Thursday, July 8, 2010

True Tree Climbing

My second encounter with tree climbing literally involved trees and climbing! It began with a newspaper article published in the Sunday Herald Leader (our Lexington, KY newspaper) dated 8th of January, 1955. It was written from Stanton, KY by George Billings, Jr. It began:

"Two miles north of here in the fertile Red River valley is a farm that has never been sold.
The first white settler in this section reared his family on the land which has been handed
down from one generation to the next since those early years, to where the present owner
is an 82 year old widow with one daughter, who in turn has no children, indicating the end
of the 'hand-me-down' line."

Wow! I thought, land that had never been sold! Let's see. Kentucky became a state in 1792. Before that it was a county of Virginia, and before that it was ruled by the British Empire. When do I start counting? The story went own to tell that it was more than 500 acres, much of in river bottom land and rolling pasture.

This article had been past around our Ewen family "get-to-gathers" for several years before I had a chance to read it. According to the family records, Timothy Ewen was one of the first white setters in this section of the country. The story was that this elder Ewen came from England to North Carolina, from there to Virginia and then on into what is now Kentucky.

What caught my eye in this article was the following:

"Encircled with three strands of barbed wire, the final resting place is protected by towering white pine trees, some as high as 80 feet, and a nest of black wasps that demonstrated their dislike for us on a recent visit." This family grave yard was supposed to be about a hundred yards form the house, high on the banks of Red River.

Could this be true? A family graveyard where my great-great-great grandfather would be buried! I was determined to find out.

Being roughly 11 years old at the time, I did not have a lot of options. I was able to convince my uncle Charlie to drive me from our Winchester, KY home, to where this land was thought to be located. He had just purchased a 1957 Chevy, and he was more than willing to take me for a spin. We had a rough idea where Red River was, and there was supposed to be a Ewen branch of the Red River. We had a copy of the newspaper article and so off we went into the mountains of Powell County. After some time we found a branch of the Red River at the base of a high ridge with a row of very tall pine trees! That had to be it I thought. We stopped the car, moved across the creek, and climbed up the side of the ridge to the line of pine trees. Just on the inside of the ridge several headstones could be seen. What a deal! Moving back brush and some vines the first headstone read, John Riley Ewen!

This was my first cemetery as a genealogist! I did not know enough to record all my findings, but I soon learned. Standing there before the headstones, I felt proud. I wanted to thank these folks for surviving, for plowing the land, and building the homes, and having children!


  1. What a wonderful story of your first encounter with your ancestors and at such a young age. I look forward to reading more of your family history.
    Terri @ The Ties That Bind (blog)

  2. Oh, my, what a wonderful story this is!! Thank you so much for sharing it! I look forward to reading more on your blog, and since one of my brick walls is a Kentucky Jones' ancestor, my prayer is that somehow, that brick wall comes down through your website! Great story!

  3. Brick walls are always fun. If you have a thick skull and are a little stubborn (or a lot stubborn like me)you can usually get through or around the brickwall. I had to laugh one day when I came to realize that a very early Welsh family member was named Ednowain Bendew which in the Welsh means "thick-headed". Some writers have interpreted Bendew as meaning "stupid", but I like much better the idea of stubborn.