My father’s Aunt Ruth gave him a copy of a Swier family history, which he copied for me. Inside was a tribute in honor of the 50th wedding anniversary of Dirk Swier and Aaltje Zwier Swier, my great-great-grandparents and the first of my father’s family to come to America, written by my great-grandfather (and their son) Walter Swier. If you have visited here before, you may recall that Walter Swier and Laura Helen Schmidt Swier adopted my grandfather when his own mother was unable to care for him, most likely saving his life in so doing. Here is the text of Walter Swier’s tribute. I believe it may originally have been written in poetic form due to the rhyme apparent throughout, but the version I have is laid out as prose.
Dedicated to a Mother and Father whose dauntless courage, cheerful sacrifice, whose devotion to family and unwavering faith in God have proven and inspiration to their family and worth of emulation in the succeeding generations.
“All flesh is grass.” Man reckons time in years, in days and months, while in this vale of tears, at morn we flourish, then the heat of the day, with evening comes the sickle and we pass away. Parted the silver cord, the golden bowl is broken. Life’s little day is done, and the last good-bye is spoken.
Place: The Netherlands; Fifty years ago today. In eighteen-seventy-nine upon the first of May. A lass of twenty summers and a lad of twenty-three, in costumes quaint, before the dominie plighted their troth and promised to be true, as long as water flowed and the skies were azure blue. For better or for worse they pledged their hand and heart, for weal or woe, sunshine or cloud, until death do us part. Then trudged their homeward way. The classic wooden shoe beat its staccato cadence on the curbstones too.
Undaunted, hopeful youth, the future held for thee. High hopes, new hopes, bright visions, new responsibility. No fear of dark clouds in yon distant sky, no thought of adverse winds to bring the shadows by. Then one by one soon fourteen years passed by, came with the years, six children playing on the floor and in the churchyard underneath the sod, another little one — her spirit flown to God. The grim disease the father’s health did undermine, the only hope, removal to a drier clime. So in the second month of eighteen-ninety-three, they crossed the turbulent and bleak Atlantic sea, landed on Ellis Isle, their goods and family, beneath the lighted torch of the Goddess Liberty.
Westward they wended their way, hoping to leave the shadow of the grim white plague in the land of Colorado. There the father’s health returned, but the family funds departed with fraudulent land sharks, so for Iowa they started. With gratitude to God for regained health and life, two cows, a horse, five dollars, six daughters, and a wife.
To the new home came a son, on May one, ninety-four, a year of financial panic and then three daughters more. Again the pioneer urge to come out father west to the valley of Yakima where nature did its best. Still louder came the call to the western Canaan land, when one of the spies returned displaying in his hand the trophies of his skill; like Salome with her charger, a large Wolf River apple and spud some three times larger. Followed the “Piper” friend of the dulcet agrarian song to the land of the setting sun with a large excursion throng to the western land of promise where sunsets intoxicate, of balmy breezes, milder weather, and springtime never late. Came to a frontier town adolescent and uncouth, teeming with hope and muddy streets and exuberance of youth.
Out in the desert of sage, in a seemingly arid waste, they erected their pioneer home in the quickest possible haste. Down the newly dug canal from receding mountain snows, came a living silver stream and the desert blossomed like a rose. And here to gladden their hearts, in the land of purple sage, came two more stalwart sons, staff in declining age. And so came sunshine and clouds, the bitter with the sweet. As they think of two more silent mounds they left with lingering feet, one of a baby girl whose spirit long since departed, the other in womanhood, with a family heavy-hearted.
So fifty years have passed and they have lived to see their children’s, children’s children romp upon their knee. Passed the allotted span of three score and ten years. Life’s course will soon be finished in this vale of tears. And now to Him to whom a thousand years are but a day and all flesh as the grass, to wither soon away. We pray thee thou wilt grant us at this Jubilee thy sacred presence as at Cana in yon Galilee. Also to drink with thee of thy new Kingdom’s wine, to sit with thee in Glory, living branches of the vine, Courage and faith to follow unto life’s end when thou comest to find us watching, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.