The Swartout Family of Oppenheim
By Hector Allen
With much thanks to the author, Hector Allen, Town Historian of Oppenheim, for these donations. The article below Hector remarks was written ca. 1987 and the Genealogy below was written in 1976.
The first member of the Swartout family came to Oppenheim in 1797. His name was John and, apparently he purchased a great deal of land and settled where the Swartout house stands today; in the center of the township, at the junction of N.Y. State Route 29, and Fulton County Route 331. The Swartout family is also spelled "Swartwout" or "Swarthout".
Samuel Swartout, the son of John, was the builder of the large brick house on the northeast corner of the intersection. This building was erected in either 1855 or 1856, and the brick was brought up from St. Johnsville. The limestone for the foundation was quarried in Ingham Mills. The interior has two fireplaces, one in the front parlor, faced in marble; and a large one of brick in what may have been the kitchen. The building formerly had an ornate central stairway with a mahogany banister; but this was removed several years ago. One feature, remembered by some of the older residents of Oppenheim, was the presence of cut crystal doorknobs throughout the house. According to some sources, there were servants who lived in part of the house to help with the work, but we do not know how many. The grounds were profusely planted with a wide variety of trees. One source claims that were forty different kinds of trees planted by the family on the grounds. The roadway up to the front of the house was lined by Lombardy Poplars. These were cut down many years ago.
The Swartout family ran a grocery store in a separate building, near the house. This same building house the postoffice from 1853 to 1856; and also from 1861 to 1870, when John P. Swartout was the Postmaster.
Connected to the store was a one-story building containing a law office. The lawyer was James M. Dudley, who had married Maria Swartout.
On the opposite corner was another store, owned by Dr. Peter Yost, who had also married a Swartout girl. This store is still in business, under the name of "Vicki's Market". At one time this store was owned by Joseph Camarra. He and his family operated it from the 1940's until the late 1970's, under the name of "The Oppenheim General Store".
The Swartout family was probably the most prominent family in the early history of the Oppenheim township. They served in political offices, were postmasters and were involved in church affairs. In addition, they owned a lot of property in the township. Their monument, in Chatsey Cemetery, was reputed to cost $2,000, at a period of time when the average worker would be lucky to make that much in an entire year. For a time, they had one of the only, if not the only, piano in town.
One piece of interesting folklore concerns an incident in the American Revolution. This is not documented, so I will put it down just as I heard it: "Samuel Swartout, father of the builder of the brick house at Oppenheim Center, furnished the blue background for the first American flag. He gave a blue satin dress coat. Mrs. Dennison, has in her possession, a letter from the President of the United States, George Washington, embodying the message accompanying reimbursement, sent to Swartout. The amount of the reimbursement is not mentioned." This was found in the 1936 "History of the Oppenheim Methodist Church", but it does not mention where the incident took place. It could have been at Oriskany.
Another interesting story comes from a letter written by Mrs. Myrtle Leavenworth to Mrs. Marian Wang, former Oppenheim Historian. It follows:
"The brick mansion stood back from the road with a spacious lawn, shaded by tall Maples. Along the drives to the house, and also along the road, were tall Poplar trees. On nice days, Swartout would bring his team of bays to the side entrance, help Amanda (his wife) into the buggy; she would raise a parasol over her head, and they would drive out for a ride. He always dressed in a tall, stiff white-collared shirt, and a suit with a swallow-tailed coat. As we were young then, we thought they were "royalty", and built up imaginary tales about them.
After Swartout had passed away, Mrs. Swartout lived alone in the brick house. Sometimes on a summer evening, when the windows were open, we would hear her playing the organ and singing for her own amusement. She still lived sedately, and took great pride in always being well-groomed and properly dressed. She had such a horror of freckles and a sun-tan, that during the summer when the sun was hot, she would appear at her front door, ready to go to the shady part of the front lawn where she sat to read. Her arms would be swathed in stripes of white cloth, wetted in buttermilk. Always her parasol was in hand to shade her from the sun, although it was only about 20-feet from her door to the shade of the Maples."
The Oppenheim Center, that the Swartout family was a large part of, was a thriving area in the middle of the 19th Century. Within a mile or so of the center of town there was a large hotel, three stores, a postoffice, a law office, one of the 16 district schools, a blacksmith shop, two sawmills, two small glove factories, two large cheese factories and the Methodist Church.
Marvin Mosher, a resident of Oppenheim, born in the 1840's, related the following to Daniel Sullivan of Dolgeville over 50 years ago: "When I was a boy in Oppenheim, there were three doctors living there and three lawyers. There were four men who wore tall, silk hats for everyday wear. There were many lawsuits in those days. One week there had been lawsuits on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; and when one man returned home Thursday evening, he noticed something queer about the looks of his plow, which had been left in his yard. Someone had cut about a foot off the handles. Right away, another lawsuit started."
John P. Swartout died about 1910 and the house became the property of Harwood Dennison, a relative. In the 1920's the house was sold to Andrew Keba, who operated a farm there. The barns were across the road and a little to the east. Joseph Papaloskie, George E. Brown and "Aunt" Nettie Hess owned it turn: and in the late 1940's it became the home of Oppenheim Redmen. They sold it in the early 1970's to Frank Zambrotti. He has operated it as the "Trading Post Enterprises".
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The Swartout Genealogy (from material given by Mary Brown, deceased about 1985):
John Swartout b. Feb. 15, 1753 d. Sept 17, 1823 Alehey Jan. 16, 1759 Frb. 26, 1813
Phebe Feb. 26, 1776 June 13, 1809 Martha Sept. 9, 1777 James Oct. 23, 1778 John, Jr. Jan. 14, 1780 Samuel July 11, 1782 Jan. 25, 1865 Cornelius Apr. 20, 1784 Abraham Thomas
Samuel Swartout's family:
Samuel (father) July 11, 1782 Jan. 25, 1865 Perthena (mother) July 27, 1794 Sept. 13, 1870 Harriet June 28, 1817 July 30, 1892 Maria Jan. 9, 1820 Eliza Sept. 14, 1822 Rozina Aug. 8, 1825 Jan. 9, 1892 John P. Nov. 22, 1829 July 18, 1909
Harriet Swartout & Nathan Brown's family:
Nathan Brown II (father) March 7, 1811 Feb. 14, 1894 Harriet Swartout (mother) June 28, 1817 July 30, 1892 Charlotte Maria June 6, 1836 Apr. 4, 1837 Elisabeth Parthenia Feb. 10, 1838 Dec. 9, 1893 Charlotte Celijsa Nov. 25, 1842 Mar. 20, 1844 Ellen Cordelia Aug. 29, 1845 Oct. 12, 1911 Charles Eugene Sept. 24, 1848 Apr. 19, 1919 Edwin Swartout Oct. 10, 1850 Oct. 13, 1915
Charles E. Brown's family:
Charles E. Brown (father) Sept. 24, 1848 Apr. 19, 1919 Alice A. Bolster (mother) Mar. 22, 1855 Edwin E. Oct. 23, 1875 John S. Nov. 29, 1877 May 30, 1960 Jennie M. Feb. 20, 1880 Oct. 12, 1880 Clarance G. Feb. 17, 1883 Sept. 28, 1885 Ethel C. June 1, 1886 Sept. 4, 1915 Florence B. June 27, 1888 May 29, 1890 Charles Earl Nov. 21, 1892 Oct. 18, 1966 Emma L. Nov. 12, 1894 Dec. 11, 1885
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Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:14:54 PDT