Ellis Albert “Al” Swearingen


Ellis Albert “Al” Swearingen

Oskaloosa, Mahaska County, Iowa, USA
Death 15 Nov 1904 (aged 59)
Denver, Denver County, Colorado, USA
Burial Leighton, Mahaska County, Iowa, USA
Memorial ID 21679122 View Source

Frontier businessman, entrepreneur, and pimp.

Twin brother of Lemuel A. Swearingen, "Al" was born to Daniel J. and Keziah (Montgomery) Swearingen of Oskaloosa, Iowa.

Al Swearingen was a businessman, pimp, and entertainment entrepreneur in Deadwood, South Dakota. He arrived in Deadwood in May 1876 with his wife, Nettie. Nettie later divorced him on grounds of spousal abuse, and Swearingen would marry two more times, both marriages ending as the first.

He first built a very small saloon called the Cricket Saloon, which featured miners engaged in what were advertised as "prize fights", although no prizes were actually awarded.

Within a year, Swearingen had accumulated enough money to build the much larger and more opulent Gem Variety Theater, which opened on April 7, 1877, and featured traditional prize fights, stage shows, and prostitution. Swearingen owned and operated the Gem Variety Theater for 22 years.

After the Gem burned--along with much of Deadwood--on September 26, 1879, Swearingen rebuilt it larger and more opulent than ever, to great public acclaim. His talent for alliances and financial payoffs kept him insulated from the general drive to clean up the town.

The Gem burned again in 1899 and he left Deadwood to visit family in Iowa. That same year, Swearingen married Odelia Turgeon.

According to his obituary, Swearingen was found dead near his home, in the middle of a suburban Denver street near a streetcar track. The cause of death was a massive head wound caused by blunt force trauma, but whether it was an accident or murder was not determined by Denver city police. It was not caused while hopping a freight train, which is often mistakenly attributed, nor was he penniless.

His twin brother Lemuel was attacked in his home early on October 2, 1904, after leaving his meat market with $200 in his pocket. He was shot five times and survived, but was not robbed. Al left Iowa about this same time. Some modern historians believe that Lemuel's attack was a case of mistaken identity and that Al was the actual target. If correct, they believe that Al's death was homicide. Lemuel was found unconscious on July 5, 1910 outside of his meat market. Doctors at first believed he had suffered a stroke, but later determined he had been beaten on the head with a large object. Lemuel died without regaining consciousness eight days later.ALTERNATE INFO HAS::
That photo is definitely not Al Swearingen. It’s well-documented as Solomon Star, another Deadwood pioneer.
1860 Oskaloosa CO IA
D J Swearingen M 42 Kentucky
Keziah Swearingen F 42 Ohio
Lemuel A Swearingen M 14 Iowa
*Ellis A Swearingen M 14 Iowa
Winfield S Swearingen M 12 Iowa
Sarah J Swearingen F 10 Iowa
Theo L Swearingen M 9 Iowa
Eldora Swearingen F 4 Iowa

Daniel and Keziah Swearingen were both eighteen years old when they married in Illinois and became parents by the age of twenty. By age twenty-five they had become pioneers, and moved west hoping to find a better way of life.The family outgrew the one-room, rustic cabin first built when settling inOskaloosa, and ended up building a farm a mile and a half west of town in the"Six Mile Prairie" district. The homestead was where the twin boys were born onthat hot, sultry July day

Wednesday November 15, 1904 Ellis Albert Swearingen was killed

Aged 59 years
Twin brother of Lemuel. Son of Daniel & Keziah

He was found lying between a couple of tracks in a suburb of Denver and a wound was found on his head, showing that he had been struck heavily by some large object. The deceased was working in some mining interests near Denver and he was accustomed to go to and from the city on the motorcars that run near his place. It was supposed that hewas attempting to board a moving car and was struck on the head by some part of the car. The body was thrown to the side of the car where it was found some time after death by some track workers going to their work. The hat of the man was found seventy feet from where the body lay.

The man might have fallen from the car as it was moving swiftly and have sustained the same injuries. In addition to the cut on the forehead there were numerous scratches on the side of his face.

In the end he did finally go home to Oskaloosa and was buried next to his mother and father. He was fifty-nine years old.


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