Geographically positioned farther west than the city of Detroit, Virginia’s Lee County stands as the Old Dominion’s westernmost locality and has for centuries acted as a bridge for pioneers desiring to forsake the lifestyle of the East for the untouched wilderness beyond the Cumberland Gap.
Deep in the heart of this historic county, which dates back to October 1792, is its westernmost community of Ewing, Virginia.
Farther west than West Virginia’s westernmost point, this Virginia hamlet is a far cry from the metropolises that sit at the other ends of the Commonwealth. While places such as Virginia Beach and Fairfax boast of areas with just about as many people per square mile as the entire County of Lee, Ewing acts as the state’s most distant community and offers a plethora of oddities for the history and geography nerd.
Defined as a census-designated place, Ewing has a population of roughly 439 residents, however, what this borderline Midwestern community lacks in size it makes up for with intriguing stories.
Dating back to around the time this community first got a post office in 1891, the mountains and valleys surrounding the settlement have played host to a number of murders and murderers.
In the spring of 1901, Lee County’s former sheriff, Charles M. Edds, was put on trial for the murder of his brother-in-law, Charles Ball, a serving sheriff’s deputy.
According to the Richmond Times, “There had been an old grudge between them for about three years.”
A Louisville paper from the previous November detailed the murder:
“Ball was assassinated… near Ewing, Virginia, while on his way from Cumberland Gap… He was found a few days after his death by the roadside with eight bullet holes in his body. Edds was last seen with him and was suspected.”
Despite the evidence against him, the former sheriff managed to convince eight of the twelve jurors of his innocence and was subsequently acquitted.
The region was again the scene of bloodshed only a handful of years later. The November 10, 1905, edition of the Hartford Republican speaks about troops being stationed at the border of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, as a band of outlaws, under the leadership of Riley Ball, “a sixteen-year-old boy,” exercised sovereignty over the forgotten land.
Though the advent of push button communication, planes, trains and automobiles have all worked to bring this forgotten territory a little closer to the government-seat in charge of her, the reality is that no invention of man can erase the fact that this Virginia town is geographically closer to nine state capitals than her very own in Richmond, which is more than 410 miles away.
Closer capitals are: Frankfort, KY (178 miles), Charleston, WV (216 miles), Nashville, TN (240 miles), Atlanta, GA (264 miles), Columbia, SC (301 miles), Columbus, OH (322 miles), Indianapolis, IN (322 miles), Raleigh, NC (331 miles), and Montgomery, AL (407 miles).
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