Bio of Romulus Sanders Swift

Rev. Romulus S. Swift 

     Romulus Sanders Swift was born in Orange County, North Carolina, July 13, 1818.  While a young boy, his father died and his mother remarried.  Romulus did was evidently mistreated by his stepfather and when his uncle moved to Giles County, Tennessee, he carried Romulus with him.

     At nineteen, Romulus joined the Methodist Church at a camp meeting at Prospect.  Sarah Salina Paine, a schoolteacher, and Romulus were married January 21, 1840.  Sarah was twenty-five and Romulus was twenty-one.   After making an effort to farm with no success, Romulus was called to preach.  Sarah was as excited as Romulus, but there was a major obstacle in the way.  Romulus had no formal schooling and could not read.  Sarah took over the problem and immediately started teaching Romulus.   Romulus proved to be a good student and was quickly reading and studying the Bible.

     Romulus and Sarah moved to Dyer County, Tennessee where he was licensed to preach and lived for about two years.  They then moved back to Giles County where Romulus traveled as supply on the Shoal Circuit.  About two years later they moved to Henderson County where he served as supply on the Decaturville Circuit.    On October 15, 1856 Romulus joined the Memphis Conference in Jackson, Tennessee.

     Sometime around this period, a cousin of Romulus’, William Harvell, came from North Carolina with a few hundred dollars in his saddlebags.  The money must have been Romulus’ inheritance from his mother’s estate.  Romulus and Sarah invested the money in a farm about two miles from Scott’s Hill.  Romulus continued to serve his churches.

     By the time the Civil War broke out, the Swift boys were coming of age to join the army.  William (Bill) and John enlisted first.  William’s tour of duty with the Confederate army would be cut short.  While returning to his troops after a short leave, he was shot and killed by guerillas.  William was buried in a coffin made from planks taken from the attic of his home in the family cemetery near by.  Sarah took the death of her son very hard and spent much time on a pallet beside his grave.

      An interesting story comes from one Swift descendant:  I do have an added piece of info about Sarah and what a loving mother she was.  When her son was killed by what I have always heard... hooligans, she decided to invite them all to dinner.  A very special dinner.  Needless to say, the honored guests didn't live to see the light of day!  You just gotta love that woman.

    Romulus joined the Confederacy as a Chaplain soon after the death of his firstborn son.   Oral family history tells that Romulus was taken Prisoner of War and interred at Alton, Illinois.  When the end of the war came, he was released and permitted to go home.  Romulus had no money or means of transportation so he walked the entire way from Alton, Illinois to Scott's Hill, Tennessee, aided by the grace of people along the way.

     Sometime after Sarah’s children had reached adulthood, she suffered a broken hip.  The doctor told the family that setting the hip would be of no use, because she would soon die.  The hip was not set and Sarah proved the doctor wrong by walking, although it was with crutches.

     Romulus and Sarah sold the farm and moved to Scott’s Hill.  After a few years, Romulus suffered a stroke and was paralyzed.  He had to give up his preaching and soon died on April 29, 1889 at the age of seventy years old.   Sarah spent much of her time with children, telling stories and singing Indian songs.  When she was ninety she moved to her daughter Frances’ house, and was an invalid until she died on February 9, 1906.     

The above biography is based on information taken from remembrances of Mary Lou Swift Austin, daughter of Romulus and Sarah Swift and recorded by her daughter, Verna Austin Partin.   George Partin provided these remembrances.  

 Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, for the year 1889, Nashville, TN, Publishing house of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, J. D. Barbee, Agent, 1890.

Question 19.  What preachers have died during the past year?  Romulus S. Swift, David D. Moore, Robert W. Erwin, William M. Patterson.

     Romulus Sanders Swift was born in Orange County, N.C. July 13, 1818.  While yet young he came to Giles County, Tennessee with an uncle.  At nineteen years of age he was converted to God in a revival at Prospect Camp-ground; then, in 1837, he joined the M.E. Church.  In 1838, he married  Miss Sarah S. Paine, after which he moved to Dyer County, West Tennessee.  There he did the Church efficient service as class-leader and exhorter.  Soon he was licensed to preach by Brother John Randle.  After two years he returned to North Carolina, where he remained one year; then moved again to Giles County, Tennessee, and traveled Shoal Circuit as a supply two years; then moved to Henderson County, West Tennessee, and, after a time, preached as a supply on Decaturville Circuit.  In 1858 he was admitted into full connection in the Memphis Conference, M. E. Church, South.  When the civil war came he went out as chaplain of the Fifty-second Tennessee Regiment of the Confederate army, but on account of ill health he soon returned home.  In the Memphis Conference he served the following circuits:  Decaturville, Morgan’s Creek, Rock Springs, Adamsville, Purdy, Scott’s Hill, Lexington.  In 1874 he became supernumerary, which relation he held for three years.  In 1884, because of paralysis, he was superannuated, and again in 1886, in which relation he continued till his death.  During these years of affliction he preached as often and with as much interest as his health would allow.  In the early part of February last he had a second stroke of paralysis.  This was so severe that he was not afterward in his right mind.  Seven weeks later—April 29, 1889, after 8 o’clock P.M.—he fell asleep to awake in “the far away home of the soul.”  Brother Swift was ordained deacon by Bishop Paine, in Somerville, Tennessee, October 29, 1854; and elder by Bishop Pierce November 11, 1860.  The following testimonial is from Reverend A. R. Wilson:  “ I knew Brother Swift to be a good,  true man; a good, plain preacher of the gospel; always did his work well.  He was much loved by the people who knew him.  He was a pleasant colleague, very hospitable at his home, of a cheerful, happy disposition; a good revivalist, a success as a Methodist itinerant preacher.”  Rev. J. H. Witt says:  “ Brother Swift had meager literary attainments, but a strong, sound mind and body.  He was a faithful preacher, and attained large acceptability and great success.  He was a plain, practical preacher.  Through him the Holy Ghost sent the message to heart and conscience, awakening and converting hundreds, some of whom went before him to glory, and many remain to bless his memory and to thank God for sending the faithful preacher, who delivered his message in simplicity, but in power and in demonstration of the Spirit.  He made no effort at display, yet was oratorical, logical, eloquent by terms, without seeming to know it.” 

The following information was provided by George Partin who has graciously shared much information on the Swift family.  A special thanks, also, to Elizabeth Perry of Dallas, TX, a member of the staff of the Bridwell Library of SMU, who provided George with much assistance in obtaining this data.

            These are from the Minutes of the annual meetings of the Memphis Conference of The Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  

1855-56 p.599  7.— Memphis Conference held at Memphis, Tenn., Nov. 21, 1855
Question 1.  What preachers are admitted on trial?  R. S. Swift, of course, was not there.

1856-57 p.678  8.--- Memphis Conference held in Jackson, Tenn., October  15-21,1856.
Question 1.  What preachers are admitted on trial?  Romulus Swift was among the fourteen admitted.

p. 682  Romulus S. Swift was appointed to Morgan’s Creek Mission (Benton County,  Tenn.) in the Jackson District. 

1857-58 p. 29 8 --- Memphis Conference held at Trenton, Tenn., Nov. 10-19, 1858.
Question 2.  Who remains on trial?  In 1857-58 he  would have remained on trial.
Question 3.  Who are admitted into full connection?  Romulus S. Swift was among the 8 who were                                   made deacons.  R. S. Swift was appointed to the Rock Springs  Circuit in the Corinth                                   District.

 1859  p.125 8 --- Memphis Conference was held at Memphis, Tenn., Nov. 16-25, 1859.
p. 126    Question 6.  Who are the deacons of one year?  R. S. Swift was one of seven.
       p. 129     R. S. Swift was appointed to Decaturville (Decatur County) in the Corinth District.           

1860 p. 221 8 --- Memphis Conference was held at Aberdeen, Miss. Nov. 7-13, 1860.

            Question 9.  What traveling preachers  are elected and ordained elders?  Romulus S. Swift was one of                                   five.
p.225.  Romulus S. Swift was appointed to Decaturville, Iuka District.

1861 p. 312 8 --- Memphis Conference  was held at Jackson, Tenn., Nov. 6-12, 1861.

            Romulus S. Swift was appointed to Morgan’s Creek Mission in the Trenton District.

 1862 p. 379 8 --- Memphis Conference was held at Grenada, Miss., November 5-7. 1862.

            He was appointed again to Morgan’s Creek Mission in the Trenton District.

 1863 p. 933 8 --- Memphis Conference was held at Aberdeen, Miss. November 11-16, 1863.
Note – On account of the state of the country, growing out of the war, the preachers in West                         Tennessee (except for the Memphis District) and southwestern Kentucky, held an advisory                         Conference  at Cageville, Tenn. October 28-30,

1863.    The Journal of their proceedings was presented to the Conference, and
the minutes having been read and revised, were adopted and are herewith Incorporated.
        Ques. 12   Who are Supernumeraries?  Romulus S. Swift was one of 27 listed.
                                He was not listed as receiving an appointment.

1864  and 1865 – No Minutes were received. 

1866 p 51 12 --- Memphis Conference held at Jackson, Tenn. November 14-20, 1866.
P 54  Romulus Swift was appointed to Decaturville in the Jackson District.

Per minutes of  the Annual Conference of the M E Church, South 1867-1874

            1867    R. S. Swift    Decaturville       Paris District
1868    R. S. Swift    Decaturville       Paris District    
1869    R. S. Swift    Lexington           Paris District    
1870    R. S. Swift    Lexington           Paris District    
1871    R. S. Swift    Lexington           Paris District

1872    R. S. Swift    Lexington          Paris District
1873    R. S. Swift    Saltillo               Paris District
1874    W. H. Evans   Saltillo              Paris District
R. S. Swift, Supernumerary

1875   p 209 XV --- Memphis Conference held at Paducah, Ky., November 17-23, 1875.
P  214 --- Paris District, Saltillo, F. B. Davis; R. S. Swift, Supernumerary

1876   p 42 --- Memphis Conference held at Memphis, Tenn., November 15-20, 1876.
P 43 --- R. S. Swift was one of 12 Supernumeraries.
P 46--- Paris District, Saltillo, T. J. McGill; R. S. Swift, Supernumerary.

1877    p 43 --- Memphis Conference held at Brownsville, Tenn. November 21-26, 1877.
P 44 --- R. S. Swift is still Supernumerary (one of 13).

            P 48 --- Scotts Hill, J. J. Brooks; R. S. Swift, Supernumerary. 

1878 p 48 --- Memphis Conference was held at Jackson, Tenn. December 4-9, 1878.
p.55 --- R. S. Swift, Scotts Hill Circuit and Mission, Paris District.

1879 p 44 --- Memphis Conference held in Mayfield, Ky. November 19-25, 1879.
P 47 --- R. S. Swift, Scotts Hill Circuit and Mission, Bolivar District.

1880   p 166 --- Memphis Conference held at Trenton, Tenn., November 17-22. 1880
p 174 --- R. S. Swift, Lexington Circuit, Bolivar District.

           {Note – Reginald B. Swift was admitted on trial.  [Relationship unknown]

 1881  p 305 --- Memphis Conference  held at Bolivar, Tenn. November 9-14. 1881.
P 310 --- R. S. Swift, Lexington Circuit, Bolivar District.

 1882 p 74 --- Memphis Conference held at Dyersburg, Tenn. November 17-23, 1882.
P 78 --- R. S. Swift, Lexington Circuit, Jackson District.

 1883 p 107 --- Memphis Conference held at Union City, Tenn., December 12-17, 1883.
P 311 --- R.S. Swift, Decaturville Circuit, Jackson District.

1884 p 82 --- Memphis Conference held at Memphis, Tenn., December 3-8, 1884.
P 83 --- R. S. Swift was superannuated.

1885 p 134 --- Memphis Conference held at Paducah, Ky., December 9-16, 1885.
P 137 --- R. S. Swift, Scotts Hill Mission, Jackson District.

1886 p 108 --- Memphis Conference held at Jackson, Tenn., December 9-14, 1886.
R. S. Swift is again Superannuated.

 1887 p 72 --- Memphis Conference held at Brownsville, Tenn., November 16-21, 1887.
P 73 --- R. S. Swift is on the Superannuated list.

1888 p 73 --- Memphis Conference held in Paris, Tenn.. November 7-12, 1888.
R. S. Swift is still on the Superannuated list.

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