Swisher Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Swisher Surname Meaning

Swisher is the uniquely American version of the Germanic Schweitzer and Schweizer surnames.  These surnames derived from the word “Schwyz” (which was one of the three original cantons of Switzerland) and means “Swiss.”

That does not necessarily mean that the bearer of the name is from Switzerland.  German Schweitzers and Schweizers greatly outnumber the Swiss Schweizers.

Johann Schweitzer for example was a Dutch physician and alchemical writer of German extraction in the 17th century.  And Pierre-Paul Schweitzer was a French businessman who served as the IMF’s managing director in the 1960’s.

Swisher Surname Resources on The Internet

Swisher Surname Ancestry

  • from Germany (Schweitzer)
  • to America

America.  The transition from Schweitzer to Swisher in America mostly occurred in the 18th century, perhaps with the connivance of colonial customs officials.  Very few Schweitzers were recorded.  There were only 12 Schweitzer families that showed up in the 1840 US census.

However, after that time Schweitzers and Schweizers generally arrived with no name change.  Their numbers were boosted in the late 19th century by Jewish Schweitzers from the old Russian empire who had adopted that name.  Now there are more than twice the number of Schweitzers and Schweizers in America than there are Swishers.

Most of the Swishers of the 18th century went first to Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania.  Lorenzo Swisher may have been the first to come.  He arrived at New York from Rotterdam around 1708 and settled in Montgomery county, Pennsylvania.  His son Philip drowned in the Susquehanna river in 1753 when he was thirty-six.

Philip’s son Abraham then moved to New Jersey where he fought with distinction during the Revolutionary War.  In the early 1800’s he headed west to Pickaway county, Ohio.  Benjamin Swisher from his line there was a pioneer settler in Iowa.

Another Swisher family in Pennsylvania began with Heinrich Schweitzer from Switzerland who was buried at the Moravian churchyard in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1740.

A later Schweitzer, Johannes or John, arrived in 1753.  He became an Indian trader and merchant, making extensive trips into the Pennsylvania hinterland and returning to Philadelphia heavily laden with valuable furs.  Jacob Swisher of his family, also a trader, migrated to what became West Virginia where he died in 1833.  His Swisher family cemetery is to be found there in Fairmont, Marion county.

West Virginia. Peter Schweitzer, later Swisher, came with his family on the Sally to Philadelphia in 1767 and then onto what would become West Virginia some twelve years later.  His line would later be found there in Parkersburg, Wood county and produce two major league baseball stars, Steve Swisher and his son Nick.

From another line, via Jacob Swisher back in Pennsylvania, came John W. Swisher.  He made his home in Harp (later Hoopeston), Illinois from age one to age seventy-eight (1836 to 1913).

These Swishers were covered in Robert Swisher’s 2011 book A Family History.

Another sighting in West Virginia started with Nicholas Schweitzer from Mannheim in Germany who came to America on the Snow Squirrel in 1761 and died as Swisher in Hardy county, West Virginia in 1801.

Later Swishers moved to Licking, Ohio in the 1820’s.  David Swisher of this family started a cigar business in nearby Newark, Ohio in 1861.  This proved to be a great success and is still going strong today.

Texas.  Henry Swisher was a German immigrant to Pennsylvania who married Annie Gibson there and migrated to what was then Tennessee territory in the 1790’s.  Their sons James and Henry moved south to Texas in 1833 and were involved in the Texas Revolution (Henry and James’s son John both seeing action at the Battle of San Jacinto).

James settled in Austin, Texas in 1846.  After his death in 1862 Swisher county in Texas and a street in Austin were named in his honor.

His son James Monroe was an Indian fighter and later a state legislator.  Another son John Milton held a number of appointed offices for the state of Texas.  John’s wife Bella Swisher, whom he married in 1878, became well-known in her own right as a newspaper editor and writer.

Swisher Surname Miscellany

From Peter Schweitzer in Switzerland to Nick Swisher in Baseball.  Peter Schweitzer came to Philadelphia from Switzerland with his family in 1767.  His son Peter changed his name to Swisher, married, and moved to Monongalia county around the year 1780 in what was then Virginia and was to become West Virginia.

His descendants were to be found in West Virginia for eight generations until the baseball-playing generation of Steve and Nick Swisher.

  • Peter Schweitzer (1726-1770) from Switzerland with Barbara Ammon
  • Peter Swisher (1746-1832) m. Maria Waggoner in 1770
  • Peter Swisher III (1779-1830) m. Susannah Rinehart in Monongalia co, Virginia in 1801
  • Jacob Swisher (1824-1905) m. Elizabeth Morgan in 1844
  • Archibald Swisher (1859-1932) m. Mary Boothe in Wirt co, West Virginia in 1877
  • Miner Elbert Swisher (1878-1944) m. Viola Nutter in Ritchie co, West Virginia in 1899
  • Pearl Gale (Red) Swisher (1904-1975) m. Mary Mae Sinnett in Wood co, West Virginia in 1926
  • Dennis (Don) Swisher (1930-2008) m. Betty Thompson (1930-2005) in Wood co, West Virginia
  • Steven (Steve) Swisher (b. 1951 in Parkersburg, West Virginia) m. Lilian Vaught (1950-2013), divorced in 1991
  • Nicholas (Nick) Swisher (b. 1980 in Columbus, Ohio), raised by his grandparents, m. Joanna Garcia in 2010.

Steve Swisher was an MLB catcher who played for various National League baseball clubs in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  His son Nick was a switch-hitting outfielder and first baseman in the American League who was a member of the New York Yankees winning team in the 2009 World Series.

The Swishers in Austin, Texas.  In 1846 James Gibson Swisher moved to Austin with his family one year after Texas had been annexed to the United States and Austin had been designated as its capital.

They settled on a bluff in present-day south Austin where James operated a tavern, a hotel, and after 1852 a ferry.  In his later years he farmed as well.  He was appointed one of the five members of a vigilance committee to enforce slave-control laws in the town.

After his death in 1862, his wife Elizabeth continued to operate the important ferry across the Colorado river on the Austin – San Antonio Road.

He and Elizabeth raised four children – including John Milton Swisher who was a farmer and banker in Austin and was to hold a number of appointive offices for the state of Texas.  John it was who established Austin’s first planned neighborhood south of the Colorado river on 23 acres of the Swisher tract.

The Swishers were slave-owners.  Swisher slave names documented in family writings were George and Harriett, both of whom stayed with Elizabeth until her death in 1875.   The Swishers buried in the colored/negro grounds at Oakwood between 1873 and 1893 were named as Charlotte, Henry, Henriette, Minnie, George, and Joe.

Swisher county in Texas was named after James Gibson Swisher.  Swisher family members were the namesakes of Austin streets in Bouldin and Travis Heights which were part of the 1877 Swisher Addition in south Austin.

Benjamin Swisher, Iowa Pioneer.  Benjamin Swisher was born in Pickaway county, Ohio in 1817.  By the time he was seven both his parents had died and he was brought up by his uncle.  In 1840, at the age of twenty-three, he left for Iowa and was one of the pioneer settlers of Johnson county.

He purchased his plot of land from a discouraged and homesick settler before it could be put up for sale by the Government.  As there was very little money among settlers there, Benjamin exchanged his team of horses and all that could be loaded onto them for the buildings there (including a blacksmith’s shop) and the pre-emptive rights of the former occupant, before he formally acquired title to the land.

Here he and his wife Elizabeth were to live for the next forty-two years in a township that came to be known after Benjamin’s death as Swisher.  Here their eight children were born, of whom six survived until adulthood.  Their home was a one-room log cabin which in time gave way to a large frame house known as Forrest Oak as their family and land holdings grew.

When Benjamin passed away in 1883, it was said: “His energy did much to improve and beautify the country.  The purity of his life left an enduring impression upon the community he called neighbors.”

His farm, however, did not remain in the family.  His five sons were all well-educated.  Three went to work in Iowa City and one in Cedar Rapids.  Another son Frank moved to Cherokee county in 1879.  There he farmed and became known for his “Swisher corn.”

Swisher Names

  • David Swisher founded a cigar company in Ohio in 1861 which is still going strong from its base now in Florida.
  • Bella Swisher became well-known in Texas in the 1880’s as a newspaper publisher and writer.
  • Nick Swisher was a switch-hitting baseball batter of the early 2000’s who won the World Series with the New York Yankees in 2009.

Swisher Numbers Today

  • 6,000 in America (most numerous in Ohio).

Schweitzer and Swisher and Like Surnames 

The first wave of German immigration into America came in the early 1700’s from the Rhine Palatine and Switzerland.  They were fleeing religious persecution at home.  Most ended up in Pennsylvania, bringing their Mennonite church with them.  Some went to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York.  Their Germanic names often changed under English rule to English-style names.  Thus Fischer became Fisher, Schneider Snyder, Hubner Hoover and so forth.

The reasons for immigration were different in the 19th century – in search of a better life, sometimes to avoid the draft.  They came from all German states and went not just to Pennsylvania but all over as the middle and west of the country was opening up.  And they brought German skills with them, notably beer-making.

Here are some of the notable German surnames in America that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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