The Albert Merritt Ewert Collection, 1890-1984 (majority within 1916-1961)
Using These Materials
- This collection is open to research.
- Ewert, Albert Merritt, 1886-1984.
- Albert Merritt Ewert (1886-1984), served as Chaplain of the Michigan National Guard 119th Field Artillery and as Chaplain of Michigan State Prison from 1933-1934. He held an administrative position in the Michigan Department of Corrections from 1938-1951. The collection documents these activities. It also contains examples of Ewert’s painting, writing and composing.
- 8 cubic feet
- Collection processed and finding aid created by Bob Garrett
- Scope and Content:
Description: The Albert Merritt Ewert Collection documents Ewert’s remarkable life. Materials span from the 1890’s to 1984.
Subject Files include correspondence, newsletters, artwork (paintings, sketches and artifacts), church bulletins, a scrapbook, journals, typed poems and story manuscripts, and original sheet music. Items are grouped into folders, with folder titles reflecting subject content. The folders are arranged into a general chronological order. (Ewert moved frequently for much of his life. One could often discern approximate dates for an item by identifying Ewert’s location at the time. The biographical sketch above may sometimes aid researchers in providing greater context.)
The collection begins with some biographical information. The biographical file contains correspondence regarding Ewert’s 1962 State of Wyoming delayed birth certificate application. Also present are a few general outlines of Ewert’s life and career, and notes from an oral history interview. Ewert’s granddaughter, Cathy Ewert (now Cathy Ewert Benson), conducted the interview with her grandfather in 1971.
Materials of undetermined date – mostly artwork, poems and stories by Ewert –appear toward the front of the collection. Artwork consists of pencil sketches and pastel drawings, most of which depict nature scenes. The stories are fiction and feature a naïve, well-meaning protagonist named "King Friend." King Friend encounters various individuals and attempts to befriend them, often experiencing negative consequences as a result. The stories, with their philosophical nature, provide some insight into Ewert’s worldview.
The collection contains some of Ewert’s original sheet music. Many songs are hymns, but Ewert also wrote secular-themed tunes such as "Arapahoe War Dance." Appendix I contains a complete list.
Ewert served as Michigan State Prison Chaplain in 1933-1934. Materials from that time include church bulletins, a copy of a sermon by Ewert, correspondence between Ewert and Governor William Comstock and copies of radio addresses that Ewert delivered from the prison. The manuscript of Ewert’s "Little Red Book" contains advice for inmates. A folder of correspondence documents reactions to a conference that Ewert held on April 5, 1934. Scholars, attorneys and corrections officials were invited to attend, and Ewert explained his theories on prison reform. (His plan contained some controversial elements, including the idea that judges shouldn't be allowed to set the lengths of sentences. For a description of his views, see the inmate newsletter The Spectator, which is included in this collection.)
Some items reflect inmates’ points of view. These include correspondence by inmates to Rev. Ewert (Ewert’s responses are sometimes included, as well.). The folder labeled "Progressive Club Meeting" contains inmate ideas on prison reform (Ewert talked to them at the Progressive Club Meeting and invited them to submit their views.). An issue of the inmate newsletter The Spectator features Ewert and his thoughts on the penal system.
The collection also contains inmate artwork. These include pencil sketches and a Mothers Day card created by inmates for Anna Mabel Beard Ewert. There is also a scrapbook that inmates created for Rev. Ewert. It documents much of Ewert’s life to that point. It is thus helpful for biographical information and also serves as a symbol of the inmates’ affection for their Chaplain. (NOTE: Prisoner-made artifacts can be found in Series 4.2. Photographs of Jackson Prison scenes can be found in Series 3.)
When Frank Murphy won the 1936 gubernatorial election, he formed a Study Commission on Administration of Prison and Parole. Ewert was among those appointed. The Commission was charged with planning a new corrections system for Michigan. Study Commission materials include correspondence, meeting minutes and reports. The items address issues such as administrative organization, needed personnel, needed legislation and likely expenses.
A related folder contains a report of the Subcommittee of the Committee on Prison, Parole and Probation (Ewert served on this Subcommittee.) The report provides detailed cost estimates for a state probation system. It also contains statistical data on probationers and corrections professionals, including probation officers, county welfare agents and circuit judges.
In 1937, Governor Murphy established the Michigan Department of Corrections. He appointed Ewert Deputy Assistant Director of Probation. In 1949, Ewert was promoted Director of Probation, and he held this position until his retirement in 1952. Correspondence, reports, newsletters, newspaper clippings and publications represent Ewert’s years with the Department of Corrections. "Work journals" document his daily activities, as he routinely noted appointments and travel destinations. A 1938 Department booklet provides a history of the then-new Department of Corrections and of corrections practices in Michigan. Ewert retired in 1951 and died in 1984. His post-retirement days are documented largely through correspondence and newspaper clippings. A 1958 guest register contains signatures from Albert and Mabel Ewert’s fiftieth wedding anniversary celebrations. Obituaries and condolence letters document the 1961 death of Anna Mabel Beard. A 1981 letter from Michigan Governor William Milliken congratulates Ewert on his 95th birthday. A copy of a death certificate, condolence letters, newspaper obituaries and a memoir by Ewert’s grandson, David, document Ewert’s death in 1984.
A second subseries consists of materials of Anna Mabel Beard Ewert and her daughter, Kathleen Ewert Lourim. Anna Mabel Beard Ewert’s journals date from 1943-1946, 1953-1954, 1956 and 1960-1961. The 1943-1946 journals contain the most detailed entries, with Mabel often noting the weather conditions and commenting on daily activities. Later volumes primarily contain calendars and note appointments. Occasionally, loose correspondence was filed with the journals. This correspondence remains, in order to preserve the context. Most of it concerns rentals of the Ewert’s vacation cabins. However, there are also two 1954 letters from William Lourim, the Ewert’s son-in-law. Lourim comments on weather conditions and on recent family activities.
Items of Kathleen Ewert Lourim all pertain to Lourim’s work environment. She was employed in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from 1943 to 1969. A scrapbook consists almost completely of photographs – all depicting scenes and individuals from the Department. Also present are a photocopy of Lourim’s 1943 Employee Information form, a 1966 article and photograph of the DNR softball team, and letters congratulating Lourim on her 1969 retirement. Finally, there is an n.d. cartoon by DNR cartoonist Ozz Warbach. The cartoon features a likeness of Lourim and depicts her working at her desk. Books Owned by the Ewert Family include Bibles, prayer books and other religious publications. A few secular works include a book of poetry, a joke book (titled Best of the World’s Good Stories) and a book entitled Choice Readings, which contains random essays and speeches selected to improve one’s skills in elocution. Some books are signed by the owner and dated. Occasionally, an additional note appears, often explaining how the owner acquired the book or how the book was used. Books are filed in individual folders and arranged chronologically by signature date, when such a date exists. When not, the publication or copyright date is used instead.
Photographs span the years 1890-1984. These are grouped into folders according to subject and arranged in roughly chronological order. Folders consisting only of n.d. photos are filed at the front of the series. There are many portraits of Albert Merritt Ewert and photos depicting Ewert family members. Researchers may wish to consult the biographical sketch above when attempting to place items in context. When viewing Ewert family photos, it is also helpful to note that Albert and Anna Mabel Ewert’s daughter, Kathleen, was born in 1912 and their son, Quentin, was born in 1915. The approximate ages of the children can sometimes aid in estimating the date of a photo.
Besides the photos of Ewert and his family, the series also contains images of Michigan prisons, inmates and Corrections officials (including prison wardens). One folder contains photos dating from 1933-1934, when Ewert served as Chaplain at Michigan State Prison in Jackson. These photos depict Ewert’s office and staff, the Prison library and a memorial service. There are also signed portraits of inmates, including a portrait of a prison musical band. Other prison photos likely date from about 1938, when the Department of Corrections was formed. Some were published in a 1938 booklet by the then-new Department (A copy of this booklet appears with the photos in Box 11, Folder 4.). Prison photos depict inmates in cells, at work in prison factories and in inmate softball teams. There are also photos of Prison administrative buildings. Finally, one folder depicts Ewert and co-workers in a Department of Corrections office at various points during Ewert’s time with the Department.
Artifacts are divided into two subseries. The first consists of personal artifacts of Albert Merritt Ewert. Most of these are not dated, although some dates can be inferred. For example, Ewert’s Army belt likely dates from the 1920’s, when he served as a chaplain with the Michigan National Guard. Ewert’s Deputy Assistant Director of Probation badge likely dates from about 1938, when he first assumed that office.
The second subseries consists of artifacts made by prison inmates. These date from 1933-1934, when Ewert served as Chaplain of Michigan State Prison. Artifacts include book ends, a wooden box, a compass and a photo frame.
- Biographical / Historical:
Albert Merritt Ewert was born in Rawlins, Wyoming Territory, in 1886. His parents were Rev. A.L.T. Ewert and Laura Miller Ewert. He had two brothers, named Arthur and Earl, and three sisters, named Anna, Ethel and Carol. As a Methodist pastor, A.L. T. Ewert was required to relocate every few years. During Albert’s youth, the family lived in various locations, including towns in Wyoming, Illinois and Colorado. As a young adult, Ewert attended Greer College and Northwestern University. Like his father before him, he became a Methodist pastor.
Albert Ewert met Anna Mabel Beard while performing religious work in Memphis, Missouri. The two were married on March 25, 1908. The union produced two children: Kathleen Ewert Lourim (born in 1912) and Quentin Albert Ewert (born in 1915).
Ewert was living in Griggsville, Illinois in January 1916, when he resigned his pastorate in the Methodist Church. He then joined St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Peoria, Illinois. He was ordained as an Episcopal priest the next year and moved to Galesburg, Illinois. He moved to Marshall, Michigan in 1918 and to Bogalusa, Louisiana in 1919.
In 1921, the Ewerts returned to Michigan. They were to stay in that state for the remainder of their lives. Rev. Ewert served as Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Grand Ledge, Michigan and as Chaplain of the Michigan National Guard 119th Field Artillery. As a National Guard chaplain, he delivered the prayer at the Camp Grayling memorial service for President Warren G. Harding on August 10, 1923. In 1925, he became a rector at Epiphany Episcopal Church in Detroit. By the end of 1926, he had returned to Grand Ledge and resumed his duties as Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church.
In 1933, Michigan Governor William Comstock appointed Rev. Ewert Chaplain of Michigan State Prison. As Chaplain, Ewert delivered weekly radio addresses, established an arts and crafts program and advocated penal reform. He left this position in 1935 and joined the National Youth Administration’s Michigan state staff.
In November 1936, Frank Murphy was elected Governor of Michigan. Shortly after, he formed a commission to study Michigan’s penal system. Ewert was among those he appointed to the commission. When the Department of Corrections was established in 1938, Murphy appointed Ewert Deputy Assistant Director of Probation. Ewert was promoted to Director of Probation in 1949 and retired in 1952.
During his long career, Albert Merritt Ewert distinguished himself in the ministry and as a Corrections official. He was also an accomplished artist, author and composer. He passed away in Grand Ledge, Michigan in 1984, at the age of 98.
- Acquisition Information:
- This collection was donated by Cathy Ewert Benson, granddaughter of Albert Merritt Ewert, and her father, Quentin Albert Ewert.
The collection is arranged into four series: Subject Files, Photographs, Books Owned by the Ewert Family and Artifacts. Folders are arranged chronologically within each series, with folder titles reflecting subject content.
- Physical Location:
- AL 31/4/4-5, 32/1/13, 32/1/21
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Military chaplains -- United States -- History.
Prison chaplains -- Michigan -- Correspondence.
Prisoners -- Michigan -- Jackson -- Correspondence.
Parole -- Michigan.
Prisoners -- Michigan -- Jackson -- Photographs.
United States. Army. Field Artillery, 119th.
Michigan. Dept. of Corrections -- Officials and employees.
Trinity Episcopal Church (Grand Ledge, Mich.)
Epiphany Episcopal Church (Detroit, Mich.)
Michigan State Prison -- Photographs.
State Prison of Southern Michigan -- Photographs.
Michigan Reformatory -- Photographs.
Marquette Prison -- Photographs.
Ewert, Albert Merritt, 1886-1984.
Ewert, Anna Mabel Beard, 1886-1961.
Lourim, Kathleen Merritt, 1912-1983.
Using These Materials
This collection is open to research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Copyright has been transferred to the Archives of Michigan.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
[item], Albert Merritt Ewert Collection, MS 2006-19, Folder # , Box #, Archives of Michigan, Lansing