Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Trinidad Swilling Shumaker, the First Lady of Phoenix history

If you've never heard of Trinidad Swilling, even if you're interested in Phoenix history, it's not surprising. She was a Mexican woman with an adopted Apache son who was married to an ex-Confederate soldier, named Jack Swilling. And she was the First Lady of Phoenix history.

If you've heard of Jack Swilling, you know that he is considered to be the founder of the city of Phoenix Arizona. And as I learned more about him, I started to want to learn more about his wife, Trini.

Phoenix history books tend to turn their backs on Mexicans, Indians, and Confederates. So even getting the briefest description of the Swilling family is difficult to find. But I'm a pretty stubborn researcher, and a couple of years ago I set out to find Trinidad. And then I went to pay my respects.

I'm a volunteer for the Pioneers' Cemetery Association in Phoenix, not because I know anything about cemeteries, but because I collect old photos of Phoenix, and I'm interested in the people who lived there. Their mission is, of course, preservation of historic cemeteries in Arizona, and mine is time-traveling. So we're a good team.

Time travel with me. When Trini died in 1925, the Cross Cut Canal had been an open ditch since 1913, and was where some of the poorest people in town lived. If you walk along the Cross Cut Park nowadays, along 48th Street, that's where it was. Where exactly Trini lived, I'm not exactly sure, but she is buried in the St. Francis Cemetery, which is north of McDowell.

Her marker says "Trinidad Swilling Shumaker", and her two husbands, Jack Swilling and Henry Shumaker, are not with her. Jack died in Yuma, and Henry committed suicide, and I understand that meant that he was not allowed to be buried there. I really don't know how that works, it's just been explained to me.

Trinidad Swilling Shumaker in the 1920s

Jack Swilling and his adopted son

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  1. Do you suppose the 'Apache Boy" in the Jack Swilling photo is Trinidad's son? I've seen that photo a million times and have wondered who he was for decades. Now it makes sense... I'm taking a friend of mine to visit Trinidad's grave. Thanks for Sharing!!

  2. Great to see a photograph of Trinidad! Thanks.