Abby Shirley ca. 1802 Norfolk Co. VA died Jan 18, 1858
North Carolina. She married William Swaim April 29, 1830, well
known editor of the "Greensborough Patriot" newspaper.
A daughter, Mary Jane Virginia Swaim Feb 12, 1833, married Dr.
Algernon Sidney Porter of Greensboro. Their son, William Sydney
Porter Sept 11, 1862 North Carolina, was known as "O. Henry",
the short story writer.
O. Henry is the pen name of American writer William Sydney Porter
(September 11, 1862 June 5, 1910). O. Henry short stories
are known for wit, wordplay, warm characterization and clever
Porter was born on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North
Carolina. His middle name at birth was Sidney; he changed the
spelling in 1898. His parents were Dr. Algernon Sidney Porter
(18251888) and Mary Jane Virginia Swain Porter (18331865).
They were married April 20, 1858. When William was three, his
mother died from tuberculosis, and he and his father moved into
the home of his paternal grandmother. As a child, Porter was
always reading. He read everything from classics to dime novels.
His favorite reading was One Thousand and One Nights.
Porter graduated from his aunt Evelina Maria Porter's elementary
school in 1876. He then enrolled at the Lindsey Street High School.
His aunt continued to tutor him until he was 15. In 1879, he
started working as a bookkeeper in his uncle's drugstore and
in 1881, at the age of nineteen, he was licensed as a pharmacist.
At the drugstore, he also showed off his natural artistic talents
by sketching the townsfolk.
The following letter describes O. Henry's maternal ancestry.
The original letter from Belle Swaim to Mrs. Smith, can be located
in the "Ancestry -- Correspondence" Folder of the Greensboro
Public Library's O. Henry Collection.
March 24, 1914
Dear Mrs. Smith
I will write down the facts about O. Henrys maternal
ancestry as we know them.
Mrs. Algernon Porters parents were Wm Swaim and Abiah
Swaim (née Shirley)[.]
Mrs. Abiah Swaims father was Daniel Shirley of Princess
Ann Co., Va[.]
Wm. Swaim was editor of the Greensboro Patriot
from 1829 until his death.
Of his immediate ancestry we know nothing, but there is
a reference to his mother in one of the enclosed letters.
My father was only very distantly related to Wm. Swaim.
Their common ancestor, -- also a Wm. Swaim -- lived in
North Carolina about a hundred and fifty years ago, having come
South from Staten Island.
All of the name in N.C. were, and are, his descendants.
I have heard my father say this, and I have also heard it from
This Wm. Swaims father was Anthony Swaim, who according
to our family records, came over from Holland about the year
1700 and settled at Richmond, Staten Island, where he is buried.
Mary Virginia, the daughter of Wm. and Abiah Swaim was
born in 1833. Her father died Dec. 31st 1835. In 1842 Mrs. Abiah
Swaim married Lyndon Swaim. She died in Jan. 1858. We do not
know the date of Mrs. Mary Porters marriage, but it was
previous to Sept. 1858, since in a letter of that date to my
father, the writer says my respects to the Dr. and Mary.
After the death of Mrs. Abiah Swaim, when her daughter
was married to Dr. Porter, my father made a division of the property
-- that is his own property and that of his wife, which they
had jointly possessed.
By this division Mrs. Porter received one half, my father
retaining half. The library, also, was divided. Most of the books
were fathers personal property, but he gave his step-daughter
first choice of them.
This was told me by my mother. Now, if this library, --these
books of her own selection, could only be located, it would probably
throw some light upon her taste in literature; and some of her
poetry, --if she wrote any -- might be found among the pages.
Among Fathers old papers, Sister has found some bills
for Mary V. Swaims tuition at Edgeworth and G. F. College.
We have included them since they give information concerning
her education. There is also an interesting note from Rev. Solomon
I earnestly hope that what we have found will be of use
to Dr. Smith.
I have probably written some things that are quite unnecessary,
but I know that to the biographer, everything that has any bearing
on his subject is acceptable.
With love from Mary and myself.
March 24, 1914.
From Family Records in two old Bibles-- Wm. Swaim and Abiah
Shirley married in May, 1831.
Mary Swaim born February 12th 1833.
William Swaim died Dec. 31st 1835.
Lyndon Swaim was married to Abiah Swaim (late Shirley) on the
3d of November, 1842.
Abiah Swaim died Jan. 1858.