Indian wars and pioneers of Texas / by John Henry Brown. Page: 872 of 894
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INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.
of; to go elsewhere for safety, and leave his
wife without a protector and without money, was
another dilemma equally as painful as the first.
About 10 o'clock, the first night after closing the
school, while the husband and wife were discussing
the situation, a rap upon the door, and an
unforgotten voice, announced the arrival of the
young brother, who four years before had been
found at Cumberland Gap, only a few miles from
the place of their second meeting. J. T. Swearingen
had heard of his brother's dangerous surroundings,
and, selling about all of his earthly possessions
to get funds for the trip, went to his relief.
The next morning R. M. Swearingen left his
wife in safe hands and started for Texas. At
Huntsville, Ala., he awaited (as had been previously
planned) the arrival of those left in Virginia, and
with bright faces they journeyed on to Alta Vista,
where the best of all good sisters, Mrs. Helen M.
Kirby, received them with open arms.
The State was then going through the agonies of
reconstruction, and the machinery of the government
was virtually in the hands of military rulers
and reckless adventurers. Old customs and systems,
and ties, and hopes, and fortunes, were lost
forever, but the old South, crushed to earth, with
vandals on her prostrate form, and bayonets at her
breast, bravely staggered to her feet and faced a
glorious future. The courts were closed, or only
opened to make a burlesque of justice and a
mockery of law.
In such a reign of anarchy, the profession of
medicine was the only one of the learned professions
that offered any promise of immediate success, and
Capt. Swearingen selected it for his life work. He
at once commenced the study, and graduated in the
school of medicine, New Orleans, March, 1867, delivering
the valedictory, and located in Chappell
Hill. The friends of his parents, and the friends of
his youth, received him with great kindness, and
when the yellow fever epidemic of that year desolated
the town, he was conspicuous as a tireless
worker among all classes, and was rewarded with a
patronage both gratifying and remunerative. His
wife, as courageous as when tried in the furnace of
war, would not leave her husband, although urged
by him to do so, rendered faithful services to the
sick, and survived the epidemic, but her only child,
beautiful little Helen, was taken from her.
In 1875 Dr. Swearingen removed to Austin,
where he still resides, and where a clientelle has
been secured that satisfied his ambition, and enabled
him-to provide comfortably for those dependent on
him. His family consists of wife, one daughter
(Bird), now happily married to E. B. Robinson,
their baby (winsome Jennie), and his wife's niece,
Miss Lulu Bewley. When the yellow fever epidemic
of 1878 made such fearful ravages in the
Mississippi Valley, he responded to an appeal for
medical assistance made by the relief committee of
Memphis, Tenn., and with his friend, Dr. T. D.
Manning, reached that city the 3d day of September.
From there they were transferred by the
relief committee to Holly Springs, Miss., where
they organized a hospital service that did effective
work until the close of the pestilence.
The good accomplished, however, viewed through
the dim lights of human understanding, seemed
dearly bought, for in less than two weeks after they
had entered that valley of death, a thousand hearts
were sorrowing for the young, gifted and dauntless
Manning. The great loss of life, and the destruction
of property caused by-that wide-spread epidemic,
induced the Congress of the United States
to enact a law, authorizing the President to appoint
a board of experts upon contagious diseases, consisting
of nine men, and directed them to prepare a
report upon the causes of epidemics, and also to
suggest some plan of defense against subsequent
invasions, for the consideration of that honorable
body. Dr. Swearingen was a member of that board,
and the bill creating the National Board of Health
was drawn in accordance with the plan presented to
Congress by that board of experts.
January, 1881, Governor 0. M. Roberts appointed
Dr. Swearingen " State Health Officer,"
and in 1883 Governor John Ireland reappointed
him to the same position. Under the guidance of
those two distinguished executives, he controlled
the health department of the State for six consecutive
years. He has always been a zealous friend of
public schools, and has been a member of the board
of trustees of Austin City schools since the free
school system was inaugurated. He is a member
of the American Public Health Association, and the
president of the State Medical Association, numbering
more than 500 active, progressive physicians.
In January, 1891, Governor James S. Hogg tendered
Dr. Swearingen the office of State Health
Officer, and that gentleman accepted the honor and
entered upon the duties of the position.
By his friends he is classed among conservatives,
but is positive in his convictions, and was never
a neutral upon any great moral or political question.
He has made some reputation as a speaker, but
has no aspirations in that line. His last effort, undertaken
at the earnest solicitation of old Confederate
soldiers, was made in the House of Representatives,
December 11, 1889, to an audience of
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Brown, John Henry. Indian wars and pioneers of Texas / by John Henry Brown., book, 1880~; Austin, Tex.. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth6725/m1/872/: accessed October 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .