SWAIN, Alanson Duncan

From Islapedia

SWAIN, Alanson Duncan (1883-1954)[SS#561-14-9213], was Santa Cruz Island Company superintendent from at least June, 1916 until his departure in August, 1919. He was hired at $125 a month, and by the time of his departure just over three years later, he was making $150 a month. Among other things, Swain was responsible for the construction of the wooden bunk house at the Main Ranch in the summer of 1918, as well as the remodeling of the comedor kitchen. His well-written weekly reports to the Company office in San Francisco, as well as copies of all of his outgoing letters during his tenure provide excellent information about the island’s history during this time. His hundreds of letters and reports provide an insight into such topics as sheep and cattle rustling by Austrian fishermen, the purchase of equipment for the island, the island’s wine, sheep and walnut sales, and the coming of Prohibition. In addition, Swain dealt with the problem of the drafting of the island’s work force for service in World War I. Upon his resignation in August 1919, Swain was replaced by assistant superintendent, Clifford McElrath.

Mrs. Alanson Swain [Edith Vada Sprangue, born in Nebraska] was interested in botany, and in 1919 she collected a number of herbarium specimens on Santa Cruz Island, many of which are in the California Academy of Sciences herbarium. Her collection of island big pod ceanothus, Ceonothus insularis on Santa Cruz Island in the spring of 1919 is referred to by Howard McMinn in An Illustrated Manuel of California Shrubs (1939). Fruiting specimens were also collected by her on July 17, 1917. (CAS Herb. #81312).

Alanson Duncan Swain was born in Colorado on April 23, 1883, the son of Hadwen (1855-1927) and Susan Winslow Swain (1852-1908). Their first child, Bertha C. Swain, died in infancy (1881-1883) the same year their son, Alanson, was born. Hadwen married his wife’s half-sister, Isabel, on Oct. 20, 1909, the year after his first wife died.

Alanson Swain married Edith Vada Sprague (1889-1961).

  • 1900 census Swain is in college in San Francisco, 17 and single.
  • 1901 Swain is a clerk at Pacific Tool & Supply in S.F.
  • 1904 Swain is a salesman at Hadwen Swain Mfg. Co. (his father)[Hadwen Swain and Wesley T. Gorham, gas engines, printing presses, bookbinders’ machinery, Lanston Monotype, Standard Adding machines.]
  • 1905 Swain lived in San Francisco at 2521 Octavia and was a salesman.
  • 1907 Swain is with Hadwen Swain Co.
  • 1908 Swain is with Hadwen Swain Co.
  • 1909 Swain is in real estate and has moved to 245 Montgomery St.
  • 1916-1919 Swain is Superintendent on Santa Cruz Island;
  • 1918 (September 12; #A-967) Swain registers for the draft, stating he is 35 years old, of medium height, medium build, with brown eyes and black hair, married to Edith S. Swain;
  • 1920 census the Swains lived on Fairmont in Los Angeles. He is 36; she is 30. He is a dairy farmer;
  • 1930 census the Swains lived in Los Angeles. He is 46; she is 40. He a dairy manager;
  • 1940 census the Swains lived in Glendale in a rented house at 758 Omar St.; college graduate; laboratory director. Mother-in-law Rosalie N. Sprangue lived with them in 1940;
  • 1946 he is living in Bakersfield and is Department Manager at Peacock Dairies;
  • 1948 he is living in Bakersfield;
  • 1954 he is living with his wife, Edith, at 331 E. Fairview in Glendale.

January 31, 1954, Alanson Swain dies. He is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, CA. His wife, Edith Vada Sprague (1889-1961) is buried next to him.


In the News~

December 11, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “…Standing on the jetty at Prisoners’ Harbor were Mr. and Mrs. A. Swain, and our little party [Captain Cornell] were officially welcomed immediately when they reached the pier. Seated in a comfortable rig, the journey to the interior of the island was soon commenced…”

April 2, 1918 [SBDN]: “A campaign against cattle and sheep thieves has been started on Santa Cruz Island. Alanson Swain, in charge of the island for the Caire estate, is in town today, having made the trip across the channel to confer with Sheriff James Ross, and the latter is lending every assistance. The result of the conference is that a deputy sheriff has been appointed for the islands, and a vigorous crusade will be made, the expectation being that many arrests will follow. While no definite figure can be placed upon the losses the island has sustained during the past year through the activity of thieves, yet it is stated that no less than 15 or 25 head of beef cattle have been stolen, while the sheep thefts will reach between 300 and 400 head. ‘Austrian fishermen have been the most active in these thefts,’ said Swain, ‘and as long as they were interned at San Pedro we had little trouble, but now they have been released to fish again. We have also found that people from Santa Barbara and San Pedro have taken a hand in the thefts, and now we propose to make an example of them.’ Swain announced that the company has now stopped hog shooting on the island, and is turning the wild hogs to account, the high prices of pork having opened a market for the wild creatures, and large numbers have already been shipped. In speaking of the theft of sheep Swain states that the company has lost some of its fine imported rams, beautiful creatures, whose horns have been a double attraction to hunters. Many sheep have been wounded and died. If necessary, more deputy sheriffs will be appointed, and Sheriff Ross himself will take a hand, being determined that no part of his jurisdiction shall be known as a paradise for thieves, and as beyond the reach and protection of the law.”

May 19, 1919 [SBDN]: “…All camping privileges on Santa Cruz [Island] have been leased from the Santa Cruz Island Company by Captain Eaton, according to the statement of Alonzo L. [sic] Swain, superintendent for the company, and campers’ permits are to be obtained from him. Several parties already have encamped at Fry’s Harbor and other points for short periods of time, although the season is early…”