The Blackwooders

February 2000                                                Whittier, CA                                             First Edition 
What's in a Name?

If your surname is Swarthout, Swartout, Swartwout, or Swartwood, you are probably descended from one Tomys Swartwout (1607-62) who was born in Groningen in the Netherlands. He and his brothers were engaged in the tobacco business in Amsterdam in the middle of the 17th century when hard times hit the country. Tomys decided to take his family to the relatively new colony of New Netherland. The year was 1652 and the voyage in March was described as having "no remarkable incidents." In New Amsterdam Director-General Peter Stuyvesant greeted the new arrivals and offered to get them settled in a bouwerij (farm).

Tomas had 5 children by his two wives, Adrijetjen and Hendrickjen - all born and baptized in Amsterdam between 1630 and 1646. His second son Roeloff was married in New Netherland in 1657 and became a British subject when the Dutch lost their colony in the next decade. Roeloff and his first wife Eva had 8 children between l660 and 1675, and it is from three of their sons that we can trace our ancestry.

SENIOR BRANCH (Thomas S.) - Penny Swartwout Kochtitzky, who lives in Hattiesburg, Miss., is descended from Thomas (1660-1723).

MIDDLE BRANCH (Antoni S.) - Mary Swarthout Rindfleisch of Clyde, N.Y, is a descendant of Antoni (1664-1700) as are Neil S., Gauin Moore, Mark S. and N.M.S.

JUNIOR BRANCH (Barnardus) - Beverlee S. Jenkins and Gladys S. Druger (Illinois) can trace their ancestry to Barnardus, the youngest son of Roeloff and Eva Swartwout, bom in 1673.

Roeloff (Ralph) survived his 2nd wife and died in Hurley, Ulster County, N.Y, in 1715 at the age of 81.

1999 Family Reunion

Last year our reunion took place September 3rd - 6th in Scotts, Michigan (near Kalamazoo). This reunion was held to honor the memory of Arnold Swarthout of Vicksburg who passed away in 1998; he was the brother of Beverlee S. Jenkins who hosted the gathering. During the holiday weekend we had a chance to exchange notes and fraternize at the Scotts Community Center. On the Saturday we went over to nearby Turkeyville to enjoy a wonderful meal at the dinner-theatre and then a fine performance of "Hello, Dolly." I'm sure that all those attending this reunion will join me in saying, "Great job, well done," to Beverlee.

Family Reunions of our Time

Our family gatherings probably date back to the 1920's and perhaps earlier. I can remember my grandfather taking us to one in central Michigan c. 1932. However, the current series of reunions was organized by Mary Rindfleisch in 1992. We've had three in the state of New York and are looking forward to going back there for our first gathering in the new century.

Pine Island, Minn.                         1994, 1998      Neil Swarthout
Richland, Wash.                           1995               Gauin Moore
San Diego, CA                             1997                Robert Swarthout
Kalamazoo (Scotts), Michigan      1999               Beverlee Jenkins

Our reunions are held annually over the Labor Day weekend.

In case you are wondering about the name of our newsletter . . .  black woods (Zwartewoude) characterized the topography of Frisia in NE Holland (and the nearby Frisian Island) in the early days. Our ancestors can be traced back to this area in the 14th century.

June Knell (nee Swarthout)

When we saw June in Kalamazoo last September, we didn't realize that it would be for the last time. June died on November 1, 1999, in Battle Creek, Michigan, at the age of 82. She was an ordained minister in the Assembly of God, having received a degree in theology from the Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo. June retired in 1979 after having pastored or co-pastored churches in Michigan, Ohio, and Arizona. She and her husband, the Reverend James D. Knell, were faithful in attending our recent reunions. June will be deeply missed.

The Swartwout - Ketelhuyn Chronicles

William Merrill Swartwout (b. 1837) was a native of Troy, N.Y., and was descended from the senior (Thomas) branch of our family.  In 1862 he enlisted in an infantry regiment of the N.Y. Volunteers and saw service in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Florida. In 1864 he was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant, was wounded and lost an arm in Va., and was discharged at the end of that year. Later William was brevetted a major in the N.Y. National Guard. In the 1890's he commissioned Arthur James Weise, a local historian, to research the European background of his father's and mother's family. After three months in the Netherlands the result of Weise's work was published in N.Y.C. in 1899, and there may have been only 50 copies printed. In this tome there were almost 1100 names listed, but there were also many omissions. In a recent survey of family gravestones in the vicinity of Seneca Lake, N.Y., it was found that only about 1/3 of the Swarthouts, Swartwouts, etc., born before 1899 were listed. This survey, "Between the Lakes Cemeteries" was compiled by Carl W. Fisher and Harriet Jackson Smith in 1974.  However, it would be hoped that your great or great, great grandfather would be amongst the names listed in the CHRONICLES.

Dutch American Heritage Day

In 1991 Congress adopted a resolution making November 16th Dutch American Heritage Day. The date was selected because it was in 1776 on that day the Netherlands became the first country to officially acknowledge the flag of the newly independent United States. The day is specifically for honoring Dutch Americans who made contributions to American culture including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Humphrey Bogart, Walt Whitman, and others.

A Tale of Two Swartwouts

Abraham Swartwout was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in 1743 and died there in 1799. During his lifetime he served with the British forces in the French and Indian War (1756-63) in Cuba (Spain was an ally of France) and later in the Revolutionary War as a captain. In August of 1777, after the adoption of the stars and stripes as our national emblem, an American garrison in the vicinity of Albany, N.Y, decided to make this new flag to be displayed at their fort. A supply of white and red cloth for the snipes was available, but the backing for the white stars was lacking. For this captain Swartwout donated his blue-cloth cloak. Whether or not our kinsman's contribution to the war effort antedated that of Mrs. Ross of Philadelphia is debatable.

Anthony's son Samuel (1783-1856) has been described as a "soldier, a merchant, a speculator, and a politician." Today we would probably call him a "wheeler-dealer."  In any case, he became a good friend of Andrew Jackson and worked hard to insure that Jackson was elected our 7th president in 1828. This brought him the appointment of collector of the port of New York in 1829, a very lucrative position. At the end of his term it was learned that Samuel had speculated with public funds in the amount of over $1 million. He sailed to Europe in 1838 before the discovery of the missing funds and lived in England until 184 1. Returning to New York City, he lived in retirement until his death in 1856.

For a different version of this historical episode, see the CHRONICLES, p. viii of the preface. Mr. Weise claims that Samuel S. suffered for the "criminal conspiracy of two of his dishonest employees."


Glenn R. Swarthout, living in Phoenix, AZ., has just sent in a genealogy of his line which fills in a lot of gaps in family records. We are both descended from Anthony, Sr., but there was no mention in the CHRONICLES of the sons of James A. who was an older brother of my great, great grandfather William who settled in central Michigan in 1837. Many thanks, Glenn, for providing this information.

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Copyright Mark W. Swarthout, 2000, 2001
Updated 6/2/2001