Portrait of Thomas Ewing, Sr.

In 1868, President Andrew Johnson nominated Thomas Ewing as Secretary of War after dismissing Edwin M. Stanton. The Senate, however, never confirmed Ewing’s nomination because of an ongoing disagreement with the president over the 1867 Tenure of Office Act. [Wikimedia Commons]

Thomas Ewing, Sr. - Facts

December 26 or December 28, 1789 - October 26, 1871

Key facts about Thomas Ewing, Sr., an influential lawyer and politician who served in the United States Senate, as United States Secretary of the Treasury, and as United States Secretary of the Interior.


Full Name:

  • Thomas Ewing, Sr.

Birth Date:

  • Undetermined – possibly December 26 or December 28, 1789

Birth Location:

  • West Liberty, Virginia (now West Virginia)


  • George and Rachel (Harris) Ewing


  • Ohio University (1815)


  • Lawyer
  • Politician

Career Summary:

  • U.S. Senator
  • U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
  • U.S. Secretary of the Interior


  • Maria Wills Boyle

Place of Death:

  • Lancaster, Ohio

Date of Death:

  • October 26, 1871

Place of Burial:

  • St. Mary’s Cemetery, Lancaster, Ohio
  • Significance:

  • The date of Thomas Ewing’s birth is uncertain. The Ewing family bible records it as December 28, 1789, but Ewing relates in an autobiography of his early life that “my Mother often told me it was a mistake, and that I was born the day after Christmas-the 26th.”
  • Thomas Ewing was the son of Revolutionary War veteran George Ewing and Rachel (Harris) Ewing.
  • In 1792 Thomas Ewing’s family relocated to the Northwest Territory, near Marietta, in what is now southeast Ohio
  • In 1798, Thomas Ewing’s family settled on a remote farm in Ames Township in Athens County.
  • Beginning in 1809, Thomas Ewing worked at Kanawha Salt Works in western Virginia where he made enough money to pay his tuition at Ohio University.
  • In 1815, Thomas Ewing became one of the first two students to be awarded a bachelor’s degree by Ohio University.
  • After graduating from college, Thomas Ewing moved to Lancaster where he studied law with Ohio Congressman Philemon Beecher.
  • Thomas Ewing passed the Ohio bar in 1816 and entered into a partnership with his mentor, Ohio Congressman Philemon Beecher.
  • From 1818 to 1829, Thomas Ewing served as prosecuting attorney of Fairfield County, Ohio.
  • On January 7, 1820, Thomas Ewing married Maria Wills Boyle, the niece of his law partner. The couple produced seven children, six of whom survived infancy.
  • Three of Thomas and Maria Ewing’s sons, Hugh Boyle Ewing, Thomas Ewing, Jr., and Charles Ewing, became general officers during the Civil War. A fourth son, Philemon Beecher Ewing, later became his father’s law partner and a justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.
  • Thomas and Maria Ewing became wards of William Tecumseh Sherman after his father, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Charles R. Sherman, died unexpectedly in 1829.
  • In 1823, Thomas Ewing ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Ohio General Assembly.
  • In 1830, the Ohio Senate elected Thomas Ewing as an anti-Jacksonian United States Senator. Ewing served in the twenty-second through twenty-fourth U.S. congresses from March 4, 1831 to March 3, 1837.
  • When Thomas Ewing’s term in the U.S. Senate expired in 1836, the Ohio Senate replaced him with Democrat William Allen.
  • In 1841, President William Henry Harrison selected Thomas Ewing as his Secretary of the Treasury.
  • Thomas Ewing served as Secretary of the Treasury under President John Tyler only six months, resigning on September 13 due to a dispute over Tyler’s veto of a bill establishing a national bank.
  • In 1849, President Zachary selected Thomas Ewing to serve as the nation’s first Secretary of the Interior.
  • Thomas Ewing served as the nation’s first Secretary of the Interior from March 8, 1849 until July 22, 1850, shortly after President Taylor’s death on July 9, 1850.
  • During Thomas Ewing’s brief tenure as Secretary of the Interior, the press began referring to Ewing as “Butcher Ewing” because of his unabashed replacement of government employees with political supporters.
  • Following Thomas Ewing’s resignation as Secretary of the Interior, the Ohio Senate appointed him to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate created by the resignation of Thomas Corwin.
  • Thomas Ewing served his second term in the Senate from July 20, 1850 to March 3, 1851. In 1851, the Ohio Senate replaced Ewing with Benjamin Wade and Ewing returned to his law practice.
  • In 1861, Ohio Governor William Dennison selected Ewing as one of Ohio’s delegates to the Washington Peace Conference, an unsuccessful attempt to avert the Civil War.
  • After the Civil War began, Thomas Ewing supported the Union cause and he served as an unofficial advisor to President Lincoln.
  • Following President Lincoln’s assassination, Thomas Ewing endorsed President Andrew Johnson and his moderate Reconstruction policies.
  • In 1868, President Andrew Johnson nominated Thomas Ewing as Secretary of War after dismissing Edwin M. Stanton. The Senate, however, never confirmed Ewing’s nomination because of an ongoing disagreement with the president over the 1867 Tenure of Office Act.
  • In October 1869, Thomas Ewing collapsed while arguing a case before the United States Supreme Court. He lingered on in ill health for two years before dying at his home in Lancaster, Ohio on October 26, 1871.
  • Although Thomas Ewing was born as a Presbyterian, Thomas Ewing was baptized as a Catholic just before his death.
  • Thomas Ewing was interred at in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Lancaster, Ohio.
  • Future President and Governor of Ohio Rutherford B. Hayes was a pallbearer at Thomas Ewing’s funeral.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Thomas Ewing, Sr. - Facts
  • Coverage December 26 or December 28, 1789 - October 26, 1871
  • Author
  • Keywords Thomas Ewing, Sr.
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date November 29, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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