Swante M. Swenson

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Swante M. Swenson (February 24, 1816 – June 13, 1896) was the founder of the SMS Ranches in West Texas. It was through his efforts that Swedish immigration to Texas was begun in 1848.[1]


Svante Magnus Svenson was born at Alarp, Barkeryds Parish, Jönköping, Sweden. He migrated to America in 1836, where he worked in New York City before traveling to [Baltimore, MD[2]]] and then to Galveston. In 1850 Swenson moved to Austin and established a mercantile business with his uncle Swante Palm. While running the business, Swenson continued to buy Texas Railroad Certificates and to acquire land. Swenson arranged passage for Swedish families principally from Smaland, who in turn worked for Swenson to pay off the price of the ticket. Most of the early immigrants also bought land from Swenson.[3]

Swenson began shipments of the Texas pecan to the North and East; and in 1850 established himself in the general merchandise and banking business at Austin. In Austin, Swenson also served two terms (in 1852 and 1856) as a Travis County commissioner and in 1853 became the first treasurer of the State Agricultural Society.

In 1854 he invested in the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway, which gained him acres of land in northwestern and western Texas. Swenson's greatest interest lay in the accumulation of land. He traded many of the manifold supplies carried by his large frontier trading post for Texas railroad land certificates. Under the privilege then accorded to holders and owners of such certificates to file on any untaken state land, Swenson in 1854 began acquiring acreage of unclaimed properties in Northwest Texas. By 1860 he owned over 128,000 acres around Austin, in addition to his West Texas holdings, which had increased to nearly 500,000 acres.[4]

SMS Ranches eventually became one of the largest landowners in Texas. Swenson leased his ranch holdings to his sons, who operated the ranches under the name of Swenson Brothers Cattle Company from headquarters in Stamford, Texas.[5][6]

Swenson established the banking house of S. M. Swenson and Sons in New York City. Though he lived in New York, he maintained his ties to Texas, operating a clearinghouse for Texas products, continuing his work as a cotton agent, and regularly visiting his extensive land holdings. Swenson died in Brooklyn, New York, and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery (Bronx, New York).[7]


Primary sources[edit]

  • Clarke, Mary Whatley The Swenson Saga and the SMS Ranches (Austin: Jenkins, 1976)
  • Swenson, Gail S. M. Swenson and the Development of the SMS Ranches (University of Texas, 1960)
  • Anderson, August Hyphenated, or The Life Story of S. M. Swenson (Austin: Steck, 1916)
  • Hastings, Frank S. The Story of the S.M.S. Ranch (Swenson Bros. Stamford, Texas. 1917)

External links[edit]