Pages 156-160, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Allen and Woodson Counties, Kansas: embellished with portraits of well known people of these counties, with biographies of our representative citizens, cuts of public buildings and a map of each county / Edited and Compiled by L. Wallace Duncan and Chas. F. Scott. Iola Registers, Printers and Binders, Iola, Kan.: 1901; 894 p., [36] leaves of plates: ill., ports.; includes index.


John M. Evans



JOHN M. EVANS was one of the early settlers of Allen county. He was one of the leading spirits among a few pioneers who chose the broad and undulating prairies in the valley of the Neosho for their abiding place. In 1857 Thomas P. Killen, Dr. John W. Scott, Peter M. Carnine, Richard V. Ditmars and others from Johnson county, Indiana, formed a colony for the purpose of emigrating to Kansas and asked Mr. Evans to join them. He did so and in October, of that year, they came to the territory in search of new homes. At the time of the removal Mr. Evans was


living in Montgomery county, Indiana. They came without any purpose other than to search out a location where honest tillers of the soil and earnest Christian people could establish themselves, build homes and plant the seed of a moral, intellectual and religious community. After traveling over the country for some time they decided to locate on the high prairie north of Deer creek, which is now the neighborhood of Carlyle. Each member of the colony selected a quarter section and held it as a claim until the land came into market.

Mr. Evans chose the quarter section which is now the Allen county Poor Farm. With the assistance of the company he built a round log cabin on his claim. Carnine and Ditmars remained in the territory that winter and occupied this cabin, which was the first one built in the colony. The other members of the party returned to Indiana. On the 19th of April, 1858, however, with his wife and three children, Mr. Evans started from Waveland, Indiana, for their new home on the Kansas plains. Thomas P. Killen, with his wife and two children, started at the same time and traveled in company with them. The journey from Waveland to Terre Haute was made in wagons, by rail from Terre Haute to St. Louis, from the latter place to Kansas City by steamer, and from Kansas City to Allen county by wagon again, over rough prairie roads and across deep unbridged streams. They reached their new location on the 10th of May, at 10 o'clock in the evening. They, all camped in Carnine's cabin that night and the next afternoon Mr. Evans removed into his own cabin and began housekeeping in true pioneer style. After supper was over and their beds made ready on the floor Mr. Evans read a chapter in the Bible and they knelt together in prayer the first time since leaving their home in Indiana. It was a happy, restful hour and never had they so fully realized the true meaning of the poet's lines, "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home," as they did that night. Samuel C. Richards, a nephew of Mr. Evans, and Miss Sarah P. Newell, a sister of Mrs. Evans, came with them and made their home with them for some time. The colony at this time numbered thirteen, eight adults and five children. The adults were all members of the Presbyterian church and all Republicans. Other members of the colony arrived later. These settlers proceeded to the business for which they came west at once. The work of supplementing nature with art was carried on as rapidly as their individual capabilities permitted and in a few years a house of worship and a primitive school house were a part of their achievements.

In those days Lawrence was the headquarters of the mail service for that section. Cofachique, an Indian trading post, eight miles south of the new colony, was the nearest post-office. "Little Billy," the mail carrier, on his Indian pony, made the trip once a week from Lawrence, by way of Hyatt, Fort Scott and Humboldt to Cofachique, returning by the same route. It was the only road into the Deer Creek settlement from the north and was a long circuitous route. The new colonists decided to shorten it and about the middle of July, Mr. Evans, Harmon Scott, T. P. Killen and P. M. Carnine surveyed and staked off the route from their new location


north to Hyatt, a distance of sixteen miles, and thus shortened the way many miles. The next week Mr. Carmine mounted on Mr. Evans' little Kentucky mare, Becky, rode to Hyatt, met the mail carrier and piloted him over the new route to Cofachique. In passing though the new location they stopped at Mr. Evans' cabin for water and "Little Billy" said to Mrs. Evans, "I'm mighty glad you folks moved out here and made this new road, for it will save me so much hard riding."

Mr. Evans was reared a Whig. He was a strong opponent of slavery and came to Kansas to help make this a free state. When the war began he was anxious to join the regiment with his neighbors, but his wife being a cripple at that time it was impossible for him to leave home. It was necessary, especially on the frontier, that some measure of protection be accorded to the settlements from inroads of the Confederates and the incursions of thieves and marauders, and this protection was extended through the Home Guard. It was made up largely of men who were near the age of exemption from military duty and without the physical requirements for the arduous campaigning of the regular service, but with the same courageous, and patriotic spirit which actuated men of all arms. Mr. Evans belonged to the state militia and endured some hard service. During the Price raid he and a comrade were detailed as scouts on the western border of Missouri and were in the saddle from three o'clock in the morning until six in the afternoon without a mouthful of food. In politics Mr. Evans was a pronounced Republican with no political aspirations whatever, but in the fall of 1863, at the urgent request of his friends he accepted the nomination and was elected state representative. During the session he became one of the substantial and useful members of the house. The Carney fraud was perpetrated during that session and Mr. Evans was a bitter opponent to the movement to elect Carney to the United State senate a year before the proper time, which was done because Carney was sure of his election by that body.

Mr. Evans was not less prominent in spiritual than in temporal matters. He was an elder in the Carlyle and Geneva churches, was one of the committee who organized the Presbyterian churches of Iola, Neosho Falls and Geneva, and his mind was not only a directing force in their organization, but his substantial aid was fully as potent a factor in their maintenance during their early years.

In 1865 Mr. Evans' health failed and he had to give up farm work. He had been engaged in the dry goods business before coming to Kansas and when L. L. Northrup offered him a partnership in his store in Geneva he accepted it and moved there in 1866. Geneva had been located and settled by an eastern colony who came there with the intention of founding an institution of learning at that place. The citizens of the surrounding country united with them and subscribed liberally for the erection of a building for that purpose. In 1867 Mr. Evans, acting on the advice of the Rev. G. S. Northrup, Rev. Austin Warner and Rev. E. K. Lynn, took the contract and erected the Geneva Academy building with his own money, and thus established an institution which they all thought would be per-


manent, but they were disappointed. Rev. Northrup died just as the work was begun. In less than three years Mr. Evans died, and through mismanagement after his death the enterprise proved a failure and the building now stands as a monument to the earnest efforts of those noble, Christian pioneers.

Mr. Evans was born in Owen county, Indiana, May 9, 1825. His father, Jesse Evans, was born in East Tennessee in 1787. He emigrated to Pulaski county, Kentucky, and in 1812 married Esther M. Newell. In 1818 he removed to Owen county, Indiana, living in Owen and Montgomery counties until 1868 when he came to Kansas, dying in Iola in 1875. His wife died in Waveland, Indiana, in 1854. His father, Andrew Evans, the grandfather of our subject, was born in North Carolina, removed to Tennessee and there married Elizabeth Fain, of French descent. The early settlers of that state were frequently attacked by the Indians and at such times would take refuge in the block-houses. During one of these attacks Mr. Evans' supply of lead gave out and his wife melted their pewter plates and moulded bullets which he shot through the portholes, thus keeping the Indians from setting fire to the block-house. In so doing he saved their lives with their dinner plates. Mr. Evans afterward moved to Kentucky and later to Owen county, Indiana, where he died in 1842. His wife died in the same state in 1846. His ancestors were Welsh people who settled in the south at an early date. Since then, by intermarriage, the blood of the Scotch, Irish and French have been introduced into its own strain. Esther M., the wife of Jesse Evans, was Scotch-Irish. She was born in Pulaski county, Kentucky, in 1783. Their children were: Elizabeth F., wife of Rezin Richards; Samuel N.; Jane M., wife of Milam Knox; Andrew H.; Margaret E., wife of Andrew Couchman; Harriet N., wife of Samuel Steele, and John M., the subject of this review.

John M. Evans was married in Owen county, Indiana, May 1, 1851, to Jane Newell, the eldest daughter of William Tell Newell, who was born in Pulaski county, Kentucky, in 1803, and in 1830 went to Owen county, Indiana. He married Paulina Fain, a daughter of David Fain, of French descent and whose wife was of English lineage. David Fain was a colonel in the second war with England. He was a man of fine taste, high aspirations and a devoted Christian. He died in Owen county, Indiana, in 1857, and his wife died in Monroe county, Iowa, in 1874.

The children of William and Paulina Newell were Jane N., wife of John M. Evans; Harriette A., who died in girlhood; Mary E., wife of Martin Giltner; Samuel A.; Sarah P., wife of William Crawford; Martha E., wife of Whitfield Woods; Clarinda A., wife of Marcus Hennion; Hester L., who died in infancy; William M.; David F.; Alice J., wife of William Hay. Mr. Newell died in 1851 in Monroe county, Iowa, and his wife died in Albia, Iowa, in 1891. His father, Samuel Newell, was of Scotch-Irish descent, was born in West Virginia in 1754 and in 1780 he married Jean Montgomery, a descendant of the poet Montgomery. She was born in West Virginia in 1764 and was of Scotch descent. Samuel Newell was a colonel of the Tennessee cavalry in the Revolutionary war and saw much


of the arduous service incident to the war. He was in the battle of King's Mountain, aided in winning the victories of Cowpens and Yorktown, being present at the surrender of Cornwallis. At the battle of King's Mountain, he was wounded in the hip and rode all day without stopping to dress his wound or take any food. Before starting out in the morning he had roasted a large sweet potato, which he carried in his knapsack for lunch, but when he stopped to eat his potato he found it saturated with his own blood which had dripped into his knapsack from his wound, but he was so hungry he ate it as it was. After the war Colonel Newell located in Kentucky and served two terms in the state legislature. He was a talented man, a devoted Christian and a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was bitterly opposed to slavery and for this reason left Kentucky and removed to Indiana in 1837, there remaining until his death in 1841. His wife died in the Hoosier state in 1843.

John M. Evans married Jane Newell in Owen county, Indiana, May 1, 1851. She was born in Morgan county, Indiana, October 14, 1832. Their children were: Edwin Prescott; Mary Irene, wife of John D. Knowlton; William Jesse; Samuel Henry; Harvey Tell; Annetta Estella, wife of David R. Beatty; and Louemma. Edwin Prescott Evans died August 3, 1858, soon after the arrival of the family in Kansas and his funeral sermon was the first sermon preached in Carlyle colony and his grave the first one made in Carlyle cemetery, the Rev. G. S. Northrup, of Geneva, Kansas, officiating at the funeral. In July, 1870, the children of Mr. Evans had the smallpox in the worst form, yet with careful nursing they all recovered, but the over-exertion and mental anxiety of the father for the children was too much for the weakened condition of Mr. Evans. As soon as he felt they were safe, he sank down, weary and exhausted, and death came to him in Geneva, Kansas, August 22, 1870, in the forty-sixth year of his age. He passed away honored and respected by all who knew him.

Previous | Home | Next