Jack Swilling died in Yuma County Jail on August 12, 1878 after being arrested for a crime that he did not commit. He was a leading figure in the early days of the Arizona Territory: He served in Arizona for the Confederate Army during the Civil War, he led and protected many groups who traveled across the southwest, he was an original settler in the Salt River Valley, he formed a company that developed the first irrigation canal in the modern era for agriculture in the Salt River Valley, and he was a leader in prospecting and developing new mining claims and mining communities.
This music expresses the thoughts and emotions expressed in his last letter:
To the public
Jack Swilling whose doors have been open to the poor alike with those of the rich and plenty, looks forth from the prison cell to the blue heavens where reigns the Supreme Being who will judge of my innocence of the crime which has been brought against me by adventurers and unprincipled reward hunters. I have no remorse of conscience for anything I have ever done while in my sane mind. In 1854 I was struck on the head with a heavy revolver and my skull broken, and was also shot in the left side, and to the present carry the bullet in my body. No one knows what I have suffered from these wounds. At times they render me almost crazy. Doctors prescribed years ago, morphine, which seemed to give relief, but the use of which, together with strong drink, has at times as I have been informed by my noble wife and good friends made me mad and during these spells I have been cruel to here, at all other times I have been a kind husband. During these periods of debauch, caused by the mixture of morphine and liquor, I have insulted my best friends, but never when I was Jack Swilling, free from these poisonous influences. I have tried hard to cure myself of the growing appetite for morphine, but the craving of it was greater than my will could resist. I have gone to the rescue of my fellowmen when they were surrounded by Indians. I have given to those who needed. I have furnished shelter to the sick. From the Governors down to the lowest Mexican in the land have I extended my hospitality, and oh, my God, how I am paid for it all. Thrown in prison, accused of a crime I would rather suffer crucifixion than commit.
Taken from my wife and children, who are left out in the cold, cold world all alone. Is this my reward for the kindness I have done to my fellowman, and the pay I must receive for having done a Christian act with Munroe and Kirby, that of going after the bones of my poor friend snively and taking them to Gillett and burying them by the side of my dear child. George Munroe, Andy Kirby, and myself are as innocent of the charge brought against us of robbery as an infant babe. We went out to do a Christian act.
Oh God, is it possible that poor old Jack Swilling should be accused of such a crime? But the trouble has been brought on by crazy, drunken talk. I was willing to give up my life to save Munroe and Kirby, as God knows they are innocent. Oh, think of my poor babies and you would know that I would not leave them for millions of money. I am persecuted and prosecuted and prosecuted until I can bear it no longer. Look at me and look at them. This cruel charge has brought me for the first time in my life under a jailer's key. Poor L.G. Taylor, who I liked and tried to help, has been one of those who has wrought my ruin, and for what I cannot conceive, unless it was for reward money or to rob my family of the old ranch. The reason I write this is because I may be found dead any morning in my cell. I may drop off same as poor Tom McWilliams did at Fort Goodwin. My persecutors will remember me. And may God help my poor family through this cold world, is my prayer.
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All images are used by permission of the Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project. The song is copyrighted by Robert T. Gibney 2011.