03 December 2008

grandpa Swihart

My grandpa (right) and his brother on Grandpa Swihart's front porch steps, showcasing some of his masonry work

Of all my ancestors, Grandpa Swihart (2x great) is probably one of the most storied. Though born into the peace-loving Brethren Church, he had a mean streak a mile wide......purportedly even running his pitchfork through a fellow for damming up a creek that ran through both their farms. Having known his daughter, my great grandmother, I can picture this. We kids were deathly afraid of her, making quite a detour to avoid her home while she lived in a trailer between our house and my grandparents. We called her "granner grump".

Grandpa Swihart was an accomplished stone mason, having done a fair amount of work between the Argos and Culver area in Marshall County, Indiana. He is pictured at the left with one of his main hammers. His work can still be seen and is most identifiable for a mortar technique he used called "roping". This was accomplished with a tool forming up the mortar rather than pressing or striking it between stones. He worked during the WPA era, and no doubt offered as much angst to the men as he did instruction.

When my great grandmother moved from her home to the trailer on my grandpa's farm, my grandfather brought two stone drive markers that Grandpa Swihart built, home with him (pictured at right). They were placed at our truckstop to warn truckdrivers of a shallow culvert opening. When we sold the family business, I took them to my folks' place.....and plan to ultimately bring them to our home. Can you say hernia?

Stone masonry is an artform all to itself. And while some may think I inherited his mean streak, I'm hoping that it's his craftsmanship.....because I plan to repoint the mortar in our stone foundation this spring! We shall see.

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