George Swinehart: Tuscarawas Pioneer

Many of the earliest settlers of the area now known as Tuscarawas County earned their land, and their families’ futures here, from their service to the United States in the American Revolution. George Swinehart (1754-1815) earned his piece of Tuscarawas County heaven through his service protecting the frontier of Pennsylvania and Virginia for the rebellious United States.

The Swinehart family settled in the Monocacy Valley of Maryland, near the town of Frederick, in the early 18th century. Living just to the east of the Appalachian Mountains, the family was residing on the frontier of 18th century European settlement in America. George Swinehart’s parents, Gabriel Swinehart (1720-1805) and Esther Neff (1727-1805), were already living in the Monocacy Valley when they were married in the fall of 1745.

Esther Swinehart had already given birth to seven children by the time George was born in 1754, and she had five more children after George. The large family meant that, in order to start their own farms, the children had to look further westward for available land. By the time George was 21 years old, in 1775, he had relocated to the Pennsylvania frontier county of Westmoreland (a portion that became Washington County, Pennsylvania later) and married Catherine Dague (1757-1792).

An early American frontier farming scene.

When the American Revolution began, the area where George and Catherine had settled was claimed by both Pennsylvania and Virginia. Men from the area served in militia and regular army units from both fledgling states. The war with Great Britain led to significant conflict on the frontier between those loyal to Great Britain, including many Native American allies, and far-flung settlers like George Swinehart and his neighbors.

George chose to defend the frontier from the British, first serving as a frontier ranger and later serving in more formal county militia units. It is not clear from the historical record if George took part in any specific engagements or campaigns, but his willingness to serve in whatever capacity he could is. As with many other men who served, his service would eventually be rewarded when the war concluded.

A stereotypical image of a Pennsylvania frontier scout and rifleman.

During the war, in an effort to attract men to serve, Congress offered land as future payment to those agreed to serve in the military. In June 1796 Congress created the United States Military District, which included parts of modern Tuscarawas County, Ohio. George Swinehart received his promised lands in the district, a portion of which lay north and west of Crooked Run United Methodist Church, before his death in 1815.

George Swinehart’s family lived on the frontiers of America from their arrival in the 18th century, and they defended that frontier from their perceived enemies. The reward for that service was the promise of land ownership, something that motivated many of the men who served on the side of the United States. George’s service, and his acquisition of land in Tuscarawas County before 1815, makes him worthy of the title of Tuscarawas Pioneer.

George Swinehart’s headstone at Crooked Run United Methodist Church Cemetery, Tuscarawas County.

© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.


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