Originally appeared in The Winchester Star, 16 August 2008
Copyright © 2002-2008 by The Winchester Star

First Ewing reunion in Valley
Family discovers ties to popular ‘Dallas’ TV show

By Charlotte J. Eller
Special to The Winchester Star

Stephens City — The descendants of the Ewing clan, who settled in this Frederick County town more than 250 years ago, will return to their ancestral roots from far and near next month to attend the first family reunion they have held in the northern Shenandoah Valley.

This isn’t the first Ewing reunion, however. It is the 10th for the family association.

Evelyn Ewing (left) Catherine Lovett and Jeanette Ewing visit the Ewing Family Cemetery in preparation for the reunion to be held in the area for the first time.
(Photos by Scott Mason)

Members of Clan Ewing in America, founded in 1990 by the Rev. Ellsworth Samuel Ewing, will come from as far away as California to attend the event set for Sept. 18-21, said Mary Ewing Gosline, family reunion chairwoman.

The reunion, which relives the history of one of Stephens City’s oldest families, fits nicely with the town’s year-long celebration of the 250th anniversary of its founding, said local historian Linden A. “Butch” Fravel Jr., who serves on the Town Council and is chairman of its Planning Commission.

“They couldn’t have picked a better time to come home . . . and find their roots,” he said.

Some Ewing ancestors, who emigrated from Ireland in 1729 and settled in Pennsylvania, eventually moved as far away as the southwestern United States, while others never left Stephens City, to which their ancestors moved in the mid-1730s, historians say.

William Ewing, who acquired more than 625 acres from Jost Hite and settled there, headed the Stephens City contingent. He and his descendants farmed the land for 175 years.

The Ewings of “Dallas”

One ancestor, Jock Ewing, moved to Texas after becoming tired of working in Pittsburgh’s iron and steel plants and West Virginia’s coal fields, according to his great-niece, Polly Ewing Brown of Harrisonburg.

Jock Ewing had good fortune when he moved to Texas; he struck oil and became rich. Years later, his story inspired the immensely popular television series “Dallas,” which was telecast from 1978 until 1991, Brown said.

She will discuss the “Dallas Ewing Oil TV Series” Sept. 20 when relatives gather at the Hampton Inn on Berryville Avenue in Winchester to learn more about their heritage.

Her talk will focus on fact vs. fiction in the TV show. “It really is based on a true story,” Brown said in a telephone interview. “But as the series continued, they just kept adding to the story and making it up. A lot [that was untrue] was added and added and added.”

Jeanette Ewing (left) Catherine Lovett, Evelyn Ewing, Jim Ewing, Mary Gosline, and John Ewing are gearing up for the family reunion. Members of Clan Ewing in America, founded in 1990 by the Rev. Ellsworth Samuel Ewing, will come from as far away as California to attend the event set for Sept. 18-21

A Richmond native, Brown learned years ago of the family’s ties to the show, which was not yet on the air, from her father while they were en route to a funeral in Pittsburgh.

“We were just chit-chatting about things that we remembered about our relatives when he said, ‘The funniest thing happened to me this past week.’”

Her father related how he had received a phone call from a lawyer in Dallas, asking him to sign an agreement that the family wouldn’t sue for slander because an entertainment company planned to produce a story about his uncle Jock Ewing.

Brown, who had never heard of her great-uncle Jock Ewing until that time, questioned her father about him. Then he went on to tell the story of Jock Ewing’s life.

When they got to the funeral, Brown and her father found that other relatives there had received similar phone calls. “We all looked at each other and said, ‘Who would care? Who would give a whoop about anybody’s family story?” she said with a chuckle.

As it turned out, almost everyone in the United States, as well as many foreign countries, cared.

The story of Jock and “Miss Ellie” Ewing’s family on “Dallas” became one of the most successful TV prime-time serial stories ever made, according to the MSN Movies Web site.

This is the crumbling grave marker of William Ewing, who acquired more than 625 acres from Jost Hite and settled in the area now known as Stephens City. He and his descendants farmed the land for 175 years.

“My dad got all sorts of promotional things” from the producers as the result of the series, including a Ewing Monopoly game, Brown said.

She promised to reveal “the rest of the story” of the real Jock Ewing in her talk, including: “If there was a rich uncle, why are we still working? What happened to the money?”

Coming home

Besides Brown’s talk, presentations about other aspects of family and local history, led by family members and local historians, also are planned for Sept. 19-20 at the inn.

“Echoes of the Shenandoah,” the reunion’s theme, “reflects an emphasis on the Ewing families who migrated to, settled in, and traveled through the Northern Shenandoah Valley,” according to a memorandum outlining plans for the gathering.

Two members of Clan Ewing hold major posts in area local governments. Ray Ewing is Stephens City’s mayor. His cousin Bill Ewing represents the Opequon District, where the town is located, on the Frederick County Board of Supervisors.

Both are excited about the event. “I couldn’t be prouder that it’s happening here and at this particular time,” Ray Ewing said.

“Knowing that one’s ancestors have lived in a community for more than 250 years really helps you to appreciate your roots,” he said. “It’s reassuring to look at sights in the town and know that your great-grandfather looked at this same sight.”

This is a grave marker for Joshua Ewing in the family cemetery near Stephens City. The family is related to the man who inspired the TV drama “Dallas.”

Bill Ewing agreed: “I just think it’s great that the family can gather together here in Stephens City. We’re glad to see them all coming. Having lived away from the area for a while, I know how good it is to come home.”

Bill Ewing’s brother and sister-in-law, James and Evelyn Ewing of Emporia, encouraged the Clan Ewing to meet in the Stephens City area when the couple attended the last reunion.

Reunion activities for Sept. 19 include a bus tour of Frederick County, a visit to the Newtown History Center and Stephens City’s Main Street, a dedication ceremony for the family cemetery southeast of the town, and lunch at the Stephens City United Methodist Church.

Attendance at all of the events, including meals, requires advance registration and reservations.
Visit www.ClanEwing.org or contact
James and Evelyn Ewing at jimandevelyn@telpage.net;
or call 434-634-9227 or 434-594-4199.

Following the afternoon presentations on family history, the group will have dinner at the Wayside Inn, where another well-known local historian, Michael Foreman, will speak.

On Sept. 20, the events include a visit to the Glen Burnie Historic House and Gardens and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester and more family history presentations.