John Ewing died in Montgomery County between January 25, 1787, the date of his will, and March 5, 1788, the date that instrument was admitted to probate by the court. He was my great-grandfather. William Ewing, one of his children, was my grandfather. Grandfather died late in or shortly after 1852. In that year he conveyed to father part of the farm on which I was born. At grandfather’s death my father, Joseph Hix Ewing, was about seventeen or eighteen years old, I have often heard him say. He was born in 1834. Unfortunately, I did not get interested in our genealogy until after father was gone. Grandfather, as we shall see, had a very large family; father was next to the youngest; and the oldest was born in 1792. Father was one of the children by grandfather’s second wife; and so it was that the older children had gone from the paternal home long before father was born, and never in life did he see them. One of father’s half-brothers, Alexander Ewing, I knew, and three of his sisters, Aunt Eliza Overton, Aunt Rhoda McNeil, and Aunt Caroline Gibson. Aunt Minerva Thomas and Aunt Basheba Kincaid, two other sisters, died when I was small, and their burials in the old Ewing graveyard on the farm in Powell Valley, where I was born, is all I recall of them. Uncle Alexander died when I was in college. My aunts whom I knew had no family records; when consulted, were advanced in life, and could assist me only in a general way. So I had to rely largely upon such information as I could get from old people not belonging to our family, who knew grandfather, or who knew of him. Of the latter class was my uncle by marriage, Alexander C. McNeil, the husband of father’s sister, Rhoda, who, in his 84th year, on April 27, 1911, wrote me an interesting and intelligent account of his knowledge and information regarding our family.
One of those I was fortunate to know who recalled considerable of grandfather, was the late Dr. Andrew T. Still, founder of osteopathy. He was born, 1828, within three miles of grandfather’s home in Lee County. He was about 24 years old when grandfather died in or shortly after 1852. Some years ago I visited Dr. Still at his famous institution in Kirkville, Missouri, and found him delighted to speak of grandfather, whom he recalled quite clearly, in the highest terms, as he did of our family in general. He frequently repeated that grandfather was “one of the great men of his day.” Of course he was considering grandfather’s environment and limited opportunity as compared to men of national renown; and must have meant that, all things considered, grandfather met life’s responsibilities and opportunities with unusual courage and intelligence, thus contributing very substantially to his day and generation.
Some of my informants had the impression that great-grandfather was born in Scotland. Others understood that he was born in Ireland of Scotch parents; and one or two thought him a native of either Bedford or Prince Edward. Upon the whole, my opinion is that he was not American-born. However, without exception the evidences agree that great-grandfather was closely related to Samuel and Joshua Ewing, descendants of Joshua Ewing, through his son Capt. Patrick Ewing of Cecil County, Maryland; and the kinship is recognized by the descendants of all these families to this day.
Many old persons who knew our family traditions, such as General G. P. Fulkerson of Cumberland Gap, Virginia-Tennessee, and several descendants of Robert and Charles Ewing of Bedford County, in recent years living in Missouri and elsewhere, have written me very positively of the close relation between my great-grandfather and Robert and Charles Ewing, all three of whom were contemporaries and who lived, at least at the time of great-grandfather’s death, comparatively not far apart. As we have seen, Nathaniel Ewing in the Courier-Journal article, written earlier than 1846, says this Robert and Charles were cousins of the children of William Ewing of Scotland-Ireland. In addition to this, the relation is further shown by striking family resemblances and the fact that the traditions are that each of these families descended from a Scotch ancestor who bore a coat of arms. When the reproductions of these arms used in one way or another by members of each of these families are compared with the old Ewing arms belonging to some of the Glasgow-Loch Lomond Ewings before 1565, the fact that our American reproductions are based upon those ancient Scotch arms is seen beyond question. As has elsewhere been said, the American emblazonment often discloses slight innovations or unwarranted changes, and colors and tinctures all too often suffered sadly at the hands of the novice; but, as the representative illustrations given in this work show, there is no question of the relation between what we may term the American reproduction and the Scotch emblazonment of the oldest Ewing arms.
Hence, while we do not know the exact degree of relation between my great-grandfather and the other Virginia pioneers of our name who were his contemporaries, Robert and Charles of Bedford, James of Prince Edward, George, the son of Nathaniel, the immigrant to Cecil county, William of Rockingham, and James the founder of the Pocahontas family, and the others, we are sure the relationship was close, brothers in some cases, uncles and nephews in others, near cousins in yet others, and in some cases fathers and sons. There is very strong evidence that great-grandfather, John, was a half brother of Nathaniel, and a brother of Joshua and the other children of William Ewing of Scotland-Ireland by the second wife. Some charts show the John of that family as settling in Kentucky; others take him “West;” finally yet others send him to live and died in Pennsylvania. As best I have been able to follow all these other clues, I am of the opinion they confuse him with a John of another generation, Amos Ewing of Cecil County certainly did, and from that source much error regarding that John certainly has resulted.
There were John Ewings, some identified and other not so certainly distinguished, in Virginia from the earliest times of the other founders of these Virginia families. Unfortunately I am not sure—thought I have a very decided opinion—which was my ancestor until we come to the period of the early hunters and explorers in Powell Valley, in what was once in turn in Augusta, Fincastle, Washington, and other counties and now in Lee. One of the earliest explorers in that valley was John Ewing. That was several years before the Revolution. We have traditions that he was renowned for skill and bravery. Charles Ewing of the Bedford family, we have seen, was one of the “long hunters” of that day, hunting through and beyond Powell Valley.
Through that fertile and always splendidly charming valley, watered by Powell River, along the eastern base of the rugged Cumberlands, probably first seen by the whites in 1750, led an old Indian trail, known as the Warrior’s Path. From the Clinch River it crossed the Powell Mountains, led down the center of the valley, and crossed the Cumberlands at Cumberland Gap. This dim trail was followed by Gist in his early explorations into what is now Kentucky, and later traveled by Capt. William Russell, whose daughter married Alexander Ewing of Tennessee, Daniel Boone, and other pioneers into the regions westward of the Cumberlands. Boone marked it as a road for the wagons of Colonel Henderson when he went out from North Carolina to found in 1775 ill-fated Transylvania west of the Cumberlands. Already the echoes of the coming Revolution were reverberating on either side of the valley; and Henderson’s scheme failed. But that “road,” out by Abingdon, then by Bristol (as we now know those places), over the ridges and mountains into the valley, and out through Cumberland Gap, came to be, the Revolution over, one of the most traveled and one of the most famous of early American roads. Long known as the Hunters’ Path, then as the Old Wilderness Trail, then as the Old Wilderness Road, its annals are among the most interesting which tell us of the first real expansion of English-speaking America. (See the Author’s Pioneer Gateway of the Cumberlands, in manuscript as this book goes to press.)
John Ewing, my great-grandfather, saw for himself the rich valley lands as he passed up and down the old Hunters’ Path. He knew Henderson and of his ambitious plan to found Transylvania, a supply station for which was to be in the center of Powell Valley. He was acquainted with the movement headed by Russell and Boone to settle Kentucky in 1775, destined to a bloody repulse in the Valley’s midst. With the keen eye of a thrifty Scot he saw the rapidly approaching value, as well as the scenic beauty, of the rich lands of Powell Valley. His judgment proved more accurate than he dreamed.
Shortly after its discovery an important part of the valley was claimed under one of the immense royal grants, which we noticed in our study of our West Virginia kinsmen. But permanent settlements within the Valley were not attempted until 1775. Before surveys could be made and deeds issued, the Revolution swept British authority from Virginia; and so it came that the early titles were founded upon the settlement, preemption, and purchase laws enacted by the independent sovereignty of Virginia; and the claims under those laws were determined by the commission which heard the “claims to lands on the western waters.”
Before the valley could be permanently inhabited the Indian allies of the British drove the settlers back as far east as where now are Bristol and Abingdon. But they returned to the Valley at least as early as 1779, and with them grandfather, William Ewing. But his father, John, appears not to have gone back to the valley to reside. An old man, John died in Montgomery County before March 5, 1788. But he did not forget to press his claims to the valley lands which he had selected before the Revolution.
In the list of those found by this commission as entitled to lands in the district of Washington and Montgomery, which district included Powell Valley, now in Lee County, Virginia, and, in fact, reaching far down into Tennessee, which I found in the Land Office, are the names of John and Samuel Ewing, who are certified as entitled to 400 acres by right of settlement and to 500 acres under the preemption law. That list, duly signed by the commission, is dated September 8, 1781. The old survey book, which I examined, in the clerk’s office at Abingdon, has the record of an entire certificate, signed by the commission, dated August 10, 1781. In each record John and Samuel Ewing are awarded 400 acres by right of settlement and 500 under the preemption law. From the Abingdon record it is seen that the settlement was made in 1775 by Charles Cox. Cox assigned to John and Samuel; and Samuel assigned his interest to great-grandfather, October 10, 1783. The certificate of record in Abingdon describes this land as “on the north side of Powell River, known by the name of Dump’s Cabon, or the Big Spring.” The land was surveyed and the grant issued; but apparently the grant did not issue until 1794, six years after great-grandfather had died! From the survey description I recognize the land. It lies about three miles from the Old William Ewing home, in the midst of Powell Valley, where father was born and where I, in turn, came into existence. Through the once dense woodlands which covered in part it and other lands of my ancestors, I have often chased the fox, brought down the squirrel, or bagged innumerable quail. The deed of 1794, which certainly conveys title to 400 acres, thus identified as in Powell Valley, recites that it is made “in right of settlement given by the commissioners for adjusting the titles of unpatented lands in the district of Washington and Montgomery and the consideration of the ancient compound of two pounds sterling.”
But prior to the deed of 1794, great-grandfather acquired title to other land in Powell Valley. For instance, by “land office treasury warrant No. 1902, dated November 21, 1781,” he acquired 400 acres “adjoining his settlement survey,” and on both sides of “Wading” (Trading) Creek, on north side of Powell River; and “by land office treasury warrant No. 10729” dated January 25, 1782, he acquired titled to 440 acres “adjoining his settlement;” and by another treasury warrant he became entitled to 815 acres “adjoining his settlement;” and the beginning corner of which was near “the old station camp.” So I am not sure whether the “schedule” duly signed by the commissioners, dated September 8, 1781, which I found in a secluded nitch in the Land Office, is a duplicate of the “certificate’ issued August 10, 1781. The commissioners may have made two reports, as they certainly did as to some other districts. But the question is not so material, since great-grandfather apparently made no attempt, after the earliest settlers were chased from the valley as a result of the Revolution, to therein reside. Some of the earlier deeds were of record in the Land Office before November 26, 1787. On that day Colonel Arthur Campbell, one of the best known military militia figures of that day, and who lived not far from great-grandfather, receipted the Land Office, for deeds to lands in Powell Valley, for the purpose of delivering to the owners among those instruments being great-grandfather’s deeds to the 440 and the 500-acre tracts; and for grandfather’s deed to 815 acre tract. Many similar entries regarding other people are on the old records. They suggest lack of mail facilities, the long, bad roads out from Richmond to the distant Virginia sections, and absence of many things we now enjoy.
But those old records are interesting for the light which they afford regarding the close business relations which must have existed between this John and Samuel Ewing; and between George and Samuel, who, under the award of September 8, 1781, were held entitled to land by right of settlement on “both sides of Clinch River and Copper Creek.” (Land Office Deed Book 30, 296.) This George and Samuel, who settled on Copper Creek, were we are reasonably sure, sons of George of Wythe County. Then, among other things, grandfather and Robert Sims, who married grandfather’s sister Betsy, as stated in John’s will, entered into an agreement April 11, 1797, regarding the tract of land in Powell Valley, which the will called “Cocke’s old place,” and Joshua Ewing was one of the witnesses. That agreement was acknowledged before the Lee County court (Lee D. B. 1, 201), and was evidently witnessed in that county. This Joshua Ewing was clearly the brother of Samuel Ewing, both of whom lived in the valley about fifteen miles west of grandfather’s home. Then the deed dated 1799, under which grandfather and Sims for his wife, as we shall see, partitioned this John Ewing land, is witnessed by Samuel Ewing and Charles Carter. Charles Carter was the son-in-law of Samuel Ewing, of the Maryland family, Joshua’s brother, this Samuel Ewing being the first sheriff of Lee County, Virginia, where this land lay.
Cumulative with the tradition of near kinship of grandfather with the Cecil County earliest immigration, from which this Joshua and this Samuel descended, and with the other early Ewings of Virginia, the descendants of this day, who know our traditions, recognize the relationship.
Of record at Christiansburg, Montgomery County, Virginia, great-grandfather left this will:
IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN:
I, John Ewing, of the County of Montgomery and State of Virginia, being weak in body but of perfect mind and memory (thanks be given unto God), calling unto mind the mortality of my body and that it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament; that is to say, principally and first of all I give and recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God who gave it, and my body unto the earth to be interred in Christian manner at the discretion of my Executors; nothing doubting but at the General Resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God. And as touching such worldly estate wherewith it hath pleased God to bless me in this life, I give, demise, and dispose of the same in the following manner and form, viz.:
I give and bequeath to my daughter Eleanore Cocke, my brown mare, with what I have already given her, and no more.
I give and bequeath to my son Alexander my desk and one young bay mare and colt.
I give and bequeath to my son William, my negroe man named Lab, and negroe woman named Kate.
I likewise give and bequeath to my son William my tracts of land lying in Powells Valley, in the County of Russell containing thirteen hundred acres, or thereabouts.
I also give and bequeath to my son William one feather bed and furniture, and one bay mare four years old.
I give and bequeath to my (grandsons) William and Charles Cocke my whip saw and cross cutt.
I give and bequeath to my daughter Betsy three hundred acres of land of the above mentioned bequeathed to my son William, known by the name of Cocke’s old tract, if she comes there to live, and if not, to remain in the possession of my son William.
I also give and bequeath to my daughter Betsy one bay mare three years old next spring.
I give and bequeath to my grandson John Cocke two hundred acres of land at the mouth of Trading Creek, including both sides of said Creek for quantity.
I order my household furniture with all the remaining part of my personal estate to be equally divided between my two sons. I order my son William to pay his brother Alexander the value of Seventy Pounds in horses at the valuation of two indifferent men.
I likewise give and bequeath to my son Alexander, a tract of land on Elk Creek in Montgomery County containing eleven hundred acres if obtained.
I order, nominate, constitute, and appoint my two sons Alexander and William Ewing my whole and sole Executors of this my last will and testament, disannulling and making void all former and other wills and testaments by me heretofore made, ratifying, allowing, and confirming none other than this my last will and testament.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed my seal this twenty-fifth day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven.
John Ewing (SEAL)
Signed, sealed, pronounced, and declared by the said John Ewing as his last will and testament in the presence of us, who in his presence, and in the presence of each other, have hereunto subscribed our names.
John Montgomery, Sen’r.,
John Montogmery, Jun’r.,
At a Court cont’d and held for Montgomery County the 5th day of March, 1788.
This last will and testament of John Ewing, deceased, was presented in Court by William Ewing, one of the Executors therein named, and proved by the oaths of John Montgomery, Sen’r., John Montgomery, Jun’r., and Samuel Montgomery three of the witnesses thereto, and ordered to be recorded.
Abrah Trigg, C. M. C.
(Will Book, B. 128)
The grandson, John Cocke, who received 200 acres of land at the mouth of and on both sides of Trading Creek, on the south bank of which I was born, was evidently over twenty-one at the date of this will. This fact is corroborative of the tradition that great-grandfather was well advanced in years at his death. That no wife is mentioned shows that she had died before the date of the will.
That this John Ewing took some substantial part in the patriot armies of the Revolution, during its earliest days, is supported by some tradition. More than one John Ewing of Virginia served the American cause in that war. Some of them are identified; others are excluded from the consideration because the records disclose decease later than great-grandfather; and the meager records of others leave it quite possible that one of them could have been great-grandfather. But, to have had grandchildren over twenty-one in 1788, indicates that at the outbreak of the Revolution he was much beyond what, in this day, we regard as military age. But it is well known that in that epochal day old men fought for our independence.
However, long on the advance picket line of civilization, though not “a backwoods man” in the usual sense, there is no doubt of the truth of the traditions that great-grandfather contributed his share, important and far-reaching, to the battle of civilization against the savages and to overcoming the dangers met at every point at the westward expansion.
According to the survey records at Abingdon, the 815-acre tract was surveyed July 18, 1787, “for William Ewing, Jr., assignee of John Ewing.” That this William Ewing was my grandfather there is no question, particularly since I know intimately the land involved; but why the “Jr.” was used I don’t know, unless to distinguish him from William Ewing of one of the older counties. There was in that day no other William Ewing in the Powell Valley section. This junior probably suggested that he was so known in his old home and before he became a resident of Powell Valley. The old records at Abingdon show that in other instruments before and about 1783 he was described as “William Ewing, Jr.”
When great-grandfather acquired his first Virginia lands, or where he first lived, I regret I have been unable to determine. Just where to look for the deeds depends upon where the land lay and the date, as is true of so much of early Virginia records. With nothing to give me any clue, it was only after years of search that I located his will. Montgomery County, including territory now within Wythe and Grayson, was formed in 1776 from Fincastle. The records were kept in Fincastle town, or Court House. Fincastle was created in 1770 from part of widely flung Batetourt. Up to 1776 Fincastle was one of the many empires once within Virginia’s sweeping limits. Reaching far beyond the mountains, Fincastle included what are now the States of Kentucky and Illinois. The same law which established Montgomery created Washington County, which included all of what is now Southwest old Virginia. West of the Cumberlands the same act established the county of Kentucky; and later Kentucky was partitioned and Illinois County, Virginia, both long since States, was established.
Batetourt was established over part of yet more extensive and justly famous Augusta in 1769; and, as we have seen, Augusta was formed from Orange, once a county, mostly an uninhabited wilderness, almost without limits. Hence it is easy to see why many deeds and other important papers were never recorded. When grandfather built his home in Powell Valley, he was nearly one hundred miles by the indifferent road of that day, over mountains and across many streams, to the court house at Abingdon. It was a horseback trip of about three days each way. With these county changes before the mind, it is also easy to see how difficult it often is to know who is who when seen in old records. Then, too, look at the names: John, William, Samuel, Joshua, George, &c.
What became of the Cockes mentioned in great-grandfather’s will I have been unable to learn. I trust this publication will be the means of disclosing their descendants.
Lee County was established over the southwestern section of Russell County by an act of the legislature passed in 1792. At that time the courts were held by justices, the usual eight being named as the first judges of the courts of Lee. Among the number are Joshua Ewing and grandfather, William Ewing. (6 Virginia State Papers, 184.) At that time the judges of the courts held for each county were appointed under a law first enacted in 1661, which required for the position of a Virginia justice, “eight of the able, honest and judicious persons of the County.” At the time grandfather was on the justice’s bench his court exercised criminal and civil jurisdiction, the criminal extending to capital punishment and the civil including the most extensive chancery or equity jurisdiction. In other words, he was a judge of the only court then held in his county.
That this William Ewing, one of the first judges of my native county nearly one hundred and thirty years ago, was my own grandfather, there is not the slightest doubt,--unusual as it is on account of the great lapse of time from that dreamy distance to this age of wonders. That such is true is tradition verified by documents left in the family and corroborated by the fact that not until the time of William Smith Ewing, many years subsequent, was there any other William Ewing in that section of Virginia. Joshua, appointed as grandfather’s associate, was the brother of Samuel, the county’s first sheriff.
Unfortunately, the court records of Lee are missing up to May 8, 1808, probably due to the ravages of the Union army. How long grandfather served cannot be known. The oldest records now extant show that the court held May 8, 1808, was held by Judges William Neill, Samuel Ewing, John W. McKinney, and Robert Duff; but as only a majority of the justices were necessary, it can not be known who of those earliest commissioned had resigned. At a session begun March 28, 1809, Justices Joshua and Samuel Ewing (the ex-sheriff, who subsequently again became sheriff) were of those on the bench.
It was not until April 17, 1809, that part of the jurisdiction of the court held by the justices was assumed by what was known as the “Superior Court of Law” over which one judge presided. At that time Samuel Ewing and grandfather, William Ewing, were members of the grand jury.
Considered in the light of their day, such records are enlightening and very gratifying. Among others, indicative of character and standing and interesting for their light upon the conditions of grandfather’s section of Virginia, a few more instances are worth while.
November 17, 1792, the Virginia legislature passed a law “to facilitate the intercourse of the inhabitants of this commonwealth with the State of Kentucky,” authorizing a wagon road leading from the old Block house (a frontier fort) near what is now Bristol, across Powell Mountains, down Powell Valley, to the top of Cumberland Mountain in Cumberland Gap. Up to that time the route to be followed by the road was one of the most traveled by the westward-bound pioneers, large caravans and numerous bands and slowly moving parties, convoyed by armed men, being a daily sight. Yet no effort by any authority to open or improve the road was made up to this act of the Virginia legislature in 1792. But nothing except to view the route was done toward bettering this much-traveled path along which the great American expansion was moving, until December 18, 1794, when William Ewing and Charles Cocke (believed to have been grandfather’s nephew) and three other residents of Lee County, or any three of them, were authorized to spend, without bound, $1,000 in building the first section of this road. (14 Hening, Virginia Statutes, 314. Hening misspelled grandfather’s name, and has it Irving.)
An act of the legislature on December 19, 1794, authorized the town of Jonesville, and made it the county seat. Fifty-five acres of land, on which the town was located, were conveyed to William Ewing, my grandfather, and nine others as trustees for the use of the county. (Idem, 322).
Again on January 25, 1799, grandfather, William Ewing, was named as one of the commissioners who were authorized to expend, without bound, money to open and improve another section of the old wilderness path. (15 Henings, 164, 212).
We estimate that this William Ewing was born about 1760. He died about 1852, on the extensive valley lands he long owned, much of which he bought or obtained from the State and about 2,000 acres of which he acquired under the will of his father. There is very conclusive traditional evidence of his service in the patriot armies of the Revolution. The meager data now extant from which the Virginia State Library has compiled rosters of soldiers of the Revolution, make it impossible to say which of the William Ewings there found is this ancestor of mine. Then, as is well known, the rosters of patriot soldiers, particularly those who rendered such valuable service against the Indian allies of the British, a service it is certain, among others, grandfather rendered, is incomplete. Tradition must be trusted. For years many Ewing of the southwestern part of Virginia were lost from the Virginia genealogies; and this led to conclusions regarding the military service of those in other parts of the country that has led to some error, due wholly to the distressing repetition of first names.
About five miles nearly west of what is now Jonesville, this William Ewing built, at least as early as 1782, his home on the south bank of Trading Creek. Far away to the north the Cumberlands tower above the valley. From an elevation near the house one gets an enchanting view of the Powell Mountains, miles away and on the eastern side of the valley. The original house was a large two story building of heavy, hand-hewn logs; and, the white plaster filling the interstices, the appearance was pleasing. With its big, open fireplaces, it became a commodious and hospitable home, representative of the better homes of pre-war Virginia. Particularly when the numerous, cleanly and well-kept “negro quarters” stood in the background, it was a prosperous home on the immense farm of a typical Southern gentleman. Built of heavy logs hewn to about six inches of thickness, this structure was home and fort. For more than ten trying years after it was built, again and again the bloody savages swept into the valley, committed arson and murder and hurried through the few inaccessible mountain gaps into the wilderness. Interesting are the stories of siege and defense through which that old house passed to stand, remodeled and now and again modernized, and to become the birth-place of all of grandfather’s family and of my father’s family, for nearly one hundred and forty years! In a deposition by Peter Fulkerson of Lee County, given May 29, 1811, in the case of McKenny v. Preston (2 Chalkley, 227), it is shown that the county west of Clinch River was settled “and dangerous in 1785 on account of Indians.” Powell Valley, now in Lee County, was the outpost of that dangerous zone. There is much evidence of this danger we cannot examine here. On December 22, 1792, Col. Andrew Lewis, charged with the military defense of the valley, reporting to the governor of Virginia, said:
I think it necessary that troops for Powell’s Valley should as soon as raised be sent there; the people by no means think themselves safe. Captain Neale must, of course, be continued in that place. (See The Pioneer Gateway of the Cumberlands.)
Captain “Neale” (Neil) was already patrolling the valley with troops; yet the stealthy Indians, in small bands, continued deadly raids. On one of such raids Grandfather Ewing, apprised of the attack, hurried alone into one of the gaps in the rock-crowned Cumberlands through which gap he thought it probable the savages would retreat. He concealed himself far up in the heights. The sun hurried over the distant Powell. As the light gladdened the valley at his feet, he got his eye on a small detachment of the marauding savages, one following another, coming up the torturous trail leading through the gap. At the opportune movement his old flintlock brought down the leader; and then, incredible as it appears, two more paid the last penalty for the booty which they had gathered from his neighbors by knife and torch. The others, terror wild, plunged into the laurels and escaped.
For many years after grandfather built his home in the valley, buffalo, deer, bear, and all the other wild game abounded in that region. Dressed in a red hunting shirt, he had many dangerous encounters with the wild beasts. Thrilling stories of those adventures come down to us by authenticated tradition; but there is no space here for them.
One story, however, because illustrative of prevailing conditions of the valley region for many years, is worthwhile. Until 1793 the courthouse, the county seat of justice, was about one hundred miles from grandfather’s home. He was a large stock raiser. Much of the land grew the famous blue-grass; and corn and other grains grew in the greatest yield. Much of the immense boundary was yet in virgin timber, great oaks, towering walnuts, poplars sometimes 10 and 15 feet in diameter, and other trees. Hogs brought a good price and thrived most of the feeding season on the acorns of the oak. Often great droves would wander far from inhabited sections. Once two men stole a large number thus found isolated and began to drive them out of the community. In some way grandfather heard of the attempt to drive off his valuable herd; mounted his horse, armed with his ready gun; pursued and alone overtook the trespassers. He is described as well built, fearless, as was my father, keen of eye, quick of wit, and relentless of purpose once his resolution was formed; but, withal fair and just. A man who alone would fight a band of Indians, on murder bent, in a distant and lonely mountain pass, was not to be regarded lightly. At the point of his gun he took both the thieves. He was recovering the property; the jail was one hundred miles beyond the mountains. So he tied both men to a tree and administered on their bare backs the number of lashes with “a cowhide whip,” while the victims writhed and swore lustily, prescribed by the law for misdemeanors. Each miscreant agreed, as something of a penance of honor, to hold up his shirt rather than remove it, and thus “take his medicine like a man.” One, however, lost his nerve, dropped his shirt at each cut of the keen whip and bellowed lustily. This lost whatever respect grandfather may have had for him, resulting in a very bitter “double dose” for failure to keep his contract.
This truthful story not only discloses character; but quite as much opens a flood of light upon the early days of Powell Valley before grandfather became one of the judges of the court which after 1793 sat within five miles of his home.
Grandfather William Ewing left the identified descendants whose names follow, and no doubt others, whom I have not “discovered.” Many of those given are men and women of ability and at least equally as prominent as are those of any other branch of our family. I have not the space to give to them the credit they richly deserve, simply because this work has long since gone beyond its commercial possibilities. Hence the following is a little more than a genealogical table.
This William Ewing was twice married. The first wife was Miss Elizabeth (Betsy) Saunders. The second was Mrs. Sarah Wynn, a widow, who was Miss Hix. When and where these marriages occurred I do not know. Both, though, occurred in some of the once immense counties of Virginia at some date such that so far I have been unable to guess the whereabouts of the records. Some information indicates that the second wife belonged to a family subsequently identified with Wythe County.
Mrs. Wynn and her first husband had two children, William, who died unmarried, and Lavinia, who married Dixon Litton, long one of the rich cattle barons of upper Powell Valley, Virginia. To the Littons were born several children, Philmore, Robert, and others. These Litton boys are among the leading farmers and extensive cattle raisers of Virginia, often exporting large numbers of fat cattle to Europe. They live in the Rocky Station neighborhood, Lee County, Virginia. Robert represented his county in the legislature some years ago.
William Ewing and his first wife had Stephen Saunders Ewing (4), Dosia, Letitia (5), Sarah E. (6), and Alexander. This Alexander died unmarried in March, 1889, on his splendid estate in Lee County. He left no will. My father administered upon the estate; and from the bill for partition, filed in the Circuit Court of Lee, may be seen the names of Uncle Alexander’s brothers and sisters and half-brothers and sisters, as in the following table given. Many of the first heirs had been long dead, and the estate was finally distributed to persons living widely over the South and West.
Stephen Saunders Ewing, oldest of these, was born in Lee County February 12, 1789; and died near Aberdeen, Mississippi, December 4, 1867. He married Mary Houston Carter, probably a daughter of C. C. Carter, the first clerk of the Lee court. She was born in Lee December 18, 1796, and died near Huntsville, Alabama, November 6, 1849. Stephen Saunders Ewing and his wife left Lee County early in life. Reaching Mississippi he engaged in the mercantile business. He bought most of his goods in Philadelphia, transporting them in the big “schooner wagons” generally drawn by six splendid mules. On a trip to Philadelphia he engaged to buy cotton for dealers. The venture brought him, in a very short time, a splendid fortune. He organized one of the first extensive cotton brokerages in the United States.
In reading the following chart outline, a mere arbitrary arrangement to avoid as much repetition as possible, to follow the descent, be guided by the figures. The figure after a name in parentheses indicates the figure on the left of a name where the children are given. For instance, Stephen Saunders Ewing (4), refers to 4. Stephen Saunders Ewing further down in the table. For Sarah E. Ewing (6) children, just run down the figures on the left and find the six, and you have them. The six is her index number, remember. Similarly for all others. A blank parenthesis indicates that I have no information. When it is desired to see the ancestor of one where the figure is on the extreme left, go to the same figure back in parenthesis.
Grandfather, William Ewing, and his second wife had:
Robert S. (9) who married Mary Miller. All their descendants are in the far west.
Rhoda ( ) who married A. C. McNeil. She died about 1896. Lived in Lee adjoining father’s farm.
Caroline, who married Z. S. Gibson, died in the spring of 1911. Lived in Lee County about six miles from Jonesville. Left two children.
Joseph Hix (48). He was born at the old Ewing home in Lee County, November, 1834; died at the same place, then called Arcadia, March, 1900. Married Mary E. C. Woodward. He was my father. During active life he operated an extensive grain and stock farm. At times he shipped down Powell River, by boat carried by flood tide, more than 2,000 bushels of wheat of one season’s harvesting, a large yield for one Virginia farm, considering other grain growing in proportion. He was a Master Mason, member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South; and in person six feet two inches and splendidly proportioned. His eyes were the gray of the Celt and his hair black. He was a Confederate officer during that entire war, going in as a lieutenant of infantry and at Lee’s surrender was in command of a company of fighting cavalry. His comrades in arms testify that he was brave to daring, cool and ever alert. As a citizen none stood higher. He often declined civil office.
Children of Stephen Saunders (1) Ewing (from the family Bible record in possession of W. B. Ewing of Curtis, Arkansas, October 4, 1918):
Alexander (12) born in Huntsville, Alabama, June 2, 1815, died near Seguin, Texas, August 22, 1857.
Mary Ellen (13) born at same place August 30, 1832, died January 13, 1866.
Susan Purdom (14) born at same place October, 1838, died in Jackson, Mississippi, September 24, 1903, and buried in Aberdeen, Mississippi.
James (15) born at same place June 12, 1824, and died in Aberdeen, Mississippi, March 10, 1850.
Charles Carter (I) (16) born August 22, 1816, died in Aberdeen June 26, 1852.
Sarah (Sallie) Elizabeth (19) married Jackson Rice. Born in Huntsville June 18, 1819, died near Chattahoochie, Florida.
Thomas Morgan (31) born at same place November 13, 1834, died in Arkansas October 2, 1906. Buried in Arkadelphia.
George (18) born same place February 28, 1828, living in 1911 at Chapel Hill, Texas.
Stephen Saunders (II) (30) born in Huntsville, December 27, 1830, died in Burleson, Texas.
John (34) born at same place April 24, 1826, died in Clark County, Arkansas, February 9, 1895.
William Bromfield (28) born July 4, 1834.
16. Charles Carter (I) Ewing, married Mary Lile, daughter of Peyton Harrison Lile, Children:
Stephen Saunders (III). Born November 8, 1849, died March 6, 1874.
Charles Carter (II). (14), M. D. and farmer. Born October 17, 1852, living in 1911 at Aberdeen, Mississippi. Married Sarah Cunningham, who died April 8, 1885, and then Josephine Thompson, June 30, 1898. Member of Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
14. Their children:
Early Cunningham Ewing ( ), born April 3, 1886. Married recently; professor of agriculture, University of Mississippi. Child of the first marriage.
Charles Ewing ( ), born Aberdeen, Mississippi, July 14, 1899.
12. Alexander Ewing, married Mary Jane Malone, their children;
Mary (Mollie) Houston (33).
Stephen M. (36).
John, Susan and Alexander, Jr. (All of whom died in infancy).
13. Mary Ellen Ewing, married Walter Troup, five children:
Minnie ( ), married E. J. Smith, Auditor, Miss.
Walter ( ), dead
Tenny ( ), dead.
Carried ( ), married Baskin.
Mary ( ), married Alfred Bowner of Aberdeen.
14. Susan Purdom was second wife of Walter Troup, one child:
Anne ( ), married Savage, near Hamilton, Mississippi.
15. James Ewing, married --------; children;
Adrian ( ), married Spratt.
Jennie ( ), married Love (?)
5. Letitia Ewing married Robert Beaty, their children:
Elizabeth ( ), married John G. Wood. During life leading Hotel owner in Bristol, Virginia.
Catherine ( ), married William Merriman, Lee County.
John A. ( ).
Mary ( ), married N. B. Havely. Children: Lee, who married Wynn; Maggie, who married Creed R. Fulton; Mary Aston; and Robert B. All are successful farmers of Lee County.
Narcissus ( ), married Hiram J. Yeary, Lee County.
Margaret ( ), married John Thompson, no children.
10. Celina married Capt. Thomas S. Gibson, a distinguished Confederate officer, both dead. Their children:
Hugh ( ). Became a distinguished physician in Kentucky.
Shelby ( ).
Amelia ( ). Married P. M. Car, Richmond, Ky.
W. Moss ( ). Became a celebrated surgeon in Kentucky.
Burgain ( ).
6. Sarah E. Ewing married William Carter, one child:
Sarah E. ( ), married ---------- Coffin.
7. Minerva Ewing married William S. Thomas, both dead. Their children:
Virginia J. ( ), married Judge James G. Rose and left descendants in Morristown, Tennessee.
Ewing ( ).
Isaac T. ( ).
James ( ).
Sarah ( ), married Dr. Edward Campbell. In 1911 living at Pennington Gap, Virginia. Descendants.
8. Celina Ewing married George W. Cox. Both dead. Their children:
Alexander ( ).
James ( ).
9. Robert S. Ewing married Mary Miller; their children:
Charles H. ( ), whereabouts unknown.
Letitia ( ), married Nare, whereabouts unknown.
Ellen ( ), married A. S. Whitehead and died in the far West.
Bathsheba ( ), married William Milbourne, Dos Palos, California.
Bathsheba (see 11 supra in parenthesis) married B. F. Kincaid. Their children:
Sarah ( ), died young.
Charles ( ), married Martha Miller. In California.
Benjamin Franklin ( ). One of the largest land barons of Powell Valley; long an extensive cattle dealer. Married Lizzie Ball, and left children, one married Stickly, of Lee County; another, John, now a prosperous farmer near Leesburg, Virginia, who married daughter of Rev. I. S. Anderson of Lee. Just before this book goes to press Benjamin Franklin, the first wife being dead, married a second time.
Mary ( ), married James Wheeler, a prosperous farmer of Lee County.
Elizabeth ( ), married Timothy Thomas, a successful farmer, Old Town, Tennessee.
John ( ), married and resides in California.
18. George Ewing, married Kate Stevens at Aberdeen, Mississippi, December 30, 1857. Their children:
Adriene A. Born February 26, 1860, married W. B. Bizzell.
John S. Born September 26, 1860.
Kate S. Born December 17, 1862, married Dr. T. P. Robinson.
George E. Born January 9, 1864, married Miss Sallie Sample.
Mary J. Born September 17, 1867, died August 15, 1870.
William R. Born October 21, 1869.
Minnie L. Born March 13, 1873. Married Alexander Ewing (41) (?).
24. Ewing Rice, married ---------. Children:
Floyd ( ).
Stephen E., Jr. ( ).
22. Joel Rice, married ----------. Children
Mollie ( ).
Lillie Lou ( ).
Joel ( ).
Ellen ( ).
25. Mollie E. Rice (Key), married ---------. Children:
Mary ( ).
Sallie ( ).
John R. ( ).
Alexander ( ).
Jack ( ).
Stephen ( ).
34. John Ewing married -----------. Children:
Margaret Lee of Aberdeen, Mississippi. No children.
Bettie Wilkerson of Caldwell, Texas. No children.
Mrs. Josephine Murrey of Tunis, Texas. Children:
Mrs. Mollie Wood of Washington, Texas. Child:
43. Pinkie Ewing. Married Terrell Roberson of Brenham, Texas.
44. Rose Ewing. Married a Mr. Ludlow of Los Angeles, California.
45. Mamie Ewing. Married a Mr. Craddock of Waco, Texas, moved to Oklahoma.
40. George Brice Ewing married Daisy Johnson of Arkadelphia. Mayor of City of McGehee, Arkansas, in 1911. Their children:
George Brice, Jr.
41. Alexander Ewing married Minnie Ewing, his first cousin.
Thomas W. Born June 23, 1875, married Miss May Sproles.
Eugene S. Born December 22, 1877.
Maude E. Born February 9, 1879, married Sam P. Felder.
28. William Bromfield Ewing, married Mrs. Carrie Johnston, (nee Walker), their child, Dora (29).
29. Dora Ewing, married Calvin Reed. Children:
Ewing Reed ( ).
Opal Reed ( ).
Ruben Reed ( ).
30. Stephen S. Ewing, married Annie Lee. Children:
42. Tom Ewing married Mary Steele. Their child:
31. Thomas Morgan Ewing married Mrs. Mary L. Spence (nee Cook) November 19, 1862. Their children:
William Bromfield (37). Born August 10, 1863.
Thomas (38) Morgan. Born January 17, 1865.
Walter F. (39). Born March 8, 1868.
George Brice (40). Born August 18, 1874
32. Sarah (Sallie) Ewing married James Long. Their children:
Alice Ewing () married Walter D. Hastings, prosperous newspaper editor, Columbia, Tennessee.
33. Mary Houston, married Charles Echols. Their child:
46. Ewing Echols married Daisy Figures. Their children:
Otey ( ).
Harriet ( ).
36. Stephen M. Ewing married Margaret Fennell. Their children:
James F. ( ).
Steve M. ( ).
Mary A. ( ).
Alexander ( ).
Jeff ( ).
Marga ( ).
Carrie ( ).
John ( ).
Tom ( ).
George ( ).
35. Alice Lea Ewing married Drury Davis. Their children:
Drury Davis ( ).
Charles Davis ( ).
Carlisle Davis ( ).
37. William Bromfield Ewing married Ida Weber (47) at Arkadelphia, June 29, 1904.
47. Children of William Bromfield and Ida Ewing:
Louisa Virginia, born January 11, 1906.
Thomas Morgan, born January 3, 1908, farming at Arkadelphia.
38. Thomas M. Ewing married Ida Gunter at Curtis, Arkansas. No children.
39. Walter T. Ewing married Mary Cutler, merchant in Curtis, Arkansas. Their children:
Walter Brice ( ).
Edgar Boyd ( ).
May Emma ( ).
19. Sarah E. Ewing married Jackson Rice. Their children:
Mollie E. (2).
20. Elisha H. Rice married --------. Children:
Blussie ( ).
Ewing ( ).
Ollie ( ).
Jackie ( ).
Lucile ( ).
21. Stephen E. Rice married ---------. Children:
Steppie (Porter) (23)
Rob ( ).
Richard ( ).
Joe ( ).
Elisha ( ).
Rudolph ( ).
23. Steppie (Porter) Rice married -------. Children:
Ned ( ).
Richard ( ).
48. (see 32) Alexander Ewing married ---------. Had one child:
James Ewing, who is now bailiff of the Court of Criminal Appeal, Texas.
49. Joseph Hix Ewing and wife (Mary E. C., daughter of Rev. (Major) V. A. Woodward, once member of the Virginia legislature and otherwise distinguished, married in Lee County, Virginia, in 1866, left:
E. W. R. Ewing, the author of this work;
Charles W. Ewing, widely known educator, Decatur, Georgia, married Flora Neff of Kentucky, and have children:
Mary S. Ewing, Ballston, Virginia;
Bennie M., who died of diphtheria in
Frank Carroll Ewing. He injured his heart in a cycle race at a fair and died in young manhood. His scientific attainments were phenomenal for his age. Among other things, he was the first inventor and patentee of what is known as the “selective signaling” for telephones, upon which the now widely used automatic service is based.
Page last updated 13 October 2008.