Ewing, Thomas

Born: 1789-12-28 West Liberty, Virginia

Died: 1871-10-26 Lancaster, Ohio

Born in what would become West Virginia, Ewing received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio University in 1815. He passed the bar the following year and began a law practice in Lancaster, Ohio. He married Maria Willis Boyle and they had six children together including future Union general, Thomas Ewing, Jr., and Eleanor Boyle Ewing, future wife of William Tecumseh Sherman (who was also Ewing's foster child). Ewing began his political career as a supporter of John Quincy Adams and eventually joined the Whig Party. He won election to the U.S. Senate in 1830 and served for one term. William Henry Harrison appointed him secretary of the treasury in 1841, but Ewing resigned with the rest of Harrison's cabinet six months later in protest of John Tyler's policies. Zachary Taylor appointed him first secretary of the interior in 1849. In that office, Ewing primarily reorganized the staff of several bureaus, earning him a reputation as overly invested in patronage appointments. He was also directly involved in the controversial appointment of Illinois' commissioner of the General Land Office, for which Ewing selected Justin Butterfield over Abraham Lincoln. Taylor's death and Millard Fillmore's succession inspired another mass cabinet resignation, and Ewing immediately secured a Senate seat. Again, he was not reelected. Ewing supported Lincoln in the presidential election of 1860 and served as a delegate to the Peace Conference of 1861.

Kenneth J. Heineman, Civil War Dynasty: The Ewing Family of Ohio (New York: New York University Press, 2012); Thomas Ewing, "The Autobiography of Thomas Ewing" Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 22 (January 1913): 126-204.