Silas C. Swallow

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Silas C. Swallow
Silas C Swallow 1904.jpg
Silas C. Swallow c. 1904
Born Silas Comfort Swallow
5 March 1839
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Died 13 August 1930
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Resting place Paxtang Cemetery
Other names the "Fighting Parson."
Occupation minister
Spouse(s) Rebecca Swallow
Parent(s) George and Sarah Swallow

Silas Comfort Swallow (March 5, 1839–August 13, 1930) was a United States Methodist preacher and prohibitionist politician who was a lifelong opponent of slavery.


He was presumably named after Methodist preacher Silas Comfort (1803–1868), a courageous anti-slavery member of the Genesee, Oneida and Missouri Conferences. While serving in St. Louis, Missouri, Comfort admitted as evidence in a church trial the testimony of a Negro, a practice which was forbidden in public trials in Missouri at the time. He was censured by his Conference, but that censure was overturned by the 1840 General Conference. The General Conference then bowed to Southern pressure and passed a resolution prohibiting the testimony of Negroes in church trials within states that forbade such testimony in public trials. That resolution was rescinded in 1844.

Silas Comfort Swallow

Early activities[edit]

Silas Comfort Swallow was born of staunch Methodist parents. His father George was a trustee of Wyoming Seminary. Before entering the ministry, Silas was employed as a school teacher and later studied law. He served as a lieutenant during the American Civil War.

He entered the Baltimore Conference in 1863 and became a charter member of the Central Pennsylvania Conference upon its organization in 1869. He was reportedly an eloquent and forceful preacher and revivalist. He was eminently successful as a church builder, presiding elder, and editor of The Central Pennsylvania Methodist. In the latter position Swallow vigorously attacked alcohol, spiritual indifference, and corruption in state government. His enemies led a campaign to have him prosecuted and convicted of slander, which verdict was later reversed by the State Superior Court.

Swallow died at his home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1930. He is interred at Paxtang Cemetery near Harrisburg.

Church service[edit]

Dr. Swallow’s official conference service record lists the following appointments:

  • 1863-1864 Milton circuit.
  • 1864-1866 Berwick.
  • 1866-1868 Catawissa.
  • 1868-1871 Newberry.
  • 1871-1873 Williamsport Third Street.
  • 1873-1875 Milton.
  • 1875-1877 Altoona Eighth Avenue.
  • 1877-1881 presiding elder, Altoona District.
  • 1881-1884 York First.
  • 1884-1886 Williamsport Grace.
  • 1886-1887 agent, Dickinson College.
  • 1887-1892 Harrisburg Ridge Avenue.
  • 1892-1902 superintendent, Harrisburg Methodist book room.
  • 1902-1908 no appointment, by request.
  • 1908-1930 retired.

Political career[edit]

He was the Prohibition Party’s candidate for Mayor of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, state legislature, State Treasurer, Governor of Pennsylvania.

He was also Party candidate for the position of President of the United States in the 1904 election, running with George Washington Carroll. Although both men on the 1904 Prohibition ticket were well known in the anti-alcohol community, the campaign of President Theodore Roosevelt, allowed little news of the Swallow-Carroll ticket to get out, and the ticket only received 258,000+ votes, a slight increase from the party's 1900 take. The election was won by Incumbent President Roosevelt of the Republican Party.

Swallow was also surpassed by two other unsuccessful presidential candidates:


Being an editor, Swallow made certain that his life story was recorded for posterity. Upon reaching his 70th birthday in 1909, he published a 482-page hardback autobiography:III Score and X – Selections, Collections, Recollections of Seventy Busy Years.

This proved to be so successful that he came out with periodic updates as follows:

  • Toasts and Roasts of III Score and X, 1911.
  • Then and Now – Some Reminiscences of an Octogenarian, 1919.
  • IV Score and More, 1922.

Other writings[edit]

Other booklets and pamphlets by Swallow, all of which are preserved in the archives of the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, range in date and content from his 1879 Camp Meetings and the Sabbath to his 1917 A Sermon on Thanksgiving and Thanksliving.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]