John Ewing (pastor)

Last updated
Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, 1788 Charles Willson Peale - John Ewing - NPG.2001.5 - National Portrait Gallery.jpg
Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, 1788

John Ewing (1732–1802) was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1759 until his death in 1802 and served as the provost (president) of the University of Pennsylvania from 1780 to 1802. He also was a noted mathematician.

University of Pennsylvania Private Ivy League research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania is a private Ivy League research university located in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is one of the nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence and the first institution of higher learning in the United States to refer to itself as a university. Benjamin Franklin, Penn's founder and first president, advocated an educational program that trained leaders in commerce, government, and public service, similar to a modern liberal arts curriculum. The university's coat of arms features a dolphin on its red chief, adopted from Benjamin Franklin's own coat of arms.


Early life

Ewing and his twin brother, James, were born on June 22, 1732, in Cecil County, Province of Maryland. Their parents, Nathaniel Ewing and Rachel Porter, had emigrated to America several years earlier from Northern Ireland. Ewing married Hannah Sergeant in 1758, and they had 12 children.

Province of Maryland English, from 1707, British, possession in North America between 1664 and 1776

The Province of Maryland was an English and later British colony in North America that existed from 1632 until 1776, when it joined the other twelve of the Thirteen Colonies in rebellion against Great Britain and became the U.S. state of Maryland. Its first settlement and capital was St. Mary's City, in the southern end of St. Mary's County, which is a peninsula in the Chesapeake Bay and is also bordered by four tidal rivers.

Ireland Island in north-west Europe, 20th largest in world, politically divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK)

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.

Ewing was educated at a Pennsylvania prep school run by the Rev. Francis Alison, a respected classical scholar, and at the College of New Jersey (today's Princeton University), where he graduated with the class of 1754. [1]

Francis Alison (1705–1779) was a leading minister in the Synod of Philadelphia during The Old Side-New Side Controversy

Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, Princeton is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. The institution moved to Newark in 1747, then to the current site nine years later, and renamed itself Princeton University in 1896.

After working as a tutor at Alison's school, Ewing joined the faculty at the College of Philadelphia (today's University of Pennsylvania) in 1758 as a professor of ethics. He became a professor of natural philosophy in 1762. [2]


In 1759, Ewing also became a pastor at the First Presbyterian Church, where Alison also had served as a pastor. [3] Ewing's sermons were popular with the general churchgoers and educated elites, according to a Presbyterian historian. [4] A selection of his sermons was published in 1812. [5]

Ewing's senior role in the Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia earned him a position on the University of Pennsylvania's board of trustees from 1779 to 1802. He became the university's provost in 1780. [6]

Ewing's scientific pursuits included observing the 1769 Transit of Venus from an observatory at the State House Yard and assisting with the routing of the boundary line for the state of Delaware and the path for the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike. He joined the American Philosophical Society in 1768 and served as the treasurer of the Corporation for the Relief of Poor and Distressed Presbyterian Ministers, one of the earliest American life insurance companies. [7]

Ewing traveled to Britain in 1773 to raise money for the Newark Academy in Delaware. During the trip, he was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity from the University of Edinburgh and met with a number of prominent Britons, including Lord North, who was the prime minister, and Dr. Samuel Johnson, the English writer. [8]

Related Research Articles

Paxtang, Pennsylvania Borough in Pennsylvania, United States

Paxtang is a borough in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, United States. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 1,561. The borough is a suburb of Harrisburg and is one of the earliest colonial settlements in South Central Pennsylvania.

William Shippen Sr. was an American physician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was also a civic and educational leader who represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress.

Samuel Blair (chaplain) American minister

Samuel Blair, a Presbyterian minister, was the second Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives.

William Tennent religious leader and educator in early America

William Tennent was an early American religious leader and educator in British North America.

Israel Acrelius Swedish missionary and clergyman

Israel Acrelius was a noted Swedish Lutheran missionary and priest.

William Smith (Episcopal priest) first provost of the University of Pennsylvania

William Smith was the first provost of the College of Philadelphia, which became the University of Pennsylvania. He was also the founder of Washington College in Chestertown Maryland, and St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland.

Thomas Penn son of William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania

Thomas Penn was a son of William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony that became the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Thomas Penn was born in Bristol, England after his father returned there in 1701 because of financial difficulties. Thomas Penn's mother was his father's second wife, Hannah Callowhill Penn (1671–1726), daughter of Thomas Callowhill.

Rev.Samuel Magaw,D.D. was a clergyman and educator from Pennsylvania. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society and served as Vice Provost of the University of Pennsylvania (1782–1791).

Samuel Davies (clergyman) American minister and educator

Samuel Davies was an evangelist and Presbyterian minister. Davies ministered in Hanover County from 1748 to 1759, followed by a term as the fourth President of Princeton University, then known as the College of New Jersey, from 1759 to 1761. Davies was one of the first non-Anglican preachers in Virginia, and one of earliest missionaries to slaves in the British colonies. He was a strong advocate for religious freedom, and helped to institute significant religious reforms in the colony. Davies was also a prolific writer, authoring several hymns and publishing a book of poetry.

Samuel Miller (theologian) American theologian

Samuel Miller was a Presbyterian theologian who taught at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Richard Penn Sr. was a proprietary and titular governor of the province of Pennsylvania and the counties of New Castle, Kent, and Sussex on the Delaware River.

Matthew Brown (college president) American academic administrator and minister

Matthew Brown was a prominent Presbyterian minister and president of Washington College and Jefferson College. Next to John McMillan, Brown was the most important figure to education in Western Pennsylvania.

Old Trinity Church Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Old Trinity Church, also known as Trinity Church, Oxford, is a historic Episcopal church founded in 1698 in Oxford Township, Pennsylvania, which is now part of Philadelphia.

Septimus Tustin was a Presbyterian clergyman who served as Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives in 1837 and as Chaplain of the United States Senate 1841–1846.

Robert Davidson, DD (1750–1812) was an American educator.

Samuel Wright (nonconformist) English dissenting minister

Samuel Wright (1683–1746) was an English dissenting minister.

Forks of the Brandywine Presbyterian Church

The Forks of the Brandywine Presbyterian Church, sometimes called Brandywine Manor Presbyterian Church, is a historic church located in West Brandywine Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania at 1648 Horseshoe Pike, about 4 miles southwest of the crossroads of Glenmoore.

George Duffield (Reverend)

George Duffield was a leading eighteenth-century Presbyterian minister. He was born in Lancaster County, Province of Pennsylvania in 1732.


  1. "Penn Biographies: John Ewing (1732-1802)," University of Pennsylvania website, undated.
  2. "Penn Biographies: John Ewing (1732-1802)," University of Pennsylvania website, undated.
  3. "Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church," Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia website, undated.
  4. Samuel Miller, "John Ewing," This Day in Presbyterian History website, undated.
  5. "Sermons by the Rev. John Ewing, D.D." selected from his manuscripts by the Rev. James P. Wilson. Easton, Pa.: Tomas J. Rogers, 1812.
  6. "Penn Biographies: John Ewing (1732-1802)," University of Pennsylvania website, undated.
  7. Brackenridge, R. Douglas, and Boyd, Lois A., "Presbyterians and Pensions: The Roots and Growth of Pensions in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)" Westminster: John Knox Press, 1988, page 23.
  8. Samuel Miller, " "John Ewing," This Day in Presbyterian History website, undated.