John Swisegood, Furniture Maker
I had at first started researching my husband's 4th g-grandfather, Robert Taylor, to see if I could locate pictures of furniture or buildings he had built. He was a famous builder in Tennessee in the late 1700's - 1800's. To my surprise I instead found furniture that was built by John Swisegood (same time frame), who was the nephew of another 5th g-grandfather of my husband, John Adam Swicegood. Robert Taylor and Adam Swicegood were not related to each other.
When I first saw the name Swisegood, I was a little surprised, Swisegood is not a common name so there had to be a connection somewhere. The article stated the same information I had, it even stated that John was Adam's nephew. I looked for one furniture maker and found another!
John Franklin Swisegood was born April 23, 1796 in Tyro, Davidson County, North Carolina. He married Elizabeth "Betsey" Delap on December 16, 1818 in Rowan County, North Carolina. John died on May 16, 1874 in Schuyler County, Illinois.
The following is an abstract from the website of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, URL: http://mesda.org
John Swisegood (1796-1874), who apprenticed with cabinetmaker Mordecai Collins (1785-1864). When Collins emigrated from North Carolina and moved west in 1816, he left behind John Swisegood, his then twenty-year-old apprentice, to continue creating neoclassically inspired furniture for the rural residents of northern Davidson County, North Carolina. Swisegood had grown up about fifteen miles southwest of the Bethany Church area, on Potts Creek, near Sandy Creek Lutheran Church (now called St. Luke’s), one of Rev. Paul Henkel’s congregations. John’s uncle Adam Swisegood was a founding member of the church and was acquainted with Rev. Henkel. John’s father Phillip Swisegood, a stonemason, died before 1800, and his mother Eva Helmstettler Swisegood was left with seven young children to care for. As a result, in 1804 John was put under the guardianship of his uncle Christian Helmstettler. Eva remarried John Lewy, but he died in 1807, leaving John’s mother still in a precarious financial situation.
Thus, in 1810 when John was fourteen, he was sent to the Brushy Fork of Abbotts Creek and was apprenticed to Mordecai Collins “to learn the Cabinet and Joiner’s trade.” Swisegood was an apt pupil, and after Collins left North Carolina in 1816, twenty-year-old John continued creating superb neoclassical pieces. The earliest signed and dated example by Swisegood is an 1817 desk that combines all the best of the Swisegood school vocabulary. In December of 1818 John married Elizabeth “Betsy” Delap, whose father John Delap had witnessed Mordecai Collins’s deed to the only piece of property he ever purchased in Davidson County. Ten years after he himself had been apprenticed to Collins, Swisegood officially took his own apprentice to the “cabinetmaker’s trade,” Jonathan Long, on August 18, 1820. Long must have been performing basic shop duties earlier than that because another desk signed by Swisegood and dated March 26, 1820, has Jonathan’s name scrawled on a backboard in red pencil.
During the next twenty-five years, John Swisegood appears to have been a good public citizen and neighbor, acting as a witness to wills, deeds, and bills of sale; serving as a juror; administering a neighbor’s estate; overseeing the maintenance of a road; and overseeing a company acting as a patrol. This last responsibility appears to have earned him the appellation of “Capt. John Swisegood” by 1836. Also during this period he was accumulating property along the Brushy Fork of Abbotts Creek. His father-in-law, John Delap, died in 1839, and John Swisegood and Betsy Delap Swisegood were bequeathed $100. John Swisegood made many pieces of furniture before he left Davidson County in 1846, all neatly constructed from the simple to fanciful.
Once he migrated to Schuyler County, Illinois, however, he appears to have become a successful full-time farmer. He is identified in the 1850 Schuyler County census as a farmer whose real estate was valued at $4000, and in 1860 as a farmer with both a real and personal estate valued at $3700. John Swisegood died on May 16, 1874, and was buried at Round Prairie Cemetery, Birmingham Township, Schuyler County, Illinois. Other objects in the MESDA Collection that are part of the Swisegood School of cabinetmaking include a corner cupboard (Acc. 3576) and a chest of drawers (Acc. 5887).
For more details on each piece and others the Museum has please click on the following two links:
China Press, Side cupboard Accession #2127
Piedmont North Carolina’s Swisegood School of Cabinetmaking: Expanding the Narrative, 1770–1858 - Scroll down to the read about John Swisegood. URL:
11/1/2018 02:51:01 pm
Thanks for the article! John is one of my great great great grandfathers. One of his grand daughters married my G Grandfather Wiggins. I grew up in Schuyler County - some twenty miles from his residence in his later years. Btw just last week I visited his and others gravesites. It's pretty country - not that different from the geography in Davidson county NC. I was in that area just 6 months ago. Thank you again!
8/30/2021 12:17:02 pm
Hello cousin. It looks like your great grandmother Harriet Wiggins was a sister to my great grandfather Nelson Swisegood.
10/30/2019 12:42:35 am
I am so lucky to have the best blogs on furniture making designs. Many times I have used all the best stories and furniture making designs.
9/10/2020 08:07:29 pm
My father was born in Davie County NC then the family moved to the Linwood area of Davidson County near the Churchland commutniy
Tracie (Swicegood) Wright
3/14/2021 03:23:11 pm
Thank you for sharing this article. I don’t know if I’m related to these Swisegoods or not but it is interesting to read nonetheless. I would say with a name like Swicegood even with different spellings there is probably some relation somewhere down the line.
3/19/2021 10:32:32 am
Hi Tracie! I'm glad you found the article! If you find a connection please let us know!
Cynthia Swisegood Howes
8/29/2021 11:52:10 am
Yes, Tracie. John Swisegood, from what I can tell, is the first to have used the spelling with the "s" instead of the "c". I am a great, great, great granddaughter of John Swisegood, through his son John Franklin Swisegood, his son Nelson, his son Newell Dale, and my father Robert. My dad is buried in the same cemetery.
8/29/2021 12:24:48 pm
Here is the link to the first Schweisguth/Swicegood/Swisegood in America that I have been able to trace to: https://www.seibelfamily.net/swicegood-lorantz.html
8/29/2021 01:37:32 pm
John Franklin Swisegood, Sr. (son of Phillip Schweissguth AKA Schweißguth; of Laurentius Schweißguth; of Johannes Schweißguth; of Johann Schweißguth; Johann Schweißguth; of Veith Schweißguth; and of Gerald Schweißguth).
8/29/2021 01:45:08 pm
Thanks for the info, I will check it out and hopefully others will see your post and will benefit from the info as well
Ula R Wooten
9/21/2022 11:09:33 pm
Charles E. Swisegood was my uncle. I have a rocking chair handed down from many generations that I've been told was from this time. I'm embarrassed to say is not in very good shape, but is still in one piece. Charles' father George, and my entire Swisegood side, is from McDonough County Illinois.
9/15/2021 04:09:58 pm
Hi, all cousins. My husband is related to John Swisegood through marriage to Betsy DeLapp. Her father, John DeLapp is my husband's 9th generation grandfather, making Betsy an 8th generation aunt.
9/15/2021 05:55:45 pm
Hi Michelle, that is so exciting to know his pieces are still owned today by family. Would there be a chance you would share pictures with us?? If so, you can email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks for posting!
11/1/2022 08:03:47 am
He is part of of my family tree I believe he was my great grandmother Edna Swicegood uncle. I will have to double check but also there is another person in the swicegood or schweisguth family he was a woodsmen of the world and his tombstone is a stump carved out for him buried in Bessemer outside Birmingham Al as well
11/13/2022 03:14:18 pm
Hi Sky, I apologize for the delay in answering your post..I've been out of pocket for a wihlle. The tombstone sounds as though it is a beautiful artistic monument for him. I would love to see a picture if you have one, if not that's ok.
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My name is Vicky, and after researching my family history since 1999, I have found amazing stories that need to be told. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!