Mid-West Connection

That a small cemetery in rural Central Pennsylvania should have an important Mid-West connection seems highly unlikely. Yet that is the case with the Ewing Cemetery, located near the village of Manor Hill in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

Here’s the story.

William Ewing, youngest son of James and Elizabeth Cresswell Ewing, was 3 years old when his father purchased from John Hennen the farm which became his life-long home. After his marriage to Mary Ann Henry in 1852, William and his wife shared the family home with William’s parents.

William and Mary Ann had seven children — the oldest, James, born in 1853, and the youngest, Henrietta, born in 1869. Sometime after the Civil War, William acquired land in Livingston County, Illinois, and after his son James’s marriage in 1876 to Nancy Jane McCord, the newlyweds took up residence in Illinois and raised their family of six children there.

Two other children of William and Mary Ann Ewing married and had children of their own. Their daughter Elizabeth married John Hennen and had a son, James C. Hennen. Their daughter Idolette married Robert E. Johnston and had a son, William E. Johnston. Their other four daughters — Mary, Frances, Carrie, and Henrietta — were unmarried and continued to occupy the family homestead on the farm that included the Ewing Cemetery.

When Henrietta Ewing died in 1950, she had outlived her brother and all of her sisters, except for Idolette, who died in 1951. Henrietta’s heirs included her surviving sister and all of her nieces and nephews — the children of her married brother and sisters.

Because Henrietta’s executor, James C. Hennen excluded the cemetery from the farm and did not designate an owner, it remained as an “undistributed asset” in the estate. When the time came, more than 50 years later, to identify the owners, it was necessary to search for the residual heirs listed in the distribution of Henrietta’s estate: William E. Johnston, Huntingdon PA; James C. Hennen, Altoona PA; Robert E. Ewing, Pontiac IL; James Ewing, Pontiac IL; William M. Ewing, Pontiac IL; Fannie Speers, Pontiac IL; Carrie Askew, Fairbury IL; and “the five children of a deceased niece, Grace Carter, all of whom reside in Iowa.”

Clearly, Pontiac, Illinois, was the key to finding these Mid-Western relatives of Henrietta Ewing. An internet search found two Ewings and a Speers in Pontiac, and phone calls to two of them produced the same advice, “You should talk to Mary Lou Meng.”

They were absolutely right. Mary Lou was eager and willing to help, once she learned about the Ewing Cemetery Association and its desire to maintain the cemetery where so many of her ancestors are buried. It turned out that the Mid-West relatives far outnumber those remaining in Pennsylvania. Mary Lou was able to provide names and addresses, eventually even for the more-difficult-to-find relatives in Iowa.

Relationships have been re-established, new friendships formed, and greater awareness has been raised of the old cemetery that few of these Mid-Westerners have ever seen, but where their Pennsylvania forebears lie buried.