Robert G. McEwen
Robert G. McEwen
By Ferne Reilich, Curator
The Curator, November 2006
Come with me for a short walk down the street, to the little house at 79 West Franklin. The building is painted white, and if you pass it quickly you might not realize it is a limestone house with a slate roof. The design is similar to its neighbor, the Walton house, but one of the two original front doors has been filled in and changed to a window. There has been a dentist office in this building for many years. However, in our landmark files the building is not named for any of the several dentists that have occupied it, but for Robert G. McEwen. What do we know of Robert?
He was born in 1806 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania to Richard and Sarah McEwen. The family moved to Centerville in 1817 and Richard opened a harness and saddle shop. Robert began his education in public school and did very well. Consequently, he was sent to a private college preparatory school in Springboro. There Robert was found to be an excellent reader with a good memory and a talent for debating. Before long he was ready to further his education. Robert was accepted at Oxford College, now Miami University. He was acknowledged as one of the best educated men in the township.
In 1829, when Robert was just 23 years old, his father passed away. At this time he went into the family harness and saddle shop business with his brother, William. However, in 1831, William also died, and we get a little insight into Robert’s character, as he became the sole support for his mother and sister. In 1833, he married Elizabeth Morris and soon purchased a lot from Benjamin Robbins, so he could build the stone house we now see.
During these same decades, when Robert was running a business and taking care of a growing family he was also working for the benefit of the community. Beginning in 1829 he served some time as Washington Township clerk, and when Centerville was incorporated in 1830, he became the first clerk. Then in 1838, Robert was elected as the Montgomery County tax assessor. Later in life, in 1859 he was elected as a representative to the Ohio Legislature. The history book calls him an avid debater, “a Jacksonian Democrat and quite a politician.”
In business, Robert was very shrewd and when he purchased a team of horses, he began contracting for hauling and soon realized that the hauling service was more profitable than the store. So he sold the store and bought another team. As time passed, he was becoming prosperous and looked around the community for more land to purchase. In 1836, he bought a farm at 8861 Lebanon Pike for $3000.
Robert and Elizabeth had four children, and the oldest, Horace, was born on the farm, south of Centerville, in 1840. They also had William, named after Robert’s brother, then Mary and Wilson. Robert felt that land was a good investment and had the intention to leave a farm to each of his children in his will. In 1853, Robert bought a farm with a house that was built in 1806, on a road a little west of the town center. That road was later named for him and the farm remained in the McEwen family until 1973. When Robert passed away in 1877 he owned 440 acres. As you travel down McEwen Road the next time, or pass the little white house next to the Walton House, spare a moment to remember Robert McEwen and his contributions to our community.