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Now I had real suffering and I lost everything, my vocation, my faith, my family...
Reverend Swanson

Reverend Orville Swanson is a supporting character featured in Red Dead Redemption 2.



A former clergyman now lost to debauchery, Swanson has fallen a long way from the standards he once set himself and struggles with many demons. If he hadn’t saved Dutch’s life in the past, it’s unlikely the gang would have kept him around for this long.
Description by Rockstar Games.

Biography in RDR 2 (click to enlarge)

Swanson worked as a clergyman in the past, but as he indulged in earthly pleasures such as alcohol and sex, he slowly lost his job and his family, as well as his faith. At some point, he affiliated himself with a woman named Margaret, but she was already married to another and thus Swanson was subject to the sin of bigamy which he said was "Just another of sins to add to the list". The law caught up with them while they were in San Francisco and she fled, jumping a ship bound for Shanghai, he never saw her again. Some time later, under unknown circumstances, Swanson saved the life of Dutch van der Linde at some point; with Dutch in his debt, Swanson was allowed to stay with and join the Van der Linde gang.[1]

Events of Red Dead Redemption 2

Horseshoe Overlook Chapter

Arthur has to go find Swanson, who was last seen near a railroad station. After going to the station, he finds Swanson very drunk and playing poker with two men. Swanson then tells him that Arthur has freed him, and runs away, forcing Arthur to go in pursuit of him. Arthur finds him being beaten up by a buff man, who Arthur can either kill or knock unconscious. While Arthur was busy fighting the man, Reverend once again escaped and got himself stuck on the top of the railroad tracks. Arthur will go and pull him out right before the train goes by, and bring him back to camp.

During a discussion with Hosea at the campfire, Swanson reveals his marriage and having unknowingly committed bigamy through it. He states, "I suppose I still am married in a way but it hasn't been terribly fulfilling".[2]

Guarma Chapter

After Arthur returns from Guarma and arrives at the gang's temporary camp in Lakay, Swanson is shown to have recovered from his addictions and is sober, functioning well.

Beaver Hollow Chapter

After the gang moves to Beaver Hollow, Swanson is shown to remain abstinent from his previous vices and sensible, despite the circumstances. He speaks somewhat positively on his improved condition, which is disregarded by other members such as Leopold Strauss.[3] He eventually chooses to leave the gang due to its inevitable collapse.

If Arthur has low Honor or did not complete "Of Men and Angels": Arthur meets Swanson one last time at Emerald Station after the mission "The Fine Art of Conversation". The former clergyman says that he has decided to leave and that he tried to persuade some of the women to go too, but they declined. Varying on Arthur's Honor level, Swanson gives his assessment of Arthur's character and what he can do with the remainder of his life, before boarding the train and never being seen again.


After being rescued by John and Uncle in Saint Denis, Charles informs John that Swanson had moved to New York to become a preacher. A newspaper article reveals that Swanson became the minister of the First Congregational Church of New York.[4]



Swanson is a broken and disheveled priest, often drunk. He is also a drug addict, as Arthur can find the Reverend’s supposed bible hiding a syringe, a tourniquet, and a bottle of morphine.

Later in the story, he eventually sobers up and becomes more responsible. This is best seen in how, when the gang began to implode, he was one of the first to sense its impending doom and leave, claiming to be a "changed man". Swanson also possessed a certain degree of astuteness and was able to see through Dutch's true nature, claiming that he won't die for "nonsense spouted by a fool".


Swanson has red hair with grey patches, indicating his aging. He has a large, curly mustache, and wears standard black priest attire. During chapters 3-6, he can often be seen without his hat and robe.

Mission appearances

Red Dead Redemption 2


"Abigail says he's dying, Dutch. We'll have to stop someplace."
Swanson about Davey Callander during "Outlaws from the West" and also the first line of dialogue in the game.
“Love yourself a fire.” It's one of the blessings; freely given to all. And yet, perhaps, not freely given. I am reminded of Prometheus. In many ways, the Greek myths are best in explaining the very punishment that imbue our daily existence with their piquant tortures. Sure, we can have fire. And we can have the knowledge of fire. But with that comes the knowledge of everything… We become like a god, because to be all powerful is to be all suffering. Yes… thus, Prometheus gave us light, and warmth, and eternal damnation, and the awareness of our isolation for everything holy. Quite the conundrum, fire. It’s enough to make a man drink… or worse.
Swanson during a camp speech around the bonfire.
It appears to like this place, and wants to stay.
Swanson to Arthur, when asked why his foot got caught in a railroad track.
You know... it's not too late to repent, my Mexican friend.
Swanson to Javier in the middle of his morning prayer.
Save who you can and let the rest rot, and look after yourself.
Swanson to Arthur at Emerald Station after leaving the Gang if he has high honor; a line Arthur remembers during his last ride in the "Red Dead Redemption" mission if his honor remains high
You lived your way, you'll die your way.
Swanson to Arthur, if the latter had low Honor.


  • Swanson has the very first line of dialogue in Red Dead Redemption 2.
  • Swanson is shown to be Protestant. In one camp interaction in Colter, he is seen reading Isaiah 40:20-31 from the King James Bible, though he isn't sure what the verses meant to him.[5] In another camp interaction, he is seen approaching the genuflecting Javier and telling him to repent. Javier, being a practicing Catholic, doesn't stick to Swanson's Protestant ways, instead telling him that "I'm sure there's priests who will happily take your confession", before making the Sign of the Cross and praying; in response, Swanson tells him that he (Javier) is doomed, possibly foreshadowing his demise twelve years later.[6] Swanson also has a dislike for Catholics, as his conversation with Hosea [7] shows, and how he refers to Brother Dorkins as a fine man in spite of being Catholic when telling Arthur about him.
  • During the mission "Who is Not Without Sin", both Abigail and John will comment on Arthur having a soft spot for the Reverend, if the player carries him around in front of them.
  • The relationship between Swanson and Strauss undergoes somewhat of a shift as the game progresses. At some point in the earlier chapters, Swanson can be witnessed begging Strauss to loan him money, ostensibly to fuel his addictions, to which Strauss responds apathetically.[8] Much later during the Beaver Hollow chapter, Strauss speaks with Swanson in distress over the gang's circumstances, Swanson reflects on his own improvement in contrast alongside expressing sympathy, albeit while also conveying a broad sense of hope, causing Strauss to dismiss him as having gone insane.
  • Swanson, Simon Pearson and Molly O'Shea are the only members of the gang who are never seen riding a horse, although Arthur stows him on one. They are also the three only members who, aside from their association with the gang, have not committed, conspired on or participated in any crimes, excluding Swanson attempting to steal from the toll box.