In 1865 Samuel Ewing Jr. stopped on his journey west and looked across the prairie that composed southern Iowa. He could not have known the future or the way the Ewing clan would root itself into that Iowa soil. More than likely he simply saw a landscape that spoke of promise. Whatever his sentiments, all these years later his homestead remains, cherished by descendants who appreciate the twined threads of family, place and heritage.
Through time the Ewing farm has grown and flourished. On what has become 3,000 acres, Ewings have tended fields of corn and beans, a herd of cattle, and the quail and pheasants that trade through fencerows and pivot corners. It was in pursuit of these birds that young Travis Ewing found his calling—and his own reference point on the ground that similarly spoke to his forebear.
In the 1980s Travis followed relatives and family friends as they ran their dogs over the Ewing homestead. He remembers boyhood dreams taking shape. “I always told my dad that I’d grow up to guide hunts on Grandpa’s ground,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to be on the farm.” Despite his youth having been spent largely around Des Moines, the farm and its birds continued to call. When Travis and his fiancé, Abby, began plotting their course together, they found themselves returning to Wayne County more and more. Eventually they settled there, broke ground on a lodge and started Heritage 1865.
Travis and Abby run Heritage 1865 as a hunting destination where guests can pursue upland birds, waterfowl, turkeys and whitetail deer. In 2014 they pivoted land use to support the business, moving away from cattle and dedicating the acreage to CRP and food plots. Under their stewardship the land has reverted into something Samuel Ewing might have recognized—albeit with a few more gamebirds on it. Early release and supplemental pheasants and quail augment wild populations throughout the holding, and hunters pursue them through grasslands, CRP strips and wooded creek bottoms. Travis and his guides run pointing dogs that get extensive work through a season that runs from September 1 to March 31, depending on weather.
Guests at Heritage 1865 enjoy something more than a singular hunting getaway. Guests are afforded the Ewing family experience—a shared pride of place, a celebration of that namesake heritage that Samuel Ewing Jr. set in motion all those years ago. Hunters regularly are hosted by three generations of Ewings, they traverse the property in Travis’s grandfather’s vintage vehicles and they are delighted by his grandmother’s peach cobbler. There is an unspoken feeling of returning to the family farm that makes the experience all the richer. Travis and Abby consider this essential and in line with the philosophy that has kept the family place intact and vibrant for more than 150 years. Said Travis: “We want this to become a second home for people and a place dedicated to building friendships and memories.” If anyone knows the potency of such things, it’s the Ewings.
For more information, contact Heritage 1865.
Photographs courtesy of Heritage 1865.