The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

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country upon the science of Constitutional law, moral science, or political economy.*

        * These were the subjects of which he was Professor in the University, and upon which he delivered lectures.

        His ancestors were English. His father, George Swain, was a native of Roxboro, Massachusetts, (born 1763.) He came South and settled in Georgia. He was a man of mark and influence. He was a member of the convention that revised the Constitution of Georgia, and served in the Legislature for five years. His health failing, he moved to the health-giving climate of Buncombe, and was many years postmaster at Asheville. He married Mrs. Caroline Lowry, widow of Captain Lowry, (who had been killed by the Indians,) and the daughter of Jesse Lane, of Wake County, who was the grandfather of General Joseph Lane, of Oregon, and Governor Swain; by her Mr. Swain had seven children, all now dead.

        Governor Swain was born, as stated, in 1801, at Asheville. His early education was conducted by Rev. George Newton and Rev. E. M. Porter. He often referred in gratitude to their patient labors, and they were proud of their diligent pupil. His father was ambitious for him. He taught his son early to choose only good society, and to aim at excellence in whatever pursuit he followed. After his early education was completed he came (in 1821) to Raleigh, where he entered the law office of Hon. John Louis Taylor, and was admitted to the bar in 1823.

        On the 12th of January following, he married Eleanor White, daughter of William White, late Secretary of State, and the grand-daughter of Governor Caswell. He then returned to his mountain home, and commenced the practice of law with great success.

        In 1824-'25-'26-'28 and '29 he was a member of the Legislature from Buncombe County. During this period (1827) he was elected Solicitor of the Edenton District, and rode this circuit only once, when he resigned. IN 1830 he was a member of the Board of Internal Improvements, and was active in promoting the best interests of the State. In the winter of this year he was elected Judge of the Superior Court of Law and Equity.

        In December, 1835, he was called to the presidency of the University. Here was his proper element, and here he spent the best years of his life, (till 1868.)

        "Never," says his able biographer, Governor Vance, "did a Grecian philosopher gather around him his disciples with more pride and delight than did Governor Swain. In the midst of his three or four hundred 'boys' who annually surrounded him at Chapel Hill, he was entirely at home and happy, and such society was the charm of his life. His knowledge was encyclopedic in its range, especially in English literature. So overwhelming were his stores, that the writer remembers with grateful pleasure, when forgetting altogether the subject on hand he would stand up in front of his class, and in an outgush of eloquence, poetry, history, anecdote and humor, wrap us all as with enchantment. His most remarkable trait of mind was his powerful memory, and the direction in which that faculty was notably exercised, was in biography and genealogy. In this particular he had no superior in America. A youth coming to college needed no letter of introduction. Not only was it so in his own State, but from the most distant Southern and Southwestern States it was the same. Knowing all the principal families of the Southern Atlantic States, he took note of their migrations westward; and when their sons returned East for education he would generally tell them more of their family history than they knew before.

        "Amazed at his display of this genealogical history," Governor Vance continues, he once asked him, "Don't you, Governor, know when
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