We love a mystery!
Reader Pam Kercheville asked us to help identify figures in photos found a very old Swisher family album. You can see more of these evocative images on the Austin Found blog.
The Swishers, you will recall, operated the ferry across the Colorado River in the late 19th century. They owned a farm next to the Texas School for the Deaf.
“James Gibson Swisher is my great-great-great-grandpa,” Kercheville writes. “John Milton Swisher is my great-great-uncle and James Monroe Swisher is my great-great-grandpa. Some of the pictures are named and some not. Other than family pictures, there are pictures of people who they knew during their lives.”
Swisher family members are the namesakes of streets in Bouldin and Travis Heights, which were part of the 1870s Swisher Addition. Another Swisher descendant, Terri Hoover Mirka, confirms this.
“All the names are family members, in-laws, or ancestors to my 3-times great-grandfather John Milton,” Mirka writes. “For example, Gibson is also James Gibson Swisher’s mother’s maiden name.”
A conflicting version of the story suggests that the streets were named after the Swisher family slaves.
Mirka puts that to rest.
“The Swisher slave names documented in family writings were George — and family — and Aunt Harriett, both of who stayed with Elizabeth Swisher until her death in 1875,” she writes. “Swishers buried in the 1800s in the colored/negro grounds at Oakwood were: Charlotte (died 1873), Henry (died 1877), Henriette (died 1878), Minnie (died 1884), George (died 1888), and Joe (died 1893).”
You can’t understand New Austin without delving into Old Austin. One digital avenue for that quest is Austin Found, a series of historic images of Austin and Texas published at statesman.com/austinfound. We’ll share samples here regularly.