The discovery of a body floating in a pond on 30 May 1885 led to quite a mystery. The pond was located on land belonging to the Texas and Pacific Railroad near Fort Worth, Texas. The bloated remains were loaded on a skiff and brought to shore. The body was of a man approximately 40 years old, heavy set with sandy hair and mustache. He was tentatively identified as C H Swink from Doylestown, PA due a collection of letters he carried addressed as such. The letters were signed H H Swink of Temple, Texas. It was quickly determined that the cause of death was most likely a gunshot wound. Robbery was quickly eliminated as a motive, he had $52 dollars and watch and chain in his pockets.
The authorities contacted H H Swink of Temple, who was able to identify the victim as his brother, C H Swink, but could offer no insight as to why his brother met such an untimely death. H H Swink told the investigators that his brother left Doylestown on the 24 May on his way to Temple, Texas. The only other information he could provide was that C H had taken the wrong train out of Saint Louis, and had not been heard from since.
Robbery having been ruled out, other motives were explored. Not having any ties in Fort Worth it is unlikely that his death was the result of a long standing feud of any sort. He also had not been in town long enough for a matter of the heart to be at the root of the trouble.
The police presented three theories, each a little more far-fetched that the last. One theory was that he committed suicide. Being so homesick and distraught by the late running trains, he walked to the bank of the pond, shot himself and fell into the water. The next option was that he was murdered. The sounds of gunshots followed by splashing noises were reported to the police around 3:00 am on the morning that Swink was found. The last theory is as much a mystery as the death of Swink itself. The police suggested that his death was accidently caused by a self inflicted gunshot. They supposed that Swink had been sleeping at the train station, thinking that someone was trying to rob him, pulled a gun, and fired at two men. Due to the angle of his gun in his prone position, Swink shot himself in the process. According to this theory, Swink then fled the depot, running along the tracks, became weak from blood loss and tumbled into the water.
One newspaper account states that two men were shot at the depot, John Hayword and Charles Turnboe. It also reports that a gun was found near the depot door, the caliber matching the eight bullets found in Swink’s pockets.
The only other information I have been able to find at this time (and none of it is relevant to solving the mystery) is that C H Swink was buried in the Hillcest Cemetery in Temple, Texas. The gravestone listing his birth and death dates simply as 1855 -1885. That his brother Hoarce H (H H) Swink owned $30,000 worth of real estate. H H Swink is listed as being in the insurance and real estate business in the 1909 Temple City Directory.
- Dallas Weekly Herald 4 Jun 1885
- 1909 Temple City Directory