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Margaret XE "Ewing:Margaret"  and Anne Ewing XE "Ewing:Anne"  of Rowan County, North Carolina: Sisters of Nathaniel Ewing XE "Ewing:Nathaniel"  (1747-1822)

Gary A. Murrell XE "Murrell:Gary A."  (+1 405.570.5052, GaryMurrell at yahoo dot com)

Ewing Family J., Vol. 15, No. 4 (November 2009), pp. 1-10.

Over the years, many Ewing researchers have investigated the earliest Ewings in America. Among those early Ewings is one Joshua Ewing, son of William Ewing (born about 1660 in Scotland) and his second wife (name unknown). This Joshua Ewing was born about 1704 in Ulster, Ireland, and died in August 1753 in Cecil County, Maryland, leaving a family and a will. In his will, Joshua names his wife, Jane (Patton), a married daughter, Catherine, and four sons, Patrick, Robert, Samuel and Nathaniel. No other children are mentioned. Patrick, identified as his oldest son, is named co-executor along with Joshua's wife Jane.[1]

Several researchers have also included a second daughter, Margaret, as a child of Joshua even though she is not named in the will. Based on an uncorroborated entry in the LDS's IGI file, this Margaret was a daughter of Joshua and Jane and was supposedly born in 1730. Some say she died by 1753 which was the reason she was missing from the list of heirs. Another school of thought is that she was born and died in 1730. If this is the case, her existence certainly does not preclude there being another Margaret born to this family in later years. Such was the case with my Thompson family with a daughter named Elizabeth who died in infancy with her given name being 'reused' for a later-born child.

I have recently found new evidence that needs to be considered to create a coherent body of knowledge concerning this family. It is predicated on something that I cannot substantiate but has received widespread acceptance among Ewing historians. This evidence says that the Nathaniel named among the sons of Joshua of Cecil County is the same person who married Rebecca Osborne, daughter of Alexander Osborne, of Rowan and Iredell Counties in North Carolina. If this is the case, then I am suggesting here that Joshua had two daughters not named in his will. Their names are Margaret Ewing and Anne Ewing; they are the focus of this article.

My great-great-great-great-grandmother, Margaret Edmiston (c1743-1807), was born, I believe, Margaret Ewing. She married James Edmiston about 1765, but the marriage record has never been found. Nor have the parents of James Edmiston (c1740-1803) been identified. I will make the case here that I believe her maiden name was Ewing and that she was the sister of Nathaniel and Anne. From 1778 to 1803, James and Margaret Edmiston lived in Burke County, North Carolina. One of their children was a son named Moses James Edmiston who I will discuss below.

Another great-great-great-great-grandmother of mine, Anne Thompson (1745-1815), was born Anne Ewing and married John Thompson in 1767 as recorded in Rowan County, North Carolina. We know that Anne's maiden name was Ewing. When they were married, they were living in the Davidson Creek area of what was later to become Iredell County, North Carolina. They were documented in this area in the 1768 Rowan County Tax List prepared by John Brevard. In 1769, John and Anne (Ewing) Thompson moved a few miles south to what would later become York County, South Carolina. Here they brought into the world a set of twins, Nathaniel Thompson and Mary Ann Thompson, followed by seven other children.

In 1793, there was a marriage that is recorded in the family Bible, but not found in any marriage book, between Moses James Edmiston and Mary Ann Thompson. I descend from this Moses James and Mary Ann; hence their mothers are both great-great-great-great-grandmothers of mine. In searching for the maiden name of my great-great-great-great-grandmother Margaret, I made some discoveries that made me come to the realization that Margaret and Anne were sisters, and that their brother was Nathaniel Ewing, husband of Rebecca Osborne. That would mean that Moses James Edmiston and Mary Ann Thompson, who married in 1793, were first cousins. But marriages between cousins were not at all uncommon in those days.

This article presents a number of hypotheses that lead me to the conclusion that Nathaniel, Margaret and Anne were siblings and most probably the children of the Joshua Ewing of Cecil County, Maryland, who died in August 1753. The intent of this article is to present and prove these hypotheses. The pedigree appearing to the right will hopefully help readers follow my discussion.

Hypotheses About Margaret Edmiston and Anne Thompson and Their Proof

1. Nathaniel was Anne (Ewing) Thompson's brother.

In the 1768 Rowan County, North Carolina, tax list in John Brevard's district (which would later become southern Iredell County), Nathaniel Ewing, future husband of Rebecca Osborne, is listed as living in the household of one of two John Thompson families appearing in the tax list. Nathaniel would have been age sixteen or older in order to be listed. Nathaniel married Rebecca Osborne about two years later about 1770. We know that the John Thompson with whom Nathaniel lived is the same person as Anne Ewing's husband, as his mother's second husband, Andrew Simeral, is a neighbor in the tax list.

This suggests that Nathaniel was living with his sister, Anne (Ewing) Thompson (age about twenty-three in 1768), who was the wife of John Thompson, later of York County, South Carolina. Nathaniel was the 'baby' of the Joshua Ewing family and probably the last to marry. There is some disagreement over Nathaniel's birth year. Some claim February 1741. Others cite 1742, and still others, 1747.[2] A 1747 birth year would have him being about twenty-one years old at the time of the 1768 Rowan Tax List. Whether twenty-one or twenty-seven, he was single and living with his twenty-three-year old sister, Anne, in the 1768 household of John Thompson.

2. Moses James Edmiston and Mary Ann Thompson knew each other only because they were first cousins.

Mary Ann Thompson was born and raised in York County, South Carolina, just a few miles south of today's Charlotte, North Carolina. Moses James Edmiston was raised along the upper reaches of the Catawba River in Burke County, North Carolina. They married in 1793. It is not known where they were married, but it was most likely in the county of the bride's residence, York County, South Carolina.

This leads to the question: How did they come to know each other? They were raised about a hundred miles apart. In the 1790s travel was difficult, and people did not court across long distances. There is no known reason for Moses James Edmiston of Burke County, North Carolina, to have met Mary Ann Thompson of York County, South Carolina, other than through common Ewing relatives. Their mothers being sisters is a most plausible, even compelling, reason for this couple to meet, court and marry.

3. James Edmiston and Nathaniel Ewing were relatives or good friends.

There is a recorded land sale made by Nathaniel Ewing in 1777 in Rowan County. One of the two witnesses to the transaction was James Edmiston, father of Moses James Edmiston. There was always good reason to name a relative (blood or in-law) as a witness to a deed recording.

This land was next to the land of Samuel Baker on Davidson's Creek in what would become Iredell County in 1788.

4. James Edmiston and John Thompson were linked by George Davidson.

George Davidson was the bondsman (best man) for the marriage of John Thompson and Anne Ewing in 1767 in Rowan County.

George Davidson and James Edmiston later lived near each other in Burke County as evidenced by a group of men living near the upper stretches of the Catawba River petitioning the court on January 29, 1792, with George Davidson's and James Edmiston's names adjacent to each other in the document. On January 3, 1793, the court ordered a new road from an 'Old Fort' to Mumford's Cove, both in Burke County. Both of these men were among those ordered to participate.

James Edmiston's first property deed in Burke County in 1778 describes his property as being next to the property of George Davidson. Obviously a friend and neighbor of James Edmiston, and the equivalent of best man for John Thompson (husband of Anne Ewing), George Davidson is an undeniable link between James Edmiston and John Thompson, whose wives I am suggesting were sisters. The James Edmiston and George Davidson families probably migrated together from Iredell County to Burke County in late 1777 or early 1778, and settled next door to each other on the upper Catawba River.

5. Margaret Edmiston's will names Adlai Ewing, Nathaniel's son, as an Executor.

Perhaps the most striking evidence of Margaret being related to the Ewing family is the fact that after her husband, James Edmiston, died in Burke County in 1803, she moved to Iredell County just to the east of Burke County, where she made a will, dated 1807, with her son Samuel Edmiston listed as co-executor along with Adlai Ewing. Adlai is known to be the son of Nathaniel and Rebecca (Osborne) Ewing of Iredell County. Nathaniel named his son, Adlai, after his wife's uncle, Adlai Osborne.

Margaret Edmiston no doubt moved to Iredell County between 1803 and 1807 to be near her brother Nathaniel Ewing and his family after the death of her husband. We know that all of Margaret's children had gone west, and were no longer in or near North Carolina, or were deceased by 1807. Except, that is, for sons George and Samuel. The whereabouts of George in 1807 is not known. Samuel must have been close enough to serve as a co-executor. Nathaniel Ewing, her supposed brother, was known to be in Iredell County at this time, along with his son Adlai. They are in the 1810 census of Iredell County.

In support of all of this, Margaret's will reads as follows:

Margaret Edmiston, Iredell County, North Carolina

In the name of God Amen. I Margaret Edmonston widow of the County of Iredell & State of No. Carolina, being week of body but of perfect mind & memery & calling to mind my mortallity knowing that it is appointed to all once to die & therefore I do make & ordan this as my last Will & Testamont. Viz first I recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God and my body to recceive a Christian Burial & that at the discretion of my Executor. 2nd., I leave & bequeath to my son Saml one bay mare & saddle, beads & bead Clothes & all my wearing Clothes & Cupboard & Kitchon furniture. 3rd. I also leave to my daughter Molly Anny likewise to my sons James & George Edmonston each & every one the sum of 5 Shillings. I leave my Son Samuel Edmonston & Adlai Ewing as the executors of this my last will and testomont and I do thereby disallow revoke & Disanul all & every other former Testaments wills legalies & Executon by me in any Wise beforenamed Ratifying & confirming this & no other in [illegible] whereof I have hereunto set my Hand and affictst my Seal the 20th March 1807. Margaret Edmonston (mark) Teste John Walls Jurat.

6. Blount County, Tennessee, marriages link Margaret Edmiston to Ewings.

The bondsman for the marriage of Margaret's son, James Edmiston, Jr., in 1797 to Agnes Alexander in Blount County, Tennessee, was James Ewing, Sr. (1766-1856), son of Alexander Ewing (c1733-1826) and Rachel Margaret Ewing (this was both her married and maiden name).

A year later in the same county this same James Ewing married Mary Thompson (no known relation), and James Edmiston was his bondsman. This James Ewing is known to be the first cousin once removed of Nathaniel Ewing. If Margaret, James Edmiston Jr.'s mother, is indeed a sister of Nathaniel Ewing, then James Edmiston, Jr. and James Ewing, both of Blount County, Tennessee, are doubly second cousins, as the ancestry of this James Ewing of Blount is well-documented.

7. Given names of Margaret Edmiston's descendants show many Ewing names.

David Crawford Edmiston, son of David Edmiston and grandson of James and Margaret Edmiston, named one of his children Elizabeth Ewing Edmiston. Many of his other children carry middle names of known surnames in the family tree, for example, White, Henderson and Brevard. As David Edmiston was a brother of Moses James, his son David Crawford was not a descendant of Anne (Ewing) Thompson, so he did not get the Ewing name from her.

In addition, at least two other descendants of David Edmiston carried middle names of Euwin, probably either a misspelling of Ewing or an offshoot of the Ewing name. An extremely likely Ewing connection that David Edmiston's son and later descendants would find worthy to use in naming their children would be to David Edmiston's mother, Margaret Edmiston.

Further, my great-grandfather Thomas F. Edmiston had a brother named Andrew Ewing Edmiston, the middle name of which he acquired from either his great-grandmother, Margaret (Ewing) Edmiston, or his great-grandmother, Anne (Ewing) Thompson, or possibly from both. Although not as strong evidence as Margaret's use of Adlai Ewing for an executor, these multiple occurrences of Ewing among her descendants contribute to the case for her maiden name being Ewing.

8. Margaret was more likely a sister than a first cousin of Nathaniel Ewing.

If we accept the evidence suggesting that Margaret Edmiston was a Ewing, was she a sister or first cousin of Nathaniel Ewing? Would she have asked a nephew (Adlai Osborne Ewing) to be a co-executor along with her son, or would she have asked a first cousin once removed? The odds, I think, overwhelmingly favor a nephew. And that would make Nathaniel Ewing a brother.

9. Anne and Margaret are a 'perfect fit' in the Joshua Ewing family.

Here is a listing of the estimated birth years for the children of Joshua and Jane Ewing. In the cases of the first four children, dates are from Margaret Ewing Fife's book:[3]

If Nathaniel was born in 1747, he would have been twenty-one when staying with his older sister and brother-in-law in 1768 in Rowan County. Had he been born in 1741, he would have been twenty-seven and still single. That's a possibility but a stretch to be sure. Which is correct?

In Chapter XXV of Margaret Ewing Fife's book, on page 202, she presents three deeds dealing with the property of Joshua Ewing (who died in 1753) of Cecil County, Maryland. The first deed was dated August 9, 1766, and included all of the land of heirs of Joshua except for his son Nathaniel, suggesting Nathaniel was under the age of twenty-one. The other two deed recordings are dated May 31, 1769, and cite all four sons of Joshua, including his youngest son Nathaniel.

A 1741 birth would have made Nathaniel twenty-five years old at the time of the 1766 property transaction, and Nathaniel would no doubt have been included in that transaction. Therefore he was not born in that year. However, if he was born between 1745 and 1747, then by 1769 he would have attained the age of twenty-one. Further, it is reasonable to think that the reason for these two land transfers occurring in 1769 was because Nathaniel had just reached age twenty-one, perhaps just a few months before. This makes a strong case for a 1747 birth, two years after his (hypothesized) sister, Anne.

This establishes a very plausible birth-year sequence for the seven children of Joshua and Jane (Patton) Ewing as listed above. Note the every-other-year pattern of their births. Our two additions to this family, Margaret and Anne, are a near perfect fit with respect to the other five children. Anne's birth year is known. Margaret's birth year is inferred but is consistent with independently-established evidence that Margaret was born between 1740 and 1745.

Randomly selecting two women and finding a family for them where birth years merge with already-known children and no breaks in normal birth patterns is next to impossible. Yet that is exactly what we see here: A merged family with a perfect birth-year sequence.


What about that will of Joshua Ewing in Cecil County, Maryland, written in 1753? Margaret and Anne would have been minor daughters, ages about ten and eight respectively in 1753, when their dad died. This is not the first will I have seen which does not name daughters who are otherwise known to exist. The one daughter, Catherine, who was named was married and would therefore have been a likely recipient of personal property. But the minor girls could easily have been excluded simply because of their ages and their gender. The boys were named, even though several were minors, because males traditionally received the land bequeathed in wills of the period. So I am of the opinion that exclusion from this will for two young daughters is a weak argument for Margaret and Anne not being a part of this family.

Admittedly, proof of any one or two of the hypotheses presented above, taken alone, would make for a pretty shaky argument. But when they are considered together, in total, one has to admit the case for these three individuals Nathaniel Ewing, Margaret (Ewing) Edmiston and Anne (Ewing) Thompson being siblings cannot be summarily dismissed. In my opinion, the arguments presented here collectively make a compelling case for Margaret and Anne being siblings of Nathaniel and bona fide members of the Joshua Ewing family of Cecil County, Maryland.

Major Questions Needing Answers

1. Where did James Edmiston and Margaret Ewing marry? Cecil County, Maryland? Prince Edward County, Virginia? Another county in Virginia where Ewings lived? Or did they meet in Rowan County where, in 1777, we find the first documented evidence of the presence of James Edmiston in any county or state?

2. What brought Anne Ewing to Rowan (later Iredell) County where she married John Thompson, a product of Chester County, Pennsylvania? Who accompanied her to Rowan?

3. Where did James and Margaret (Ewing) Edmiston live between their marriage circa 1765 and their first documented presence in Rowan County in 1777? [4]

4. What was James Edmiston's home county before his marriage? [5]

Interesting Tidbits

Margaret (Ewing) Edmiston's supposed nephew, Adlai Osborne Ewing, is the grandfather of Adlai Ewing Stevenson, Vice President of the United States from 1893 to 1897, and the great-great-grandfather of Adlai Ewing Stevenson who was governor of Illinois and twice Democratic presidential candidate (in 1952 and 1956).

Another interesting tidbit is that Joshua Ewing's brother, William, had a son named Samuel (c1740-1806) who lived in Prince Edward County, Virginia, and Laurens County, South Carolina, before moving, prior to the 1800 census, to York County, South Carolina. He settled on Bullock's Creek just eighteen dwellings away from the home of one of our subjects, Anne (Ewing) Thompson, a widow in the 1800 census. He attended the same church, Beersheba Presbyterian, which our John and Anne (Ewing) Thompson attended, and is believed to be buried in the same cemetery as John and Anne, the Beersheba Church Cemetery in York County, South Carolina. Anne and Samuel would have been first cousins. Those Ewing family ties were strong!

Final Comments

I was unaware of my Ewing lineage until about three years ago when I began to 'connect the dots' on small pieces of evidence that had been accumulating for several years. What had previously been a brick wall hopeless to further pursue began to get cracks and soon various pieces of the puzzle came together.

Once this happened, what remained was to share my findings with others who might be interested. The Ewing-related researchers involved with the Ewing Family Association seemed to be the best venue for that sharing. Hence this article.

I would very much welcome any input from readers who might be able to shed some light on either the hypotheses and proofs presented here or the questions I have posed. I am a firm believer in the sharing of ideas among cousins and the concept of team research with its powerful synergies.

My genealogy can be found on Rootsweb's WorldConnect[6] in the database named 'gmapr2009'. I have withheld notes and sources from the posting in order to encourage other genealogists to contact me. I have many notes and source citations; they are in my genealogy database on my personal computer.

Appendix: Joshua Ewing's Will

Joshua Ewing prepared his will on August 9, 1753. It was probated on August 16, 1753, and recorded in Cecil County, Maryland (Will Book Liber BB #2, Folio 125). A transcription appears in Chapter XXV of Margaret Ewing Fife's book, and the transcription is reproduced here for reader convenience:

In the name of God, Amen. I, Joshua Ewing of Cecil County and Province of Maryland, Yoeman, being in perfect mind and memory, calling to mind the mortality of this life and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and constitute this my last Will and Testament in ye manner and form following, Viz.

First of all I recommend my Soul to ye hand of Almighty God that gave it, and my body to be buried in a Christian and decent manner at ye discretion of my Executors, nothing doubting but I shall receive ye same at ye Reserection by ye mighty power of God. And as touching ye worldly Estate wherewith it hath pleased God to bless me in this life, I order in ye manner and form following:

1st. I order all my just debts and funeral charges to be justly paid and discharged.

Item 2. I order and appoint my beloved wife, Jane, to have a third part of all my lands together with its improvements during her lifetime or widowhood. But if she marry she must leave it, taking for it ye yearly Dower of twelve pounds per annum "for no stranger shall ever inherit here", and this twelve pounds shall be paid in this manner, Viz: The inheritors of Borans Forrest and Addition to Success shall pay eight pounds equally betwixt them, and the inheritors of Dividing four pounds equally betwixt them.

Item 3. I order and appoint my daughter, Catherine, or her husband in and through her to have one hundred pounds value of goods or chattels, out of my whole moveable Estate, by way of Dower, whereof there is seventy-eight pounds already paid, and further I order her to receive twenty pounds more out of the said moveable estate by way of gift, to be paid at ye discretion of her mother or brothers when they can conveniently do it. And I hereby depose said daughter or her husband and their heirs of any power or right, either by law or equity, forever to claim any more either by legacy or Dower of or from me or my heirs forever.

Item 4. As touching ye rest of my moveable Estate I order my eldest son, Patrick Ewing, to have ye value of thirty pounds of ye goods as he shall choose, and ye remainder to be divided into five equal shares between my wife and four sons, Viz: Patrick, Robert, Samuel and Nathaniel, each of the five having an equal share.

Item 5. As touching my real Estate in land, I order and appoint my two eldest sons, Patrick and Robert Ewing to have ye Plantation I bought of Jared Nelson called Borans Forrest and Addition to Success. I appoint it to them and to ye lawfully begotten heirs of their body forever.

Item 6. I appoint my two youngest sons, Viz: Samuel and Nathaniel Ewing to have ye Plantation I now live on called ye Dividing, containing three hundred acres, and I order it to them and ye lawfully begotten heirs of their body forever.

And further I do hereby depose for ever all my four sons and their heirs of all power and authority forever to sell or alienate, or to sell, mortgage, or rent said lands. But in process of time, if they and their best friends see cause, they may sell one to another. But ye lands not to depart from ye family while there is a righteous or lawfully begotten heir to be found belonging to me.

And if any of my four sons die a minor before they come of age, his part I appoint to be equally divided among ye other three. But if Patrick or Robert die a minor his part of ye estate I appoint to be also equally divided only Samuel to succeed ye deceased brother in his part of ye land and said Samuel deliver up his right and title to ye part of ye Dividing to be equally divided among the three remaining brothers. Further, I also order and appoint ye there be no division made between my sons until the two eldest come of age or see cause to marry, and longer if possible.

I order and appoint [that] ye two plantations be subservient one to another both in meadow and in timber as occasion may require, and if they see cause to make any improvements by a mill on any of ye places, either before or after ye division, they must all be equal in the expense and equally in the benefits arising from thence.

I do hereby order and appoint my beloved wife and oldest son, Patrick to be my Executors, and further appoint James Porter, William Ewing, Snr. [Alexander Ewing's son] and John Ewing, Junr., be my guardians, to see that justice and equity be done.

And lastly revoking and disannulling all Will or Wills before made by me, I do hereby make and constitute this my last Will and Testament. As witness my hand and seal this Ninth day of August in ye year of our Lord, One Thousand Seven Hundred and fifty three.

Joshua Ewing [signature of]                       [Seal]

Margaret Ewing Fife adds the following comments:

This Will was signed, sealed and acknowledged in presence of John Ewing, and probated August 16, 1753, in Cecil County, Maryland.

On the back of the foregoing Will was thus written, Viz: Cecil County, August 16th 1753, John Ewing the subscribing witness to the within Will ... saw the testator, Joshua Ewing sign the within Will ...

The William Ewing, Sr. [mentioned in the will] is, surely, the son-in-law of Joshua Ewing [husband of his daughter Catherine] as we saw in the preceding Chapter XXIV. William Ewing Sr. was the eldest [son] of Nathaniel Ewing. William Ewing, Jr. was 3rd son of Alexander Ewing of THE LEVEL, Cecil Co., MD who died 1738. John Ewing, [the witness to the will], is the 2nd son of Alexander Ewing of THE LEVEL and was married with one child by 1753 as proven by family records. John Ewing, Jr. is one of the twin sons of Nathaniel and Rachel (Porter) Ewing. He was, at that time, almost 22 years old and said to be teaching in Dr. Allison's school there.

Gary Murrell is a family historian living in Edmond, Oklahoma, just a few miles northeast of Oklahoma City. He has been interested in genealogy since the 1960s, but did not get serious about research until the early 1990s after his kids were gone from the nest. He has been married to Marilyn for forty-three years, and has four children, all married, and twelve grandchildren. He and his wife are retired and enjoy travelling in their RV and doing genealogy research along the way.


[1] A transcription of the will appears in the section titled Appendix: Joshua Ewing's Will.

[2] This is further discussed in the following material.

[3] Fife, Margaret Ewing (ed. James R. McMichael). Ewing in Early America, Family History Publishers, Bountiful, Utah, 84101. Available from and online at

[4] I need to review deed records and tax lists for Rowan and adjoining counties between 1765 and 1777 for this couple.

[5] He was known to be Scots-Irish, so it is likely he was born in Cecil County, Maryland, or Chester County, Pennsylvania, or a nearby county. There were known Edmistons (sometimes spelled Edmondson, etc.) in both counties.