Family Matters

"Shorty" Burgin - The Mule Skinner

My great uncle, Lee George Swatsell Burgin, was the twelfth of fourteen children born to Merritt and Mary Jane Black Burgin. He was born October 23, 1883.

Swatsell (L) with his older brother Postell

Swatsell married Nellie Cole May 29, 1904. After Nellie Died, he married Etta Gibson April 21, 1907. His third wife was Sara Elizabeth Voiles, whom he married on November 5, 1918. He had one child with Nellie, four with Etta and eleven with Sara.

Swatsell "Shorty" Burgin was only four feet eleven inches tall, but he was one of the most colorful characters of his time. His occupation for several years was that of a mule skinner.

I know you've all read or heard stories about "horse whisperers" -- well, ol' Shorty was what you might call a "mule whisperer". If one of his mules should happen to become obstinate or cantankerous, Shorty would slowly walk up to the mule, take a firm grip on the mule's ear and move in very close.

One might think that he was going to whisper into the mule's ear. WRONG!!! He would bite down on that mule's ear until it let out a bray like you've never heard. Needless to say, this always worked.

Swatsell also had a tendency to slip from grace between revivals and would invariably make a profession of faith at every revival he attended. On one such occasion, when Reverend Edward Burgin (Swatsell's older brother) was holding a revival in Cocke County, Tennessee, Swatsell once again professed the faith.

The Reverend, exasperated at his brother's inability to stay in grace, asked him if he was sure he was saved this time.

Swatsell replied that he was indeed right with the Lord.

On hearing this, Ed told him that he thought that he would just get a gun and shoot him then, and there, while he was still in a state of grace. Kidding - of course!

Swatsell died January 1, 1950 and was buried at Dover Cemetery, in an unmarked grave.

Source: Peggy Silvers, Echoes In The Mist (The Burgin Family 1677 - 1989)
A PRESS Printing Company 1989