An inventory of the Charles B. Ewing Papers at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives
Charles Ewing was born in Lancaster, Ohio, on 3 March 1835, the fifth son of Thomas and Martha (Boyle) Ewing. Several members of his family gained prominence. His father was a United States senator and a cabinet member, serving as Secretary of the Treasury under William Henry Harrison and John Tyler in 1841 and the first Secretary of the Interior under Zachary Taylor in 1849-1850. His brothers Hugh and Thomas were a writer and congressman respectively and his sister Ellen married their foster brother, William Tecumseh Sherman. Whereas Thomas Sr. did not belong to any church until his last minute conversion to Catholicism in 1871, the children were raised in the Catholic faith of their mother.
Charles was educated at St. Joseph's, a Dominican college in Perry County, Ohio; Gonzaga College in Washington, DC; and the University of Virginia. He practiced law in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1860 until his entry into the U.S. army as a captain in the 13th Infantry of the regulars in May 1861. He rose swiftly in rank as he served with distinction in Arkansas and Missouri, being wounded three times at the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863. He was acting inspector-general for the Atlanta Campaign of 1864, where he served under his brother-in-law, General Sherman, and was cited for gallantry and promoted to brigadier-general. He resigned from the army in July of 1867 and resumed his law practice. In December 1870 he married Virginia Larwell Miller, daughter of John K. Miller, a representative from Ohio in the 30th and 31th congresses.
The Grant administration, which took office in 1869, sought to replace the system of Indian agents, both civilians and army officers, who were proving unsatisfactory, especially in controlling the outbreaks of Indian unrest. Grant's Indian Peace Policy was for the civil administration of each Indian agency to be entrusted to the religious denomination that had an established mission among the Indians. These denominations would have the right to nominate agents, subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, and call for their removal. Since much of the mission work among the Indians was carried out by Roman Catholics, the Church expected to receive at least 38 of the 72 agencies.
Unfortunately, the President's original plan was amended so that various Protestant churches received the majority of the agencies, with only eight going to the Catholic Church. The frustrated American bishops, determined to do full justice to their allotted agencies and to struggle to gain control of additional ones, selected Ewing as the first Catholic Commissioner for Indian Missions, a position within the newly established Catholic Indian Bureau. As a Catholic lawyer based in the nation's capitol, it was thought he was best suited to protect Catholic interests against Protestant encroachments in dealing with the federal government over Indian affairs. Ewing had already acted on behalf of Catholic Indian missions in the past, and he soon secured the assistance of Rev. Joseph Brouilett, Vice General of the Diocese of Nesqualy, Indian Territory.
The Charles Ewing papers contain correspondence, pamphlets, reports, clippings, and legal papers. These relate primarily to Catholic Indian missions and agencies in the American West, notably in the territories and later states of Washington, Montana, Arizona, and New Mexico, and Ewing's work on their behalf. Most of the material was gathered by the donor, Rev. Peter Rahill, as part of his research for a CUA Ph.D. dissertation titled The Catholic Indian Mission And Grant's Peace Policy, 1870-1884. They were gathered from hither and yon and include a mixture of originals and copies of letters held elsewhere. The copies consist mostly of typewritten transcripts of correspondence on both regular and onion skin paper.
The collection is arranged into two series, the first being Correspondence and the second Articles, Reports, and Publications. The Correspondence series is divided into two subseries: Catholic Indian Agencies and Mission Work, 1870-1883, undated; and Disputed Mission Claims, 1862-1883, undated. The Articles, Reports, and Publications series is divided into four subseries: Biographical material, 1885, 1935, undated; Catholic Indian Agencies and Mission Work, 1872-1883, 1950-1951, undated; Disputed Mission Claims, 1873-1879, undated; and Federal Indian Service, 1946-1949. The folders within each subseries are in chronological order with the exception of the articles, reports, and publications relating to the disputed mission claims. These are arranged by mission name according to a pre-existing numerical system or where it was not possible chronologically.
Subseries 1.1 contains nine folders with six that date from 1873-1874 and most are copies. Typed summaries were attached to some handwritten letters, apparently by the donor, and in a few cases the summary is present without the original letter. There are also typed captions on some identifying the respective parties. Correspondents include Ewing, missionaries, agents, Church and government officials, and Indians. Matters discussed include mission work, appointment and dismissals of agents, friction with Protestant agents, mission schools, and living conditions.
Subseries 1.2 consists of five folders of mostly original correspondence. The majority of the letters, some with attached summaries, relate to the St. James Mission claim. A few concern the land claims of St. Rosa, St. Paul, Holy Cross, and Lapwai Missions. See also Subseries 2.3.
Present in subseries 2.1 is an incomplete and undated article on Ewing's life until July 1861 that includes extracts from family letters and his diary, which describes his education, the founding of his Missouri law firm, and his enlistment in the U.S. army in 1861; a copy of his 21 June 1883 obituary from the New York Times, and a pamphlet containing the discourse of Msgr. Peter Guilday on the occasion of Ewing's reinterment in Arlington National Cemetery in 1935.
Included in subseries 2.2 is material on Ewing's appointment as Catholic Commissioner, 1874; the formation and first decades work of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, 1883; a list of agency assignments; clippings from the Indian Herald, 1875; containing reports from several Indian agencies; articles from a California newspaper, 1880, relating the experiences of Father Williams, a Dominican missionary; and annual reports of the Secretary of the Commission for Catholic Missions among Indians, 1950-1951.
Concerning the St. James Mission claim, in subseries 2.3 there are congressional bills introduced on the matter with attached papers, several reports including one by Ewing, a brief history of the claim written by Bishop Blanchet and a few legal papers. Regarding the St. Rosa claim, there are legal papers consisting of case notes, depositions, abstracts of testimony, and a schedule of admissible and inadmissible evidence. There is also a diagram relating to the St. Francis Xavier claim. See also Subseries 1.2.
Ewing's role as representative and co-ordinator in Washington, DC, of Catholic Indian affairs, both before but mainly after his 1874 appointment as Catholic Commissioner, is detailed particularly by correspondence, 1870-1883, concerning Catholic Indian agencies and mission work. This correspondence consists of about 130 letters, 37 of which were written by Ewing and deal mainly with agency allocations and the appointment and removal of agents within the Church's sphere of control. Other correspondents include missionaries and agents reporting on their problems and successes. Many letters demonstrate the discontent of both the Church and the Indians at the apparent partisan allocation of agencies, with significant numbers of Catholic Indians placed under Protestant denominations, and the subsequent friction caused by the influx of Protestant agents who sometimes appeared to obstruct mission work. Four letters from Indian chiefs, one to President Grant, reflect their growing disillusionment with the government in complaints about dishonest agents, poor living conditions, and unending encroachment by new settlers. Additional information on agencies and mission work, 1872-1883 and 1950-1951, can be found in pamphlets, reports, and clippings.
About half of the collection concerns land claims by the St. James and several other Catholic missions in Washington, Oregon, and Minnesota under an 1848 act of Congress granting a mission title to not more than 630 acres occupied as a missionary station. Claims were disputed by various parties resulting in disagreements that lasted for many years. Relating to the St. James Mission claim as well as legal papers, there are reports, congressional bills introduced on the matter, and about 40 letters, 1862-1883, that document the course of the dispute. These are from government agencies such as the Interior and Justice departments and from Church officials, including several from Brouillet, Ewing's assistant, written from Vancouver W.T., the site of the claim.
On Ewing himself, as well as information on his role as Catholic Commissioner revealed by the correspondence, the collection contains limited biographical material.
Blanchet, Augustin, First Bishop of Nesqualy
Brouillet, Rev. Joseph, Vicar-General of the Diocese of Nesqualy
Delano, Columbus, Secretary of the Interior
Deshon, Rev. George
Junger, Aegidius, Second Bishop of Nesqualy
Lamy, John, Archbishop of Santa Fe
Salpointe, John Baptist
The Papers of Charles B. Ewing consists of two series:
Restrictions on Access
There are no access restrictions.
Date Received: June 1952
Processing completed in 1979 by EJL. Additional processing completed in 1989 by Lynn Conway and 2001 by William John Shepherd. Data entry completed in 2001 by Rebecca Hurley and William John Shepherd. EAD markup completed in April 2005 by Washington Research Library Consortium. Additional EAD markup completed in October 2005 by Jordan Patty. EAD revisions in 2013 by Michael J. Dobbs.
The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives:
Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions records on microfilm
At Marquette University Special Collections and Archives:
This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Ewing, Charles, 1835-1883
Catholic Church--Missions--United States
Catholic Commissioner for Indian Missions
Catholic Indian Missions and Agencies
Grant's Indian Peace Policy
Indian Tribes In The West
Indians of North America--Missions
Ewing, John G. Thomas Ewing, Catholic Encyclopedia. (V), 1909 , pp. 672-673.
Guilday, Peter. Discourse On The Occasion Of The Reinternment With Military Honors, Of General Charles Ewing And Of His Infant Daughter Elizabeth At Arlington National Cemetery .Pamphlet, 17 October 1935.
Ketcham, William H. Indian Missions, Catholic Encyclopedia. (VII), 1910 , pp. 745-747.
Morrison, J.L. Charles Ewing, New Catholic Encyclopedia. (5), 1967, p. 699.
Rahill, Peter James. The Catholic Indian Missions And Grant's Peace Policy, 1870-1884. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1953.
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