From Texas Under Many Flags – Published in 1930

Transcribed by Tex Dendy

JOHN McEWAN FORMWALT, now living retired at Granbury at the age of four score, has been a Texan since early childhood, and his life has probably brought him as varied a contact with the frontier in all stages of its development as any other living man.

He was born in Mississippi, October 23, 1848. His grandparents Formwalt were natives of Holland, his grandmother being Rebecca Formwalt. On coming to America they settled at Fayetteville, Tennessee. John Alexander Formwalt, father of John M., was born in Tennessee, became a merchant, stock raiser and farmer, and in 1850 brought his family to Texas and settled in Anderson County, and from there removed to Freestone County, where he conducted a store as well as a ranch. In 1856 he settled in Hood County, being one of a group of sterling Tennesseans who gave the early citizenship of Hood County a distinctively high character that set off that county from many other sections of North Texas, and the impress of the influence is strongly seen there today. John Alexander Formwalt remained a farmer and stock raiser in Hood County the rest of his life.

However, for four years he was wearing the Confederate uniform. He enlisted from Hood County, went to Galveston, but after a short time returned to Hood County and organized a company, of which he became a captain. This company was under the command of Colonel Johnson in Hood’s Brigade, Cleburne’s Division. For a time he commanded the regiment after the death of its colonel, Nelson. Of a regiment of eight hundred men, only a hundred and sixty-two returned after the close of the war, and John Alexander Formwalt was wounded in the great battle of Franklin. The regiment paid him the honor of electing him colonel for bravery and gallantry. He had a brother, William Formwalt, who was also a Confederate soldier, and whose home was at Fayetteville, Tennessee. The father of John Alexander Formwalt at the age of twelve years had acted as a drummer boy in General Washington’s army. John Alexander Formwalt died at the venerable age of ninety-six years.

He married Cornery McEwen [sic], a native of Tennessee, who died in Hood County in 1883. Her father, John McEwan, for whom Mr. Formwalt is named, was a son of James McEwan, a native of Ireland, who served in the Revolutionary war and was a pioneer of Tennessee. He married Isabel Miller, of a family that owned a large estate in Scotland. John McEwan served with the rank of colonel in the War of 1812. A brief record of the seven children of John A. Formwalt and wife is as follows: William, stock man, who since 1884 has carried on extensive operations in Jeff Davis County, married Sallie Whitiker, and has two children; John McEwan; Charles, ranchman at Colorado City, Mitchell County, married Laura Whiley and has six children; Hood, who is in the cattle business in Oregon, married Mary Highsaw; Ada who became the wife of Ben Hudson, a rancher and cattle man, died in Rockport, Texas, and he died in Ft. Worth, parents of seven children; Sam died at the age of twenty-two; Hellen lives at Ballinger, Texas, widow of W.E. Allen, a stock man, and is the mother of four children.

John McEwan Formwalt was two years old when the family came to Texas, and for four years he attended a school in Cherokee County, one of his schoolmates being Jim Hogg, who subsequently rose to first eminence as a Texas statesman and governor. On leaving school Mr. Formwalt went to work driving cattle, and grew up close to the frontier, being only eight years of age when the family moved to Hood County. When he was thirteen years old he was with a party of about a dozen who were trailing Indians, and they encountered a band of red men on the home trail fourteen miles from Horsehead Crossing, at Castle Gap in Crane County, and young Formwalt killed one of the Indians. One of the white men was killed and Mr. Formwalt found the body and helped to bury it. Mr. Formwalt participated in many other expeditions and excursions against Indians and outlaws. In 1869 he and two other men met a party of sixteen Indians, and though his two companions fled, he remained to protect the fifty-one horses in his care, and by his fearlessness put up a fight, resulting in the killing of one of the Indians and the frightening of the remainder away. This incident occurred at Dagger Bend on the Pecos in Crane County. Thus his early experiences brought him all over the unfenced regions of Western Texas. At the age of twenty-one he owned and managed 2100 head of cattle on a ranch in Hood County, a ranch still known as the Formwalt ranch. His father has started him in the live stock business by giving him some land in Hood County. After five years on the Formwalt ranch he moved his stock in 1874 out to Runnels County and for many years was one of the leading ranchers of that section. In 1878 he killed the last buffalo in Runnels County. He is a member of the Texas Trail Drivers, being the only member of that notable organization living in Hood County, and he is the last survivor of that band of pioneers of the county who were Indian fighters. While in Runnels County Mr. Formwalt was elected and served twelve years as sheriff, from 1879 to 1891. As sheriff his determined action broke up wire-cutting and stage robbing. He participated in many perilous exploits and once encountered a band of cattle thieves, killing three of them. While his back was turned he was shot at six times by one of the thieves, but escaped uninjured, and with three shots from his own gun he brought down one of the robbers. He was also instrumental in securing conviction and penitentiary sentences for several cow thieves and stage robbers.

Mr. Formwalt sold his farm and stock interests in Culberson County in 1916 and bought the home in Granbury, where it is his plan to spend the remainder of his days and enjoy a well deserved retirement. For several years he was deputy sheriff of Hood County. Mr. Formwalt joined the Masonic fraternity at Granbury in 1869, and is the last surviving charter member of the lodge. He belongs to the Mystic Shrine Temple at Ft. Worth and the Scottish Rite Consistory at Cleburne in Johnson County. He was for seven years a junior warden in his lodge. He also belonged to the old order of the K.K.K., and many years later became a member of the new organization at Cleburne in Johnson County. Mr. Formwalt is a member of the Baptist Church and is a Democrat in politics.

He married in Hood County, in 1874, Miss Eppie Waldon, whose father, K. Waldon, was born in Georgia and was a merchant. Mrs. Formwalt died in 1895, and in April, 1897, at Granbury, he married Miss Beulah Danford, who had been an adopted daughter of his father. She was born at Stephenville, Texas, in 1876. Mr. Formwalt has no children.

John McEwan Formwalt was born October 23, 1848 and died May 21, 1928. He was buried in Granbury Cemetery in Hood County, Texas.

Texas Under Many Flags, Volume III. Clarence R. Wharton, Author and Editor. 1930: The American Historical Society, Inc., Chicago & New York.