The Blackwooders

Nelson M Swarthout, PUBLISHER                                Second Edition                               March, 2001

Italics indicate comments by the web master, Mark Swarthout. 

Time for a New Edition
We are will into the new year, and it's time to start a second edition of THE BLACKWOODERS. Our thanks go out to Beverlee Jenkins and Penny Kochtitzky for their contribution to our file of family newletters. Also we appreciate those who have written with information about their particular branch of the family or with questions about which of the 3 branches their line descend from. More details aboout this in the CORRESPONDENCE section.

Where is the Family Located in the Year 2001?

According to computer information at the local library, there are 778 Swarthouts in the U.S.A. This does not include Swartouts, Swartwouts, and Swartwoods!

However, a follow-up survey of family members who were listed in the telephone directories of 25 major metropolitan areas did include the 3 other (than Swarthout) spellings. There seemed to be almost as many "touts," "wouts," and "woods" as "thouts." Of the areas surveryed the top 5 (in number of S's living there are:

      1. Northern Virginia (D.C. vicinity)
      2. Seattle
      3. Phoenix
      4. Denver
      5. Atlanta

The survey convered 25 urban areas including D.C., Denver, Atlanta, and Columbus (ohio) had S's with all 4 spellings but with more Swartwoods than the other three. Has there ever been a wood at our recent family reunions? Do they know that they are part of the family? Yes, some of them do! See Swartwout to Swartwood.


Cousin Gladys

Probably our most famous family member was the American mezzo soprano mentioned in the Feb. 2001 issue of OPERA NEWS, Gladys Swarthout. There seems to be a difference of reporting the year of her birth. The date given in the accompanying article antedates by 4 years the date usually mentioned (1904). In any case she was a lovely representative of ou rfamily on - the musical scene in this country for almost three decades beginning in the 1920's.

In 1924, Mary Garden cut in half a Spanish shawl she had wom as Bizet's Gypsy and presented it to 'The next great Carmen." The object of the tribute was Gladys Swarthout. Born in Deepwater on Christmas Day, 1900, Swarthout was American trained and forged her career entirely in America. She made her Metropolitan Opera house debut, as La Cieca in La Gioconda, on November 15, 1929. That same year, she met Frank Chapman, who was to become her husband and personal manager. Under his guidance, she was one of the first mezzos to achieve wide fame. In 1939, Russell McLaughlin of The Detroit News, puzzled by her pairing of Dalila's "Printemps qui commence" with "Una voce poco fa," then considered a soprano vehicle, wrote, "Miss Swarthout is so transcendently good-looking that it probably wouldn't matter if she sang the Pagliacci prologue."

Swarthout embraced radio, films and, eventually, television. She appeared in a number of movies, including Rose of the Rancho (1936), Give Us This Night, with Jan Kiepura (1936), Champagne Waltz (1937) and Romance in the Dark (1938, pictured above). In 1950, she became the first Carmen in an opera produced especially for television.

Swarthout's Carmen was not without controversy, as a review by Virgil Thomson revealed. "As Gladys Swarthout going through the motions of Carmen, she does unquestionably a high-class number . . . Then she grins and starts swishing around the stage . . . and we are right back at the Country Club . . . In contrast to the fidgety frigidity of the person, the voice is all liquid fire and velvet. I do not know its peer today among mezzo-sopranos for warmth or full, fresh brilliance." Robert Coleman of The New York Daily Mirror quipped, "Her Carmen could be an adornment to any fashionable cocktail lounge."

Her Met farewell was as Carmen, on March 7,1945. The extent of her identification with the role was recalled at her death, on July 7,1969; the Times Record in Troy, New York, carried an editorial that read, "Carmen of Deepwater, Mo., has died, and the world of music, art the drama and everything pleasant has lost by her death."

Written by John Penning

For more info see the Gladys Swarthout pages on this web site.


Arkansas - A new state heard from. Family member, Brenda Swartout Wall of Mabelvale, Ark., has written that she would like to connect to one of the three main branches of the Swarthout clan.

Michigan - After our last reunion, Mark W. Swarthout wrote from the Detroit area aobut his GG Grandfather who fought in the Civil War and was wounded at Cold Harbor in 1864. Mark has promised to write up this story for a future issue of THE BLACKWOODERS.

Mississippi - Penny K. from Hattiesburg has been in contact with John Swartwout who forwarded the following information:

Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, N.Y. has 8 plots containing at least one Swartwout.

The total number of S's is 36, not including women whose maiden name may have been Swarthout (or one of the other spellings).

Our beneficient kinsman, William Merrill Swartwout, is also buried here along with his father Henry. William is responsible for our CHRONICLES.

P.S. (from N.M.S.) Does anyone know the date of William Merrill's death ???

Illinois - Gladys S. Druger and husband Fred have taken some interesting trips including visitis to Tennessee, the Smoky Mts., and Florida. She and her mother Mildred, who are regulars at our family reunions, were also in CO.

New York - To Mary S. Rindfleisch - again many thanks for another great reunion. Mary thinks the 2000 reunion may be in Ontario. (Yes! It's true! See the web site here for more info!)

Area Genealogical Societies

Since the TV series "Roots" which was broadcast over 20 years ago, there has been a great interest in family genealogy. Many communities have thriving AGS groups that meet monthly and also sponser annual seminars. I joined the Whittier AGS several years ago and have enjoyed the speakers with their slide presentations. Most of the research done by my fellow memebers is by computer. Our family is lucky to have THE SWARTWOUT-KETELHUYN CHRONICLES (published in 1899) to fall back on.


Mark S. sent me a copy of the address that Charles H. Swartwout, Jr., gave at last year's family reunion banquet in Geneva, N.Y. If anyone would like his own copy, I'll be glad to mail him or her one. (Also available on line here!)

Back to the Blackwooder's Page

Copyright Mark W. Swarthout, 2001
Updated 5/30/2001