From the records of the United States Pension Office, Washington, D. C., I find that George Ewing, in an affidavit, applying for a pension as a soldier in the patriot army of the American Revolution, says that he was born in Virginia, and that at an early day he moved with his father to Montgomery County, Virginia, from which county he entered the war. Montgomery was formed in 1776 from the vast westward section of Virginia known as the Fincastle District. His Bible record discloses that he was born February 3, 1760. He was granted the pension of a private and later died on July 4, 1840. March 4, 1844, his widow, Margaret, asking for a pension as the widow of her deceased husband, says, under oath, that her husband “was an officer a good portion of the time he was in the service” of the Revolutionary army. She further says that she gave the Bible in which she and her husband kept the family record to their son Alexander, “who resides in Edgar County, Illinois.”
March 19, 1845, Alexander Ewing, “aged about 54,” of Edgar County, Illinois, made an affidavit with which he filed “the true original family record kept by George Ewing, now deceased, and his wife, Margaret Ewing, of the County of Blount and State of Tennessee;” and he states that he tore this record from that Bible which was given in 1843 by his parents and which had since been in his possession.
The Bible record says:
George Ewing was born February 3, 1760. Margaret (his wife) was born February 13, 1765.
George Ewing and Margaret Caldwell were married January 3, 1785. (The last figure of the old record is rather indistinct, but this is about the date fixed by comrades in arms who filed supporting affidavits.)
The list of births shows the following (evidently children):
February 27, 1786, died October 7, 1819.
The Eagleton children are of record, but we must notice dates carefully to determine to which parents they belong. The following are, evidently, the children of Alexander Eagleton: David Caldwell Eagleton, April 1, 1814, died 1815. Margaret Eagleton, July 4, 1816. Margaret Angeline Eagleton, January 27, 1817.
From here the Eagleton children continue as follows, but as Margaret and William were married April 8, 1816, the record gives no clue as to which parentage:
Samuel Ewing Eagleton, December 30, 1819.
George Ewing Eagleton, October 21, 1819.
Elvira Hamilton Eagleton, July 21, 1821.
Isaac Anderson Eagleton, November 7, 1823, died 1824.
Mary Jane Emily Eagleton, August 30, 1825.
George Ewing McCulloch was born April 29, 1838.
Who were these, also found among the birth records?
David Parker, March 1, 1803, died 1825.
Ellen Parker, February 26, 1804.
The record also tells us that Sallie Caldwell married “Ewing Alexander,” which I am inclined to think means Alexander Ewing.
George’s application for the pension is supported, under the law at the time, by the affidavits of two comrades, one of whom says that George served in the army of the Revolution for two years in Capt. Isaac Campbell’s Light Horse from Montgomery County; and the other comrade says that George’s service was for three years.
There is an affidavit by James Ewing, made in Tennessee in 1844, who says he was then about seventy years old, and that he saw George and Margaret married in Virginia.
This Margaret Ewing was granted a widow’s pension, and July 5, 1845, the certificate was mailed to J. S. McNutt, Maryville, Tennessee. (Pension Office Record, Widow, File 9, Vol. A. page 224.)
A George Ewing died in Wythe County, the latter part of 1803, or early 1804, leaving a will, dated March 11, 1803, and probated in 1804. He left no inconsequential estate for his day. Providing for his wife Elinor, he devises land on the north side of Cripple Creek to his son George, on which he then lived, the testator, apparently, living on the south side of that stream; and other lands to son James; and to his four sons, “namely, Samuel, John, George and James,” all of whom seem to have lived near, he left personal estate. To his daughter, Elinor, he leaves a Negro and other property; to his daughter May Ewing he gave ten dollars and no more,” and to his daughter Margaret Purdam a Negro, and to daughter Annie Cosbie he left $10. He adds:
I also order my still to be sold, ... I also order my land in Kaintucky, if discovered and obtained, to be sold. (Wythe County Records, Will Book, p. 284. It is interesting that the Wythe County court held its first session January 26, 1790, and among its first acts was the recommendation of John Ewing as ensign of militia.)
In 1807 Samuel Ewing laid of 325 acres on Cripple Creek in Wythe County “to George Ewing, agreeable to the last will of his father George Ewing,” adjoining “James Ewing, his brother,” and 663 acres were laid off to James adjoining his brother George. This Samuel appears to have been the administrator of George, Sr. (Wythe County D. B. 4, p. 460.)
The son George above, was yet in Wythe County in 1824. (Deed Book, 9, p. 595.)
George Ewing, by will probated May 14, 1838, left land in Russell County, Virginia, on which this son then lived, to his oldest son, Samuel; “Margaret Ewing, the oldest daughter of my son Samuel, and also Emily, Evaline, and Polly Ewing, all daughters of my son Samuel,” received Negroes. Then to “my children that I now name, to wit: George, John, James, Joshua and Sally Ewing, wife of Patrick Ewing,” property was left.
John and apparently Joshua then lived in Wythe County.
In 1797 George and Elinor, his wife, of Wythe County, made a deed to land. (Deed Book 2, p. 228.)
Samuel Ewing, son of George, died in 1859, and on November 9, of that year, Andrew Porter qualified as the guardian of Samuel’s children. He settled the estate by paying: Evaline Ewing, Abraham Painter, Robert B. Higley, Mary E. Sanders, Alfea Catron, Mary Ewing, George Sanders and John Ewing. (Wythe County Will Book 6 ,p. 434.)
Mr. H. M. Heuser, of Wytheville, attorney at law, who furnished me the Samuel Ewing Bible data, wrote:
I learn from my father-in-law and other connections of the Ewings that they were all high-toned and intelligent people. The ladies of the family were all very religious; but the men, whilst law-abiding and good citizens, had a streak of sporting blood and quite a few of them were done financially by fast horses. (Letter of April 11, 1914.)
Heuser also says:
The Ewings who first came to what is now Wythe County were John and Samuel, I think. They came about the year 1760 (when most of that region was wild and little settled), and bought a land warrant dated 1756, for land on New River, now in Wythe County.
To which John and which Samuel Mr. Heuser refers I am not certain, although I have personally examined the records of that county.
In addition to disclosure elsewhere noticed, it is interesting that a will of William Ewing, dated 1791, and probated in 1793, leaves one-half of the estate to Alexander Ewing, son of his brother, John; and other property to two boys, Robert and Samuel Porter, sons of his sister, Margaret Porter.
James Ewing made a will in 1783, probated in 1791, leaving his estate to his brother Samuel, “and if he died without issue,” then the estate went to the heirs of Robert and Andrew Porter. Mr. Heuser says this land remained in the Porter family for more than one hundred years, and that each generation had a Samuel Ewing Porter.
If there were doubt regarding the relation between the older Cecil County, Maryland, Ewings and those of the Cripple Creek, New River and nearby sections, now in Wythe, Montgomery and Bedford Counties, the Courier-Journal article by Nathaniel Ewing comes to our rescue. He says, speaking of the brothers of his grandfather, Nathaniel, the oldest son of William of Scotland-Ireland, “My grandfather purchased land (and settled in Cecil County, Maryland). His brother, Joshua, also purchased a tract adjoining him. Whether any others of his brothers purchased land there I do not know, but they did not remain long in Maryland, having removed to Virginia and settled on the water of the Appomattox, Prince Edward County, where their posterity became numerous. Many of them afterward removed to Cripple Creek, or New River, and some to Potsdam, near Knoxville. They are now scattered over the States of Tennessee and Kentucky.”
This was written, we have seen, before August 4, 1846, as the author died on that day. His brother lived in Virginia, and so did his Uncle James, one of the half-brothers of Nathaniel. “James, I have seen,” he says, “and had from him a portion of my information.” That is direct and very satisfactory information linking our older Virginia Ewings to the older Cecil County Ewings, and deriving all of them from forefathers who were “originally from Scotland, their seat in that country being on the Forth, not far from Stirling Castle.”
Though certainly distantly related to my immediate family, George A. Ewing (b) supra, very closely resembled my Uncle Alexander Ewing. One could not know both and doubt their kinship.
Of his brother, George A. Ewing, L. M. Ewing wrote to me: “He and his sisters were unusually devoted, and no one could have been a better brother than he. Having fine control of his temper, he was slow to anger, but fearless as a lion and quick to resent an insult.”
That is not an over-estimate. Outside of my immediate family I knew him better than any other Ewing of whom I write except H. C. T. Ewing, of the other branch of our family. I began to practice as a young lawyer in an adjoining county and about sixty miles from George A. Ewing’s home. Up to that time I had never met him, nor did I know any of his immediate family. An older man, he was at the time a lawyer of wide reputation, and regarded as one of the best criminal lawyers in the State. Before I had ever tried an important case I was appointed by the court to prosecute, as attorney for the state, a band of mountain desperadoes and alleged felons. Most of them, from the mountains of Kentucky, had crept over into my native Virginia valley and committed crimes, ranging from housebreaking to murder. Some of the gang were in jail at the time of my commission.
One, charged with a murder or more, the “black sheep” of one of the good families of the valley, had been my boyhood friend, his sister a schoolmate, and …; but I was a boy then! How I came to be thrust into the arduous and embarrassing position of prosecuting him and his co-criminals is a long story; too long for this book.
Suddenly, as I sat in court one morning, I found myself the sole attorney for the Commonwealth, facing a most able defense, composed of the best legal talent in that part of Virginia—for his people had ample fortune. Unversed in the technicalities of a criminal trial, confronted by about one hundred witnesses pro and con, the life of boyhood companion in the balance, I was dazed, almost stupefied. I looked at the prisoner, his face was that of abandoned indifference; I looked at his splendid array of talent–they smiled indulgently. I turned toward the aged and broken mother. Tears burst from her sad eyes, and then I caught the tender, pleading eyes of his sister, my former classmate, and I was crushed! Many years have gone; many, many court scenes have intervened: I feel her eyes yet!
After what seemed the torture of an age, I sprang to my feet and made my first speech in court: “May it please your honor, I cannot do it.”
I dropped into my chair; opposing counsel smiled and winked at each other; a woman sobbed, but for which there was awful silence. For a moment the judge swung around in his chair and gazed at the wall; then, facing me again, he said: “Young man, I appreciate your situation; but you are now an officer of this court; an emergency confronts us. The court must require you to act.”
“Pulling myself together,” I asked that the case be passed until the next day. The request was granted.
I went to my office almost wild with despair, grief and the weight of the unsought responsibility. Suddenly I recalled having heard of George A. Ewing as a successful lawyer. Rushing out I wired him: “Have just been appointed to prosecute so and so. Have recently gone to the bar. For the sake of the Ewing name will you help me? No fee in sight.”
“No fee in sight,” truly, for the State paid the prosecutor the pitiful sum of $10!
He came on the night train; met me quietly at a hotel, and we fell upon a plan by which, next day, I got the case passed for thirty days. My! during that month I studied law day and night, talked with the commonwealth’s witnesses—digested the evidence, and, in short, mastered a complex and difficult case and its law. Ewing returned and brought with him another lawyer of experience and ability, a descendant of the famous Henry Clay, of Kentucky, willing to join us for the advertising. We spent Sunday night before the case opened in studying it, and then Ewing said to me: “Well, you have this case remarkably well in hand. This is the greatest opportunity of your life. You must conduct the proceedings on our side. You examine the witnesses, argue points as best you can. Gradually unlimber your best guns. There are some big lawyers opposed to you; they know all the tricks of the game. But Josh, our friend here (the other lawyer), who will help also without fee, will sit on one side of you and I on the other. Of course we shall suggest when necessary. We shall back you up with legal citations when you are pressed by the keen wits of the defense. This is the greatest opportunity in the life of a young lawyer. Use it!”
Generously, for the fame of the case went far and near, Ewing and his friend sat, the one at my right, the other on the left, during that terrible battle, a fight for a young man’s life, the struggle for the honor of an old and untarnished family name, which dragged its agonizing length over one fearful month, day by day, early and late. To my right and a little to my rear, in the felon’s place, sat my erstwhile playmate; on one side his haggard mother in somber black, and on the other sat a slender, sweetly sad-faced girl. Again and again I felt from time to time her eyes as I drove her brother’s witnesses from cover, prodded with the merciless power of the law into his ugly past; or with the keenest enthusiasm born of youth, urged by a deep sense of my new duty, pictured to the jury a fitting close to his terribly misspent, warped, though brief, career at the end of a rope attached to a murderer’s gibbet! Again and again I could hear her heart throb; and now and again as the terrible days wore slowly on, I paused as that dear old mother struggled to suppress her sobs! But in all that time, when I had to look her way, the sweet, sad, face of the girl never lifted her eyes to mine!
Once during the heat of debate one of the attorneys for the defense, half-drunken and unmindful of the decorum of the courtroom, called me a “D___ liar.” The uncouth words were scarce articulate when my distant kinsman and associate in the case, as a flash of lightning, sprang to his feet and shot a terrific fist blow full in the face of the offender! Turning, he bowed with quiet dignity to the court, expressed regret for the necessity of the act, and asked his honor to fix against him a proper fine!
Finally the jury went out, and, after yet other painful hours, as the sun was going behind the distant Cumberlands, beyond the lovely valley, in dread silence the jury filed back into court. “Guilty,” read the clerk. “Remand the prisoner to close confinement to await the judgment of the court,” said the judge in a strangely softened tone. The crowd began silently to leave the room; the guards were hustling the prisoner toward the door; friends were shaking hands with me. The group about me parted, there she stood, those wonderful eyes full of pathos, agony, terror, afire with some strange light I do not yet understand, met mine! One brief instant! Then, slowly, she turned and passed for all time from my presence!
Somewhere among the mementos of my youth is a silk hat mark. Ere then, ere then, upon it, in the long, long ago, her deft fingers wove my initials.
Page last updated 13 October 2008.