Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Swearingen-Bedinger Papers, 1759-1948

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, June 2011

Summary Information
Title: Swearingen-Bedinger papers
Creator: Swearingen family and Bedinger family
Inclusive dates: 1759-1948
Bulk dates: 1770-1795
Extent: 0.25 linear feet
Correspondence, Revolutionary War military documents, land and financial documents, and maps pertaining to several generations of the interconnected Swearingen and Bedinger families of present-day Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

2000. M-4104.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Swearingen-Bedinger Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Swearingen-Bedinger papers are arranged into the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Land, Legal, and Military Documents
  • Series III: Financial Documents
  • Series VI: Printed Materials
  • Series V: Maps
  • Series VI: Genealogy
  • Series VII: Miscellaneous


Bedinger Line

Adam Bedinger (sometimes spelled "Biedinger") was born to a German Protestant family near Strasbourg, France. Around 1736, he moved with his wife and four young sons to Conewago, York County, Pennsylvania, to escape religious persecution. His sons were: Nicholas (b. ca. 1723), Henry (1726-1772), George Michael (b. ca. 1725), and Peter (b. ca. 1727).

Around 1750, Henry Bedinger married Magdalena Slagle, with whom he had four children: Henry, Jr. (1753-1843), Elisabeth, George Michael (1756-1843), and Daniel. The family moved to Shepherdstown (then known as Mecklenburg) in present-day West Virginia. The three brothers of this generation all fought in the American Revolution. Henry, Jr., entered service in Captain Hugh Stevenson's company of riflemen in June 1775 and was captured at the Battle of Fort Washington in November 1776, remaining a prisoner of war for four years. Daniel Bedinger served as a lieutenant with the Virginia Line from 1776 to 1783. George Michael moved to Kentucky in 1779 and fought in the Battle of Chillicothe with the Kentucky militia, and later served during the Siege of Yorktown. He also fought at the rank of major in the Northwest Indian War from 1791 to 1793. He then entered politics and was elected to the Kentucky State House of Representatives (1792), the Kentucky State Senate (1801-1802), and the United States House of Representatives (1803-1807).

In 1784, Henry Bedinger, Jr., married Rachel Strode in Berkeley County, Virginia (now West Virginia), and they had several children including Nancy Bedinger (b. ca. 1785), who married Colonel James Swearingen in 1811.

Swearingen Line

Josiah Swearingen was born in 1744 in Berkeley County, (West) Virginia, the son of Colonel Van Swearingen (1719-1788) and his cousin and wife, Sarah Swearingen (1722-1766). Sarah was the daughter of another Van Swearingen (nicknamed "King") and his wife, Elizabeth Walker. Josiah worked as the surveyor of Berkeley County and married Phoebe Strode in 1777. They had several children, including Colonel James Swearingen, who married Nancy Bedinger in 1811. The children of Josiah and Phoebe Swearingen included Henry Bedinger Swearingen and Sarah Bedinger Swearingen (1819-1886). Josiah Swearingen had several siblings, including a doctor, Hezekiah Swearingen (1747-1817), and Thomas Swearingen.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Swearingen-Bedinger papers contain 44 letters; 41 land, legal, and military documents; 126 financial documents and receipts; 5 printed items; 3 genealogical documents; 2 maps; and 7 miscellaneous document wrappers. The materials span 1759-1941, with the bulk concentrated around 1770-1795.

The Correspondence series spans 1759-1793 and contains letters to and from many members of the Swearingen and Bedinger families. Several of the earliest items are incoming to Van Swearingen (1719-1788) and concern financial matters, including the collection of debts and rents. During the Revolutionary War, many of the letters pertain to war efforts and the military service of several family members their friends. On February 18, 1779, Captain Abraham Shepherd of the Virginia Rifles wrote to Lieutenant Henry Bedinger, Jr., from Camp Middlebrook, New Jersey, attempting to settle accounts between them, describing his efforts to get the imprisoned Bedinger exchanged, and giving news about their friends and families. In a letter written from "Long Island Graves End" shortly thereafter, Bedinger informed his mother, "the prospect of an exchange of Prisoners taking place, appears much nearer and favourable than formerly." In the same letter, he also noted a consequence of his time as prisoner of war: "I am much hardened and Can undergo almost Anything" (March 29, 1779). Another highlight is a letter from the Marquis de Lafayette to Henry Bedinger, Jr., whom Lafayette addressed as the "County Lieutenant of Berkley." In the item, dated June 9, 1781, Lafayette noted, "I am on my way towards the Enemy and request the Riflemen of your County, armed with their own Rifles, and so many of them mounted…as possible may join me with all possible expedition." Days before the beginning of the Siege of Yorktown, a letter from Deputy Quartermaster Thomas Magill to Colonel Van Swearingen of the Berkeley County Militia relayed orders to impress 12 wagons and their gear for the Virginia forces (September 22, 1781).

Many letters in the collection, including several from prominent figures, address financial and land dealings. George Washington's brother, John Augustine Washington, wrote to Thomas Rutherford concerning an estate and the division of lands among living family members (September 14, 1786). Also included is a letter to unknown recipient from Stevens Thomson Mason, apologizing for being unable to find particular legal documents among his late father's papers (August 10, 1792). Other correspondence items shed light on the purchase of grain, spirits, livestock, and other items.

The series also contains several letters that refer to relations between Native Americans and white settlers. On November 9, 1785, Van Swearingen wrote to a friend, conveying news that 14 out of 17 of the "western Indian Nations," had refused to sell their land or agree to a treaty on any terms. He also commented, " the indians make two much of a practiss of murdering & robing of our defenceless fruntiers." In other letters, he discussed skirmishes between settlers and the Shawnee and Wabash (March 17, 1786) and further complained about Native Americans' refusal to give up their lands to the U.S. Congress (December 16, 1787).

The Land, Legal, and Military Documents series contains 41 items spanning 1759-1794. It consists mainly of land indentures pertaining to the Swearingen and Bedinger families and their land holdings in present-day West Virginia. Also included are several legal documents concerning slaves owned by the Swearingen family, and documents relating to the survey of land by Josiah Swearingen. A few items in the series concern the Revolutionary War. These include two oaths of allegiance to the patriot cause taken by Thomas Swearingen (September 1777; November 18, 1777) and a register of recruits enlisted by Capt. Henry Bedinger, Jr. (1782). The latter document gives a physical description of each recruit, as well as their counties and countries of birth, and dates and terms of enlistment. An additional undated oversize item is a list of 150 Revolutionary War soldiers, drafts, and substitutes serving in companies commanded by captains Anderson, Rankins, Sackson, Worthington, Omtross, McIntire, Campbell, and Nobles.

The Financial Documents series contains items spanning 1759-1795. The vast majority of items are receipts recording monetary transactions involving Van Swearingen, Josiah Swearingen, and Hezekiah Swearingen. They include papers related to the disbursement of several Swearingen estates, as well as records of purchases and sales.

The Printed Documents series contains five items: four newspaper clippings related to the family and a typed poem addressed to H.B. Swearingen and postmarked 1941. The poem, which is unattributed, harshly criticizes Franklin D. Roosevelt's actions as president and compares him to the devil.

The Maps series contains two manuscript maps:

  • Map of "St. Clairs battle ground" at St. Clair's Defeat, November 4, 1791, shows various battalions, including the one led by George Michael Bedinger, near present-day Fort Recovery in Ohio. Bedinger himself drew the manuscript map.
  • [Survey of Lands in Pickaway County, Ohio] was drawn ca. 1820 and shows land boundaries in Pickaway County.

The Genealogical Documents series contains three undated documents pertaining to family history, which appear to have been compiled in the 19th century. The materials record birth, marriage, and death dates for members of the Swearingen, Bedinger, Slagle, and Strode families. Also included is a small amount of information on the areas in which various family members lived and the locations of several of their graves.

The Miscellaneous series contains seven wrappers for documents, which could not be positively matched to specific materials.

Subject Terms

    • Berkeley County (W. Va.)
    • Frontier and pioneer life.
    • Indians of North America--Virginia.
    • Kekionga, Battle of, Ohio, 1791.
    • Shawnee Indians.
    • Surveying--West Virginia.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Registers.
    • Andrews, Robert.
    • Bedinger, Henry, 1753-1843.
    • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834.
    • Mason, Stevens Thomson, 1760-1803.
    • Rutherford, Thomas.
    • Slagle, Henry.
    • Stephen, Adam.
    • Swearingen, Samuel.
    • Swearingen, Van, 1719-1788.
    • Washington, John Augustine, 1736-1787.
    • Yates, Charles.
    Genre Terms:
    • Correspondence.
    • Manuscript maps.
    • Military records.
    • Receipts.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Correspondence [series]
     March 25, 1761-March 26, 1793, and  undated
    Box   1  
    Land, Legal, and Military Documents [series]
     July 5, 1759-September 1794, and  undated   

    Several documents are housed in Oversize Manuscripts.

    Box   1  
    Financial Documents [series]
     August 1759-August 12, 1795
    Box   1  
    Printed Materials [series]
    Box   1  
    Maps [series]
     1794-ca. 1820   

    [Survey of Lands in Pickaway County, Ohio], is located in the Map Division.

    Box   1  
    Genealogy [series]
    Box   1  
    Miscellaneous [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    The following map is housed in Map Division: [Survey of Lands In Pickaway County, Ohio]. [ca. 1820]

    A book belonging to Capt. Henry Bedinger, Jr., is housed in Book Division: Kercheval, Samuel, and Joseph Doddridge. A History of the Valley of Virginia. Winchester: S.H. Davis, 1833.