EWING — Ask the residents of Ewing about their little corner of the world and you will get an answer as of one voice – we stay because we are at peace. We remain because this place carries a strong thread of community, a place where we know our neighbors will pick up the burden when it is too heavy for us to bear.
Bucolic comes to mind as one travels down U.S. 58 passing a mountain chain here, a barn and silo there, pastured cattle a little further along.
The business district, half hiding itself in the shadows of a mountain range, has no traffic light or stop sign to quell the onward motion through Ewing proper.
There are no eateries per se in Ewing, the westernmost town on the map in Virginia and one that’s closer to nine other state capitals than its own. But awe! – the breakfast and lunch crowd at the Black Diamond Market jettisons the memory to a place and time of the local general store that was common half a century or more ago. Greetings of the day intermingle with a joke followed by a guffaw there. Listen closely and a good-natured conversation about hot topics breaks just over there. Nothing is off-limits because the people know community reigns and tomorrow is another day.
Some folks are natives. Others came, experienced and stayed. Either way, this life in Ewing is pretty darn great!
Black Diamond cashier Nick Houston moved with his family from Lafollette, Tenn. to Ewing at the age of seven. A former Thomas Walker High School football player, Houston says he never plans to move away.
“It’s where I grew up. I like the mountain views. Every day when the sun starts to set, the mountains – it’s a really good sight.”
Time spent away from the job is all about hunting, fishing and four-wheeling. Houston was asked how he would feel if restrictive laws were passed in Richmond, the state capitol which is some 350 miles or about a six and a half hour drive from Ewing.
“I don’t really get into politics and stuff. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen,” he said, adding that he normally contains his hunting and other pursuits to his own property.
Jan, who owns the Western Building Supply Company, says Ewing drew her back home after a 47 year stint working in Tennessee.
“Ewing is a small, quiet town – a good place to raise a family. I used to tell people that Ewing has its pros and its cons and it has more pros than cons.”
She was asked whether she ever feels isolated from the lawmakers in Richmond and whether being closer to nine other state capitols than she is to her own causes any concern.
“We’re such a small end of the state down here. Our county probably doesn’t get a lot of attention from Richmond for most anything that goes on. We still pay taxes and still should have some say with our voices, or at least be considered.
“About the only thing you can do is your vote. When time comes to vote if you don’t like what’s happening, you try to change it. Everybody’s got their own opinion about whether it should or should not be done this way or that way. Even that comes down to, once they make their decision, you can voice your opinion. It comes down to the ballot box if you think they’re not doing what’s in the best interest of the public.”
Ewing is the westernmost town in Virginia measuring 3.76 miles in size and with 198 citizens as of 2019 – the latest reported census projection.
The jewel of a settlement is only 129 miles from Frankfort, Kentucky’s state capitol and just 164 miles from Charleston, WV. Even Nashville, TN is a short jaunt with just 177 miles between the two locations.
Atlanta, GA, Columbia, S.C. and Columbus, Ohio can be reached much sooner by those traveling from Ewing with just 201 miles, 233 miles and 234 miles (respectively).
Even state capitols like Indianapolis, IN, Raleigh, N.C. and Montgomery, ALA are closer than Richmond to Ewing with just 257 miles, 286 miles and 329 miles separating the respective locations.
The land that makes up Lee County, which encapsulates Ewing, was originally appropriated in 1792 from Russell County and is named for General Henry ‘Light Horse Harry’ Lee, the Revolutionary War soldier and then-governor of Virginia.
Jan says she likes to keep up on local news with the Powell Valley Times, a weekly newspaper. She says the Knoxville News Sentinel is “way too thick and doesn’t seem to have a lot of stuff that pertains to us.
“We’re a small area. You can hear a lot of things without having to read the paper anymore. Or, if you just look at Facebook,” she said, with a chuckle.
Twenty-nine year old Alex Long says he isn’t worried about the distance between Richmond politics and Ewing life.
“It’s peaceful around here. I don’t mind living here,” he said, adding that there’re not a whole lot of activities if you want to kick up your heels a bit on a Saturday night.
“The closest place to here is probably Knoxville or Johnson City. But, living here is a good tradeoff for the quiet.”
Mike’s Gun Shop manager Mark Leight commutes from Tennessee to Ewing. As a non-resident, Leight says he would frown upon any restrictive changes in gun laws affecting his ability to sell firearms.
“Like any red-blooded gun toting American, I would be very upset. Running the business here, I don’t think it would faze us much other than the outside business aspect. The laws would probably be set up for those purchasing rather than those that sell. It may modify some of what we’ve got in stock. Some of our product would actually go to the end-user.”
Leight says he has never really thought about the fact that nine state capitols are closer to Ewing than the town is to its own capitol.
“Usually, if I’ve got dealings with anybody in Richmond, it’s over the phone when I do the state police call-ins. That’s basically a direct contact to Richmond.”
Ewing native Todd Pillion, who is a Virginia state Senator, says the town was the perfect place to grow up.
“From learning the value of hard work on our family farm to being supported by a caring community, Ewing helped foster me into the adult I am today.”
Pillion, who graduated from Thomas Walker High School with a class of 56 students, attended alongside many of those individuals during his entire educational career.
“I knew their siblings, parents and grandparents. It was that close knit community that gave Ewing the sense of family that few communities have today.”
The state senator fondly recalls hikes both easy and challenging.
“Two of my favorites are the white rocks which provide beautiful views of the valley in all four seasons and the sand cave which is tucked away in the Cumberland Gap National Park and has spectacular ceilings of gold, red and green rock formations. Just down the road, the Wilderness Road State Park hosts events throughout the year and is an outdoor living history museum. The park features one of the most authentic reconstructed frontier forts in America,” said Pillion.
While he no longer lives in Ewing, Pillion says his parents do.
“We still maintain our family farm. I’m fortunate to represent Ewing in the Virginia State Senate and introduce folks to where Virginia truly begins. It is a little piece of heaven and has been so for a long time.”