Mr. Raymond Swauger


The saints who aided in founding Kentucky Mountain Bible Institute as well as those who have continued the work have contributed in many ways, some building with knowledge, some building with character, and others building with wood and brick. Mr. Raymond Swauger built with all of these. Raymond was among the first Asbury student teams to come help Lela McConnell in the construction of the Mount Carmel School Campus. He later helped in the construction of the new KMBI campus. His handiwork remains evident on both campus.

Mr. Swauger was born in Apollo, Pennsylvania, in April 22, 1887. After serving in World War I, he enrolled at Gettysburg College to study Architectural Engineering. In 1925, thanks to the prayers of his father, he was sanctified and began attending Asbury College. After meeting Miss Lela G. McConnell, he and some other Asbury students came to Breathitt County in 1925 to build the Mt. Carmel Administration Building and part of the boys’ dorm so that classes could begin that fall.


In 1926, while taking pictures for the school yearbook at the request of Miss McConnell, Mr. Swauger felt the call of God to come and spend his life at Mount Carmel. He married another early worker, Miss Mary Vandivere, in 1933. They ministered together until she went home to be with Jesus in 1963.


After the destructive 1939 flood, Mr. Swauger undertook the task of rebuilding KMBI. He designed a multi-purpose Administration Building, which continues to be the center of business today. Raymond built the Myers Memorial Chapel the following year followed by Brengle and Swauger Hall, so named in his honor.


In addition to building dormitories and other buildings at Mount Carmel and KMBI, Mr. Swauger designed and built bridges, including the low water bridge which originally spanned the North Fork of the Kentucky River. The bridge served countless people while the waters were low. Many thought that it would wash away at the first flood, but it was built so well that it lasted until its purposeful destruction in 1986 when the Martha Layne Collins Bridge was built in its place. Raymond also designed high swinging bridges and as well as a “carrier” spanning the Kentucky River. The “carrier” was attached to a Model A Ford engine, enabling groceries, luggage, and other items to be transported up to the Mount Carmel Campus.

Mr. Swauger was a very intelligent and creative man. Not only was he the primary architect of the Mount Carmel and Kentucky Mountain Bible College campuses, but he also taught students math and science. He was a kind and giving man, lending a hand to whoever was in need. In the words of Eldon Niehof, “We are all debtors to this man. We are blessed today and benefiting from the sacrificial investment of this man of God.”

Seldon Short, Raymond L. Swauger, Architect and Builder of Lives. Prestonsburg, KY, Reformation Publishers, 2008.