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Ellen Inez Swift Partain Rugeley Siringo Sapp


Ellen Inez Swift was born c1853 probably in Guadalupe County, Texas. Her parents were enumerated on the 1850 census in Seguin, Guadalupe County, Texas.

Her father was Arthur Swift (December 17, 1810 Hanover? County, Virginia – 1855 Seguin, Guadalupe County, Texas). He was one of the three founders of the town of Seguin--the others being Matthew Caldwell and Jim Campbell. He was also the founder of the First Baptist Church of Seguin. Arthur married Margaret Mackey Baker (July 20, 1828 Maury County, Tennessee – c1853 Seguin, Guadalupe County, Texas). Margaret was the daughter of James McCulloch Baker (1797-1882) and Martha Jane Smith Baker (1803-1850).

James Baker was one of the founding fathers of DeWitt County. He, with his friend James Norman Smith, founded the First Presbyterian Church in what is now DeWitt County. Baker was elected Chief Justice of Gonzales County in 1844 and in 1846 was the first chief justice of Dewitt County, State of Texas. He was the first probate judge of DeWitt County and served as county judge 1850-1852 and 1865-1867.

Arthur and Margaret had four daughters:
1. Mary Swift b c 1846
2. Margaret Swift b c 1848
3. Martha Swift b c 1848
4. Eleanor “Ellen” Swift b c 1853

Arthur’s wife, Margaret, died c 1853 and he married second Philadelphia Wheeler Borden c Feb 1855. Philadelphia was the daughter of Gail Borden. Family tradition says that Arthur and Philadelphia had a month-long honeymoon. When they returned from their trip, Arthur was struck with fever and died ten days later. He is believed to be buried in Vaughan Cemetery in Seguin.

In 1860, Arthur’s oldest three daughters, Mary, Margaret and Martha, were living in DeWitt County with their mother’s father, James McCulloch Baker.

The fourth daughter, Eleanor “Ellen” was living with her mother’s sister, Nancy Ann Baker Howard Pincham in Plum Creek, Caldwell County, Texas. In 1870, seventeen-year-old Ellen was still living with her aunt Nancy.

Ellen married Thomas E. Partain (January 24, 1852-March 5, 1911) on November 25, 1874 in Matagorda County, Texas. Thomas was the son of John R. Partain (1833-October 24, 1857) and Louisa Smith Partain.

Nancy and Thomas had one son, James E. “Jimmy” Partain (December 1, 1875-August 11, 1900) who died in a tragic accident.

Jimmy Partain Drowned.

It falls to the lot of THE TRIBUNE to record another very sad and tragic drowning this week, that cut off James E. Partain in the very flower of his young manhood.

Jimmy, as he was affectionately called by his large circle of intimate friends had been to El Campo last Saturday with his father, T. E. Partain, on business. They left El Campo about 4’oclock in the afternoon, and as the distance they had to travel was some thirty miles, it was nearly ten o’clock Saturday night when they reached Deming’s Bridge which spans the Trespalacios near Hawley. Mr. Partain has a private bridge over the Trespalacios on his ranch, some two miles above Deming’s bridge; but as the creek was rising very rapidly when they departed in the morning they thought it too far to go down to the higher and large bridge.

After they had gotten upon the bridge they could see that the water was running around the east end of it and was apparently deep and very swift current, and Mr. Partain remarked that he thought they had better turn back and seek shelter with a neighbor until morning. But Jimmy was anxious to go home and insisted that they proceed, expressing confidence in their ability to make the passage in safety.

As his son was the less robust of the two, Mr. Partain took the lead, )they were on horseback), …in his wake.

On reaching the shore Mr. Partain halted and turned to look after his son, but was startled to see nothing of him. Failing to get an answer when he called Jimmy, Mr. Partain spurred his horse back into the water and soon found his son’s horse entangled in the brush and riderless but still alive and struggling. In his desperate struggle to discover and rescue his drowning boy, Mr. Partain very narrowly escaped drowning himself.

Hastening to the nearest house, Mr. Partain procured assistance and hurriedly returned, finding the horse still entangled in the brush but now lifeless.

All night and all of the next two days the stream was dragged and searched by kind neighbors who gathered from far and near to assist and sympathize with the heart-breaking father and mother of a gentle, winsome, loveable son, their only child. But not until ____ morning did the angry waters give up their victim. By the process of __ture the body rose to the surface some 50 or 75 yards below where the accident happened.

With tender, loving arms and ___ hearts and overflowing eyes, all ____ mortal of Jimmy Partain was laid in the tomb for the long, peaceful sleep that shall know no waking till the day of the resurrection morn, when there will be a happy reunion with ___ ____ and other loved ones in the ____ realm of eternal bliss. May the father and mother, looking up ____ ____ tears, catch a glimpse of ___ ___ meeting over yonder, and ____ reconciliation and happy _____ God’s “fullness of time.”

This account was in the remembrances of Frederick Caspar Cornelius. His daughter, Julia, was to marry Jimmy a few days after he was drowned.

About the 12th day another occurrence took place, which put gloom over the entire community. I do not mention this because I wish to tear open old wounds, but as I said before, Julia was thinking of getting married. This was the fatal day on which Jimmie Partain, to whom Julia was engaged to be married in a few days, drowned. Jimmie was, in his days, the most refined and loveliest character I ever knew, and the only child of Mr. and Mrs. T. E. Partain. I never shall forget the day in all my life, when G. B. Garnett, an old friend of mine, came opposite my house (the Juanita Creek was way over the banks so he could not get to my house) and told us the news of the fatal accident. It almost killed Julia and I took her around by Deming's bridge, the place where he was drowned, to the house of his father. After that Julia never lived with me any more, but God may forgive her as I have long ago. Afterwards she married a young man, H. P. Taylor, who is now living in New Mexico.

 After the death of Thomas on March 5, 1911, Ellen married Frank Rugeley (1848-1920) on October 25, 1911 in Matagorda County.

The marriage evidently didn’t last long as Ellen married Pinkerton detective and author Charles “Charlie” Siringo (1855-1926) on May 24, 1913 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. They moved to Siringo’s Sunny Slope ranch in New Mexico, but reportedly, it was not to Ellen’s liking and they were divorced in October 1911.

In June 1914, Ellen married Emory Eron Sapp (1878-1963) in Beaumont, TX. She died November 7, 1914 in Liberty County, Texas while on a hunting trip with her husband and friends, Mrs. Taylor, Dick Watts and Frank Havard. The shooting was reported to be accidental while Dick Watson was cleaning a shotgun. The story was initially reported in the Galveston Daily News.

Accidental Shot Kills Woman In Camping Party
Mrs. E. E. Sapp is Victim of Tragic Circumstances

Special Train on Santa Fe Brings Body of Well-Known Woman to Beaumont, Owned Valuable Property. Special to The News.

Beaumont, Tex. Nov. 8 – Mrs. E. E. Sapp, age about 65 years, was accidentally killed yesterday (Nov. 7, 1914) in a hunting camp near Romayor (Liberty County, Texas) on the Somerville side of the Santa Fe. Dick Watson, a member of the hunting party, was in camp cleaning an automatic shotgun. He thought all the shells had been removed and when he attempted to pull the trigger the safety was unloosened and the gun discharged. Mrs. Sapp was standing a few feet away with her back toward him and the charge of buckshot entered her back below the shoulder blade and passed entirely through the body.

Mr. Sapp was several hundred yards from the camp, returning with a large buck deer on his horse. Hearing the shot and the screams, ran to the camp and arrived a few minutes after his wife died. A special train on the Santa Fe was ordered out of Beaumont and the body reached here at 4 o'clock this afternoon. The funeral arrangements have not been made. Mrs. Sapp was formerly, Mrs. Partain, and lived at Bay City, where she owned large property interests and was an extensive cattle owner. She was on a visit here in the early summer, and her marriage to Mr. Sapp took place only a few months ago. She is survived by a nephew, O. S. Collins, and a niece, Mrs. Vogelstein [Vogelsang], at Bay City. Mr. Sapp was formerly game warden in this territory. The hunting party, made up of men from Beaumont, Saratoga and Romayor, went out Tuesday and the majority returned home Friday. Mrs. Emma Taylor of Romayor was the only other woman in the camp.

The Galveston Daily News, Monday, November 9, 1914

Ellen Swift, wife of T. E. Partain
Hawley Cemetery


About two months after the death of Ellen Sapp, Watts and Havard disappeared. The bodies of Watts and Havard were found in February and March 1915 in shallow graves. E. E. Sapp and his brother Lou, were arrested and convicted for the murders of the two men. Five years later E. E. Sapp was convicted of conspiring to have his wife killed. He supposedly hired Watts and Havard to kill Ellen. He later escaped, moved to Tennessee, worked as a policeman, married again and had three more children. Sapp  was convicted of fraud and was sent to Leavenworth for five years for assuming the name of his brother, "Tom," and receiving Tom's benefits. He ultimately died in the prison hospital at Huntsville. He always maintained he was framed.

Ellen's life was one of tragedy. Her mother died the same year she was born and her father two years later. She was separated from her sisters when they went to live with their grandfather. Their grandmother died before Ellen was born. Her only son, Jimmie, was drowned at the age of twenty-four. Her husband, to whom she was married for thirty-six years, died when Ellen was 58. Her next two marriages ended in divorce and she was killed, probably at the wish of her fourth husband. All phases of her life were marred by one tragedy or another.