Richard Johnson Swearingen, physician, farmer, and state legislator, was born in Edgefield County, South Carolina, in 1808, according to his headstone. (Many genealogy sources give the birthdate as June 5.) He was the son of Frederick Swearingen and Sarah (Bettis) Swearingen. Swearingen was raised in the South and studied medicine as a young man. On November 2, 1830, he married Margaret M. Connor in Greene County, Alabama. They had up to seven children. The family lived in Mississippi before coming to Texas; several children were born in Noxubie County, Mississippi. In 1848 Swearingen moved with his family to Texas and settled near Chappell Hill in Washington County, where he established himself as a doctor and farmer. He became one of the leading members of the community and was a large landowner, an active Baptist, and owned thirty slaves by 1850. The 1850 census listed Swearingen’s worth at $12,000. He represented Washington County in the House of the Fifth Texas Legislature from November 7, 1853, to November 5, 1855, and was on the Education, Internal Improvement, Penitentiary, and State Affairs committees. In the mid-1850s Swearingen played a key role in founding Soule University, a Methodist institution in Chappell Hill, and donated ten acres of land for use in its construction. After the death of his first wife, he married Amanda M. Walker on June 12, 1859. Swearingen died on January 20, 1861, and was buried at the Masonic Cemetery in Chappell Hill, Washington County, Texas.
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“Dr Richard Johnson Swearingen,” Find A Grave Memorial (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=93206246), accessed October 1, 2014. Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Legislative Reference Library of Texas: Dr. R. J. Swearingen (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=5273&searchparams=chamber=~city=~countyID=0~RcountyID=~district=~first=~gender=~last=swearingen~leaderNote=~leg=~party=~roleDesc=~Committee=), accessed October 1, 2014. Worth Stickley Ray, Austin Colony Pioneers (Austin: Jenkins, 1949; 2d ed., Austin: Pemberton, 1970).
Founders and Pioneers
Health and Medicine
Physicians and Surgeons
Fifth Legislature (1853-1854)
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Aragorn Storm Miller and Laurie E. Jasinski,
“Swearingen, Richard Johnson,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 14, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
October 3, 2014
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: