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.