Return to Inductee Page

MCEWEN FAMILY

Inducted in 1998

McEwen familyAccording to Mack, son of Oscar McEwen, the McEwens came to the Kittitas Valley in 1871. Originally from North Carolina, John McEwen and his wife Jerusah Morrow McEwen crossed from their Fremont, Iowa, home, making that long trek across the Great Plains to the Pacific Northwest. They originally settled near Shelton but crossed the Cascades in search of prime cattle grazing country in 1871. They homesteaded up the Naneum, five miles east of Ellensburg. John and Jerusah had five children, Elizabeth, James, Harvey, Laura, and Etta. It is the children of Harvey and Martha Grewell McEwen that historians of the Ellensburg Rodeo know best. Harvey McEwen and his boys ranched in the southeastern Kittitas Valley and soon gained a reputation as top horsemen, both on the ranch and at local rodeos and horse racing tracks. Of the eight children, four McEwen cowboys—Clarence, Ed, Oscar, and Ernie—built the McEwen rodeo legacy. Oscar and Ernie became involved in planning and building the rodeo grounds in ’23; both worked behind the chutes and as pickup men (Oscar’s boy Mack worked with them as a teenager, learning the ropes from these seasoned hands). All of the McEwens broke horses and competed in rodeo roughstock competitions. Another important McEwen legacy is in Quarter Horse racing. Harvey and Oscar McEwen helped build the first Yakima horseracing track. The McEwens won races there and at many other racetracks throughout the Pacific Northwest. Ed McEwen became a leading horse jockey throughout the U. S., Canada, Mexico, and Cuba. Tragically, he died in a race track accident in Waitsburg, WA. Clarence McEwen also excelled at the game, but he left racing after Ed’s death. He became a racing official—he was Assistant Starter at Santa Anita (CA) and Head Starter at Longacres (WA) racetracks. For the generation of rodeo fans who grew up during the 1950s and 1960s, it was the aging Oscar McEwen who came to symbolize the values and traditions of ranching and rodeo in the Kittitas Valley. Oscar and Mary McEwen had three children (Mack, Ralph, and Cora). After a long career as a ranch hand, “Ott” McEwen (actually family members called him “Ok” but townsmen universally used the misnomer) lived out his years on his “town ranch” beneath Craig’s Hill on Chestnut Street. There he kept his horses and some feed in a small barn adjacent to his home (in those days there was no zoning!). He continued to train horses and he rode every day of his life. Young horsemen could always find a riding partner in Ott, and he was often seen on horseback with local youngsters, Wranglerettes, and budding cowboys (one local remembers their tying up their horses on a Pine Street parking meter so a youngster could run into Carlyle’s to get Ott a coke!). He became a fixture in the Ellensburg Rodeo Parade and, alongside his cousin Miss Cora McEwen—a beloved elementary school teacher—stood as a lone symbol of the vanished frontier days in a rapidly modernizing post-Wolrd War II Kittitas Valley. Ott McEwen died in 1967, but the McEwen legacy to the Ellensburg Rodeo endures to this day.