How It All Began

Introductory Notes

A number in square brackets [ ] following a person's name indicates that the individual is listed by that number in "Swearingen/Vansweringen and Related Families", a database formerly maintained and published (last revised 2004) by Karel Whyte (deceased), of Aiken, South Carolina.

The family tree which accompanies this history is by no means complete, and is intended only to illustrate the line of descent from Gerret Vansweringen, the original immigrant ancestor, down to my family and that of my sister. Because it is a completely male line (with the exception of Sarah Swearingen [46], who married her first cousin Van Swearingen [40]), the Swearingen name is not normally shown.

James Strode and the two Henry Bedingers are included in the family tree because each had a daughter or granddaughter who married into the family. I felt it necessary to show how the families are interrelated and where the names, so common in my line, came from; three male Swearingens have borne the name of James Strode, and at least four the name of Henry Bedinger.


A Brief History of the Swearingen/Strode/Bedinger/Worthington/Tiffin Families

Gerret Vansweringen, my original immigrant ancestor, was an employee of the Dutch West India Company. His ship, the Prinz Maurits, of which he was supercargo, stranded on the south shore of Long Island on 8 March 1657 (the first recorded shipwreck on Long Island, location unknown, but probably within a 25 mile radius of where I have lived, on the north shore, since 1967), while enroute to Fort Casimir at Niew Amstel (now New Castle, Delaware), on the "South River".  (At that time, both the Dutch and the English referred to the Hudson as the North River, and the Delaware as the South River.)

After being rescued by a vessel sent by Peter Stuyvesant, Director-General of Niew Amsterdam, the ship's company continued to Niew Amstel where, after leaving the service of the Dutch West India Company, Gerret eventually became a merchant and served as sheriff.

After the English took possession of the Dutch colonies in 1664, Gerret moved to St. Mary's County, between the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers on Maryland's western shore and, in 1669, he and his family became naturalized English citizens. Gerret operated the Council Chamber Inn, which has been partially rebuilt as part on an ongoing archaeological dig at old St. Mary's City, the first capital of colonial Maryland.  At about the same time the spelling of the name was changed to Van Swearingen, in the English style, although there is no evidence that Gerret spelled it that way.

Circa 1700, his son Thomas [3] moved to Prince George's County, Maryland, northeast of where Washington DC would later be built.  He apparently dropped the Van from his surname, as it was the given name of the second of his four sons.

Gerret had numerous children from his two marriages, but "The Four Branches", as they are called, of the Swearingen family, are descended from Thomas [3]'s four sons: Thomas [21], Van [22], Samuel [23], and John [24]. My line of descent is in both the first and second branches, as Thomas [21]'s son Van [40] married his first cousin Sarah [46], daughter of his Uncle Van [22].

In 1734, Thomas [21]'s sons, Thomas [36] and Van [40], moved to Mecklenburg, also known as Pack Horse Ford (now Shepherdstown), in Berkeley County, Virginia (now Jefferson County, West Virginia), where the Swearingen, Strode, Bedinger, Worthington, and Tiffin families came together, and where several generations of Swearingens, Strodes, and Bedingers are buried.

In 1755 Thomas [36] established a ferry across the Potomac River, and George Washington referred to Mecklenburg as "Swearingham's Ferry".  Thomas's main claim to fame is that in 1757 he defeated Washington in that gentleman's first try for election to the Virginia House of Burgesses.

"King" Van [40], as he was known because he had been a representative of King George III, was a Colonel during the Revolution, and was appointed County Lieutenant by Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia.  It was his responsibility to arrange for the troops and supplies requisitioned by the government of Virginia to support the war against the King.  He built his home, "Maple Shade", on his farm on Terrepin Neck, in a loop of the Potomac north of Shepherdstown.  The property is now the site of the National Conservation Training Center.

Henry Bedinger, born Heinrich Büdinger, had immigrated with his parents from Alsace, in Germany, in 1737. He grew up near York and Lancaster Pennsylvania, and moved to Shepherdstown in 1762.  He had several sons, including Henry Jr, George Michael, and Daniel. George Michael, as he was always called, moved west to Kentucky, married Henry Clay's aunt, and served several terms in Congress after Kentucky achieved statehood. Daniel's son Henry Bedinger III was the first U.S. Ambassador to Denmark, and Henry III's daughter Caroline (better known as "Danske") Dandridge became a well known poet and author.

James Strode, whose father had come from England by way of Holland in 1697, was a prominent landowner who lived between Shepherdstown and Martinsburg West Virginia.  He and his first wife, Anna Hamilton Forman, who reputedly was descended from the Dukes of Hamilton, had several daughters, including Phoebe, Eleanor, and Rachel.  Phoebe married Van [40]'s son Josiah [83] in 1777, Eleanor married Abraham Shepherd (son of Thomas Shepherd, for whom Shepherdstown was named) in 1780, and Rachel married Henry Bedinger Jr. in 1784.  All three men were officers in the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

Robert Worthington, whose father had come from England in 1714, was a planter near Charles Town, a few miles south of Shepherdstown.  He died when his son Thomas was seven, and at age eighteen Thomas went to sea, returning two years later to farm the land left him by his father.

In 1796, the year after her father died, Eleanor Swearingen [272], the eldest child of Josiah [83] and Phoebe (Strode) Swearingen, married Thomas Worthington, who was appointed guardian of her younger brothers, Thomas Van [273], James Strode [274], and Samuel [275].  In March 1798, Thomas and Eleanor [272] moved to Ross Co, Ohio (Chillicothe), accompanied by Dr. Edward Tiffin and his wife Mary (Worthington's sister), Robert Worthington, Thomas's older brother, and Eleanor [272]'s brothers [273] [274] [275].

Edward Tiffin was elected Ohio's first Governor when it became a state in 1803, and Thomas Worthington was one of the new state's first two United States Senators.  He was elected Ohio's sixth Governor in 1814.  "Adena", the Worthington home just outside Chillicothe, has been preserved as Adena State Memorial. Designed by Benjamin Latrobe, who also designed the grand plan for Washington DC, it is reputed to be one of only three Latrobe-designed houses still in existence.

My great-great-grandfather, James Strode Swearingen [274] received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Army on 25 January 1803.  In the summer of 1803 he was stationed at Fort Detroit, and was assigned to the company of soldiers commanded by Captain John Whistler.  While Captain Whistler and his family traveled by ship, Lieutenant Swearingen and the company marched across southern Michigan and northern Indiana to the shores of Lake Michigan, where they established Fort Dearborn (named for the Secretary of War), later the site of Chicago.

In 1811 he married his first cousin Nancy Bedinger, daughter of Henry Jr. and Rachel (Strode) Bedinger and, after his discharge from the Army in 1815 as a Colonel, they spent their lives in Chillicothe.  They, the Worthingtons, and the Tiffins are buried in Grandview Cemetery in Chillicothe.

James [274]'s father-in-law, Henry Bedinger Jr, had received a tract of land in the Virginia Military District, on the west bank of the Scioto River in Ohio, as payment from the state of Virginia for his services as an officer during the Revolution.  Henry gave this land, on Darby Creek northwest of Circleville, Ohio (twenty miles north of Chillicothe), known as the Bedinger Survey, to his son-in-law, although James [274] and Nancy never lived on it.

James [274]'s son, Henry Bedinger Swearingen [749], built the house on the Bedinger Survey known as "the old home place".  My grandfather, James Strode Swearingen II [1712], and his siblings were born there, as were my father, Henry Bedinger Swearingen [2918] (why he didn't have a number after his name is better explained by the family tree), and his siblings.  Many of the family are buried in Forest Cemetery in Circleville.

My grandfather, James S. Swearingen II [1712], farmed a part of the Bedinger farm until my grandmother died in 1936, after which he sold his portion and moved into Circleville.  A portion of the farm remains in the hands of descendants of Henry B. Swearingen Jr [1716], and there is a cemetery on or near the property where some members of the family are buried.

My father [2918] graduated from Ohio State University in 1916 with a B.S. in Agriculture, and promptly joined the Navy!  World War I was over before he completed training and, although he was commissioned an Ensign in the Naval Reserve, he never served on active duty.  Instead, he took a job with the United States Shipping Board, forerunner of the Merchant Marine, as supercargo (Gerret Vansweringen's job with the Dutch West India Co.).  After spending several years sailing the Great Lakes and the North and South Atlantic Oceans, he returned to Ohio and took a job with the Farm Bureau, in Lima.  Later, after marrying Norma Marguerite Dyer, from Chanute, Kansas, he took a job with the Farm Security Administration (later the Farmers Home Administration) for which he worked as a County Supervisor the rest of his life.

He was assigned to the Jackson, Ohio (thirty miles southeast of Chillicothe) office at the time of my birth but, as there was no hospital in Jackson, I was born in Circleville, as was my sister Nancy [3864], even though neither of us has ever lived there.  We moved to Mansfield, Ohio when I was three, and to Tiffin, Ohio (of all places) when I was five.  My sister and I grew up there, and I think of it as my hometown. Both of my parents are buried there, in Greenlawn Cemetery.