Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fearless Females March 1 - Favorite Female Ancestor

A blog I just found today (and started following of course) called The Accidental Genealogist has 31 prompts posted for the month of March to explore and share your female ancestors. Since this is right up my alley, I decided to start posting them. I have some catching up to do so expect to be deluged over the next few days til I get caught up.

March 1 Prompt — Do you have a favorite female ancestor? One you are drawn to or want to learn more about? Write down some key facts you have already learned or what you would like to learn and outline your goals and potential sources you plan to check.

This is a hard choice, because I’m fascinated by so many of my ancestors. Elizabeth Curtis on my father's side is one of my favorites (the first white woman in Madison County, IN, but she's already been explored in an earlier post). My mother suggested my 6th great grandmother, Mary Ewing, born McNeil, who was born in Virginia, lived in Ohio and Iowa and died in Missouri. Talk about a pioneer!

Mary was born on December 25, 1771 in what is now West Virginia, to Thomas McNeil and his wife Mary Hughes. On November 16, 1785, she wed William Ewing, nicknamed ‘Swago Bill’. Mary was a month shy of being fourteen and Swago Bill was twenty nine. At the age of fifteen, Mary was the mother of Elizabeth and at sixteen another child came, Thomas. Before she was nineteen, she was taking care of three young children and another came before she was twenty one. By the age of thirty eight, Mary had twelve children in the space of twenty two years, all of whom were still living. Mary and Swago Bill’s children were: Elizabeth, Thomas, Jonathan, William II, James, John, Sarah Jane, Enoch, Jacob, Abraham McNeil, George and Andrew. I am descended from William II Ewing.

In 1810, Mary and Swago Bill left their home in the mountains of Virginia and moved to the forests of Gallia County, Ohio, where Ewington now stands. They had ten children under and two children over the age of majority in tow. The Ewing wagon train traveled 160 miles to Ohio and consisted of three covered wagons, twelve horses and several head of sheep, swine and cows. They carried provisions for the trip as well as equipment and tools they would need to build a new home. At Point Pleasant, they built rafts and made several trips across the Ohio River to get all of their belongings across and then traveled a further 20 miles north to their destination. By the spring of 1812, after much work to clear the forest, the family’s new home was ready – two stories made of hewn logs and with a stone chimney.

Twelve years later, in 1822, Swago Bill died, leaving Mary a widow at fifty one and their youngest child Andrew fatherless at the age of thirteen. She lived in their house in Ewington until 1839, when Andrew married and bought property in Wilkesville Township, in what is now Vinton County. In 1853, she left with Andrew for the west. She was in her early 80s, but she would not be dissuaded from going. After all, she’d married a backwoodsman twice her age and already been a pioneer from Virginia to Ohio, what was another trip? They first settled in Iowa for a few years, then moved to Missouri. Mary died there near Ravanna in 1858.

Resources - A lot of research but these two website were particularly valuable:

I’d like to know where the family land was, unfortunately I have no idea how to research that. I feel like I know Mary pretty well though. She strikes me as a stubborn little thing who knew what she wanted and did it. You have to admire a woman who married a man twice her age when she wasn’t even fourteen yet and then traveled with him to a new frontier. And you have to admire even more a woman who traveled with her son to another new frontier when she was in her eighties. She definitely qualifies as a fearless female.

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