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Grand-dad Will's Stories [Part I]

Margrett McCorkle (+1 509.924.3482, Margrett42 at comcast dot net)

My great-grandfather, William Marion Ewing, had a very major influence on my life, my beliefs and my understanding of my cultural heritage. Grand-dad Will -- as I called him -- was my best friend, my mentor, and, as I look back with hindsight, one of the greatest influences in my life. He was a constantly loving, sharing teacher. He turned everything into something new to learn, directly and indirectly. Growing up at his knee was a learning and fun time. I wish every child could be as fortunate as I was to have a great-grandfather such as him.

Grand-dad Will was a great story-teller; he told me many, many stories. Most were seemingly, at the time, simplistic: How to make bow and arrows, how to skin a rabbit and tan its hide, and how to spin a bucket of water around and over your shoulder and not spill a drop. Others were more deep and'serious.'

To help my children, and others, better understand their cultural heritage, I will relate some of Grand-dad Will's stories in future Journal issues. In addition, through my research I have learned that many of his stories concern the lives of William 'Swago Bill' Ewing, James 'The Pioneer' Ewing and others of my ancestors. Relating his stories will hopefully help other descendants of these Ewing pioneers gain insights into the delights and challenges, rather than merely the genealogical details, of their ancestors' lives.

My lineage back through Grand-dad Will to William 'Swago Bill' Ewing (who married Mary McNeil) and Swago Bill's father James 'The Pioneer' Ewing (who married Sarah Mayes) appears in a previous issue of the Journal.[1] A narrative synopsis of Grand-dad Will's life follows. His ancestry-illuminating and life-influencing stories will appear in future issues of the Journal.

William Marion 'Will' Ewing and His Family

William Marion Ewing -- 'Will' as he was known by friends and family -- was born February 21, 1871, in Putnam County, Missouri. He was the only son of John Anderson Ewing (born October 29, 1836, in Huntington, Gallia County, Ohio) and Evaline Mary Gardner (born February 15, 1844, in Preble County, Ohio, and the daughter of John Gardner and Caroline/Cobb).

At Home in Casa, Arkansas (circa 1943)

Back Row: Margrett (Richardson) McCorkle, Addie Lee (Mann) Richardson, William Marion Ewing, Georgia Ann Ewing; Front Row: William Richardson, Patricia Richardson
(Courtesy of Margrett McCorkle)

Will's father and mother both died when he was just eight or nine years old. Will had a younger sister -- Georgia Ann -- who was barely a year old when their parents passed away. After the death of his parents, Will lived with his grandparents, John Jordon and Elizabeth Ann (Viers) Ewing, in Schuylar County, Missouri. His childhood was harsh, but it was in the context of a loving family. He was strongly encouraged toward education, and he learned many family stories from his grandfather. His grandfather died when Will was seventeen, and his grandmother died ten years later. Will took care of his grandmother until she died in 1899 in Putnam County, Missouri.

At age twenty-one, Will married Ellen Ann Admire, a daughter of Jesse and Mary Delilah (Ferguson) Admire, who was born November 6, 1877, in Putnam County, Missouri. 'Ellie' was fifteen years old at the time of their marriage on October 30, 1892, in Martintown, Missouri. Will and Ellie Ewing started their married life in Putnam County. Will was a member of one of the first crews hired to string telephone lines through the Ozarks countryside.

The first child born to Will and Ellie Ewing was my grandmother Evaline Mary Ewing, born July 26, 1894, in Putnam County, Missouri. After the death of Will's grandmother Elizabeth, and around 1900, the family moved south to Boone County, Arkansas, where the rest of the family's children were born. The family resided in Alpena Pass, which is cited as belonging to Boone or Carroll County depending on the county line at the time.

Will was primarily a farmer. He was also a skilled, talented wood-worker. He made all the furniture in his home and carved beautiful pieces of art, bugs and birds -- anything I would ask him to render. He made a small replica of a buckboard wagon that I loved.

Will and Ellie's family consisted of four sons and three daughters plus twin daughters who died at birth. Their second child, Henry Lee Ewing, was born February 21, 1890, and their third child, Anna Mae Ewing, was born September 30, 1900. Their fourth child -- Marion Francis 'Monk' Ewing born in 1902 -- was killed in a railroad fire circa 1941/42, leaving one daughter. Will and Ellie's fifth born was William Hugh 'Bill' Ewing (born March 3, 1907), their sixth born was Vinita 'Nettie' Ewing (born May 30, 1911), and their last born was John Anderson Ewing (born April 28, 1915) who was known as 'Pat.'

The same year their last child, Pat, was born, Will and Ellie's oldest child Evaline Mary -- known as 'Linee' -- married Garland Blaine Richardson. The Richardson family had moved to Carroll County, Arkansas, from Tennessee in 1850. Garland and Linee were married September 11, 1915, in Carroll County and the following July 18th their only child was born in Alpena Pass, Arkansas. This child, Frederick, was my father; he married Addie Lee Mann. Garland and Linee's marriage was short lived. The 1920 census shows Linee and her three-year old son -- my father, Frederick -- living with her father and mother, Will and Ellie Ewing.

By the end of 1921, my great-grandmother Ellie had passed away. She died on December 3, 1921, and is buried in Alpena Cemetery in Carroll County, Arkansas. I never knew Ellie, but from Grand-dad Will's many stories about her, she had an extraordinary artistic ability. She was a portrait artist and did numerous charcoal portraits of her neighbors and others in her community. She was the love of my great-grandfather's life. He never quite recovered from her death. He lived out the rest of his life alone, with just his children and a 'Big Old Red Mule.'

From the time of the 1920 census until his marriage to my mother in 1935, my father was raised by his grandfather. His grandfather Will was therefore the only 'father' he knew, and my father's aunts and uncles were like siblings to him.

As life moved on and my siblings and I were born, we spent much time visiting Grand-dad Will, who by this time lived in Casa, Arkansas, just at the foot of Petit Jean Mountain. Grand-dad Will loved the mountains. Perhaps being in the mountains was in his blood, having descended from James 'The Pioneer' Ewing of Pocahontas County, West Virginia. The mountains were where he wished to be buried when the time came. That time came on July 1, 1956, when he was eighty-five years old. I was fourteen at the time and had spent much of those fourteen years at his knee, fishing, blackberry picking, hunting for Indian arrow points, and sitting on his lap for long summer afternoons listening to his many stories. He wrote in that beautiful, old script handwriting and left a trunk filled with chronicles of the stories that he spent hours telling me.


[1] J. Clan Ewing, Vol. 13, No. 4 (November 2007), p. 8.