William S. Speer, who was responsible for “Sketches of Prominent Tennesseans,” described the Ewing family in his article on Edwin Hickman Ewing.
Speer said, “They are society people, distinguished for their culture, refinement and high sense of honor.”
He wrote that the Ewings were “proud without being haughty, affluent without arrogance and prominent without being pretentious.”
It was this family that Jane Washington had joined when she married Felix Grundy Ewing in 1891.
Even Grundy’s first and middle name give evidence of Speer’s statements.
Felix Grundy himself was a Congressman, United States Senator, and Democratic leader. He was important in Kentucky politics but moved to Nashville in 1807.
He supported the war with Great Britain in 1811 when he was in the United States House of Representatives. In 1829 he was elected to the United States Senate when John Eaton was appointed to Andrew Jackson’s cabinet.
Felix Grundy was never a friend of Andrew Jackson, but he did defend Jackson in the Senate. He became United States Attorney General during the presidency of Martin Van Buren.
Felix Ewing’s maternal grandmother was Malvina Grundy, the wife of John Meredith Bass. Felix Ewing was the great-grandson of Felix Grundy.
Felix Ewing was educated in Nashville. For six years he managed his uncle’s cotton plantation in Arkansas.
Upon his return to Nashville, he was involved in manufacturing, merchandizing, and agriculture.
Judith Morgan, who has written about Nashville society in the later part of the 1800’s, frequently named Ewing as an escort at the extravagant parties that were held.
When Jane Washington and Felix Ewing were married, they lived at first in a house on the Wessyngton plantation. Their own home, their mansion, was completed in 1904.
The Ewings had toured Europe and admired the French country homes that they saw. As a result, GlenRaven was modeled to resemble those.
There were three stories, 27 rooms, and 10 bathrooms. The hand-carved cherry and walnut wood used in the paneling was prepared on the estate.
Bricks for the fireplaces were made there. Limestone for the foundation and the columns was cut there on the farm.
It was more than a manor house, however. It was a true tobacco plantation with Swiss chalet-like residences for the tenants, church, school, post office, power plant, dairy, mill, and store.
By 1903, Ewing was responsible for selling thousands of pounds of tobacco for area growers. He often had to meet with European buyers in New York – all part of his being manager of the Planters’ Protective Association.
Unfortunately, the Ewings’ plantation was not a financial success. By 1928, they were forced to obtain a large loan from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The company assumed ownership in 1931.
Fortunately the Moore family bought the estate from the insurance company. GlenRaven has been beautifully maintained.
Jane and Felix Ewing had to move to Nashville.
He died there at age 76 in 1935.
She lived in the James Robertson Apartment Hotel until her death in 1941 due to a cerebral hemorrhage.
They are both buried at Mount Olivet in Nashville.
In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-382-7173 for more information.