Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project


















April 1, 1992 - January 31, 1993


Display produced by Ileen Snoddy, Project Historian,

Community Relations Division; and the Art Division

Catalog edited by Ileen Snoddy. and designed by

Lawrence MacLean, Art Division. Photography by James Eastwood, Photo Division.



Together, we can make a difference.


©1992 Salt River Project


Reproduced, edited and photographs enhanced by: Neal Du Shane 10/31/2006

Reproduction Approved by: Ileen Snoddy, Project Historian and SRP


The Salt River Project History Museum would like to thank E. Darton Harris and Isabell Leaver and family for their generous donations of Swilling artifacts.


We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the following institution and their staffs:


Alabama Department of Archives and History; Arizona Historical Society (Phoenix); Arizona Historical Society (Tucson); Arizona Historical Society (Yuma); Arizona Historical Society - Fort Lowell Museum; Arizona Department of Library, Archives, and Public Records; Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum; Arizona State Museum; Arizona State University, Arizona Historical Foundation; Atlanta Historical Society, Inc.; Buckeye Historical Society; Cave Creek Museum; Chandler Historical Society; Desert Caballeros Western Museum; Fort Bowie National Historic Site; Mesa Southwest Museum; National Archives (Washington, DC); National Archives, Pacific Southwest Region (Laguna Niguel, California); Pendleton District Historical and Recreational Commission (South Carolina); Phoenix Museum of History; Phoenix Public Library; Pioneer, Arizona; Pueblo Grande Museum; Sharlot Hall Museum; Western Archaeological Reserve (Tucson).







April 1, 1992 -January 31, 1993


Jack Swilling is often remembered as a colorful character whose notorious desperado

reputation overshadows his accomplishments.


During the years 1856 through 1878, Swilling traveled throughout the Arizona and New Mexico Territories, involved in a number of different occupations. His lifelong interests in irrigating, mining, farming, business and politics; his leadership in the founding of new communities and his joint ventures with many of the territory's influential people, form an important chapter in the American settlement of Arizona.


1992 marks the one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Swilling Ditch Company, the first canal company formed by stockholders in the Salt River Valley. The exhibit, Jack of All Trades: J.W. Swilling in the Arizona Territory, commemorates this important milestone while exploring the various aspects of Jack Swilling's life and his contributions to the building of the new territory. It is hoped that this exhibit will increase our understanding both of Swilling's life, territorial lifestyles as well as the early history of modern irrigation in the Salt River Valley.



John W. (Jack) Swilling was born April 1, 1830, the eighth of ten children, in South Carolina. His father, George Swilling, was a plantation overseer and later a slave-owner, who grew cotton on land purchased from his father-in-law. Swilling's mother, Margaret Prince Farrar, was a descendant of the Farrar family of Virginia whose relatives included a Revolutionary War hero and a member of the House of Burgesses. In the 1840s, losses in cotton speculation forced George Swilling to move his family to Forsyth County, near the newly discovered North Georgia gold country.


Several of his nine brothers and sisters would later move west, settling in Arkansas and Texas. Swilling's older brother Barry figured most prominently in his life. When Barry was murdered in the Motherlode Country of California in the early 1850s, Swilling tried unsuccessfully to find his killers.


Throughout his life, Swilling maintained periodic contact with his family back in the States, particularly his youngest sister Emily and their father, George. A letter to Swilling's brother James, written by their father in 1874, notes that George had received word from Jack for the first time in over two years. A few years after this letter was written, George died, and his death was ironically reported in the Arizona Miner.





















Jack Swilling first left home at seventeen with his brother Barry. Calling himself Jackson W. Swilling, he enlisted as a musician at Forsyth County, Georgia, and left the country during the fall of 1847 to fight in the Mexican/American War.


General Scott was occupying the city of Mexico, and Swilling's Georgia battalion was sent to central Mexico to relieve troops whose enlistments were expiring. The battalion remained as part of the army of occupation until the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo took effect in May 1848.







Text Box:


























Discharge Certificate.












Mary Jane Gray

Swilling Skinner

Loaned by Isabell Leaver and Family


Jack Swilling and his brother Barry were discharged at Mobile, Alabama, on July 13, 1848. The brothers returned home and enlisted in the Georgia Cavalry. Barry returned to Alabama in 1850; it is not known whether Jack went with him or followed later. However by the summer of 1852, Swilling had met and married Mary Jane Gray, and the couple settled in Wetumpka, Alabama.


Until recently, researchers were unable to account for Swilling’s life during much of the 1850’s. References to a wife and child left behind in Missouri appear in several early biographies of Swilling. While the events which drew Jack Swilling west are still unknown, these letters provide an account of his motives in remaining in the new territory.









Letters Written by J.W. Swilling

To his Wife, Mary Jane.


Donated by Isabell Leaver and Family



































Tintype of

Elizabeth Price Davis Swilling,

Born in Wetumpka, Alabama, Aril 2, 1853

Elizabeth was the only child of Mary Jane and Jack Swilling.


Loaned by Isabell Leaver and Family


















Map of Butterfield Overland Mail Route.


From the collections of the Arizona Historical Society, Tucson














“Go west young man and grow with the country . . . “ Those words were made famous by Horace Greeley, a newspaper man in the 1850’s, who wrote of the opportunities he saw while visiting the West. Greeley’s reports inspired a generation to go west in search of opportunities which led to the development of the American Southwest. A majority of these Anglo-American settlers were men. Then came to the territory pursuing fortune and adventure as farmers, merchants, skilled craftsman and unskilled laborers. Others were employed by mining and mail companies and by the Army.






Diary shared by

Mary Jane and Jack Swilling


Loaned by Isabell Leaver and Family









Having grown up near the area of the Georgia goldrush, it is not surprising by that August of 1858, Swilling was reporting successful mining to his wife Mary Jane back in Alabama.


When Colonel Jacob Snively found gold along Gila River east of Yuma in 1858, Jack Swilling joined the rush to the gold field. The Yavapai Indians who lived in the mountains to the north began raiding the community. A 25-man unit was organized by the Overland Mail Company, and Swilling led several expeditions against the Yavapai, traveling as far north as present-day Prescott. In 1861, there were over 1200 miners living in Gila City. By 1862, Gila City became Arizona’s first ghost town due to heavy flooding and a depletion of the gold source.






Civil War Chronicle.


Loaned by the Chandler Historical Society




Early in 1860, Jack Swilling appeared in the census records of the Pinos Altos, Gold Mining Camp near Silver City, New Mexico. His plans to leave as soon as the snow thawed and his claims could be worked were thwarted by the beginning of the Civil War. On July 18, 1861 he was conscripted at Pinos Altos by Captain Thomas Mastin. In August, his unit was mustered into service at Fort Fillmore, and then returned to Pinos Altos "to be on guard for Indian troubles".


In October, Swilling received a copy of the resolution formulated over Thomas Mastin's death and took his place in the Arizona Guard, assuming command soon after upon Helm's departure. The unit was soon called to the Santa Rita Copper Mines, to suppress trouble with the miners.


On February 14, 1862, Jefferson Davis proclaimed Arizona Territory part of the Confederacy and Swilling's unit was part of the forces sent to take possession of Tucson.


The Confederates attacked the Federal outpost near Gila Bend in April of 1862 although there is no official record of this encounter. Historians have reported that Swilling was part of the Picacho Peak skirmish. In actuality he was escorting prisoners from the earlier skirmish back to the Confederate command in Mesilla, New Mexico.


Requisitioning of livestock from the locales around Mesilla by the Confederate commander William Steele was a cause for distress throughout the occupation. Authorities in EI Paso demanded payment for cattle requisitioned. In June of 1862, Swilling refused to requisition livestock near Pinos Altos, presumably from people he was familiar with from mining in the area. The Confederate command found that Lieutenant Swilling had interfered with an order to procure animals and ordered him to report to headquarters to explain his conduct. A few weeks later Swilling was reported deserted from Fort Fillmore.


In early September, General Carleton, Commander of the Union Forces in the territory, made Swilling an expressman to carry the Army's mail. By January, the Union listed Jack Swilling as a spy and scout for which he was paid $75.00 per month. Some three months later he was discharged.





Military Forts in the

Arizona Territory.


From the Collections of the Arizona Historical Society, Tucson




During the Civil War, both the Confederacy and the Union announced extermination of Apaches as official policy. In 1863 Brigadier General Joseph R. West, commander of the District of Arizona stated, “. . . on foot or mounted, your troops are to make war against the Indians. That must be the business of your command . . . Indian woman and children are to be taken captives when possible . . . but against men you are to make war and war means killing." This policy of extermination had been in effect in the region since the Mexican Government had announced the Projecto de Guerra (project of War) in 1837, offering $100 for the scalp of each Apache man, $50 for each woman's and $25 for each child's. Miners and other settlers fearful of confrontations with these Indians organized expeditions with the dual purpose of Indian extermination and mining.


During his involvement with the Walker party, General Carleton requested Jack Swilling's assistance in the capture of Mangus Coloradas. In January of 1863, Mangus Coloradas, now over 70 years old, was captured near Fort McLean. Some accounts credit Swilling with convincing Mangus Coloradas into surrendering, while others do not report his involvement. Mangus Coloradas was subsequently killed by guards who reportedly encouraged his attempt to escape.


















Joseph R. Walker





Rich Hill

Desert Caballero Western Museum

Ft. Whipple.

Sharlot Hall Museum




Ore Bucket.


Loaned by the Mesa Southwest Museum




Although the romanticized image of a lone prospector panning for gold is a familiar one, the great bulk of gold and silver mined in the West came from hard rock mines owned not by men but by corporations.


Gold is found integrated physically though not chemically with quartz, a hard glasslike mineral. Silver occurs most-commonly as a compound, sulfide. In each case an elaborate system of machinery is required to tear the metal-bearing rock from the earth to crush and extract. The equipment is expensive, requiring an investment far beyond the means of the average prospector.


As a consequence, the usual course of events in the West was for a prospector to "strike it rich", take out what he could with pick, shovel, and pan, and then sell his claim. The new owner would bring in professional miners, dig shafts and tunnels and build a mill in which the ore could be processed.




Jack Swilling, Pauline Weaver and A. H. Peeples are credited with the discovery of the Rich Hill Mine, one of the richest placers ever found. Swilling sent samples of gold from Rich Hill to General James H. Carleton. These samples are said to have led Carleton to throw his support behind establishing the capital of the newly created Arizona Territory in Prescott, near the mines, rather than in Tucson which still held southern sympathizers. Carleton intercepted the territorial officials riding out of Cincinnati, Ohio and pleaded successfully for the northern location.


According to one' early pioneer, A. F. Banta, Rich Hill was discovered by Jack Swilling and his party who were guided to the foot of the hill by a Pima Indian. Swilling had previously learned, through Indian sources, that placer gold could be found in large quantities. The guide was paid five ponies and fifty silver dollars, but because of his superstition regarding gold, he would not take the party directly to the source. The guide, fearful of retribution, slipped away at night. Berado Frayes discovered gold on top of Rich Hill and brought the gold to Swilling.


The surface of the rock was divided into squares; one square for each one of the party. The squares were numbered and drawn out of a hat, the ground staked off and numbered. Banta reports that "as there was practically no dirt to wash out, the gold being found in large nuggets, and either lay upon the surface of rock or in crevices, it was gotten out with spoons and butcher knives. It was decided by a majority of the group that after a man had filled his pint cup with gold he should knock off for the day." This rule was adhered to and many days they filled their cups by 11 o'clock, while in some cases it took till 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Swilling later sought out and paid the Pima guide.





Assayer’s Scales.


Loaned by the Mining and Mineral Museum



Assayer’s Scales, used to weigh gold dust and nuggets were not the exclusive property of professional assayers. Gold became the medium of exchange in the territory for much of the 1800’s and nearly every miner, mine or mill owner, banker and storekeeper owned an assayer’s scale.




Loose ore particles, called placer gold, mix with sand in the beds of streams and can be easily separated by swirling a mixture of earth and water in a flat pan until the lighter materials spill over the edge of the container leaving the heavier gold flakes or nuggets.


At first, whatever pans were available were used including everything from washbasins to frying pans. Soon specially designed miners' pans became available and the form of these pans has changed little over the years.


Miners' pans average about eighteen inches in diameter with a gently sloping wall seldom more than 3 inches high. Made of zinc, or occasionally copper, these pans were mass produced throughout the nineteenth century, and are still being made.




Shovels and Picks.


Loaned by the Mining and Mineral Museum


Pickaxes and prybars were used as placer gold became harder to find. Prospectors located “dry diggings” extracting ore from cracks in rock walls along the streambeds. At first, miners employed nothing more than hunting or bowie knives or an iron spoon for this task, but pickaxes and prybars were used as the surface veins gave way to the harder rock underneath.




A shovel was required to remove the gold-bearing sand from the streambeds. Most mining shovels cannot be distinguished from other types of shovels; the same hold true for pickaxes and crow and pry bars. These tools were brought west not only for the miner, but the builder, mason and railroadman as well.




Dry-washers, like the one seen here, were used to extract the course gold from the sand without water.





Loaned by the Phoenix Museum of History












Early Canal Construction.






Jack Swilling and other stockholders in the Swilling Ditch Company brought their mining experience to canal building, as can be seen in the use of miner's inches to measure the amount of water in canals.


Miners lacking running water had to bring water to their claims and workings from live streams. The water ran through a small wooden waterway called a sluice. Sluices were often built by several miners with each participant entitled to a share of the water. To measure the quality of water to which each was entitled small holes were cut in the side of the sluice. The flow of water through the opening was given the name "miner's inch".


In Arizona, one miner's inch is equal to one-fortieth of a cubic foot of water. One Arizona miner's inch flowing one minute produces a little more than 11 gallons. It takes 325,851 gallons to make an acre-foot of water. The territory's early farmers considered one miner's inch of water sufficient to irrigate two acres of land.




The Salt River has provided the major source of water to the inhabitants of the Salt River Valley. During the prehistoric period, Hohokam Indians used the river to irrigate the land ant grow food. Five hundred years later, Anglo-American settlers to the valley, used the river to irrigate their crops, mill flour, and crush rocks and minerals.


The first modern canal in the Salt River Valley was started by the army at Camp McDowell early in 1866, for the purpose of supplying the farmers with vegetables. The success of this venture, as well as the high cost and increasing demands for food and livestock feed motivated, a group to attempt an agricultural community.


During the years 1865 through 1867, Jack Swilling worked as an express rider for the mail traveling between Prescott and the Pima Villages near Tucson. Many of his trips took him through the Salt River Valley. Swilling noticed the patterns of the old canals and by the fall of 1867, he hit on a plan to form the first canal company owned by stockholders.



In November of 1867, Swilling and the other stockholders filed for water rights. The area claimed was, "Opposite the buttes on Salt River, at a big rock about two miles above the point known as the hay camp and about twenty-five miles above the junction of the Gila and Salt Rivers."


On November 11 1867, the eight men in the Planters Irrigating Company published their claim to, "all the waters of the Salt River or so much...as may be necessary for milling, farming and irrigating purposes" and "the right-of-way... to an ancient acequia and following along the line of said acequia to its terminus..."


At the November 16th meeting in Wickenburg, Arizona, the Swilling Irrigating and Canal Company was organized with a capital stock of 10,000. Each of the 50 shares were worth $200, one fourth of a mile of canal, the amount needed to irrigate 160 acres (one homestead).


The next day, the company voted a levy of sixteen dollars per share. This assessment was imposed to raise money for the purchase of tools and provisions for construction. Shareholders without money were paid sixty seven dollars a month in addition to receiving tools and provisions to work out their shares within three months and two weeks.







The stockholders arrived in the valley in December of 1867. The party, led by Jack Swilling, included.


Peter Burns                                        Frank Chapman

James Deslinger                                Darrell Duppa

Tomas Hoague                                   John Larson

James Lee                                          Thomas McWilliams

Thomas McGoldrick             Michael McGrath

Frank Metzler                                    Antonio Moreas

James Smith                                       Ludivic Vandermark

P.T. (Jack) Walters                           Joseph Woods











Like the Hohokam before them, the American Settlers used handheld canal digging tools for a majority of the work. Mule-drawn fresnos were used to dig the early canals.


The Swilling party first began digging on the north bank of the Salt River, across from the buttes where Tempe is now located. Working with only handheld and without blasting power, Swilling’s party was forced to abandon this location after they hit rock and caliche.













“That this whole valley had at some time been densely populated cannot be doubted...': wrote John T. Alsap in 1872, "... although neither history tradition or legend gives any account of who the inhabitants were from whence they came or whither they have gone. The whole valley is dotted with the ruins of ancient towns and buildings. The great canal commonly called the "Montezuma Acequia" intersects the river near the upper end of the valley and runs thence in a northwesterly direction for several miles. It would take a little work to put it in condition to be used as of old although there are trees of a foot in diameter, standing in it. Smaller ditches leading out from it at convenient distances show that it was used for purposes of irrigation and that the whole valley has been under cultivation. . . "


Swilling's party had noticed the Montezuma Acequia. The second canal attempt followed the outline of this old Hohokam canal dug approximately 500 years before.


In March of 1868, the first portion of the Swilling ditch was complete. The Arizona Miner reported that over 600 acres were planted, mostly barley, wheat and corn.


“The principal crops of this season were com and beans. Jack Swilling, John Larson, Jacob Denslinger and Tom McGoldrick were the chief farmers. There was much rain during the season and the com crop was especially good. One who saw it says that Swilling had about 15 acres of as fine of corn as might be seen in any of the Western states that are celebrated for the production of this grain. In no season since that year have our farmers been able to raise so good a crop of corn. . . “


Salt River Herald. May 11, 1878





Dry Canal Bed.









On July 4, 1870, Jack Swilling, Thomas Barnum, and John T. Alsap published intent to begin the Phoenix Ditch Company above the head of the ditch owned by the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company.




On December 6 1870, Swilling, B. W. Hardy and four others established the Hardy Irrigating Canal Company which the next year became the Tempe Irrigating Canal Company. Eleven days later, Swilling was on the other side of the river with a party of men, laying out the Hayden Ditch. Swilling also had an interest in the Miller Ditch, which he sold in 1872.


In 1873, Swilling, Ludivic Vandermark, James McKinnie and others constructed a ditch

upstream a dozen miles east of Phoenix. The Arizona Miner reported on March 29, 1873 that McKinnie was "living at the new ditch planting, etc. in fancied security, when, on Tuesday, he was visited by a party of about 50 Pima Indians who ordered him to leave. He rather hung back, when they hustled him and all he had upon their horses, in quick time; and set him and his effects safely and quietly on the other side of the river."


The Pima and Maricopa Indians began a ditch in the valley soon after the arrival of the

Americans. The Americans and Mexicans farming upstream on the Gila River had diverted the water from the reservation. Although ordered to return to the reservation, the Pima and Maricopa completed a canal and planted about 1,200 acres of crops. Repeated attempts were made by many of the American settlers to have this group removed back to the reservation. When, in 1878, a few Americans attempted to file for homesteads on the Pimas and Maricopas cultivated acres, the resulting Army investigation led to the creation of the Salt River Indian Reservation.
















“A Settlement called “Phoenix” was formed in the northwest part of the township during the winter of 1867-1868. It now contains about 50 persons who have displayed great energy in the construction of their “Irrigation Ditches” and clearing of their land will this year bring the cultivation and large extent of country. The settlement, though young bears every evidence of thrift and prosperity.”


Field notes of Wilfred Ingalls, U.S. Deputy Surveyor, March 1868




Land Bond.


Loaned by the Phoenix Museum of History




By the fall of 1868, one hundred people had settled in the vicinity of Swilling's Ditch and the Phoenix Settlement near what is now 32nd Street and Van Buren Street. By the next year, about 1,000 acres of land were under cultivation. In 1870, the number of cultivated acres had doubled and by May of 1871 the issue of where the townsite would be established in this flourishing community was a common topic.


When the Territorial Legislature created Maricopa County on February 14, 1871, it provided for a special election. Jack Swilling's home was chosen as the polling place and he served as inspector. Swilling made every effort possible to win the county seat for Mill City, which surrounded his homestead.


According to early settlers and the newspapers of the time period, Jack Swilling, anxious to have his homestead become the site of the future city's offices, bribed the ballot taker to report the first election vote in favor of Mill City. His rivals discovered the plan and paid the ballot taker to declare the western townsite the election winner.




Pen and Ink Sketch.


Loaned by

 Phoenix Museum of History



Had Mill City won the vote, Swilling planned to turn over his home

to be used as the first county courthouse. The dwelling “Swilling’s

Castle”, had been built with this in mind.


Mill City.


Donated by

E. Darton Harris





Early Agriculture in the Salt River Valley.





"At this time [1872], 5,000 acres are under cultivation and the settlement's population is 700. The settlement was named Phoenix by the Swilling Ditch Company and from the settlement the town of Phoenix received its name. The site for the town was selected by the inhabitants of the valley and a townsite surveyed in December 1870. . . . nothing can be raised here without irrigation and with it almost any kind of crop can be raised. On the south side of the river quite a settlement is commenced in addition to that mentioned on the north side. Several ditches are in process of construction and will be completed this season in time for a corn crop.


The principal crops are barley, wheat, corn, sorghum, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes and peanuts. Cotton and tobacco have also been tried successfully but not to any great extent while almost every known garden vegetable can be raised in abundance. The average yield per acre of wheat, barley and corn is about 2,000 lb. per acre. The average price of grain last year was 4 1/2 cents per pound and all that was raised found ready sale. At present grain is worth 5 1/2 cts. per pound. No tame hay has yet been cut here to my knowledge, but alfalfa does well and I think clover would be a good crop. Sorghum and corn fodder is the principle rough feed for stock and sells for about $10.00 per ton. . .


But few experiments in the way of fruit raising have been tried in this valley but in every instance when tried have proven successful. This season a large number of fruit trees of almost every kind have been put out and I have no doubt will prove profitable."

J. T. Alsap, 1872.








From the fall of 1866 to the late spring of 1867, Swilling served as an express rider from Prescott to the Pima Villages, carrying mail between Tubac and Prescott.


In the summer of 1869, Jack Swilling was appointed the Phoenix townsite’s postmaster, and office he held until his resignation July 8, 1870. At that time the settlement received weekly mail.


As early as June of 1869, Swilling also served as the community’s Justice of the Peace.




Marriage Certificate.


Loaned by the Arizona Historical Foundation,

Arizona State University




Oath of Office.

Donated by E. Darton Harris





Jack Swilling stage this photograph of himself and his adopted son Gavilan in 1877. Their portrayal of a desperado and his Indian body guard was a response to the rumors regarding Swilling which had begun to circulate throughout the territory.



Doctors' care in the territory was provided by only a handful of physicians, mostly Army surgeons stationed in the area. Settlers were forced to rely on their own knowledge of plants, herbs, and folk remedies. Medicines which were available often contained drugs such as alcohol, morphine, and opium.


Before coming to the territory, Swilling was struck on the head with a revolver, fracturing his skull. Shot in his left side, he carried the bullet for the remainder of his life. These wounds caused him great pain, for which he was prescribed morphine. Swilling became addicted to Perry Davis Vegetable Painkiller which contained both alcohol and opium as major ingredients.


Jack Swilling may have been trepanned. This operation, used by Army surgeons during the Civil War, consisted of drilling into the skull to release pressure. A metal plate was then attached to the patient's head shielding the area.


This combination of pain killers and alcohol caused changes in Swilling's personality. As the years passed his dependence on narcotics increased. Informed of his actions while under these influences, Swilling had an affidavit sworn out, stating he should be arrested and sent to an asylum if his behavior reverted. During his 1878 trial, Jack testified: "Well, whiskey alone never does it, but taking the narcotic and whiskey together makes me do things - I suppose I do. My wife tells me I do - which is very bad, that I know I wouldn't do if sensible".



Jack Swilling's reputation as a desperado was carefully cultivated by himself and others both during his lifetime and in the years after his death. Swilling reported the number of men he killed as between two and fourteen on different occasions. Notwithstanding his service in two wars and in several armed units, there are two reported instances of Swilling killing another person in civilian life.


The first report, from the memoirs of a fellow miner in the Pinos Altos gold camp, recounts Swilling's accidental shooting of his best friend during a riot in the town's dance hall.


Accounts of Swilling killing a man identified only as "a Chileno" in Wickenburg in the fall of 1867, appear in both the Arizona Miner for that week and in the reminiscences of several early pioneers. It is reported that the man had told others he would kill Jack Swilling on sight. When they met in the street, both drew their pistols at the same time but Swilling fired first. The incident was reported as self-defense.




Perry Davis Painkiller



Loaned by Arizona State Museum



Perry Davis Painkiller

Trade Cards.


Loaned by Arizona State Museum





In the spring of 1878, Jack Swilling, George Munroe and Andrew Kirby traveled to White Picacho to bring back remains of Colonel Jacob Snively who had been killed while prospecting in 1871.


A few weeks after Snively's remains had been re-interred in the Swilling family graveyard, Jack Swilling was in Gillett. While drinking, he allegedly identified himself, Kirby and Munroe as the robbers in a Wells Fargo stage robbery which had occurred near Wickenburg in late April. Jack Swilling and Andrew Kirby were arrested on both Federal (mail tampering) and Territorial (robbery) charges and taken to Prescott, Arizona.


Soon after their arrest it was discovered that the crime had actually taken place in Maricopa County, not Yavapai County. On June 19, the prisoners were transferred to Yuma, Arizona. Their trial began one month later.


On (Saturday) August 12, 1878, (6:30PM) Jack Swilling died while incarcerated at Yuma, (county Jail) before bail could be met. His body was reportedly buried the next day in the Pueblo Cemetery at Yuma. The cemetery was later relocated in 1903 to provide right of way for the Southern Pacific train tracks. The location of Swilling's grave in the new cemetery is unknown.










Soon after Swilling’s death, U.S. Marshal             

Joseph Evans recanted his allegations toward

Swilling and the others and arrested a second

set of men in connection with the robbery. On

October 5, 1878, Andrew Kirby was released

from jail.








Trinidad Swilling's parents, Ignatius Escalantes and Petra Mejia, were

reportedly emigres from Cadiz, Spain. Her father, a sea captain, had taken his wife along on his trip, was shipwrecked and brought to a Mexican port where the couple joined settlers traveling to the state of Sonora. The Escalantes' only child was born in Hermosillo and named Trinidad for the feast day on which she was born. Her father died shortly after her birth. When Trinidad was 13 she joined a caravan with her mother to Tucson. Soon after her arrival in the territory, Trinidad and J.W. Swilling were married on April 11, 1864, in St. Augustine's Cathedral. Trinidad's mother continued to live with the Swilling’s until her death in 1865, and was buried at Camelback Mountain. Trinidad has been described as light-haired and blue-eyed, approximately five feet tall and 115 pounds.


After Swilling's death, Trinidad moved to Phoenix with her three small children and took in sewing from the ladies in town. She retained her interest in the Swillings' ranch until sometime after 1885 and later married Henry Shumaker. Upon his death in 1892, Trinidad again became a seamstress to support her three sons from the second marriage. Trinidad Swilling Shumaker died in Phoenix in 1925.



Jack and Trinidad Swilling had seven children: Georgia (1865), Matilda (1867-1875), Lelia (1871), Elizabeth (?), Barry (1874), Matilda Adeline (1876-1879), and John William, Jr. (1878


Sometime after the Swilling’s arrival in Phoenix they adopted two Apache children: Mariana (1857?), and Gavilan Pollero “Chicken Hawk” (1860?)


Many Arizona Pioneers claimed that Hank Swilling, a member of the Clanton gang, was Jack Swilling’s son. The First Territorial Census indicates he was born in Michigan. Hank died in the spring of 1882 at Fronteras, Sonora, Mexico, during a gunfight; he was approximately thirty years old. Leandro Lara, who came to Tolleson, Arizona from New Mexico in 1891, also claimed to be Jack Swilling’s son.




Editors note - Photo on left: Lillian Swilling is the woman in the white skirt and light blouse. Woman seated is Dr. Whitesides. Woman standing in center is believed to be Georgia Swilling Butler who died shortly after this picture was taken.


Editors note – Photo on right: Is believed to be Lillian Butler, Georgia Swilling Butlers daughter who would have been 20 years old in 1910. Lillian Swilling’s death certificate states she died in 1907 at Tucson, AZ.





During its first few months, the Phoenix settlement was comprised mostly of men. Trinidad and her infant daughter Georgia were sent to stay with relatives in Tucson until Swilling could finish a home in the valley. In the summer of 1868, when Mary A Gary arrived, she noted there were few women in the Salt River Valley.


Late in life, Trinidad reminisced that Mrs. Gray claimed to have been the first white woman in the valley, but she named Mrs. Lough, stating:


"No woman was here before her except me; I don't claim that, because I don't claim to be white...I was the first one here but they don't call Mexicans white, I come from Sonora and they call me Mexican... "


The dispute of the first "white" woman to settle the Salt River Valley was taken up by the two Phoenix newspapers in 1881. An editorial written by several early settlers, appeared in the March 21 edition of The Phoenix Herald:


. . . The Herald sticks to it that Mrs. L. C. Gray is the lady while the Gazette stoutly denied the allegation. Cease your turmoil gentlemen, you appear to know nothing whatever about the case. We were in Salt River Valley long before either of you ever saw the Territory and the only woman we then saw was the good, ladylike wife of the late Jack Swilling, who, although of Mexican birth, is white of face and heart.

Trinidad stated in oral histories, that during the digging of the canal she spent much of her time in Tucson. She recounted residing in a shed with her chickens. There were no existing homes, and the family was forced to wait until the men had time from their work to build living quarters. Trinidad also told of the celebration in Phoenix when the water was first turned into the Swilling Ditch in March of 1868. An early settler recounted visiting Swillings' home that fall and meeting Mrs. Swilling, "...a fine rosy-young woman, engaged in fixing up her kitchen putting up shelves and curtains and making other necessary improvements."


The 1860 census lists only 44 Anglo-American women age 16 or older living in the area of present-day Arizona. Many married men coming to the territory had left their wives, temporarily or permanently, in safer, more civilized places. The Anglo-American men frequently married Mexican or Indian wives, and these women were often the first females in the settlements in the American West.




Soon after their marriage in Tucson on April 11, 1864, the Swilling’s moved to Walnut Grove, where Swilling had a claim on Weaver’s Mountain. Swilling’s partner, noted mountain man Pauline Weaver lived with the couple. There was too much water to work the claim, and the Swillings soon left Walnut Grove.





























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