Swift/Bohn/Smith

Just in time for Memorial Day, the Redstone Museum will open a new display honoring the descendants of the Lyons pioneer family of Swift/Bohn/Smith. The permanent display of historical family artifacts will begin in late May, and is courtesy of Phillip and Dolph Swift and their wives Charlene and Cheryl of Estes Park.

On display will be the wedding photos of Sherman Swift (1865-1935) and Anna (Bohn) Swift (1877-1967). The couple were married in 1895, in the just completed Stone Church (now know as the Old Stone Church) on the corner of High Street and Fourth. Sherman was primarily a hard-rock miner, working in the quarries, but also served as the Lyons Town Sheriff around the turn of the century. The couple had five children: Eloise (1906 -1970), George (1908-1970), Herb (1911-1944), Charles (1914-1998, and the father of Phillip and Dolph), and Sheridan (1917-1991).

The four Swift brothers were well known along the Front Range for their extraordinary baseball talents. The quartet formed the nucleus of the Lyons town team in the early-to-mid-1930s. Opposing teams from all over the state would come to Meadow Park (now LaVern Johnson Park) on summer weekends to pit their skills against the local nine. Later, in order to pitch for the Estes Park town team, brothers George and Charles were offered jobs with the National Park Service in Rocky Mountain National Park (The brothers may well have been at the forefront of today's free agent movement!), where George ended up making a career with the NPS. Charles joined the Navy in 1937, and in 1939 he was selected to pitch for the U.S. Fleet All-Stars against the Cuban National team (most of whom were of major league caliber). Charles pitched the entire game, but unfortunately lost 2 to 1 after nine innings.

Also on display at the museum will be the uniforms, medals, decorations, and the wartime diary of Charles P. Swift, beginning on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor! Charles was a radioman on the destroyer U.S.S. Phelps, and was almost continually at sea from Pearl Harbor to the Coral Seas in May of 1942; Midway in June of 1942; and Guadalcanal in August of 1942. After Guadalcanal Charles finally was granted liberty, and returned to the U.S., where he married Roberta Smith (1920-2009) on November 12, 1942.

Charles also saw action at Kwajalein, Truk, Saipan, and the Leyte Gulf from 1943 to 1944 aboard the light carrier U.S.S. Shipley Bay. He was also aboard the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Indianapolis (the Flagship for the 5th Fleet), when it took a hit from a kamikaze. The “Indy” made it back to the States to be refitted and repaired, and Charles, fortunately was assigned shore duty, missing the ill-fated (and secret) voyage of the Indianapolis carrying the atomic bomb to Tinian in the Marianna Islands. The ship was subsequently sunk by a Japanese submarine, after delivering the bomb on their return trip, between Guam and the Philippines with a heavy loss of life. (Because of the secretive nature of the mission, the Indianapolis was not reported missing until many days after she was sunk. The story of the Indianapolis tragedy was made famous with the movie Jaws, in the scene between Quint and Hooper aboard the Orca when they are comparing scars).

In addition to the military memorabilia on display there will be some of the best of Charles' collection of Indian artifacts, found as a boy and young man while wandering the foothills of Lyons and the mountains of Estes Park. Charles was one eighth Cherokee Indian, and very proud of his Native American heritage.

Finally, to honor Roberta (Smith) Swift's pioneer roots, there will be the Springfield carbine (circa 1858) that her great grandfather, Rodolphus Nelson Smith, carried across the plaines to Blackhawk and Central City. R.N. Smith was one of the founding fathers of those communities. He built the famous “Lace House” in 1860. Smith and his brother were builders of the roads from Blackhawk to Boulder and Golden.

The Swift/Bohn/Smith family were absolutely the personification of the “Greatest Generation,” and their interesting story can be enjoyed at the Redstone Museum beginning Memorial Day weekend for generations to come.

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