Swaggart Brothers Story
The four men who own “Swaggart Brothers, Inc.” have a compelling story that is worth telling. Their lives were built around a strong work ethic and family bond. They were taught how to earn a living and endure tough times with true grit. Giving up was never an option. To fully appreciate who they are today, it’s important to know the amazing story of how it all began.
It started with a young couple named Merle Swaggart and Luella Baird. In order to get the paperwork to marry, Merle rode horseback through the mountains to Heppner Oregon in the dead of winter, with temperatures as low as 56 below zero. In 1938 they married and bought a ranch on the middle fork of the John Day River in Ritter, Oregon. It was there that they raised four children. Their only son, Cecil, left home at the young age of 14 to be a cowboy. He traveled to rodeos all over the United States riding saddle bronc horses for a living. On one of his trips home a young lady caught his eye in Long Creek, Oregon. Her name was Nancy, and he married her in 1957.
Cecil and Nancy started their family when Ben was born in 1964. Next came Lincoln, then John, and Blake is the youngest. Their family of six shared the ranch with grandma and grandpa. Because of the remote location they did not have a telephone until 1972. The boys were able to watch some television at grandma and grandpas, but Nancy and Cecil didn’t have TV until 1998, long after the boys had gone. Rather than play with toys or watch TV, like most children, the boys were outside doing their share of the work that had to be done.
It was important to stretch every dollar as far as it could go in those days. The Swaggarts raised a majority of their own food, including vegetables and meat. They cut their own wood for heat and many of their clothes were sewn by Nancy. She also cooked three square meals a day for her growing boys. Stories have been told about how it was too expensive to buy canned or prepackaged goods, so it was all made from scratch. Some of their best family memories happened together at meal time.
On hot summer days when the family had to run to town, it was over an hour to any decent sized grocery store. With no air conditioning in their car, they would roll the windows down while driving on a gravel road, dust flying everywhere. It is situations like this that make people tough. This is only one example of many of the scenarios that the boys were used to in their childhood.
The house that Cecil and Nancy raised the four boys in was barely 900 square feet. Although they moved into a new house on the ranch in 1998, the “old” house still stands and holds a lifetime of memories for all of them.
The family ranch originally generated income from cattle. Merle registered the “T-Diamond Bar” brand in the year he and Luella married. It was a slight variation of the Baird family’s original brand that was registered in the late 1800’s. Each of the boys spent countless hours haying and gathering cows with their grandfather. With him, they learned the value of a good day’s work. He was famous for waking them up at three in the morning, only to sit and drink coffee with them until the sun came up. He simply enjoyed the pleasure of his grandsons by his side.
Cecil and Nancy started a logging company in the 70’s that put food on the table for many years. As it would turn out, the boys not only learned how to run a ranch, but also operate equipment. It was through activities such as mending fences, hunting, fishing, farming, and operating tools and equipment that the foundation was laid for their future success. By learning the true meaning of working hard, all four boys have the confidence to make tough decisions and the endurance to see things through to the end. There is a real sense of pride in their family history and upbringing.
As a rodeo star, Cecil always had exciting stories to share with his sons, which helped give them the ability to dream big. Eventually each son left the ranch to go out and make a name for himself.
When they started Swaggart Brothers Inc. in 2002 it was their desire to honor their past and make their grandfather proud. Merle and Luella both passed away in 2000 after 68 years of marriage. Cecil and Nancy still own the ranch in Ritter and have been married for over 50 years. The Swaggart family story is both unique and inspiring. Their success is due in large part to their ability to stay connected to their roots and maintain a healthy balance between traditional values and cutting edge technology.