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Milestones Vol. 20 No. 2--Summer 95

This article appeared in the Tri-State Genealogical and Historical Society Magazine and was submitted by Betty Cain

In a nearly forgotten private burial plot in Hanover Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania lies the remains of the last person to be killed by Indians within the limits of the county.

Mary Swearingen, the second child and only daughter of Samuel Swearingen and his wife Catherine (nee Condell), was born about 1749. The Swearmgens settled in this area during Indian frontier times. 'Me farm, which Samuel named "The Home Place" contained some 393 acres.

Mary married Jacob Colvin and according to Family Registers of 1884 and 1894 moved with her new husband to Marietta, Ohio, a section of country inhabited by Indians. It is reported that because of Mary's fine head of hair the Indians fancied her and planned schemes for her capture hoping to make her a chief's wife. The family becoming alarmed, returned to Beaver County; but the Indians having concluded to murder her if they could not take her captive, two of them soon followed.

Upon their return to Beaver County, Jacob Colvin began building a house about two miles from "The Home Place" where they were living with Mary's father. Reverend Joseph Bausman in A History of Beaver County published in 1904 gives the following account of the events surrounding the murder:

"In the closing part of March 1790, Jacob Colvin and his wife Mary started in the morning from the house of Mrs. Colvin's father, Samuel Van Swearingen, to prepare for their home, a house and garden on the farm which is now occupied by William Ramsey, and owned by John Morton, situated in Hanover Township. This couple had been married for something over a year, and took with them their child. They had worked all forenoon and were on their way back to the house, Mrs. Colvin riding behind her husband on the same horse, and carrying her little child, perhaps four months old, upon her lap. Without any warning, when about one half mile form her father's house, and on his farm, two sharp rifle shots rang out upon the air and the balls passed through her body and also through the arm and side of her husband. The husband and wife both fell from the horse. Mr. Colvin got to his fee t and endeavored to assist his wife, but seeing that she was beyond help, and that the Indians were approaching, he managed to get on his horse and escaped to the house. The shooting attracted the attention of the neighbors, and within a couple of hours a rescue party was formed and proceeded to the place of the murder. They found the body of Mrs. Colvin, who had been scalped, and that of her babe, who had been brained upon the side of a tree.

Other neighbors soon arrived and a party was formed which followed the retreating savages to the bank of the river at the mouth of King's Creek in what is now Hancock County, West Virginia."

Not daring to cross the river, it is reported that the pursuers then returned to the house of the distressed father and assisted in the burial of the unfortunate woman and her child.

Charles A. Sweringen, a great-great grandson of Samuel and Catherine Condell Swearingen and a family historian shares the following genealogy and history surrounding the Swearingen Cemetery where Mrs. Colvin was laid to rest more than two hundred years ago.

It all started with Sarnuel, born about 1740 in Maryland. He was taxed in Nottingham Township, Washington County, in 1783. By the time of the 1790 census, he was in Hanover Township. My guess is that he was there by 1786.

The farm, which he called "'Me Home Place" contained some 393 acres. The warrant was issued March 24,1788. Another warrant, for some 339 acres, was issued to William Swearingen November 17,1788. William was Samuel's oldest son. He pulled up stakes and went to Fayette County; probably as a result of his sister's death at the hands of the Indians. Samuel took patent on this parcel, which he called "Difficulty," March 28, 1797. "The Home Place" was not patented until after Samuel's death. Three sons: John Van, Bazel and Zacariah then secured the patent.

Samuel's youngest child, Zacariah, was bom in 1786. The mother, Catherine Condell Swearingen, died in that year. We suspect that she died in childbirth. Zacariah was my great grandfather. He had five sons by a first marriage to Ruth Wilcoxon and six sons by a second marriage to Melinda Swearingen. Ruth's youngest, Zacariah, was my Grandfather. His son, Charles G. was my father and the only sibling to marry. Thus I am an only son and only grandson on the paternal side.

When John Van, Bazel and Zacariah split up "The Home Place, " John Van apparently held the part where Samuel had lived. His son, John Van, Jr., was next to live there; and his son, James Harvey ("Jim Van") lived there when I was a lad. The farm, in my time had 120 acres; and that is where the cemetery is located.

Bazel owned land adjacent and to the east and south. He accumulated much more than his portion of "The Home Place".

Zacariah owned the farm south of John Van. He also acquired more land. My grandfather, Zacariah, Jr., took possession of that tract and my father, Charles G. after him. When I lived there it consisted of 153 acres. It was int he southeast corner of that land that Mary Colvin was killed. Dad used to point out the tree where the Indians bashed out the baby's brains. If I were younger and more mobile, I believe I could still go to the spot. Concerning the cemetery which is located on the road that leads from King's Creek Road (that is that portion of Hardin's Run Road that is on King's Creek) eastward to Poe on Route 168. (This road is now designated as "Swearingen Road" and is so marked). Mr. Swearingen writes, "Samuel's wife, Catherine, was probably the first to be buried in the family plot. She died about 1786, possibly at the birth of my greatgrandfather, Zacariah. The next would be Mary and her infant, I think in 1789. Samuel died in 1828 and surely is buried there. After that, many stones can still be found with legible dates. The cemetery has become almost a shrine for the many who are researching the Swearingen fainily history."

The following stones were still standing and still legible in June of 1977:

SWEARINGEN Mary J d/o Hugh & Rebecca died December 29,1860: Hugh F. s/o H & R J died October 18,1860 age 4 yrs 7 mos 9 days: John F s/o Hugh & Rebecca died May 18, 1840 age I yr; Martha w/o John V. died January 4, 1861 aged 81 yrs and I mo; John V. died August 14, 1846 aged 74 yrs 7 mos 4 days.

WILL-COXON John departed this life December 25,1832 aged 78 yrs 3 mos 16 days; Elizabeth consort of John died February 17, 1841.

SWEARINGEN Zacariah died May 31, 1864 in his 81st year; Ruth w/o Zacariah died June 13, 1830 in the 38th year of her life.

MASSEY Caroline d/o J & S Adams died February 22, 1855 age 45 yrs 7 mos 7 days.

PATTERSON Linda departed this life April 6, 1810 aged (remainder of stone missing).

SWEARINGEN Samuel V. departed this life December 11, 18- in the 3- of his age.

David Ellsworth Swearingen, a son of Zacariah and Rachel Gilland Swearingen, who died in 1872 at the age of 10 years is believed to be the last person interred in the old cemetery. His remains were later removed to Mill Creek Hill Cemetery.

As time went by, the farm passed out of the hands of the Swearingen family and that part of the farm where the cemetery is situated was subdivided into building lots. The cemetery was reserved by the owner. No roadside marker was ever erected and only a few scattered stones were left to mark the burial places of these early settlers.

Today, several years after the farm was subdivided, a new home stands close by the burial site and the occupants have 11 cleaned up the cemetery" removing stones, from the gravesites where they were standing or had fallen. The stones have been assigned a corner of the old graveyard.

Note: The possible disappearance of this old renowned cemetery should be of concern to all of us who are interested in preserving the history of Beaver County and the people who helped build it.