Alice Swaney

Submitted by
Valerie Crook
September 12, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 224-225
Hancock County

ALICE SWANEY, M. D. The professional career of Dr.
Alice Swaney, which it is proposed briefly to sketch, embraces
a period of eighteen years, practically all of which have
been passed at New Cumberland. It possesses some
features of interest, inasmuch as it assisted in breaking
through the barrier of professional bigotry which had
to some extent before her coming excluded women from
practicing the healing art in a professional way. To her
example, winning by assiduous attention to her profes-
sional calls and by profound knowledge of the art and
skill in its practice a place among the reputable prac-
titioners of medicine and surgery in Hancock County,
has been due in a measure the rapid advancement made
recently by her sex in this field of effort.

Doctor Swaney was born at New Cumberland, Han-
cock County, West Virginia, and is a daughter of John
S. and Ella (Grafton) Swaney. The Swaney family,
which originated in Holland, has resided for many years in
Pennsylvania, where was born Isaac Swaney, the grand-
father of Doctor Swaney. He was a carpenter by trade
and was ten years of age when brought by his parents to
the vicinity of New Cumberland, where he spent his life
in working at his vocation. He died in Hancock County dur-
ing the Civil war period, at the age of fifty-five years, after
a career that had included only an industrious application
to his trade, without any public achievements. His wife,
who bore the maiden name of Margaret Summerwell, was
also a native of Pennsylvania, and died in Hancock County
in extreme old age.

John S. Swaney, father of Doctor Swaney, was born in
Beaver County, Pennsylvania, April 3, 1845, and as a child
was brought by his parents to Lexington, three miles
above New Cumberland. During his early years he mastered
the trade of stone mason, which he followed in connec-
tion with farming. During the Civil war he enlisted
in Company F, First Regiment, West Virginia Volunteer In-
fantry, which was later consolidated with other troops,
becoming the Second Veterans. Mr. Swaney’s brother, T.
R., served in the same company, and a younger brother,
S. D., served in the fourth West Virginia Cavalry. Both
are now deceased. Following the war Mr. Swaney resumed
his operations as a stone mason and farmer, but gradually
gave up the former vocation. He became interested in the
breeding of track horses and had a number of good
performers which brought fancy prices. One of these, “Sul-
tan,” was a noted prize-winner at the Pittsburgh Horse
Show. In 1881 Mr. Swaney was elected sheriff of Han-
cock County, serving in that office until 1884, and again
in 1889 was chosen for that position, and served until
1893. Later he acted for six years as a member of the
Board of County Commissioners, and his entire record in
both offices was a splendid one. He has always been an
active republican. In 1871, at the age of twenty-six years,
Mr. Swaney was united in marriage with Miss Ella Grat-
ton, who was born October 13, 1848, and died August 11,
1921, after fifty years of married life, their Golden Wed-
ding Anniversary having been celebrated at San Diego,
California. They were the parents of two children: Wil-
liam Grafton, who has medical courses at the University
of West Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania, but
became a business man and was Pacific Coast manager for
the Ingersoll Construction Company at Portland, Oregon,
when he died at the age of thirty-five years; and Alice.

William Hill Grafton, the maternal great-grandfather
of Doctor Swaney, was born April 13, 1787, in Harford
County, Maryland, and came to what is now Hancock
County West Virginia (then in Virginia) in the year
1806. On July 19, 1807, he married Nancy Baker, of
Virginia, born in February, 1789. William Hill Grafton
was the first postmaster of the Town of New Cumberland,
assuming the duties of that office in 1844. In the year
1840 he helped organize the Christian Church, the first
church organized at this place, and from 1850 until 1856
he served as sheriff of Hancock County. He and Thomas
Bousall were the first merchants of New Cumberland.
Mr. Grafton was the father of a large family, among
his children being Nathan Baker Grafton, who was born
April 3, 1819. On January 22, 1848, he married Rachel
Chapman. Nathan B. Grafton became the first school
teacher of New Cumberland, in 1845, and also followed
merchandising, traveling about once a year by stage and
canal boat to Philadelphia in order to replenish his
stock. He served as county supervisor, which corresponds
with the present office of county commissioner, and in his
later years was a justice of the peace.

Ella Grafton Swaney, the wife of John S. Swaney, and
Charles Edwin Grafton, the mother and uncle of Dr. Alice
Swaney, were daughter and son of Nathan B. Grafton.
Ella G. Swaney was born October 13, 1848, graduated from
Pleasant Hill Seminary, Washington County, Pennsylvania,
in the year 1865, married John S. Swaney March 23, 1871,
and died July 11, 1921. Charles Edwin Grafton, M. S.,
C. E.. brother of Mrs. John S. Swaney was born Septem-
ber 15, 1854, and in 1880 graduated from West Virginia
University, being the first graduate of that institution
to receive the degree of civil engineer. His work has been
largely confined to railroad construction, and during his
career he has held responsible positions with the Illinois
Central, Baltimore & Ohio and Union Pacific railroads
and others. During the past ten years he has been county
engineer for Hancock County, his present post. He is a
member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Alice Swaney, following her graduation from high
school, spent three years at Oberlin and then enrolled as
a student at the Women’s Medical College, Philadelphia,
from which she was graduated as a member of the class
of 1903, receiving her degree of Doctor of Medicine. For
one year thereafter she did post-graduate work in the
Women’s Hospital, Philadelphia, and then began the gen-
eral practice of her calling. She is a member of the
Hancock County Medical Society, the West Virginia State
Medical Society and the American Medical Association,
and acts as medical examiner in the public schools. While
not a suffragette, in the generally accepted meaning of
the term, she believes in equal suffrage for her sex. Her
own example is a stimulating one. She has arisen to
influence and has obtained recognition through solid merit,
founded upon good natural abilities, ripened by liberal
scholastic training and matured by thorough scientific study
and long, continuous and assiduous practice. With all her
acquisitions she has fully preserved the innate delicacy of
her womanly nature, and is none the less a lady because
she has become a physician. Her religious connection is
with the old Christian Church, the first church to be estab-
lished at New Cumberland.