fall of 1884 they
came to Geneva, Nebraska, where my father, John, took a job hauling freight
from Fairmont to Geneva, as there was no railroad at that time and Jacob
purchased a home stead right six miles southwest of Geneva, Nebraska which he
operated and owned until his death. Father's freight job did not last
long as the railway came through. In about 1885 or 86. He then
took a job as clerk in a store for Hitch and Rathburn.
In the spring of 1888 there was a covered wagon train left Fillmore County to
go west and home stead, and Father joined this train and there were six
families of this train that homesteaded about 18 miles northwest of Yuma,
I think that this is the year that life really began for me, at that time I
was almost six years old, and I can remember that year very clearly.
After staking out the home stead and getting the tents all in shape, we ran
into our first problem, WATER. We found that the closest was about six
miles. We had one team of oxen which we kept on the road hauling water
in barrels most of the time. And then all hands started to digging a
well, and we were lucky for we struck good water and every one was very happy.
Our next problem was fuel, as this was open prairie and nothing to burn except
buffalo chips, but they were very plentiful and we got along all right.
Now we were ready to start building our sod houses. They built one for
each family, and they were all just about alike with two rooms, and I can
remember that they were very comfortable after living in those tents.
I cannot remember at any time that we went hungry as there was plenty of wild
game. However, I can remember only one buffalo that they killed. I think
that these animals were too large for the guns and ammunition that we had, but
there were plenty of antelope, rabbits quail, prairie chickens, ducks, and
We proved up on our home stead in the fall of 1889 and came back to Geneva,
and Mr. Hitch bought out the Martland? Hartland?, Nebraska, store and hired my
father to run it for him. There were living rooms upstairs over the store
where we lived. I wish to say here that my sister, Pearl, was born there
and several of the old people now living will remember her. We lived
there until 1892 and Father traded his farm land for about 100 head of cattle
and five head of horses and some farm equipment and he rented a farm about 4
miles north of Martland? Hartland? and we moved there. That was one of the
worst winters we ever had, and we had no shelter for the cattle and had to buy
all of our feed which was very high. After losing several of the cattle
and paying the heavy feed bills, there was nothing left.
We stayed on this farm until the spring of 1894, and Father got a much better
farm three miles east of Geneva, known as the Coleman farm. The first
year was not good but we got through and then 1895 was the worst drought that
country ever knew. We were desperate, so out came the old covered wagon.
This time we headed south, finally landing in the Ozarks in the southern part
of Missouri at Bolivar.
This proved to be a lucky break as there was a big apple crop and they needed
pickers badly. Father and I both got good jobs. He received $1.25 and I
received $.75 per day and as living expenses were so small, that was a lot of
money. My father was always a very dependable worker and seemed to always have
a good job, so we got along fine here.
And then in the fall of 1897, Father got a letter from his brother, Jacob,
saying that Nebraska had one of the biggest corn crops they ever had and were
paying big prices for corn pickers. And, out came the old covered wagon
again and we headed back to Nebraska.
After we got here I was all fed up with that old wagon, and made up my mind
that I would never make another trip in it. I told Father how I felt and asked
him if I could go out and find me a job, and he said for me to do as I thought
best. I did find a job working on a farm by the month, and from that time on,
I was home very little.
Father's brother, Jacob, had no children of his own and he took a great deal
of interest in me. So, he and my mother saw to it that I went to school
for about four months during the winter months for the next three years.
In the fall of 1899, a very unexpected thing happened. One of the Pell sisters
that had helped raise the three little Roles girls, passed away and left each
one about $1,300.00. I think this was the most money that my mother had ever
seen at one time. (see note 4)
Now this was the first time that I ever saw my mother take things over.
She told me that I would never make a farmer as I was too light (120 lbs.) and
she thought I could do a lot better in the business world and she was going to
send me to the York Business College for one year and she said she would not
take "No" for an answer. I did not want to go but to please my
mother, I went. I was very much surprised as I enjoyed it very much and the
work was very pleasant. I gave it all my time.
[Note from grandson, Leroy O. Swails-- In 1900 when grandfather went to study
his profession in York, NE there were some remaining railroad tracks running
from York to Geneva, and transportation was on muddy roads. Grandfather,
with the help of some friends, decided that they would make a way for
Grandfather to travel back and forth to his home to visit his folks.
They came upon the idea of a bike with an extra wheel mounted on the side so
that the contraption would move up and down the tracks. This was a sight to
see!! Grandfather used that bike for several years. If he met a train,
he would hide his bike so the engineer would not see it because if you were
caught with a bike you would be brought before the Marshall or Constable. In
his later years, Grandfather served as City Clerk in the town of Geneva, which
by that time was a door down from the Fire Station across the alley from Dr.
I came back to Geneva and got a job in a store for a C. A. Samith (Smith?).
This was in the spring of 1901 and I worked for him until the summer of 1903.
Then I got a chance to go to work for Hitch Brothers, a much better and larger
store. One of the Hitch brothers was the one my father had worked for
several years before. W. R. Hitch was the partner of the Hitch and
Rathburn store and in later years his brother, Newton Hitch, came to Nebraska
from Illinois and took over the Rathburn interest.
I want to say here that these men were two of the finest men that I ever knew.
They treated me just like a son and they were the best friends I ever had.
I had worked for them until the fall of 1908 and while I enjoyed the work very
much, I decided that there never would be any future here. I began to
try to get a better job and through a shoe salesman and some friends I got a
job as manager of a shoe department in a large department store in Woolward,
Oklahoma at almost double the salary that I had been getting. This was a
good job as there were over 40 employees in this store, and I was third from
This is where I met Edna Elizabeth Leighton. She was one of the cashiers
in this store and we hit it off right from the start. We were married at
her parents' cattle ranch home about 14 miles southeast of Woodward, April 3,
1910. As we could not get our vacation until July, we postponed our
honeymoon until that time. In July we came to Geneva on our honeymoon
and that was when the Hitch brothers made me the best proposition I ever had.
W. R., the eldest member of the firm, wished to retire and said that he would
sell me his one-half interest without any money down, and I could pay him as
the profits from the store would permit. This store had always made
money and at the end of five years, I had my half all paid for and the store
at that time invoiced at about $10,000.00. So, I had made about $5,000 above
all expenses in five years. We were very happy.
In later years my partner passed away and I had money enough to buy the
interest of Newton Hit this gave me the full ownership of the store. So, from
the time that I clerked for the Hitches and became one-half owner and full
owner covered a period of more than 50 years. This store always made
money, enough for me to raise my family with everything they needed and enough
for me to have a savings account for my old age. I have lived a very
active life and most of it has been pleasant.
What more do you expect of life? I am very thankful.
In June of 1953, my wife passed away, which was a great shock and I miss
her very much.
To Edna and me were born two children, Forrest and Marguerite. They each
have two children. This gives me three grandsons and one granddaughter.
In my old age, I appreciate my family very much. They are all as good to
me as possible. I feel sorry for anyone who has no family.
Lonnie Orestes Swails
[Note from grandson, Leroy O. Swails-- Grandfather liked his life and his
family. He chose to have one of the first main artery transplants as an
experimental option, but died of complications.
1.) Cass County, Nebraska, but the author is mistaken because Mary and William
were married in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1853.
2.) William Roles and Mary Spratlen Pell also had a son, Albert, but as
neither family ever mentions the boy who drowned at age 20, this researcher is
beginning to wonder if there is a reason... was Albert born deformed, feeble
3.) Tennessee Jones in February of 1866
4.) This would be Nancy or Elizabeth.
This letter was submitted to me by Judy
I received this from Melinda Jacquier as part of proof I needed re: my great
grandfather's sister, Mary Pell. When I'd read it, I thought you might like it
for a Fillmore County bio.