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.
- 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.