Walter F. Swift.As one of Franklin county's most successful financiers, the brief biography of Mr. Swift will be read with both pleasure and profit, for it recites his perseverance, determination and tireless energy throughout a long business career of fifty-one years, with the usual result, success. He was born in New Bedford, Mass., March 25, 1845, and was descended from seafaring people of New England, the ancestors of whom were originally from England. His parents were Charles D. and Mary Howe (Crane) Swift, the former born on Cape Cod, and began to go to sea when eight years of age. He became the owner of whaling vessels and increased the number until he had a fleet of twenty vessels engaged in the hazardous business of whaling. For twenty-seven years he was thus engaged, when he retired to private life and later died at the age of seventy years. Job Swift, the father of Charles D., and the grandfather of Walter F., also followed the sea, having been captain of a coastwise vessel. The mother of Mr. Swift, who bore the maiden name of Mary Howe Crane, was born in Dorchester, Mass., and died when seventy-nine years of age.
Walter F. Swift received his education in the common schools of his native state, but at the age of fourteen years he initiated his business career by securing employment as a clerk in a dry goods store in Arlington, Mass., for a remuneration of $50 per year and board, and remained there three years. From 1862 to 1866 he was in similar employment in different New England citiesone of them Boston. A shoe merchant from Leavenworth, Kan., went to Boston to buy his goods and visiting Reading met Mr. Swift and induced him to come to Kansas. He was in the employ of this merchant for three months and then came to Ottawa, where he bought an interest in a dry goods store, but sold it after three months and began to clerk in the hardware store of Smith & Case. Having bought the Case interest, in 1868, he continued as a partner with Horace J. Smith until 1871, when the partnership was dissolved. In 1874 Mr. Swift again bought a hardware store, which he conducted successfully for twenty-five years, during which time he built the Swift building and warehouse in Ottawa. Upon his retirement from the hardware business he became interested in life insurance and in 1889 wrote $150,000 worth of policies for the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee. In 1890 he wrote $154,000, and, the business has so increased that his books for 1910 show $3,000,000. He organized a bank at Waverly, Kan., and also organized the Farmers' National Bank at Burlington, Kan., where the first day's deposits amounted to $33,000. In 1908 he sold his interest at Burlington, but is proud of the bank's success, for it has been very prosperous. Besides the banking interests mentioned Mr. Swift holds stock in the First National Bank of Ottawa, certificate No. 1 having been issued to him in 1870. Besides the interests mentioned Mr. Swift owns valuable city property. In 1866 he helped to organize the Franklin County Agricultural Society, which held its forty-fourth annual fair in October, 1910, and is regarded as the most successful agricultural society in the state. He is deeply interested in all matters pertaining to the public welfare, but is averse to holding public office, the only position he has been induced to accept having been that of a member of the board of education.
Mr. Swift has been married three times. He was first united with Miss Amanda P. Pickrell, who was born in Springfield, Ill., and died at Ottawa in 1872. Her father was Jesse Pickrell, a close friend of Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Swift has a sacred relic in the form of a letter written by Mr. Lincoln to Mr. Pickrell, requesting the latter to get as many voters to the polls as possible in order to elect a Mr. Palmer to office. Mr. Swift's second marriage was to another Springfield lady, Miss Bertha Burkhardt, daughter of James Burkhardt. To this union were born two sons. The elder, Charles Delano, has traveled extensively in Europe, enlisted in the Spanish-American war in the spring of 1898 and was assigned to Troop C, Second United States cavalry, and remained in service until the close of the war. He is now in Los Angeles, Cal. William A., the second son, is in the lumber business at Beloit, Kan.
After the death of his second wife Mr. Swift married Miss Pickrell, a sister of his first wife. Mr. Swift is a man of generous impulses, ever ready to help any deserving individual or to assist in any good and laudable cause. He is justly held in high esteem by the citizens of Ottawa for his influence for good in all movements for the moral and material advancement of that city.Pages 1070-1071 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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