Swain Family Gallery

Swain Family

Contributed by Sue Maxwell

The Swain family of New York City and Tannersville



Shubael Edgar Swain was born in New York City on March 23, 1823. His father, Shubael Swain (1777-1849), came into the city, in 1803, from Massachusetts; he most likely came from the area of Nantucket, where there were many Quakers and men involved in shipping. Shubael was a ship captain, and possibly a lawyer before that. His wife's name was Sarah Turner.


According to old census records, they had two boys and three girls; the only known names are Shubael Edgar (Catherine "Kate" Nagle), Sarah (Isaac Leggett), and Valentine (Lucinda Drake), who moved to Ohio. All three of these siblings were married and had children.


Shubael Edgar apprenticed as a lawyer, and became partners with Benjamin M. Stilwell, developing the first and most highly respected law firm in the city. He was described as a conservative, friendly, social and likeable man, who had many friends. His partner, Benjamin, had one of the 20 most important libraries in the country, consisting of over 8000 rare books and manuscripts, and a great interest in history and geography. They were both men of integrity and well known in the city as being conservative lawyers.


Around 1850, Shubael married Catherine Nagle, an Irish woman, and moved to Jersey City, New Jersey to live, still practicing law in the city. It is not yet known who her parents were. They had two children, Katie ( b. Jan. 1, 1852) and Edgar ( b. Feb. 18, 1855). Katie married William B. VanVorst on May 31, 1871, of the famous pioneer, wealthy VanVorst family of New Jersey. In May of 1872 . Katie gave birth to a young baby girl named Catarina, soon developed TB, and died on January 1,1872; several months later, on Jan. 1, 1872, baby Catarina also died of unrecorded causes. Katie was a tender hearted young woman with long curly hair. After mourning his loss, William moved to Delaware where he remarried and had one daughter.


 In 1866, from his widowed sister, Sarah, Shubael Edgar purchased a large piece of property in Hunter/Tannersville, New York, for one dollar. It is not known how the property was used by the Leggetts, but Shubael Edgar's family probably went there in the summers. During the winter he hired people to care for the property, who may have stayed there all year long, as there were two houses on the property, as well as a barn for cars, a barn for hay, chicken coops, and other necessary buildings. The property included crop land and woods. His summers were probably partly spent on his farm, when not employed in business, and being a man or many interests,  he would have enjoyed it. His property consisted of the south and east part of No. 8, in the Great Lot No 25 of the Hardenburgh Patent, containing 85 acres, and originally owned by Elias D. Hunter and John B. Lindsey, and the west half of Lot 23 in the Great Lot 24, lot number 9 in the Great Lot No 25, containing 65 acres, first owned by Wm W. Edwards and his wife Sarah S. Tappon. It included a stream, woods, buildings, and open land.


Shubael led a full life, filled with many interesting experiences and friends. Tragedy struck in June of 1882, when on the 5th, after surgery for cancer of the tongue, he died of an infection related to the surgery, leaving  his estate to his wife, and leaving his lawyer son Edgar, as inheritor of the property. . The present caretaker of the property, Lucy A. Craig, was allowed, by his will, to live there until her death. Her name can be found on old maps. The houses had two different names: Maple Cottage in 1867, and Elm Cottage in 1879.  


Edgar first married a woman named Delilah Lattin Shorb, an artist; but the marriage was not successful, and he later married a widow named Evangeline Scherrer Edkhardt, daughter of Peter Scheerer of Hesse Darmstadt, Germany, and mother of Edward Louis Eckhardt, whom Edgar adopted. Edgar and Evangeline were the parents of one child, together, named Eva. Eva, at a young age, because of an interest in dance, was trained by Malvinna Cavalazzi, a famous premiere danseuse from Italy, to become the first American girl to be the premiere danseuse at the Metropolitan Opera House. The entire family and their relatives spent much time in Tannersville, at the farm. There are many photos of their lives there, taken by young Eva and her brother Edward. They enjoyed it so much, that later, her two twin sons actually thought they lived there permanently, as they talked about the farm so much. Edgar, a millionaire, had more free time than his parents, and many photos, taken by young Eva, exist of the times they spent there. Edgar is even listed in the 1896 and 1901 Tannersville city directories, as a farmer.


Tax assessments from 1906 and 1907 show that Edgar was taxed not only for his property but for his dogs; the assessments ran between $5.34 for a 25 acre piece, 14.70 for 50 acres, and 23.76 for 75 acres. He owned farm property, planting acreage, and woods, as well as the proverbial wood lot and Vossmeer Park.


According the news articles of the time, in 1911, Edgar was the Mayor of Tannersville. Due to burned records, it has been difficult to find out more about this part of his life. It is possible that he may have helped with the construction of the sewage system in Tannersville, because of his many connections in New York City. Edgar probably gave up law practice after his father's partner died, and became involved in real estate transactions, and several businesses; he was an entrepreneur at heart. Edgar, also, was a well liked and sociable man, looked like Howard Taft, and during the time Taft ran for President of the United States, Edgar was often mistaken for him by country folk in the area around Tannersville when he drove around in his car.


In 1911, Eva and other members of the Met put on a wonderful show consisting of ballet and music as a benefit for the Jacob Fromer Hose Company. The quality of their performances was great, and due to its popularity, it was repeated a second time. Most of the performers were from the Metropolitan Opera House, where Eva was being trained.


During the summer, Madame Cavalazzi, who had been hired by the Met to start the first school to train American ballerinas, came to Tannersville in the summers to continue young Eva's training. A special platform was built to allow Eva to practice. She was a hard worker and determined to make her goal.  Eva made her debut at age 15, in the opera Les Hugenots. She danced in many operas for two seasons and then danced in public for benefits and in various types of performances, and not long after that married, first, Raymond Treadwell Fish, and then Carl August Vollmer. Eva also established two of her own ballet classes in Long Island and in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, where she also did the choreography for the Connecticut Playmakers.


At the beginning of WW2, Edgar, Evangeline, and Edward moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, selling their properties to Louis B. Allen and his uncle, Flavius Dibble. The property had been changed somewhat, by that time, from his father's original purchase.  


When visiting Tannersville, several years ago, I had the providential experience of meeting Boyd Allen, who turned out to be the son of Louis Allen. He described and showed me the property, telling me all about his life growing up there. The only building that remains, today, is the main house which has been changed into O'Neill's Bar and Grill and is totally unrecognizable as being the original house. The open property, across the street, has been turned into a golf course, and the woods remain. At the end of the dirt path, splitting these two sections of the property, is the sewage plant, where one may obtain a copy of the land from the time when it was owned by the Allens. The property ended at that place.


Edgar became involved in various ventures in Tulsa, but came back to NYC for surgery, spending ten days with his now married daughter, Eva. He died March 24, 1930, of complications related to prostate surgery. From his letters to his daughter, one sees a kind, supportive, positive and gentle personality. As a Mayor, in Tannersville, he would have been well loved.


According to an article written by Justine Hommell in the Hemlock, a bootlegging operation was run in the barn in the roaring 20's. We don't know much about that!


Sue Maxwell, granddaughter of Eva Swain Vollmer


1.    Capt. Shubael Swain
2.    Valentine Swain, son of Capt. Shubael Swain
3.    Lucinda Drake, w/o Valentine Swain
4.    Shubael Edgar Swain, son of Capt. Shubael Swain
5.    Kate, wife of Shubael Swain
5.    Rosalina D. Bates, wife of Reuben D. Swain, son of Valentine Swain


1.    Ethel Maude Swain , about 12 years old, daughter of Reuben and Rosalina Swain
2.    Eveline, daughter of Isaac Leggett and Sarah Swain
3.    Kate, daughter of Shubael and Kate Swain
4.    Edgar, son of Shubael and Kate Swain


Edgar Swain, son of  Shubael Edgar and Catharine Nagle and grandson of Capt. Shubael Swain.



Evangeline Scherrer Edkhardt, widow of Emil Eckardt with son Edward Louis Edkardt in far left picture; Edgar Swain adopted Edward.
Two other photos of Evangeline.

Edgar and Evangeline Swain, with Edward, whom Edgar adopted and Eva, and two male friends on the right
in the front yard of the Tannersville house.



Edward with his bicycle in front of the house in Tannersville.

Dated August 24, 1912 - a group photo in front of the Haines Falls Post Office. Sitting on top of the Post Office is Frank Hart, a friend of Edward's.

Dated August 17, 1912 - a group photo in front of the Haines Falls Post office.

Motoring around the Mountaintop.


1.    Eva Swain, a premiere danseuse, in oriental costume
2.    Eva in Dance of Flowers, performed in Tannersville in 1911
3.    Eva in Aida
4.    Eva's debut photo
5.    Eva and her mother Evangeline
6.    Eva, as she would have appeared in the Tannersville production
7.    Eva in the tree in the front yard of the house at Tannersville


The Program and Poster for the benefit at the Haines Falls Hose Company 1911
Article from the newspaper about the show.

Eva and a friend on the farm in Tannersville

Mother (Evangeline) Grandma (Kate Nagle), Eva and May in Tannersville

Eva and a friend in Tannersville.


1.    Eva Swain in the swing and Elizabeth Martin below.
2.    Elizabeth Martin (older girl) and A. Bailey, friends of Eva's in Tannersville. Anyone recognize them?

In front of the Catskill Mountain House.


At Boulder Rock

A stone arch bridge in the Tannersville area.

Touring around the area.

Eva's 13th birthday party in Tannersville with family and friends


1.    The Main house in Tannersville - early 1900's.
2.    Madam (Malvinna Cavalazzi), Grandma (Kate Nagle), May and Mother (Evangeline) in the potato fields in Tannersville.
3.    Grandma (Kate Nagle), May, Mother (Evangeline), Madam (Malvinna Cavalazzi) and Papa (Edgar Swain) on the front porch in Tannersville.
4.    Tot sitting on the stone wall in front of the house in Tannersville. Tot was the daughter of May Scheerer Kottmeier, sister of Evangeline.


The Main house in Tannersville in 2008.
The old potato field is now a golf course and woods.

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