THOMAS TAYLOR EWELL 1844 – 1897

From History of Texas Published in 1896

THOMAS TAYLOR EWELL, a prominent lawyer of Granbury, was born in McCracken county, Kentucky, February 8, 1844, the second in a family of 14 brothers and sisters, whose parents were John and Ann E. (Taylor) Ewell. His paternal grandfather was Major Charles Ewell, an American soldier of the Revolutionary war, who married Mrs. Maria D. Craik, whose maiden name was Tucker. His maternal grandfather was Captain Thomas Taylor, a seaman, engaged in trade between the Chesapeake and West Indies during the early part of this century. The Ewell, Tucker and Taylor families had been established in Virginia during early colonial days, and Major Charles Ewell and Captain Thomas Taylor removed with their families from Prince William county, Virginia, to McCracken county, Kentucky, about the year 1826. There John Ewell and Ann Taylor were reared and their marriage was celebrated April 8, 1841. The former followed the occupation of farming and trained his boys to a practical knowledge of farm work. He was in strong sympathy with the cause of the southern Confederacy, and at the close of the civil war was broken down both in spirit and fortune. Removing to Paducah, Kentucky, he was there elected at various times to county offices. His death occurred in 1890.

As far back as authentic records can be secured it is known that the Ewell family sprang from Charles Ewell, an English gentleman, three of whose sons-Charles, Solomon and James-emigrated with a colony from Dumfries, Scotland, and settled along the Potomac in Prince William county, Virginia, during the reign of Charles II, naming the new town Dumfries. Charles, the eldest, remained in Virginia, and from him sprang the Virginia family of Ewells; while Solomon and James, during Indian troubles, removed to the eastern shores of Maryland. This Charles Ewell married Marian Bertrand, a lady of a French family, and had three sons-Charles, Bertrand and Solomon. Of these Bertrand Ewell married a Miss Kinnor and had 19 children, of whom Major Charles Ewell, the grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was the 18th. Records of the Taylor family beyond Captain Thomas Taylor have not been perpetuated. It is traditionally known that by intermarriage they are intimately descended from the family of “Light-Horse” Harry Lee.

Thomas T. Ewell, as before indicated, spent his boyhood on the farm and had only the ordinary opportunities of a country school, such as was common to the early days of country life in western Kentucky. When he was 16 years of age his father secured for him a place with an old-time friend as deputy circuit court clerk, where he remained from 1859 to 1862. While living there he became imbued with a desire to enter the legal profession and set about to master the science of law, by hard study, but the federal army upon entering Kentucky in 1861 took possession of the courthouse, and the civil courts at Paducah being virtually suspended he returned to his father’s farm for a few months; and then, riding a mule and accompanied by a cousin, he made his way from his home on the Ohio across Kentucky and Tennessee, to Guntown, Mississippi, having had many narrow escapes and adventures in slipping past the federal lines. Here they met Confederate cavalry, and, learning that the Third Kentucky Regiment of Confederate Infantry, having just participated in the battle of Baton Rouge, was then encamped at Jackson, Mississippi, they at once joined that regiment, where an older brother of our subect, Charles Ewell, was already enlisted. From this on through the war Thomas T. Ewell, as a private soldier, followed the fortunes of his company under the leadership of Breckenridge, Van Dorn, Loring, Buford and Forrest, under whose various commands in order named it fought through the war. Mr. Ewell participated in the battle of Corinth, the maneuvers under the direction of Joseph E. Johnston before and after the fall of Vicksburg, the siege and accompanying the battle of Jackson, Mississippi, the battle of Port Hudson, Louisiana, the battle of Paducah, Kentucky, Brice’s Cross Roads, Harrisburg, Mississippi, Athens, Tennessee, and other minor engagements, and while on special detached service entered Kentucky with General Lyon in the winter of 1864-5 and participated in the capture of several federal steamers on the Cumberland, loaded with cargoes for Nashville. A few days later, while engaged in scout service, he was hemmed in by a freshet in Green river, the retreat of his party being thus cut off, and was captured near Bowling Green, Kentucky, being thence conveyed to Camp Chase in Ohio, where he was held as a prisoner of war until March, 1865, when under arrangements for final exchange he was conveyed by way of Baltimore and up the James river to the Confederate lines about Richmond and released under parole.

At the conclusion of the war, before his final exchange, he returned to his Kentucky home, having but recently reached his majority, and there found that his father’s fortune had gone and he could therefore receive no aid from that source. He then entered the service of the Paducah & Gulf Railroad Company and in the various capacities of freight and passenger agent, conductor and master of transportation followed such service until January, 1871, when owing to failing health, he removed to Hood county, Texas, a then newly organized county on the frontier. He settled at Granbury, where, without a tutor, he took up again his long-interrupted study of law, sometimes doing farm work and sometimes teaching school to bear his expenses. At the fall term of the district court of 1871, after only eight months of study-during which time, however, he had diligently investigated Blackstone, Kent, Phillips on Evidence, Story’s Equity and Chitty’s Pleadings, together with the Texas statutes and many decisions of the Texas courts-he applied for license to practice law, and after an examination was admitted to the bar, the examination being conducted by Judge Charles Soward and a committee composed of S.H. Renick, of Waco, Colonel Rushing, of Cleburne, and Mr. Young, of Granbuy

Being at the time engaged in school-teaching, Mr. Ewell did not enter into practice until January, 1872, when he opened an office, and has since been actively engaged in the practice of his profession in Granbury. From the summer of 1872 until February, 1876, he was associated in partnership with Colonel T.J. Duke and afterward, till 1880, with John P. Estes and with B.M. Estes until 1881. In 1887 he admitted R.C. Milliken into his office as a student and soon as a partner, and this connection continued until Mr. Milliken’s removal from the county in 1891. In 1878 Mr. Ewell was elected county attorney of Hood county, serving for one term, but having more taste for civil law he did not seek a re-election. His professional labors have been chiefly in land litigations, and in this field, by skillfully invoking legal and equitable principles, thoroughly studied by him, he gained many victories for poor and humble clients in his earlier career, thus gaining a reputation in this specialty which his subsequent career has not only retained but made brighter still. He has been an occasional contributor to the local press of his county on questions of public interest, and has recently compiled a brief history of Hood county, which is a reliable and well-edited volume.

Mr. Ewell was married to Miss Bettie Black, of Jefferson, Texas, in 1874. Their eldest child, a daughter, now 20 years of age, is engaged in school-teaching, having received the degree of A.B. in Granbury College in the class of 1894. She and a son, now 13 years of age, are the only surviving children, two other sons having died in infancy.

Mr. Ewell was one of the original founders and trustees of Granbury High School (now College), and is now acting on its board of trustees. He has always been a friend to local educational institutions, deeply interested in all that pertains to the mental development of the young. In politics he has affiliated with the Democratic party, but as an aspirant for office has never actively participated in politics. However, in the great state contest on the prohibition question in 1887 he engaged ardently in the public discussions on the side of temperance. In his boyhood he joined the Methodist Episcopal church, south, and has ever since retained his membership therein. Not deeply pious, he has great faith in God, to whom, with his family, he offers daily prayer and thanksgiving. He has never united with any civic society except the Masonic, having been made a master Mason in Kentucky about 1868; since his removal to Texas he has been dimitted.

To note the characteristics of Mr. Ewell, it may be mentioned that while he is endowed by nature with a high temper, he has complete mastery of self. This control emanates from his well balanced mental organization, to which all of his characteristics are subject in a large degree. He is candid to a fault, and his strict sense of honesty in business and professional life has never admitted of an undue advantage being taken of any situation. A strict adherence to the golden rule has marked his life, and while it may have made him poorer in material things he has thereby been enriched by blessings choicer than wealth-the heritage of a good name and the confidence and esteem of his fellow men. His sympathetic nature has often occasioned great sacrifice of his personal interests to the betterment of the condition of others. Possessing a studious mind he prefers the exclusion of his home and office to the social amenities of society. He is quick of perception, writes with fluency and clearness, while in speech he is not demonstrative in manner but logical and pointed in his utterances, which gives a weight to his words. Of a frail physique his physical constitution has always lacked robustness in health and strength, his nervous and mental energies alone enabling him in lieu of physical strength to succeed in his undertaking.

SOURCE

History of Texas, 1896, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Co.