Biographical History of Central Kansas, Vol. I, p. 413
published by The Lewis Publishing Co, Chicago & New York, 1902
REV. SIMEON SWARTZ
As one of the old and honored residents of Kansas, where for many years he devoted his attention to the work of the Divine Master, in the uplifting of his fellow men as a clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal church, it is certainly incumbent that a review of the life of Mr Swartz be incorporated in this work, and the publishers feel that no better tribute can be, in the main, offered than to enter the modest autobiography offered by Father Swartz himself:
“I was born on the banks of Rush creek, in Fairfield county, Ohio, nine miles southeast of where the city of Lancaster stands, on the 21st of December, A D, 1832. I am of German descent, my great-grandfather having emigrated from Wurtemberg, Germany, about the year 1754. My grandfather, George Swartz, was born in Pennsylvania in 1775, removed from Little York, Pennsylvania, to Fairfield county, Ohio, abut the year 1800, and there my father, George Swartz, was born in the month of August, 1807. He there married Miss Mary Beery, whose parents came from Virginia. All my grandparents, three of whom I well remember, were honest, upright Christian people. Both of my parents also lived strictly religious lives, and as far back as I can remember they kept up their family altar, morning and evening. They were members of the Evangelical Association to the end of their lives.
“I was converted to God August 18, 1846, when not yet fourteen years of age, and was licensed to preach in August, 1853, in my twenty-first year. I was married to Miss Sarah Kring, October 2, 1856, she being the eldest daughter of Rev Conrad Kring, late of Franklin county, Ohio. My marriage relations with her have been all these years, indeed, fraught with happiness. The Lord blessed our union with two daughters and six sons, and one of the latter died in infancy, but the rest are all living and doing well. I think my wife and I can say what few parents can: Our children are all converted and members of the church. Our second son, William L, is in the active ministry of the Methodist Episcopal church and is at present in the Oklahoma conference; while our third son, Daniel B, is a local preacher, living in the Concord circuit, western district of the Oklahoma conference.
“About two years after my marriage I entered the Ohio conference of the Evangelical Association, the church of both my own and my wife’s parents, as an itinerant minister, and I labored in this conference for six years, soon after which we removed to a farm near Elpaso, Woodford county, Illinois, where we maintained our home about three years, after which, in 1869, I entered the Illinois conference, in which I traveled for five years. In the spring of 1874 we fell in the current of the stream of emigration headed for the ‘notorious’ state of Kansas, made so by her alternate successes and failures. In my ministry calls were made through our church papers for aid, and I solicited means for the suffering in Kansas. My last charge in the east was at Savannah Mission, on the eastern bank of the Mississippi river. We left there for Kansas on the last day of March, in a two-horse wagon, crossed the ‘great river’ on a ferry-boat; came through Iowa by way of Iowa City, Oskaloosa and Sheridan, and while traveling through Missouri we met many teams returning from Kansas. ‘Where are you bound for?’ would be the first salutation of the returning parties. ‘To Kansas,’ was my reply. ‘Better turn around and go back,’ was invariably returned. ‘We have been there and tried it, and nobody can make a living there.’ Some of them, when they saw we were determined to go on, would hoot at us, and I felt like telling some of them that ‘Where the wasp gets her poison there the bee gathers honey.’ Though sometimes my heart failed me when looking on my almost helpless family, there was one thing of which I was ever conscious, - that a Divine Providence was watching over us. We regularly kept up our family devotions while on our journey. Every morning we would not only ask the Lord to go with us through the day but also ask Him to direct us to a suitable camping place to stop over for the Lord’s day, and this was invariably granted. We also asked Him to direct in our location in Kansas, which I to this day believe He did. We were headed for Great Bend and had previously arranged to have our household goods consigned to that place, expecting to go northwest from there. But when we arrived on Plum creek, on the 4th of June, 1874, and saw the beautiful prairies stretching away in every direction, as far as eye could see, and having been told that Rice county afforded protection by law from being overrun by Texas cattle and that there were yet many claims still vacant, we soon decided to go no further.
“While we were camped near the government crossing on Plum creek I heard of ‘Squire Earl, whom I soon found and who showed me two claims, in section 2, township 18, range 10, - one for a pre-emption and the other for a timber entry. Mr Earl went with me the next day to old Atlanta, then the county seat, and there made my filings before the county clerk. As it was now already the beginning of June, I was anxious to inaugurate forthwith the work of breaking sod, so I hired another team and with the two went thirty miles, to Great Bend, after our household effects and some lumber with which to build a shelter for ourselves. As our quarters were hurriedly arranged, I went to breaking, and the children, with an old ox, planted the newly broken ground with corn, and we thus continued our work until we had twenty acres broken and planted to corn. Though the summer was dry, yet the sod corn grew remarkably well, and on the last day of July, as nearly as I now recall, there came a good rain, the first planting of corn being then just producing good roasting ears. During the shower the wind changed to the north, and behold it began to rain grasshoppers! Our melons, onions, beets, corn and all, afforded the voracious little creatures hardly a breakfast and dinner, to say nothing of a supper, and during the several weeks they afterward lay around some of the settlers cut some of their corn and shocked it, but the grasshoppers were not in the least baffled in their efforts to dispose of the product as thus protected. This made the settlers feel blue. I sat around with nothing that I could do to relieve the situation, and this enforced apathy made the condition all the worse. Finally a thought was suggested to my mind to make a cave, but the question would come, ‘What for? There is nothing to put into it.’ But the idea haunted me and I finally began to work. My neighbors would enquire what I wanted of such a thing as the cave, and all I could reply was that I might need it some time. I made the cave twenty by ten feet in dimensions and saw to it that it was good and warm. In the month of September there came a three days’ rain, which abundantly wet up the earth. I then secured the aid of three or four neighbors and we put up a sod house, with a door opening into the cave which I had previously constructed, the house being covered with the lumber which had afforded us shelter during the summer. After this I prepared twenty acres to sow in wheat and also rented ten acres to a neighbor. I procured the seed from the Union Pacific Railroad Company, who shipped in wheat and sold it to the settlers on time, extending them credit until they were able to harvest the resultant crop. When seeding was over and winter quarters for the stock were prepared, the question was discussed among the settlers as to whence provisions were to be secured for the winter. It was decided by three of us to go out on the buffalo range to secure some meat. We started late in October, and went sixty miles southwest of Dodge City before we found any buffaloes worth mentioning. For various reasons we were delayed there for more than four weeks, and during a severe storm some of our horses were ‘alkalied,’ and this and the scantiness of feed so cut them down in flesh that we could haul little meat after we had procured it, while two of our horses died from the effects of the alkali. That winter (1875) was perhaps the severest in the history of the west.
“On the night of January 8, 1875, there came such a blizzard that a man who has never experienced it can form no idea of its terrific character. When it struck our house it piled our wooden roof on one side of the sod walls, and such a blinding snow bath as came in upon us I can never forget! My exclamation in the excitement of the moment was, ‘What in this world will we do?’ Our son Charles, then about fourteen years old, said, ‘Run into the dug-out.’ Of course we did thus take refuge in the cave, and had it not been for the protection there afforded we would have all perished in the storm. From that day to this I have not doubted the providence of God that moved me to build the dug-out. The cold weather kept us in it for six weeks, and then the neighbors came and helped to replace the roof on the sod house. In the meantime aid also came to us from our friends in the east, so that our wants were supplied until the following harvest, which yielded about twelve and one half bushels per acre. Yet, notwithstanding this seemingly rough experience, I think of our removal to Kansas as very providential, and that it has proven a great blessing to myself and my family. Truly the great west has made its impression on our minds and lives, - an impression for good which can not be obliterated. Western push, western enterprise and western prosperity, both in state and church, are characteristics not to be valued lightly.”
A few additional words from the editorial pen may not prove inconsistent in supplementing this interesting record given by Mr Swartz. Both he and his wife were frequently called upon in the early days to administer medical aid, assist in sickness, comfort the sorrowing and distressed, officiate at births, etc. Father Swartz has probably conducted more funerals and preached more funeral sermons than any other clergyman in Rice county. He was an influential factor in the establishing of the first school, which was conducted on the subscription plan, in his locality, and which was taught by Mrs Alma D Thompson in her sod house, one and one-half miles south of the present town of Bushton, in 1875. He distributed among his neighbors food and other necessaries which had been sent him by friends in the east during the memorable grasshopper years of 1874-75, and his influence in the community has ever been kindly, generous and helpful, so that he has gained a wide circle of devoted friends. In 1886 he was associated with others in having the Missouri Pacific Railroad run its Colorado Short Line through Farmer township, and was one of the founders of Bushton station, located on this line and on his farm. Before this time the nearest railroad station was Chase, fourteen miles distant, and prior to 1880 the nearest stations were Ellsworth, on the Union Pacific, twenty-five miles distant, and Ellinwood, on the Santa Fe Railroad, twenty-one miles distant. He was the prime mover in organizing the First Methodist Episcopal church in Bushton and in the erection of the present church edifice in 1887. He and his family continued to reside on his farm, which he developed into one of the best in the county, until the year 1894, when they sold out and removed to a point near Concord, Woods county, Oklahoma, in order to secure a larger tract of land for the children, all of whom are at this time living on farms of their own in the immediate neighborhood with their parents, with the exception of the second daughter, Emma, who is the wife of George F Hauser, who purchased the old homestead of Mr Swartz in 1897, adjoining the town of Bushton. During all these years Mr Swartz continued to preach the gospel to the pioneer settlers, often being absent for more than six weeks on his itinerant tours. He and his devoted wife occasionally visit their old neighbors, who always accord them a hearty welcome, and Father Swartz is invariably asked to preach, which he always does, in both English and German, having acquired the latter by personal study and reading and speaking it with no little fluency. The lives of him and his wife have proved a benediction to all who have come within the sphere of their influence, and their names are held in grateful memory by those with whom they endured the privations and vicissitudes of the early days in Rice county.