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Joe Swisher

Joseph Henry Swisher (1899-1975)

Joseph Henry Swisher was born August 13, 1899 to Frank Swisher and Mary Joyce Swisher. Joe was the youngest of eleven children by Frank and Mary Swisher. His mother died December 4, 1904. His father and his ten siblings, five brothers and five sisters, raised Joe. He was raised on a ranch in Jordan Valley, presently owned by Mike Hanley.

Joe was married to Ruth Adeline Peer June 10, 1924. After his marriage to Ruth, they homesteaded on Cow Creek in Bull Basin on Juniper Mountain in 1924. From the Joe and Ruth union, two boys were born, William Keith Swisher, July 3, 1931 and Tommy Joseph Swisher, March 9, 1935.

In 1926 he sold his homestead to Sam Ross. Sam Ross owned the C Ranch on Juniper Mountain. Joe managed Sam Ross' property until 1929.

ln 1929 Joe went to work for Ed Stauffer who owned the Circle Bar Ranch on Juniper Mountain. Joe worked as manager of the ranch. Stauffer ran hundreds of horses and cattle. When a person went to work for Joe Swisher, he was given a rawhide reata and a spade bit. When that person left or was fired he was expected to give back what was left of the gear. Stauffer died in 1931. His wife sold the ranch in 1934.

In 1934 Joe went into a partnership with Dave Summerville on the Starr ranch on Juniper Mountain. They also raised hundreds of cows and horses. They raised both thoroughbred horses and draft workhorses. The thoroughbred horses were sold to the Military Remount unit in Boise, Idaho. The draft horses were sold to fanners in the Boise Valley. In 1939 Summerville was killed in a car accident. The ranch was sold in 1940. Joe and the hired men gathered four hundred head of horses and took them to Murphy, Idaho and sold them for chicken feed at one and half cents a pound.

In 1941 Joe bought the Smith Creek ranch on Juniper Mountain from Ben Mills. He raised horses and cattle.

He was also active in getting the Big Loop Contest [roping wild horses] started at the Jordan Valley rodeo in 1946. He and Tim Mills were the first winners of the Big Loop contest. Later the Contest was introduced at the Vale Rodeo and the Burns Rodeo. It is still held every year at the Jordan Valley Rodeo.

In 1948 Joe sold the Smith Creek ranch to Henry Rubelt. Joe and Ruth moved to Jordan Valley and semi-retired. He spent his remaining years helping friends and neighbors working cows and branding. He also became the sexton of the Jordan Valley cemetery. When he first took over as sexton, the cemetery was in the middle of a sagebrush-covered hillside. The sign to the cemetery said "City Dump". Joe cleared the brush, planted grass and trees, and put in an irrigation system. To this day it is one of the scenic places in Jordan Valley.

In 1974 due to ill health he and Ruth moved to Bums, Oregon to be near their sons and to receive medical attention. He died in 1975. Ruth died three years later.

His friends and children remember Joe for his sometimes-outrageous sense of humor. His son, Bill remembers the time he and his Dad were batching at the Smith Creek ranch. While Ben was doing chores his Dad was preparing breakfast. When Bill came into the house there were two large delicious looking pancakes on his plate. He dove right in slathering the pancakes with butter and syrup, but he couldn't cut them. His Dad had baked two dishcloths in the pancakes. His father said, "April Fool, son!"

Another time when Bill and his Dad were batching at Smith Creek, Bill was breaking a three year old colt. At noon when Bill came in for lunch, he decided he would take a short nap before going back out to work with the colt. When he went out to the corral, the colt was still checked up, but his saddle was on backward! Bill said he later got even with his Dad by greasing his salted cod halves that were hanging in the saddle room with Neetsfoot oil. To Bill's disappointment his Dad never did know the difference.

Joe Swisher was inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame in September 2003.