Portrait: Crumrine, 556
The Honorable John Hoge Ewing was born on October 5, 1796 near Brownsville, Fayette County. He was the son of William Porter Ewing and the former Mary Conwell, and a grandnephew of the Reverend Dr. John Ewing of Philadelphia. The Reverend Ewing helped survey the Mason-Dixon Line, founded the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, and served as provost of the University of Pennsylvania. The senator’s father, William, also worked as a surveyor, settling in Heistersburg, Fayette County about 1790. Among John’s brothers were the Honorable Nathaniel Ewing of Uniontown and Judge George Ewing of Texas – close friend of Sam Houston. Nathaniel was the father of Mary Ewing, the wife of former Speaker Presley Lane’s son, Dr. William Carr Lane.
John embarked on his first year of studies at Washington College in 1810 under the mentorship of family friend, Federalist judge, original member of the state Senate, and namesake John Hoge. He graduated in 1814, studied law with Thomas McGiffin, and became a member of the bar in June 1818. Within two years, Ewing retired from the law, assuming duties as the construction contractor for the National Road between Washington and Wheeling. John married Ellen Blaine (the aunt of James G. Blaine) of Washington County on November 2, 1820. In 1840, his first wife died, and John married Margaret Brown five years later.
Turning his attention to the railroad business, from 1831 through 1869, Senator Ewing dedicated his efforts toward the construction of the Chartiers Railroad. Additionally, he purchased six hundred acres of Chartiers farmland on which he mined bituminous coal. At Burton Station, Virginia (West Virginia), Ewing acquired a sheep and wool business adjacent to the Baltimore and Ohio rail-line.
His political career consisted of one year in the Pennsylvania House, 1835-36; four years in the Pennsylvania Senate, 1838-42; and a two-year term (1845-47) as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (Twenty-ninth Congress). Ewing endorsed a high-tariff, voting as a pro-Bank Whig, and advocated the construction of the B&O Railroad through Pittsburgh, continuing down the Ohio River.
Senator Ewing served as chair of Education 1838 and 1841; Judiciary in 1838; Private Claims, 1840; Agriculture, 1841; Finance, 1841; and as Senate Speaker in 1842. Ewing’s major legislative accomplishments included shepherding passage of the 1841-1842 state-relief bill, protecting newspapers from the so-called “professional-tax” liability bill, and the 1841 Canal Bill, providing the popular election of canal commissioners. He fought Van Buren’s sub-treasury act, the specie circular plan, and aligned with Penrose’s Anti-Masonic–Whig Coalition during the Buckshot War.
John served as a delegate to the 1860 Republican National Convention, later delivering a vote for Lincoln as presidential elector. After his term in Congress, 1845-1847, the senator retired to his legal practice, pursuing agricultural and personal business interests. He served trusteeships at the Washington Female Seminary, Washington and Jefferson College, and the First Presbyterian Church. The Honorable John Hoge Ewing died on June 9, 1887 in Washington, Pennsylvania, interred at Washington Cemetery.
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts; History of Washington County, Pennsylvania, ed. Boyd Crumrine (Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co., 1882), 556-558; William Hyde and Howard Louis Conrad, Encyclopedia of the History of St. Louis, vol. III (New York: Southern History Co., Haldeman, Conrad & Co., proprietors, 1899), 1228.