Swaney Family papers, 1864-2017  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Sims, JohnSwaney, Andrew W., 1860-1941Swaney, Alex GSwaney, AlexandraSwaney, Mildred
Swaney Family papers
1864-2017 (inclusive)
12 linear feet, (8 boxes, 2 oversize boxes, 1 book box, 1 oversize folder.)  :  76:7-3
Collection Number
The dates span from 1864 up to 2015, starting with A W Swaney in the Spanish American War. They include correspondence (mainly between family members), unpublished manuscripts (mainly AGS but also manuscripts and short stories from others), bound reports (including one from AGS as American Consulate Chief to China), journals (looked like AGS) school notes and records (AGS), oversize certificates (AGS), scrapbooks (maily photographs and clippings, probably put together by AGS), subject files (on friends like Shorty Shope, Native Americans, other Montana based topics), post cards to and from family friends (including Frieda Fligelman). Also included are numerous photographs of family, trips around the state, and the world, framed items (mainly photos but some look like certificates that we can probably keep), and published books (both on Montana and non-Montana topics).
Montana Historical Society, Research Center Archives
Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives
225 North Roberts
PO Box 201201
Helena MT
Telephone: 406-444-2681
Fax: 406-444-5297
Access Restrictions

Collection open for research.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Alexander Grant Swaney,

Born November 24, 1896 in Kalispell, Montana to parents Mary and Andrew Swaney, Alexander spent his early childhood home with his siblings and his mother. His father left for the Spanish-American War while he was a toddler, not returning until his early childhood. Alexander spent his childhood and teen years in Kalispell, Montana. His first job, while still a teenager, began in 1912 where he worked for the Forest Service clearing trail. The following summer he moved to Eureka to work for his brother-in-law, Lou Sauerbier in his clothing store. When fall came, he moved to Aberdeen, Washington with his older brother and his wife, Lewis and Lily Swaney to finish his last year of high school. Still a student, he signed up for the National Guard, and was officially drafted upon graduation in 1914.

In 1916, Alexander became 2nd lieutenant of the 2nd Regiment Infantry of the National Guard, during service on the Mexican border. Alexander requested and received a transfer to the Cavalry later that year with the rank of 2nd lieutenant. His unit deployed to France in December 1917. He was promoted to Captain of the Infantry during his service and honorably discharged in 1919. Alexander wrote to the Department of State inquiring about employment, and was offered the vice-consul position at Edinburgh, Scotland. He held the post from June 1920 to December 1922 when he resigned for unknown reasons. Upon returning to Kalispell, MT, he worked at the Mayor’s office for the better part of a year before accepting another appointment of vice-consul in 1923. Originally destined for Yokohama, Japan, he was reassigned before accepting to Chefoo, China, due to health reasons.

Alexander served for 4 years and resigned from his post in May 1927 to study for the career exams rather than remaining as non-career personnel. Unfortunately, he failed the physical exam due to his failing hearing, cutting off a promising diplomatic career. Alexander was recruited for the position of Right of Way Agent with the Montana Department of Highways in Helena, Montana in 1929. He was later promoted to Chief Right of Way Agent.

He met his wife, Mildred Buckneberg-Swaney, in 1935 by complete chance: asking for directions in an apartment building. The two had a long courtship, filled with adventure, camping trips, costume parties, canoeing, and horseback riding, before marrying in 1940. Four years later, the second love of Alexander’s life, Alexandra Mary Mildred Swaney, was born on May 4, 1944. That same year, Alexander was adopted into the Blackfoot First Nation’s people, and took the name “Iron Breast,” along with lifetime friend and confidant, Irvin “Shorty” Shope. These were perhaps, the happiest years of Alexander’s life.

Sadly, Mildred died of a head injury received from a horse riding accident on October 5, 1947, leaving behind her husband of seven years, and her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter. Alexander never remarried, instead raising his daughter with the help of his mother-in-law, Tina Buckneberg, who lived nearby, and whose own husband, Ingvald Buckneberg died in 1948 of stomach cancer. Tina stayed with Alexander and his daughter until her death in 1960.

Upon retiring in 1961, Alexander devoted his time to building his dream ranch, a place he lovingly called “Good Medicine,” most likely a nod to his Indian adoption and the ceremony “Medicine Lodge Prayer.” He wintered in Sedona, AZ, likely to be near his friend, Shope who also wintered there, and his daughter, Alexandra, who was attending school in California. Alexander maintained this lifestyle until his death in 1989.

Alexandra M. Swaney

Born in 1944, Alexandra grew up with her maternal grandmother, Tina Buckneberg, and father, Alexander. Not much is known of her youth, but in 1961-1962 at the age of 17, she studied abroad in Mexico. Upon graduating high school, Alexandra enrolled at Mills College and eventually earned a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Boulder. When not pursuing her degrees, Alexandra was a musician, and toured all over the United States with her band, “Cheap Cologne.” She married Arnold Malina in 1973, and moved back to Helena, MT. She and Arnold divorced in 1979.

Alexandra led an active life in Helena, for example working with activist, poet, and sociologist Frieda Fligelman. She was very interested in Helena development and culture. Alexandra assisted in founding numerous programs and organizations: the Myrna Loy center, the Montana Women’s Lobby Fund, the Montana Artists Refuge, and the Montana Folklife festival. She was heavily involved in the Montana Arts Council, serving as the Folklife Director. In addition, she was affiliated with the Feathered Pipe Ranch and on several occasions organized travel retreats to Asia and South America, was active in the LGBTQ community, and sang with the musical group Musikanten.

Alexandra remained active through her later years, horseback riding and traveling, but started to suffer effects of Alzheimer's disease. Her partner and wife, Lillian Milchalsky, took care of her until her own death pancreatic cancer in 2015. Alexandra passed away a few short years later, in 2017.

Mildred Buckneberg-Swaney

Mildred, born March 24, 1909 to Christine "Tina" and Ingvald Buckneberg, grew up as an only child on the family farm in Keene, North Dakota. Her parents, a school teacher and Lutheran Reverend, lived modestly. Mildred, had a fondness for animals, and was a good student, learning to read early and skipping several grades. In high school, she fell ill and was forced to take at a year off. She received her baccalaureate at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and became a teacher like her mother in 1930. She taught at several high schools in North Dakota and Montana, before ending up at Helena High School.

She met her husband, Alexander Swaney when she was 26. The two had a long courtship, marrying in 1940. Her parents attended the wedding, and shortly after moved into a house Alexander had built for them on his property. His own parents, Andrew and Mary, had already died. After four years of marriage, Mildred gave birth to her only child, Alexandra Swaney. On October 4 1947, Mildred sustained a head injury in a horse riding accident and did not recover dying the following morning in the hospital.

Andrew Swaney

Born in 1860 in Pennsylvania to parents Hugh and Cressala Swaney, natives of Ohio and Ireland respectively, Andrew was the eldest of 8 children. A 19-year-old Andrew moved to the Flathead area of Montana in 1879. After working four years at the trading post of Worden & Higgins, Andrew settled in Kalispell. In 1886, he met and married Mary A. Foy, a divorced woman with two children: Louis and Alice. During their long marriage, Mary and Andrew had three more children: Charles "Charlie" Swaney, Mary "Mazie" Swaney, and Alexander Swaney. Andrew held the position of United States Commissioner in 1892, deputy clerk of the district court in 1893, was elected clerk of Flathead county in 1894.

In 1898, Andrew resigned from his position as clerk of the district court to enlist in the first regiment of Montana volunteers, and served while in the Philippines during the Spanish-American war. While overseas, both his mother and his daughter, Mazie, died. Andrew returned to Kalispell in late 1899. He was formally discharged from the service due to a conflict of interest when appointed to the office of register of the United States Land office in 1902. In 1914, he was elected county commissioner. Later in life he ran for public office , but lost. He died on April 26, 1941, living long enough to see his youngest son married.

Frieda Fligelman

Frieda Fligelman, activist, sociologist, anthropologist, linguist, translator, and writer, was a resident of Helena, Montana. Frieda did her undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University in New York. Although denied a doctorate in sociology from Columbia, due to the unique nature of her work in what was to become sociolinguistics, Frieda's work was later acknowledged by the American Association for the Advancement of Science who named her a fellow in 1967. With her sister Belle, Frieda became a stalwart supporter of women's rights and served as a leader of the League of Women Voters and American Association of University Women and was active in the Helena YWCA.

She was a special friend and mentor to Alexandra Swaney. Fliegelman, at the age of 80, took the young woman under her wing and had Alexandra research with her, edit papers, and advised her in her own anthropological pursuits. Alexandra edited a book of Frieda's poetry, "Beyond the Mores." Frieda's extensive research and writing collection was given to Alexandra upon Frieda's death in 1978. Alexandra spent many years preparing the record and ultimately donated them to the Montana Historical Society.

Ingvald Buckneberg

Born in Bokn, Norway in 1872, Ingvald was one of the youngest of 9 children. In 1890, Ingvald moved to the United States, his destination Inwood, Iowa where is older brothers lived. For a time he worked for his family, before finally moving to Sioux Falls, South Dakota in order to attend the Lutheran Normal School, graduating in 1901. In 1908, Ingvald married Tina Midthun, a school teacher. A year later, their only daughter, Mildred Mary Buckneberg, was born. Ingvald died in 1948 from stomach cancer.

Lillian Michalsky

Alexandra's partner and wife, Lillian was born on Dec 8, 1948, to Joseph and Philomena Stafford Michalsky, her father a first generation German American, and her mother an immigrant from Belfast Ireland. She was a teacher and taught for a time at the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Reservation. She lead healing ceremony retreats for HIV positive women at the Feathered Pipe Ranch, and the UN's 5WCW (Fifth World Conference on Women). She also served as chief cook at the annual Fiddle Camp for musicians. She cared for Alexandra as her Alzheimer's progress, passing away herself on Sept. 16, 2015 from pancreatic cancer.

Shorty Shope

Born in the Boulder Valley in 1900, Irvin "Shorty" Shope was a lifelong friend of Alexander Swaney. Shope was born with "infantile paralysis," causing physical limitations excluding him from eligibility in the WWI Draft. Since his disability gave him limited options in the rough country of Montana, Shope decided to become a "Cowboy artist" and enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Oregon in 1919. He again attended college at the University of Montana, earning a B.A. in 1932. Shope married Erva Love on June 23, 1933. The couple had four children. Shorty was inducted into the Blackfoot First Nations tribe along with Alexander and took the name "Wolf Bull." Shorty died in 1977, at the age of 77.

Tina Buckneberg

Tina Buckneberg (née Midthun) was born in December 15, 1878, in Flom, Minnesota. She attended high school at Ada, Minnesota followed by college at Moorhead State Teachers college. Tina married Ingvald Buckneberg on July 5, 1908 in her parents' home, before moving to Keene, North Dakota with Ingvald. Their only child, Mildred Agatha Buckneberg was born March 24, 1909. Following her daughter's death in 1947, Tina assumed a motherly role to her only grandchild, Alexandra Swaney, raising her with Alexandra's father until her death in 1960.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This collection consists of biographical material, clippings, correspondence, art and writings, diaries, membership records, printed materials, legal documents, school records, and numerous subject files related to the interests of the Swaney family. The majority of the material was created by Alexander Swaney and consists of art works, biographical material, correspondence (to his parents, daughter, wife, siblings, and friends), clippings (concerning lifestyle, retirement, and death), diaries (written while overseas), school records (journals and drawings), legal documents and numerous subject numerous subject files. Alexander authored an autobiography, several drafts of which are included in the collection. He also did extensive genealogical research (going back 5 generations), which Alexandra contributed to. Alexander was also very interested in Montana history and Blackfoot culture and conducted extensive research which is compiled into subject files as "Montana History" and "Montana Stories with Willcomb (c. 1931)."

The papers created by Alexandra and Mildred largely consist of art work and writings, correspondence, biographical materials, clippings, diaries, and subject files. Alexandra's papers include a subject file regarding Ojibwa elder and family friend, Eddie Barbeau.

Also included in the Other group of this collection are six subgroups: Andrew Swaney, Frieda Fligelman, Ingvald Buckneberg, Lillian Michalsky, Shorty Shope, and Tina Buckneberg. Andrew Swaney's papers consists of correspondence (1881-1941) and biographical material. Frieda Fligelman's papers are comprised entirely of postcards. The Ingvald Buckneberg subgroup consists of his autobiography. The Lillian Michalsky subgroup consists of an email (2001), numerous sympathy cards, a marriage hymn, and an obituary. Shorty Shope's subgroup consists of greeting cards, correspondence, and a eulogy by Alexander Swaney (1977). The Tina Buckneberg subgroup consists of one letter concerning her death, a short auto biography, and a painting.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Researchers must use collection in accordance with the policies of the Montana Historical Society. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all materials in the collection. In some cases, permission for use may require additional authorization from the copyright owners. For more information contact an archivist

Preferred Citation

Item description and date. Collection Title. Collection Number. Box and Folder numbers. Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives, Helena, Montana.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alexander Swaney Papers, 1864-2017Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1
circa 1906-1976
1 2
Art/Writings - Research
Biographical Material
Box Folder
1 3
Biographical Materials
Box Folder
1 4
Box Folder
1 5
Incoming Amsel - Alexander
1 6
Incoming Family - Alexander
1 7
Incoming Jo Reed Smith - Alexander
1979, 1984
1 8
Incoming Misc. - Alexander
1919, 1980, 1989
1 9
Outgoing Alexander - Amsel
1 10
Outgoing - Alexander - Andrew
1 11
Outgoing - Alexander - Andrew
1 12
Outgoing - Alexander - Andrew
1 13
Outgoing - Alexander - Alexandra/Tina
2 1
Outgoing - Alexander - Alexandra
2 2
Outgoing - Alexander - Alexandra
2 3
Outgoing - Alexander - Alexandra
2 4
Outgoing - Alexander - Alexandra
2 5
Outgoing - Alexander - Mother/Mary
2 6
Outgoing - Alexander - Mother/Mary
2 7
Outgoing - Alexander - Mother/Mary
3 1
Outgoing - Alexander - Mother/Mary (fragile)
3 2
Outgoing - Alexander - Misc.
3 3
Outgoing - Alexander - Siblings
3 4
General - Consulate Alexander - Department of State
3 5
General - Consulate Alexander - friends
3 6
Incoming - Consulate Misc. - Alexander
3 7
Incoming Consulate Scotland
3 8
Interoffice - Consulate Alexander - J.V.A. MacMurrey
3 9
Outgoing Consulate Alexander - Misc.
3 10
General Military Alexander - Adjutant General
3 11
General Military Alexander - Commanding General
3 12
General Military Alexander - Misc.
Box Folder
3 13
1918, 1927
Legal Documents
Box Folder
3 14
Ranch Maps and Surveys
3 15
1965-1969, 1987
3 16-17
Ranch Land and Title
Membership Records
Box Folder
3 18
Alexander's Memberships
Printed Materials
Box Folder
3 19
Printed Materials
School Records
Box Folder
3 20
Alexander's School Records
1903-1916, 1937
Subject Files
Box Folder
4 1
Oversize Box 1
Consulate - Ledger
4 2
Family History
4 3
1924-1925, 1954, 1970
4 4
Indian Adoption
4 5
Manuscript - Digital
4 6
Manuscript - Edit
4 7
Manuscript - Final
4 8
Manuscript - Original
5 1
Manuscript - Original
5 2
Manuscript - Rough
5 3
5 4
Montana History
1864-1900, 1925-1970
5 5
Montana Stories with Willcomb
1923, 1968
Vol. 1
Family History Scrapbook
circa 1954
Oversize Folder

Alexandra Swaney Papers, 1961-1991Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
6 1
Alexandra's Art and Writings
Box Folder
6 2
Incoming Misc. - Alexandra, 14967
6 3
Outgoing Alexandra - Alexander
6 4
Outgoing- Alexander
Printed Material
Box Folder
6 5
Subject Files
Box Folder
6 6
Barbeau Project (includes Video tape)
Alexandra's Scrapbook

Mildred Swaney Papers, 1909-1947Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
6 7
Mildred's Writings
Biographical Material
Box Folder
6 8
Mildred's Life
Box Folder
6 9
Box Folder
6 10
General Correspondence, Mildred's Letters
Box Folder
6 11
Mildred's Diary
Subject Files
Mildred's Scrapbook
Container(s) Description Dates
Andrew Swaney
Biographical Material
Box Folder
7 1
Andrew's Life
1883-1925, 1975
Box Folder
7 2
Incoming Alexander - Andrew
7 3
Incoming - Alice/Abby Swaney-Sauerbier - Andrew
7 4
Incoming - Charles/Charlie - Andrew
7 5
Incoming - Extended Family - Andrew
7 6
Incoming - Friends/Misc - Andrew
7 7
Incoming - Hugh "Grant" Swaney - Andrew
7 8
Incoming - Louis/Leon - Andrew
7 9
Incoming - Mary/Mazie - Andrew
7 10
Incoming - Parents - Andrew
7 11
Incoming - Siblings - Andrew
7 12
Incoming - Wife/Mary - Andrew
7 13
Outgoing Andrew - Alexander
7 14
Outgoing Andrew - Charles/Charlie
7 15
Outgoing Andrew - Hugh "Grant" Swaney
7 16
Outgoing Andrew - Louis/Leon
7 17
Outgoing Andrew - Mary/Maize
7 18
Outgoing Andrew - Parents
7 19
Outgoing Andrew - wife/Mary
Frieda Fligelman
Biographical Material
Box Folder
8 1
Frieda Fligelman
Ingvald Buckneberg
Biographical Material
Box Folder
8 2
Ingvald Buckneberg
Lillian Michalsky
Biographical Material
Box Folder
8 3
Lillian Michelsky
Shorty Shope
Biographical Material
Box Folder
8 4
Shorty Shope
1955-1977, 2015
Tina Buckneberg
Biographical Material
Box Folder
8 5
Tina Buckneberg
1904-1905, 1960

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Art.
  • Autobiography
  • Consul
  • Frontier and pioneer life--Montana
  • Horses.
  • Poetry
  • Personal Names :
  • Buckneberg, Ingvald
  • Buckneberg, Tina
  • Fligelman, Frieda
  • Michalsky, Lillian
  • Shope, Irvin
  • Corporate Names :
  • Montana Arts Council
  • Geographical Names :
  • Helena (Mont.)
  • Kalispell (Mont.)
  • Montana--History.
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • Sims, John (fmo)