The Ewing Clan in History and Legend: Of Eagles Wings

#52 Ancestors: Family Legends

My research last week on James Robert Porter and Eleanor Gillespie inspired me to take another look at their son, Andrew Porter of 1720 who was my 7th Great-grandfather. He also was a Scot-Irish immigrant who made his way to America, namely Maryland, with his wife Eleanor Ewing. You can read more about them in this link to my older blog: Irish Ancestors and Immigrants! If you read last weeks blog, you know that I discovered that these ancestors were originally from Scotland and not Irish, and they only resettled in Ireland before immigrating.

This week, I want to reveal more about what I learned about Andrew Porter’s wife and my 7th Great-grandmother, Eleanor Ewing. She was the daughter of Alexander Ewing and Rebeckah ______. Andrew Porter’s parents were James Robert Porter and Margaret Ewing that I wrote about last week and you can find it here: A New Beginning: The Porters – Scots or Irish? That James Porter traveled to America with his uncle Alexander Ewing who was a brother to his mother Margaret Ewing Porter! His father was Josia Porter. Now that can be confusing but I saw a lot of Ewing names popping up in my research and I had to know more!

River Forth in Scotland showing location of Stirling Castle

Where did the Ewing’s come from? In reality the Ewings are of Scottish descent and originally from west of Scotland, near Glasgow and the clan was located on the River Forth. The River Forth was near the famous Stirling Castle in the vicinity of Loch Lomand. The Ewings were Presbyterian and in the mid 1600s, many protestants were being persecuted and a religious war ensued. Ultimately the Ewing clan chieftain was captured and executed and all of the clan were outlawed. The Ewing clan went from the River Forth area to the Isle of Bute, Scotland and later settled at or near Coleraine County, Londonderry, Ulster in northern Ireland. Of course this is a simplified version of the historical events.

Stirling Castle still stands today and is a tourist site. It was built on a high cliff.
Stirling Castle

I found a family legend written to explain where the Ewing name came from – it was handed down through countless Ewing generations! ” In pre-Christian times, a group of Celts settled along the eastern shores of Loch Lomond in Scotland and became shepherds. Their peaceful settlement was plagued by the depredations of a huge eagle that stole their sheep. Finally an infant child was taken by the eagle. The eagle’s nest was in a precarious position under the overhand of a steep cliff, and one of the shepherds was lowered by rope to attempt to kill this bird that had caused them such injury. Unable to hoist the whole of the eagle’s corpse back to the clifftop, the shepherd brought back with him one of eagle’s wings to prove that his mission had been accomplished successfully. The group of Celtic shepherds began to call themselves the Eagle Wing Clan. This Clan name was shortened to E-wing and finally to Ewing. “

Now whether you choose to believe the Eagle story or not, it is up to you. Lets go back to Eleanor Ewing, wife of Andrew Porter of 1720. Eleanor was born about 1721 in Ulster, Ireland and her parent were Alexander Ewing and Rebeckah – mother’s surname is unknown. Eleanor and Andrew married about 1738 in Cecil County, Maryland (then a British Colony). Eleanor has a tragic story. Unfortunately, Eleanor died two years later in 1740 in child birth or a short time after their son Robert Porter was born. This Robert Porter, her one and only child, became my 6th Great Grandfather and fought in the Revolutionary War. Andrew had to bury his young wife of about 20 years old but later remarried a Margaret Leiper and had six more children. More on Robert Porter will come.

1700s Sailing Ship

It is quite possible that Eleanor Ewing came to America around 1727, and based on a statement in “Clan Ewing of Scotland,” a group of Ewing, Porter, Gillespie, Caldwell and other families came to America in that year. Two of the ships that the immigrants used to traverse the ocean were named Eagle Wing (sound familiar?) and Rising Sun. Most of our ancestors did not come at the same time nor did all come in the same ship.

But what were some of the motivations behind the immigration? Surely a big one was to escape religious persecution and settle in Maryland, Pennsylvania and also Philadelphia who were founded on religious freedoms. In Ireland, between the years of 1720 and 1730, the harvests were very poor and crop failures surely contributed to the causes that inspired families to consider making the long voyage to America and start a new life. Landlords were also raising leases on land and calling in loans.

Some family tradition believe that after a tedious voyage, the ships may have landed at New Castle on the Delaware River which was near Cecil County, Maryland where so many Ewings and Porters settled. New Castle was only about fifteen miles from Cecil County border. More ships were built as a result to carry passengers and goods to America because of the large number of immigrants in the 1700’s up to the Revolutionary War in 1776. The Eagle Wing served to more than 35 years between Belfast, Ireland and American ports. It was a fast and modern sailing ship for its time and could make the trip across the ocean in seven to ten weeks if all went well!

Seven to ten weeks on the Ocean in a crowded ship does not seem like a pleasant journey so I have to commend our ancestors for taking that tedious voyage to America!

Sources: Also:

Irish Immigrant Families: Porter, Ewing, Gilliespies; Posted by William Gammon:

Ewing, Elbert William R; Clan Ewing of Scotland. Ballston, Virginia: Cobden Publishing co, 1922; p. 176. John Ewing, Immigrant from Ireland 1660-1974 [database on-line]. Provo, UT: Ancestry Operations Inc.

McMichael, James R; Alexander Ewing (1697/7-1738) & descendants: Ireland to America in 1727; Bountiful Utah: Family History Publishers; Spring, TX, 1999.

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