Swickheimer, David (1853–1920)

By: Margaret Swickheimer Phelps

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1995

David (Dave) Swickheimer, mining millionaire and owner of the Enterprise Land and Colonizing Company, was born near Dover, Ohio, on April 18, 1853, the oldest son of German immigrant parents John Thomas and Anna Mary (Ade) Swickheimer. He grew up on a farm in a family of eight children and was educated in a small rural school. When he left home to seek his fortune, Dave promised to return when he could build his parents a big house in town, which he eventually did. Around 1877 he went to Colorado, where he struggled to develop a mining claim. To continue in the expensive business of mining he also took other jobs, such as hauling freight, serving as sheriff (he was elected in 1884 but resigned by 1886 or 1887), and working as a saloonkeeper. His wife, Laura, took in boarders and insisted that Dave keep working the claim. When Laura won $5,000 in the Louisiana lottery, this windfall was put into the mine. The prize money was down to less than $100 when a vein of almost pure silver was reached. Swickheimer struck it rich in 1886 at the Enterprise mine on Newman Hill, becoming Rico's first millionaire. Shortly after the discovery, David and Laura Swickheimer were divorced. George S. Barlow had a half interest in the mine, which he sold to Swickheimer on May 13, 1890. Swickheimer's silver mine sold for $1.25 million in 1891.

After making his fortune, Dave Swickheimer spent much of his time in Texas, where he invested a large amount of his money. In the early 1890s he developed property in Matagorda, Bee, Goliad, and Aransas counties. He was instrumental in organizing the Swickheimer Ranch (1891), which still existed in the early 1990s. He was also important in the development of Fannin (Goliad County), for many years a flourishing little town on the Southern Pacific line, and in the founding of Quincy (southwest of Beeville in Bee County), which was a promising community until it burned. In addition, he developed property in the Rockport area in Aransas County. His most successful venture, however, was the founding of Bay City in Matagorda County. Swickheimer-joined by G. W. Magill; Nicholas King of Quincy, Illinois; and N. M. Vogelsang, editor of the Goliad Guard-formed the Bay City Town Company and promoted the development of a new town near the geographical center of Matagorda County. The group, knowing that the San Antonio and Gulf Shore Railway planned a route through the middle of the county, and understanding the disadvantage of having to travel so far to the existing county seat near the coast, successfully promoted transferring the county government to the new town of Bay City, founded 1894. In 1896 Dave married his second wife, Annie Shear. With her and his stepson Jimmy, Dave Swickheimer lived in Denver, where he died on February 5, 1920.

Colorado Magazine, January 1951. Junann J. Stieghorst, Bay City and Matagorda County (Austin: Pemberton, 1965).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Margaret Swickheimer Phelps, “Swickheimer, David,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 01, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/swickheimer-david.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1995