Swisher, James Gibson (1794–1862)

By: Carole E. Christian

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: July 1, 1995

James Gibson Swisher, early Texas patriot, son of Henry and Annie (Gibson) Swisher, was born near Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee, on November 6, 1794. His father, a German immigrant, participated in the organization of Tennessee Territory as a state. After receiving a good education in Tennessee, Swisher worked as a land surveyor and gained experience dealing with Indians in his native state. In the War of 1812 he served as a private in Capt. David Mason's company of Tennessee militia from August 18, 1813, to May 21, 1814, and in Capt. John Donelson's company of United States Mounted Rangers from September 2, 1814, to September 1, 1815. Swisher participated in the two battles of New Orleans. After hostilities ceased, he married Elizabeth Boyd in Knoxville, Tennessee, on September 14, 1815. In 1833 he arrived in Texas with his brother Harvey H. Swisher, who later participated in the battle of San Jacinto. Between January and October 1834 Swisher and his family settled at Tenoxtitlán in Robertson's colony, in what is now Burleson County. He successfully led a retaliatory attack after a Comanche Indian raid on the settlement in April 1834. By October 1834 Swisher and his family had moved to Chriesman Settlement (see GAY HILL, TEXAS) in what became Washington County. On July 2, 1835, Swisher was one of the petitioners who requested a separate municipality for the area that later became Washington Municipality.

Swisher was elected captain of a military company organized in Washington Municipality at the beginning of the Texas Revolution. His Texas military service began on October 8, 1835. His company participated in the siege of Bexar in December 1835. Gen. Edward Burleson appointed Swisher one of the three commissioners to negotiate the surrender of Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos on December 11, 1835. Swisher remained with the revolutionary army until he was elected one of four delegates from Washington Municipality to the Convention of 1836 on February 1, 1836. At the convention he participated in debates and urged payment of land bounties to reward military service as well as careful examination of all bounty claims. His proposals influenced future Texas land policy. Swisher also served on the defense committee; he opposed Sam Houston's policy of retreat and urged immediate engagement of the enemy. Swisher signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. After the convention he accompanied his family in the Runaway Scrape and assisted in the evacuation of Washington-on-the-Brazos. Swisher later served in Capt. William W. Hill's company of rangers on the frontier from July to October 1836. Between 1839 and 1841 he served as a justice of the peace in Washington County. He was also an incorporator and trustee of Union Academy, a Washington County school chartered in February 1840. In 1846 Swisher moved to Austin, where he operated a tavern, a hotel, and after 1852 a ferry. In his later years he also farmed. In 1848 he was registrar of an Austin high school. He was a member of the building committee of the First Presbyterian Church in Austin in 1851 and one of five members of a vigilance committee formed by the Austin vigilante movement in October 1854 to enforce slave-control laws. After Swisher's death in Austin on November 14, 1862, his wife, Elizabeth, continued to operate the important ferry transportation link on the Austin-San Antonio Road. Swisher had four children who lived to adulthood, including John Milton Swisher, who held many appointive offices in the republic and state of Texas, and James Monroe Swisher, an Indian fighter and later a state legislator. Swisher County and a street in Austin were named for James Swisher.

Sam Houston Dixon, Men Who Made Texas Free (Houston: Texas Historical Publishing, 1924). Joe E. Ericson, Judges of the Republic of Texas (1836–1846): A Biographical Directory (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). Worth Stickley Ray, Austin Colony Pioneers (Austin: Jenkins, 1949; 2d ed., Austin: Pemberton, 1970). John Milton Swisher, Memoirs (San Antonio: Sigmund, 1932).
  • Education
  • School Principals and Superintendents
  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Military
  • Soldiers
Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

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

Carole E. Christian, “Swisher, James Gibson,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/swisher-james-gibson.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995