1807 was a year that saw significant milestones achieved that would shape world events for years to come:- in January, London's Pall Mall is the first street to be lit by gaslight, in March American Congress and British Parliament bann the Slave Trade, the first railway passenger service began in England & Napoleon continued on the rampage throughout Europe!
Meanwhile in America the South Wing of the Capitol Building is nearing the completion of its latest building phase under the watchful eye of Yorkshireman, Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Latrobe was commissioned by President Jefferson in 1803, his principal responsibility being the construction of the Capitol's South Wing.
In August 1806 Latrobe recruited one William Swine or Swinton, reputed to be the finest stonecutter in Philadelphia. William was born to parents Archibald Swine & his wife Janet Johnston, and baptised William Swine at Swinton, Berwickshire, Scotland in January 1757.
On the 4th of April 1807 the Congressional Cemetery opened its gates and just a week later its first resident would pass through on his way to his final resting place - that of William Swinton who died on 11th April. Two weeks later the second burial occurred when Margaret Tingey, wife of Commandant Thomas Tingey, head of the Washington Navy Yard, passed away. Then on 22nd July the new burial ground was used by Congress for the burial of Senator Uriah Tracy, the first in a long series of members of the House, Senate and executive branch who would be interred there.
His Headstone reads:-
"Here lies interred William Swinton, stone cutter, who was an honor to his profession. He was born in Scotland, and died in Washington, 11th of April, 1807. Aged 48 years".
A further memorial inscription appears on a Table Stone in Swinton Kirkyard, shared with that of his parents, siblings that died young & his brother Peter, also a stone mason, who died in 1796 aged 47 years.
"Archibald Swine, mason & feuar in Swinton 14.12.1785........William 13.4.1807 in the City of Washington and Capital of the United States of North America aged 50 years".
Any doubt that this William is one and the same person is dispelled by a Power of Attorney granted at City Hall 19th January 1806 to George Blagdon from Archibald Swinton, (note the use of his "Sunday name"!). It cites that "Archibald Swinton, mason in Swinton, County Berwick, Scotland, brother german of deceased William Swinton, mason, of the City of Washington, appoints James Farquier, stone cutter of Philadelphia, and George Blagdon, mason of the city of Washington, attorneys to recover money due and sell the effects of the deceased."
NB. George Blagdon met his death accidentally in 1826!
Memorial Stone of William's brother Archibald Swine in Swinton Churchyard at the West entrance gate together with a close up of the inscription.
This rather imposing monument is flanked by the table stones that bore the inscriptions of three generations of the same family - three generations of evidently very skilled stone masons! The table stones are now so worn and overgrown they are impossible to read. If were not for the endeavours of David Cargill who recorded the pre 1855 inscriptions at Swinton in 1970, this vital information to the family history researcher would be lost. This is particularly relevant in Scotland where pre 1855 death & burial records are sketchy at best!
No piece about Swinton would be complete without a mention of the Church or Kirk as it is in Scotland! The earliest written record of a kirk on this site is 1098. The walls are over three feet thick to withstand the border raids.
The church was first renovated in 1593, then rebuilt in 1729 on the site of the 1593 renovations. The feuars aisle (above right) was added in 1782. Note that top left is Archibald Swine, father of William.
The Church bell is one of the oldest in Scotland. It has the words "Mary is my name, 1499" inscribed in Latin around it. The bell was rung in 1513 to sound the death of so many of Scotland's finest men at Flodden. (I managed to squeeze a reference in afterall!)
It remains unclear as to why the family used the name "Swine" - they are baptised as Swine, married and buried with the name Swine. Wills however, sometimes appear with reference to both Swine & Swinton! I wonder whether the derived name "Swine" was used to avoid confusion with the landed Swinton Family of Swinton, whose family tree is one of the longest recorded in Britain? Another possibility is that this family originates from "a dalliance" somewhere along the line?
If anyone out there has any ideas re the above I would love to hear from you!, also for those of you tracing this family I have further information which you may, (or may not) find of use.
A Final Thought
Whatever the relationship of William Swine to the historic Swinton family of Swinton, he made his mark. His name is written in the history books of one of the most powerful governments in the world. The respect he earned through his craft has earned him his eternal repose in the company of some of the most important people that shaped the western world as we know it today, safe in the knowledge that he was there first!
(I have written to the "Architects of the Capitol" in Washington, who have passed my request on to their Archives. Should they uncover any further information about William, I shall make sure to post an update, and I extend my thanks to them for all their help.)