Thursday, Feb 02, 2023


Brothers Frank, Herb, and Bob Swim

The vagaries of fate punctuate the story of how the Swim family came to Arbon Valley. Frank Swim’s cousin, John W. Butler (“J.W.”) was a conductor on a street car in Spokane, Washington when he heard two men discussing land that had only recently opened for homesteading in Idaho. This might have been a streetcar named Desire, as J.W. certainly had a desire for the freedom land can bring. J.W. talked to the two men about the land and met them again that evening to talk some more. Not long afterwards, he and Frank boarded a train for American Falls, Idaho. There they rented a wagon and team of horses and purchased ropes, axes, and shovels to help them on their new endeavor.

Both young men were originally from hardy Kansas stock, so they were not afraid of hard work and were well acquainted with what their parents had gone through settling the new lands of Kansas after the Civil War. They had both also farmed for an uncle in the beautiful Palouse country of eastern Washington. When they saw Arbon Valley, they liked what they saw and they each staked out 160 acres up Rattlesnake Creek drainage, north of the Pauline area.

They started right in building a cabin with the tools they had had the foresight to bring with them, and within three days had a one-room log cabin built and a well dug. They went back to Pocatello and sent a wire to J.W.’s wife Ida telling her to come quickly, as they needed a cook!

There is a funny family story about J.W. and Ida’s courtship. Their families lived near each other in Lyon County, Kansas. They courted for over five years. When J.W. finally asked Ida’s father for Ida’s hand in marriage, he agreed but only if J.W. promised not to take her to Oklahoma. This promise was solemnly kept – but he took Ida to Washington State and then to Idaho instead.

They worked hard all winter grubbing sagebrush and writing letters to family members lauding the new land. They also build a cabin for Frank on his own 160 acres. Frank went for a visit back to Kansas and returned with a new wife, Hazel Cora Deharsh, who was a dear friend of J.W.’s wife Ida. All those letters must have been pretty convincing, because soon J.W.’s wife’s brother, Maurice Johnson, came to take up homesteading, as did all three of J.W.’s brothers and his parents, and two of J.W.’s cousins with their husbands. Two of Frank’s youngest brothers, Herb and Robert (“Bob”) also came to take up homesteading. It was a family affair!

Frank was a good son to his mother. He told some neighbors that in all the time he’d been away from home, for over forty years there had never been one week when he didn’t write a letter to his mother back in Kansas. It would be wonderful to have those letters now!

In 1918, Frank sold his holdings to his brother Bob. Eventually all the Butlers and Swims sold out and left the valley except the Bob Swim family. Bob’s son Sherman Hale Swim was to become one of the biggest cattlemen in Idaho; he passed away at age eighty-seven in a ranching accident in January 2011 in California, where he spent the winters. Sherm’s children are the last of the Swims living in Arbon Valley. Sherm’s son Kirk continues to live on the original homestead.

And all because of a conversation overheard on a street car!


Call, Laurie Jean, Bannock Valley (Providence, Utah: Keith Watkins and Sons, 1982). (Frank Swim) (Frank Swim)

The links provided here will lead to information on other family members.