John Milton Swisher, soldier, civil servant, and financier, was born on May 31, 1819, near Franklin in Williamson County, Tennessee, the son of Elizabeth (Boyd) and James Gibson Swisher. In 1833 he immigrated to Texas with his parents, who settled first in Milam Municipality. At age fourteen Swisher opened a school-what he referred to as an "ABC class"-at Tenoxtitlán, but quickly abandoned it to take up farming. The family remained at Tenoxtitlán from January until October 1834 and then, harassed by Indians, moved to Gay Hill in what is now Washington County. After learning of William B. Travis's appeal for assistance at the Alamo, Swisher and ten or twelve companions started on March 1, 1836, for San Antonio. They halted at Gonzales on March 5 and there, after Sam Houston arrived on March 10 to organize the army, became the core of Capt. William W. Hill's Company H of Col. Edward Burleson's First Regiment, Texas Volunteers. Harvey H. Swisher, John's uncle, was first lieutenant of the company. After taking part in the battle of San Jacinto, Swisher was discharged on May 30 at Victoria. Thereafter he clerked for a time in his father's Washington County store. By December 1836 he was working as recording clerk of the treasury department and in 1840 was promoted to chief clerk. In 1841 he was appointed a first lieutenant in the Republic of Texas Marine Corps, but resigned after a cruise to the Yucatán under Commodore Edwin W. Moore. Swisher served as chief clerk of the auditor's office at Washington-on-the-Brazos, as clerk of the Ninth Congress of the Republic of Texas, and as clerk of the Convention of 1845. In 1846 he was elected colonel of the first regiment of Thomas Green's brigade of Texas militia, and in January 1847 he raised a company of rangers for service in the Mexican War, but got no farther than San Antonio before the United States victory at Buena Vista made the company unnecessary. His younger brother, James Monroe Swisher, served as a private in Capt. Benjamin McCulloch's company of Col. John C. Hays's First Regiment, Texas Mounted Riflemen.
In 1848 Swisher was appointed auditor of public accounts, and in 1852 he became a banker in Austin. On January 23, 1860, Governor Sam Houston appointed him paymaster of the Texas Rangers, a position he held until Texas seceded from the Union. Swisher was an ardent unionist, but after secession became an accomplished fact he threw his support behind the Confederacy. In 1862 he was sent to London to exchange Texas securities for war materials but was frustrated when the state's United States bonds were declared nonnegotiable. On promise of exchange for Texas cotton, he then ordered supplies delivered to Matamoros, but when he returned to Texas he was dismissed from his post on charges of unionist sympathies. Swisher nevertheless spent the remainder of the war in Matamoros as purchasing agent for Col. John S. Ford's Confederate forces. From 1865 until 1868 he ran a banking and commission house in Galveston. Then, after returning to Austin, he organized and until 1870 served as president of a stock company for the construction of the city's street-railway system. Swisher married Maria W. Sims, a native of Virginia, at Washington-on-the-Brazos on May 28, 1844; they had two children. Maria died on April 13, 1870, and Swisher married Helen "Nellie" A. Nickerson, a teacher at Medina, on January 1, 1873; they had two daughters. After Nellie's death in March 1875 Swisher married Bella French (see SWISHER, BELLA FRENCH) in Austin in October 1878. Swisher died on March 11, 1891, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Austin. He was a Mason. His reminiscences of early Texas and the battle of San Jacinto are preserved in the Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin, and were published in a truncated version as Swisher's Memoirs by Mary R. Maverick Green in 1932.