Alpheus C. Swearingen. At a pleasant home on Sherman Street in the village of St. Joseph reside a couple who carry with them many memories of Champaign County both old and new and are enjoying the declining years of life with comforts and the riches of esteem befitting their worthy careers. Mr. and Mrs. Swearingen spent their active lives on a farm, garnered many harvests there from, reared their children to worthy and useful lives, and then gave up their home in the country for the one they now occupy at St. Joseph.
Mr. Swearingen is a native of Champaign County, a son of Andrew and Rebecca (Hayden) Swearingen. His parents were among the pioneers of this section of Illinois, and around their log cabin home in the early days the Indians were frequent visitors. They helped convert the prairies and the swamps into arable farms, and had many hardships to contend with.
Alpheus C. Swearingen grew up in a pioneer home and had his education in the public schools. He married Mary Strong, also a native of Champaign County, of St. Joseph Township. She is a daughter of John H. and Eliza Ann (Rice) Strong. The Strongs were likewise among the pioneers, and John H. Strong was a stock buyer for forty years. Mrs. Swearingen’s grandparents were John Orange and Nancy Strong, who came to Champaign County from Kentucky. At that time Indians were very numerous. The family kept large dogs in order to scare the Indians from the home while the men were away. The Indians feared the dogs and would only come up to the fence, where they would cry “Hoo-Hoo.” The red men were great beggars and always wanting something to eat. Mr. Swearingen’s uncle, Christopher Hoff, also lived in Champaign County at this time. The government had purchased the land from the Indians and gave them a certain date to evacuate. The time passed by but the Indians were slow about leaving. Mr. Hoff and his neighbors went down to their encampment south of the Kelley Hotel on the creek. There were about 500 Indians. The white men told them the time was up, to which the Indians replied “Puckachee, Puckachee,” that is, we will go by and by. Christopher Hoff spoke up and said, “You puckachee now, time is up.” The next morning the entire camp had moved West, greatly to the relief of the white settlers. Christopher Hoff was a genial, wholesouled man who always had some pleasant story to relate, in fact his supply of stories was inexhaustible. His memory is still gratefully preserved among the old settlers.
Mr. Swearingen’s mother, when a young girl used to work at the old Kelley Tavern when Abraham Lincoln, Douglas and other noted men were guests.
After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Swearingen started their wedded life in St. Joseph Township, the first year renting a farm of his brother, V. Swearingen. They had all the elements of character necessary to success as thrifty farmers and out of their earnings of hard work they bought their first eighty acres, and their first improvement there was a log house with hewn logs, comprising three rooms. Some years later, they traded this for another eighty acres and Mr. Swearingen entered upon his active career as general farmer and stock raiser. He sold many bushels of corn at twenty-five cents a bushel and at one time he sold a car load of hogs for $3.10 a hundred. After many years of steady cultivation of the soil Mr. and Mrs. Swearingen bought their cozy home on Sherman Street in St. Joseph, and there they may be found today. Mr. Swearingen is a man of public spirit and has served the village ten years as postmaster and also as school director.
Eight children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Swearingen: Alta M., John V., Elza C., Edith E., Lillian O., Cora A., Chester B. and Leona T. Mr. and Mrs. Swearingen took great pains with the education of their children and all of them attended the public schools of St. Joseph. Their first heavy loss was the death of their oldest child, Alta, at the age of twelve years. Their son John V. Swearingen, now an undertaker at Champaign and county coroner, married Alta M. Glasscock and they have three sons, Paul Vere, Clare and Virgil. Elza C. Swearingen, a farmer in St. Joseph Township, married Lutie Ridinger, and their children are Orville, Omer, Pearl, Clora, Vern, Margaret, Evalyn, Florence and Vere. Edith Swearingen married Otis Cowden, and at her death she left three children, named Trevert, Lavelle and Lyle. Lillian O. died after her marriage to Orin Reese and left one child, Glen. Cora A. Swearingen is the wife of Fred Cowden and has two daughters, Thelma and Roberta. Leona T. Swearingen married Louis Foulk, and their two daughters are Neva and Morine. Chester B. Swearingen, the youngest son of the family, was educated in the public schools of St. Joseph and from an early age his ambition was centered upon the navy. Such a career was his leading thought while a boy on the farm, and he talked of it until he finally persuaded his father to give his consent, and at Danville, at the age of eighteen, he enlisted. For eight years he served his country as a musician in the government band, and has been promoted from time to time and has made a fine record for himself. His first four years were spent on the battleship Virginia, and for the last three years he has been on the United States repair ship, now located at Norfolk, Virginia. He has visited Paris, London and many other principal centers of Europe. Mrs. Swearingen has in her home a pillow with a picture of the battleship and the United States coat of arms, bordered with a golden chain and anchor. Mr. and Mrs. Swearingen are active members and liberal supporters of the Christian Church at St. Joseph. In politics they are ardent Republicans. Mrs. Swearingen imbibed the principles of that great party from her father, a pioneer and most loyal Republican. Mr. and Mrs. Swearingen, always loyal to Champaign County, have at the same time used their means for extensive travel, especially in the western states. They have made several tours through the West, visiting Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham, Washington, and Denver, Colorado. It has been their lot to witness the many changes for good made in Champaign County. Both of them remember the primitive types of the old time threshing machine, operated by horse or cattle power. When they were children the town of Champaign did not exist, and nearly all the other marvelous developments described on other pages of this history were witnessed before their eyes. Mr. Swearingen has as a family relic a fine old Bible which was published in Philadelphia in 1825, and is now over ninety years of age and contains many interesting items concerning the family history of the Haydens.