From the book; “The Good Old Times in McLean County, Illinois” written by Dr. E. Duis in 1874.
“Containing two hundred and sixty-one sketches of old settlers, a complete historical sketch of the Black Hawk war and descriptions of all matters of interest relating to McLean County.”
One of the oldest of the old settlers was William Evans. He was born September 1, 1775, near Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. His father was a soldier in the American army during the Revolutionary war. While the war was raging young William and his mother lived for a while in one of the American forts on the Juniata River. Here he caught the small-pox and so severe was the attack that one of his eyes was made sightless forever. The strength of his other eye was also much impaired and rendered his power of vision always dim. Being possessed of a strong constitution he triumphed over the sickness of infancy.
We hear nothing more of the childhood of William Evans. After Wayne’s treaty with the Indians his father’s family moved to Pittsburg, Ohio. Here young William showed that daring, adventurous disposition which afterwards made him one of the most successful of the early pioneers.
It was customary for the people on the upper Ohio to load their flatboats with goods or lumberandpole them down the stream to New Orleans. After disposing of the cargo the enterprising traders walked back through the unsettled wilderness to the upper Ohio. Young William Evans made this journey twice on foot. This was the stern education which prepared him for the success of after life. While living near Pittsburg he cleared two farms of forty-five acres each; one of these he lost because he could not redeem it from an incumbrance of fifty dollars; the other he sold for one hundred dollars in cash and twenty-five dollars in goods and started for Illinois. This was in 1825. He first settled in Old Town in McLean County, but in 1829 he moved to his farm which is now a part of the city of Bloomington. He was the first settler on the ground now occupied by the present city of Bloomington, although when the city was first laid out it did not include within the boundaries the house where Mr. Evans lived. Mr. James Allin was the first settler on the original site of the city. Both of these men may be considered the founders of Bloomington. On Mr. Evans farm, where now stand the residences of Dr. Wakefield and others, he broke the first sod in Bloomington and in 1828 raised a splendid crop of winter wheat, the yield being thirty bushels to the acre. The wheat brought forty cents per bushel and was sold to settlers moving into the country.
The first addition to Bloomington was laid out by James Allin. The second addition was laid out by Jesse W. Fell and a certain Mr. White. The land was bought by them of William Evans and was a part of his original farm. Mr. Niccolls and Judge J. E. McClun bought thirteen acres of Mr. Evans and laid out a third addition.
In 1825, the family started for Illinois, intending to make a settlement along the Illinois River. But when they arrived at Keg Grove (now Bloomington), they thought the land was so fine that the family decided to settled there. This family was noted as the first settlers on the ground now occupied by the present city of Bloomington. William made the settlement about four miles south of Bloomington, where the Orendorffs had previously built their cabins.
In 1827, a tornado came through Bloomington, tearing down the timber and scattering the trunks and limbs in every direction. The cyclone also destroyed the farmland that William cherished so much. His buildings were leveled, crops demolished, and his fence was swept away. Trees could be seen, uprooted and twisted, and in some places, piled up twenty feet high. After the storm passed, a resident of Bloomington, Cheney Thomas, offered to sell a claim of land to William for a cheap price – one hundred bushels of corn. Yet, the corn William planted was covered up with the debris left behind by this magnificent storm.
William Orendorff, who was standing near the other two men, said, “Take it Evans. If you haven’t enough corn, I have. William made the bargain, and in order to help fulfill it, Mr. Orendorff gave William five acres of growing corn. The land claim now forms a part of Bloomington and is worth a large amount of money.
According to the book, History of Bloomington and Normal In McLean County, Illinois:
“The great hurricane of June 27, 1827, broke down his timber and appeared to have ruined his corn crop. Mr. William Orendorff gave him 5 acres of young corn, which, with the unexpected good yield of his own, made Mr. Evans a fair crop, and enabled him to harvest 100 bushels of corn, this being what he had agreed to give Cheney Thomas for his ‘claim’ to a tract of land where the city of Bloomington now sits. In 1828, Mr. Evans built his log cabin, on a piece of ground between Grove and Olive streets, near the present residence of J.S. Roush. He afterward built a good home at the same location, and here he spent his days in peace and happiness, made wealthy by the advance in the value of his farm.”
“The hurricane unroofed the houses of William Evans and William Walker, although they were not in its immediate track. It passed through the timber and piled up the trees in some places twenty feet high. Nothing in the forest could stand before it.”
“In June 1826, four years before the year of the deep snow, the terrible wind storm occurred which passed through the south end of Blooming Grove eastward to Old Town. This terrible tornado swept down everything in its way; the trees were twisted off, and everything was leveled with the ground. At this time Mr. William Evans, of whose life we have written a sketch, had a crop of several acres of corn in Old Town. The hurricane passed over it and it was gone. But the old settlers were friends in need. Mr. Orendorff, whose place at Blooming Grove Mr. Evans had rented, gave the latter a patch of from five to seven acres of corn, so that, notwithstanding his misfortune, Mr. Evans was again encouraged.”
From Rob Day;
The Evans family were obliged to travel for many years to mill in Attica, on the Wabash, a total of one hundred and twenty miles in distance. Afterwards, they travelled along the Fox River, adding another eighty miles. They frequently milled at Peoria and Pekin. Orendorff’s mill was put up some time afterwards, on Sugar Creek, about twenty miles in distance.
During the winter of 1832 (know as the “Winter of Deep Snow”), the Evans ground corn in a coffee mill, and sometimes they pounded it by hand. Before the snow became packed, they would travel four miles to Bailey Harbert’s mill, struggling through the drifting snow.
Mr. Evans married in the year 1800 Miss Effie Winebriner. He had a pleasant family of children. His wife Effie died in 1839 after thirty-eight years of happy wedded life. In 1840 he married Mrs. Martha Day. He lived with her a contented and happy life until the year 1868 when he died at the advanced age of ninety-three years two months and seven days. Mrs. Evans is still living, and resides with her youngest daughter, Mrs. Haywood, who almost worships her.
From Rob Day:
Just before his death, William asked his wife to lift him up and give him some water. After drinking the water, he said, “Now, lay me down upon my side.” Martha did just that and with the water still moist on his lips, without a struggle nor a groan, William sweetly passed away. Shortly after William’s death, Martha (his second wife) moved to the home of her daughter, Mattie, and her husband.
William Evans was of mixed Welch and Irish descent, his father being Welch and his mother Irish. He had a tolerable common school education which he obtained at a district school near his birthplace in Pennsylvania.
William Evans was a quiet, unassuming man. He had in him a great deal of the “milk of human kindness.” His good acts were done without ostentation; he never allowed his right hand to know what his left hand did; and there are many who will remember his generosity until their latest day. He gave many building lots to poor widows and it is probable that all of his generous deeds will not be known until the final day when the Lord makes up his jewels. Mr. Evans possessed a remarkable influence over the Indians. These wild men of nature are wonderful in their quick and accurate estimate of character. They saw instantly that Mr. Evans was a man in whom they could trust. They rested often before his door and delighted in his presence. They often slept on his floor at night and sometimes covered it, and he always made them welcome. ( From Rob Day; The Kickapoo Indians maintained villages at Peoria and Danville. Tribes frequently crossed McLean County on a trail that ran from the northwest to the east, over the Bloomington ridge, on the way from the Illinois River to the Wabash.) He was a man who would have many friends wherever he went. The Rev. Mr. McElroy, who preached his funeral discourse, said:
“He was wont to say: ‘A man always takes his neiglibors with hirn wherever he goes;’ and was fond of relating the following anecdote as illustrative of the truth: “Two men had emigrated at an early day to the West. They put up together at the same tavern at night. The landlord inquired of one where he was going and why he came to the West. “I am going to settle in the bottom here,” said he, “and I came West to get rid of my troublesome neighbors.” “You will have bad neighbors where you are going,” said the landlord, and turning to the other he asked the same question. “I came “West,” said he, “because my farm was small and I desired to get more land, as I have a large family of children. I am going to settle in the bottom, and the only regret I have in leaving my old home is, I have left many good neighbors.” ” You will have good neighbors where you are going,” said the landlord. “How is this?” said the first, when we are going to the same place?” “Simply,” replied he, “a man takes his neighbors with him when he goes.’ “
This quaint little story shows the influence of character and a kind and neighborly disposition.
Mr. Evans was a man of God, a quiet, earnest, devoted Christian. He united with the Methodist church in 1835 and patiently upheld the cross of Christ until the day of his death.
According to the book, History of Bloomington and Normal In McLean County, Illinois:
“He [William Evans] died in 1868, at the age of ninety-two years. Mr. Evans was a man of good habits, one of the best men of the good old times.He was the first settler in the territory now know as the city of Bloomington.”
As to his personal appearance, William Evans was quite heavily set and weighed perhaps two hundred pounds. He was careful in business matters, and in his old age when sight and hearing had partially failed, his mind was always sufficiently clear to allow him to riianage his business. All who knew Mr. Evans speak of him as a kind and excellent neighbor. He took great delight in playing the violin which was nearly always the musical instrumint of early days. Music was a rare treat to the early settlers and the old airs played by Mr. Evans were gladly received.
From Rob Day:
(About William’s parents): William EVANS was born about 1750 in Wales.34 He served in the military in 1776/77 in Pennsylvania. William was a Private during the American Revolution. He enlisted at Cumberland County, Pennsylvania on 1 Oct 1776. William joined the Continental Line and was under the command of Captain Jeremiah Talbot’s Company, Colonel William Irvine’s Regiment, 6th Pennsylvania Battalion. He was honorably discharged on 15 Mar 1777.
After the Waynes Treaty with the Indians were signed in 1794, William took his family and moved to Ohio, where they settled in Pittsburg, along the Ohio River. He died about 1794 in Miami County (now Darke County), Ohio. Darke County started its formation in 1809. He was married to Margaret Davis on April 16, 1771.
Written by Doris J. Smith, 2010
Leander Evans was born in Bloomington, Illinios on November 6, 1849. Leander’s grandfather is credited with helping to “lay out” the city. After completing high school, Leander traveled with his parents, Samuel and Eveline [King] Evans, to Vernon County, Missouri where they farmed for seven years. He then moved to Kansas where me met Mary Elizabeth Swasey.
Mary was born on February 28, 1855 in Clark County, Missouri, the daughter of George C. and Elizabeth Clark Swasey. Details of Mary’s childhood are sketchy, but her mother died when Mary was very young. Mary’s father married Louisa Carter on August 28, 1859, when Mary was four years old. This is the woman that Mary refers to as “Ma” in her writings. Leander and Mary were married on May 16, 1875 in Cowley County, Kansas. He was 25, and she has just turned 20.
Also in 1875 Leander purchased 160 acres around South Haven, Sumner County, Kansas. While farming in Kansas, two sons were born to Leander and Mary. George Clark Evans, the eldest son, was born on May 18, 1876 at South Haven, Kansas. Walter, the second son, was born on March 31, 1878. Walter died at six months of age and is buried near South Haven. He is remembered often in the journal.
Leander and Mary moved to Colorado for a short time in 1881. Leander worked in the mines at Arberville, Colorado and also freighted to the mines in Chaffee, Colorado along the Arkansas River. Their third son, Frederick Earl Evans, was born in Arberville. Within the year, the family returned to South Haven, Kansas to resume farming.
Some years later, seeking a new life in the West, Leander and mary, along with their two boys, left Kansas and arrived in Mosier, Oregon on February 26, 1887.
Mosier, Oregon is located approximately 65 miles east of Portland, on the banks of the Columbia River. Jonah Mosier and his family, the area’s first white settlers, arrived in 1854, attracted by the seemingly endless acres of available timber which could be milled with local water power and sold for construction. Other families followed and settled in the valley. The climate and soil were ideal for fruit growing, and by the turn of the century, Mosier was a bustling village.
Leander and Mary, along with their two young sons, homesteaded 179 acres located on Carroll Road, south of Mosier, beginning in April 26, 1887. According to a local newspaper article, the family moved into their newly built small box house in July of 1887. The land around Mosier was heavily forested, and Leander set to work clearing trees and logging by hand to prepare for planting fruit trees.
In 1905 the History of Central Oregon noted:
“Leander Evans is one of the prominent fruit raisers of Wasco County. He resides about a mile southeast from Mosier. He owns one hundred and seventy five acres on the home place, most of which is tillable, and he has an orchard of about thirty acres. Last year he shipped something over three thousand boxes of fruit, and this year he will probably dispose of over five thousand. In addition, Mr. Evans has a fine fruit drier with a capacity of five thousand pounds per day, and he ships many tons of dried prunes and apples…
Two children have been born to our subject and his wife. Frederick E., a graduate of Philomath College in 1903 and married to Carrie Gray, the daughter of H. J. Gray, and George C., who received his education in the high school at Hood River and married Elva Coyle. He is now living on the farm adjoining that of our subject… Mr. and Mrs. Evams are members of the Methodist Church as also are their sons.
Mr. Evans is a Democrat but not active. He is well informed on the issues of the day and keenly alive to the interests of education. Mr. Evans is one of the wealthy men of the country, having secured a fine holding by virtue of his skill and industry while also he has stimulated many to meritorious labor which has resulted in great good to this part of the state.”
Leander Evans was a pillar of the community. He worked on committees and boards, was a member of many orginizations, and worked hard on his own farm. He was in the public eye. He was the more outgoing -more flamboyant- of the pair, and yet, one is drawn to Mary’s quiet ways. After a century, her story lives on.
Mary died on September 21, 1910. Here is what was written up in the Mosier Bulletin:
“Death of Mrs. Lee Evans”
The people of Mosier were saddened, on Wednesday morning, by the news that Mrs. Leander Evans was dead. While it was known that she was seriously ill, still it was hoped that the Angel of Death would pass over without blighting her household. But an Allwise Providence ruled otherwise, and she passed away at 5 o’clock in the morning, after receiving all the care that medical skill and kind neighbors could give.
Mary Elizabeth Swasey was born in Clark County, Missouri, in 1855. In 1873 she moved to Cowley County, Kansas, where she was married to Leander Evans, living in Kansas seven years. She returned to Missouri with her husband, and in 1887 came to Mosier, where she has since lived. Three children were born to her -George, Walter (who died in infancy), and Frederick, who, with her husband, survived her.
For the past three years Mrs. Evans has suffered from heart trouble, but only during the last year was it considered serious, causing periods of suffocation, becoming more frequent and severe. In July Mr. Evans took his wife to the coast, hoping that the change would benefit her; but while she enjoyed the trip, the damp climate only aggrivated her trouble. In fact her decline was more marked after her return home. The last spell came on Friday. On Sunday Dr. Robinson, of Mosier, and Dr. Ferguson, of The Dalles, were called to attend her. They informed her family that she could live but a short time and prepared them for the end, which came peacefully. At the time of her death her immediate family and other relatives and friends were at her bedside and she was enabled to bid them good-bye.
The deceased was a menber of the Methodist Church and by a long life of consistent Christian lving, by her kind and loving ways, has won the love and high esteem of a host of friends, who mourn her departure. This was evident by the large number who attended the funeral. The Baptist Church, in which the services were conducted by the Revs. J. W. Rigby of Hood River, and H. C. Clark, of White Salmon, both of them former pastors of the Methodist Church here, assited by the Revs. W. A. Stark of the Baptist Church, and H. C. Clark, of the Christian Church. The Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, of which the latter order the deceased was a Past Noble Grand, had charge of the services. A large concourse of people followed the remains to the grave, where the impressive Rebekah services for the dead were rendered. Many beautiful floral offerings were sent.
Although Mary had been in poor health for a long time, her death was a blow to the family. In spite of her excruciating headaches that lasted for days, in spite of the nose bleeds that continued for hours, and in spite of the doctor’s diagnosis of heart trouble, in the end Mary would always rise from her bed and continue being Mary – looking after the needs of her family, making sure meals were prepared, and doing jobs that needed attention around her house. She was wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, gracious hostess, and friend. And suddenly she was gone.
By today’s standards, Mary’s death at age 55 was very premature. She had lived in Mosier for more than 23 of those years. Mary and Leander had come to the Mosier valley early enough to be considered some of the early settlers, and they had been privileged to witness the expansion of local population and farming over the years. The mention in her obituary of the overflowing crowd at her funeral was a tribute to the public’s deep respect for this family.
Leander used Mary’s journal to express his grief. He wrote this entry n the day of her death:
Mary, My Beloved Wife Died …….. Sept. 21, 1910
She was Born 1855, Feb. 28
Leander lived for another 21 years. He continued farming with his son, Fred, and maintained his interest in various organizations in Mosier. Life continued for Leander, even without Mary. And yet, we have a glimpse of his loneliness in these poignant journal entries…
July 3, 1911 How Emty My Life, Dear One
August, 1926 How Emty My Life, Dear One Lee
Life continued for the Evans family. In 1916 Fred and Carrie’s second son, Arlyn Wayne Evans, was born, joining his brother, Darrell, Mary’s beloved grandson. George and his wife, Elva, also added to their family, with the arrival of twins, Alvy and Alvon, in 1911, followed by Mary in 1912 and Walter in 1918.
However, the family also experienced the loss of George’s wife, Elva, in 1919 and Fred’s wife, Carrie, in 1928. Mary’s stepmother, Louisa Carter Swasey, lived to be 95 years old, passing away in The Dalles in 1935. Leander died in 1931 at the age of 81 years. He never remarried.
Just wanted to let you know that during the school year, I don’t really have time to work on genealogy… I homeschool my four kids full-time, plus work outside the home. What with housework, there just isn’t time for “play”.😆 The kids are usually done with school by the end of April, and I have time for my hobbies during our four-month summer vacation. So if you Email me, I may be very late on the reply. Sorry!!! … But don’t give up, because summer is on the way!😉 (Yay!)
I just found out that someone found the journals of my great-great grandma, Mary Swasey Evans and put them into a book! I am currently looking into how I can get my hands on a copy of that book. I guess there will be a book signing/sale at the Discovery Center in The Dalles on March 12th, but my kids have their junior bowling league and I have to work.
Anyway, there is an article about the book here. It has a picture of Leander and Mary Evans. Up until today, I hadn’t seen a SINGLE picure from the Evans side of the family, including my Dad’s own father. This is the first one I’ve gotten my hands on, or even seen! … Pretty excited about that!
Anyway, here is the article:
I am All A Lone: the diary of an early female settler
Former Ontario resident finds family and history in her great-great aunt’s diary
By Patrick McDonough
Saturday, December 11, 2010 10:04 PM PST
Smith said the work, which culminated with the publication of the book “I Am All A Lone: The Diary of Mary Swasey Evans Early Mosier Settler” began with the discovery of the Evan’s dairy while Smith was still teaching school.
“I first read a copy of a copy of the Mary Evans journal while I was still teaching and I thought it needed to be put into a better format so my relatives would read it,” Smith said.”I was not sure they would dig through the handwriting.”
Smith, who is a former Ontario resident and schoolteacher, began transcribing the hand written pages, but as she did this, she realized that there were elements of the diary that would be better served with outside illumination.
“I was immediately captivated by her gentle spirit and the details of her life as a farm wife,” Smith said. “She faithfully recorded her household tasks, the weather and more exciting events. When Mary would describe ‘going to the hall for entertainment’ I wanted more details.”
To gain insight into these details, Smith began researching newspapers from the area, such as The Dalles Optimist, the Mosier Bulletin and the Hood River Glacier, spending hours scouring microfilm and delving further into the mystery of Mary Evan’s life.
Smith said she discovered more about the life and times of a woman who came to Oregon in 1887 with her husband Leander and her two sons. The family cleared and homesteaded 170 acres of land, planted orchards and became well known and loved community members.
Smith said she discovered a great deal about life in the Mosier area around the turn of the century and that the combined elements unfolded what Smith calls a tapestry of Oregon history for her.
“The book takes place at Mosier Oregon, which is along the Columbia River,” she said. “It happens to be my hometown. I have five generations of my family buried there.”
“I thought it would be something that needed to be preserved for family legacy, but as it developed; as we put it together I thought it had a larger appeal than just for the family.”
Smith gathered the excerpts from the diary, the newspaper clippings and more to offer readers insight into, not only the life of a farm wife of the time, but the time itself.
“I have included quite a bit about the history of the area from the newspaper articles as well as photos of area and photos of family.”
The book interweaves all of these elements in an easy to follow and understand chronological manner. An excerpt from the diary dated Jan. 6, 1909 reveals particularities of the vernacular of the age as well as a preoccupation with weather common to the time and also the solitude Evans often found immersed in.
“Commenced snowing at 7:30 a.m. Very cold wind in the east,” Evans writes. “About eight inches of the beautiful. Lee has gone to the station … A Lone.”
Smith said the term beautiful was a quaint term of the time describing the snow itself, and the term ‘All A Lone’ was one Evans often wrote when left at the homestead as her husband went to town for business or social pleasure.
The entry is tied to an article in The Dalles Optimist dated Jan. 14, 1909 which amplifies the entry with a report of the weather being the coldest experienced in the area in many years and goes on to add other items of interest.
“The river has frozen over at The Dalles and milk is being hauled across in sleds,” the Optimist reports. “Thus averting a milk famine.”
Smith said the language of the settlers and the newspapers, the details of life 100 years ago and the photographs and other information make the book interesting and historically significant.
Smith welcomes anyone interested in the history of Oregon or the life of settlers in the area to share in the journey. The book is currently in the collection of the Columbia River Trading Company at the Discover Center and Museum in The Dalles, Oregon.
For more information, contact the center at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, 5000 Discovery Dr. The Dalles, Oregon 97058. Or call (541) 296-8600.
“The dairy takes place 100 years ago and this is what a homemakers life would have been like at that time,” Smith said. “These people led a different life than we do, They did not have electricity, and Mary talks about her first automobile ride. It is an exciting cross-over from the horse and buggy days to more modern times.”
Sorry about some of the blanks. The handwriting is very shaky, and I can’t make out some of the words…
2nd November 1979
My dear Jessica,
Thank you very much for your letter received. It was re_____ed from Birmingham. As you have been informed already, I had a slight heart attack on the 24th August, when I was with Pauline. I got over that and went to spend a week at Birmingham. On Sunday evening, the 2nd September, I spent the day out with a nephew and everything was alright til after 9 o’clock that night. We were getting ready for bed and I was reading the Bible for prayers. Suddenly, at about 9:30, my speech became blurred. They phoned for an ambulance and took me to the hospital. After various tests they told me that I had a mild stroke. They kept me about three hours in the hospital, by which time by speech was more or less normal. They told me that I had got back my speech, that I could go home, but I must rest for a few days. They wrote to the doctor to keep an eye on me. Fortunately nothing happened after that. I returned here from Birmingham on the 18th September. So here I am in the ____ of recovery.
Yes, I can quite understand how you all must miss your Mum and Dad, especially as they were taken so close together. What has happened to the house at El Cajon? I am glad to hear that the children are doing well in school.
Pauline was here for the whole of last week with her two children. They had what is known here as the half____ holiday, so she took advantage to come. Virginia will be 4 years old in a few days, but she started at nursery school a few weeks ago. Abigail is just over two. She will be 3 next March.
Here are the dates you wanted:
Harriet Sabina Nagel, born 15th November at ?
Volbrecht Nagel, born 3rd November at Stammheim, Germany
Samuel Frederick Nagel – 1st January 1898 in Kunnamkulam, Cochin State, India
Theodore Ernest Nagel – 10th March 1899 in Kunnamkulam, Cochin State, India
Gotlob Volbrecht Nagel – 8th August 1900 in Parur, Cochin State
Karl Heinrich Nagel – 17th November 1905 in Cochin, Cochin State
When you have finally completed the family history, could you please send me a copy? Have you got the date my father and mother were married? And the place? I think they were married at Kunnamkulam. I have just written a long history of my father’s life, and also how I came to _____ his _____ . I shall send you a copy when it is finally finished.
Is Alvy still working in the same job? May the Lord prosper him in it!
What church do you attend? We attend the Baptist Church. We gave a good pastor. A Godly man who preaches the “old” gospel.
The Lord bless you all abundantly with ____ love.
Uncle Karl and Auntie Esther
Please excuse my shaky handwriting. It seems to have been affected by my recent stroke.