Select Evans Miscellany

Here are some Evans stories and accounts over the years:

John Evans of Shrewsbury

John Evans held offices as alderman, bailiff and MP for the town Shrewsbury in the 1540’s and 1550’s.

As to his origins, it appears likely that he was the son or nephew of one John Jevon, a shoemaker from Montgomeryshire, who was admitted as a freeman of Shrewsbury in 1505.  The condition that he should take up residence in the town before Michaelmas suggests that he would have been a recent arrival.  The name Jevons used here was a variant of the Welsh Ieuans which normally anglicized as Evans. 

In his will of 1565 Evans asked to be buried in his parish church of St. Julian, Shrewsbury.  He mentioned his wife, his two daughters Catherine and Mary, and his son Richard.   The last two were to share half of his household goods, plate and silver, with Mary also receiving her father’s best chain of gold and Richard the second best

The Evans Family and the Gnoll Estate

The Evans relationship with the Gnoll estate began in the 16th century when David Evans, grandson of Evan the Salt, leased the property from the Earl of Pembroke.  Thomas Evans acquired the estate in 1658 from his nephew Sir Herbert Evans on condition that he build a new mansion there.  Gnoll House, completed in 1666, was an imposing edifice that stood on a terrace cut into the side of a hill overlooking the town of Neath. 

Thomas Evans was the last male of his family.  In 1686 his daughter Mary married Sir Humphrey Mackworth, a pioneer of the copper industry in south Wales, and the estate passed into Mackworth hands. 

The mansion survived until the 20th century.  However, sadly neglected, it became dangerous and was demolished in 1957.

The Will of Rees Evan in Carmarthen, 1722

Rees Evan was the forebear of the Evans who farmed the northern slopes of the Black Mountain around Llanddeusant in Carmarthenshire for more than 300 years.  He died in 1722 and his will ran as follows:

“In the name of God Amen, this the third day of November in the year of our Lord God 1722,  

I Rees Evan of the parish of Llanddeusant in the county of Carmarthen, yeoman, being sick and weak of body but of a good and perfect memory, praise be to God for the same, and, knowing the uncertainty of this transitional life on earth, being desirous to settle things in order to make, publish and declare my last will and testament in the manner and form following. 

First and sincerely I commend my soul into the hands of Almighty God my Creator who gave it me, hoping through the merits of my Savior Jesus Christ to have full pardon and remission of all my sins, and my body to the earth to be buried in a Christian burial as to the direction of my executors herein after named shall be thought fit and convenient.  

As touching such worldly estate as the Lord in mercy hath lent me, my will and meaning is to give and dispose of the same in manner and form following: 
  • I give and bequeath four pence towards the reparation of the Cathedral Church of St. David’s.  
  • I give and bequeath unto my daughter Elinor Rees the sum of five pounds of good and British money to be paid her when she comes of the age of eighteen years by my executors hereinafter named.  
  • I give and bequeath to my daughter Ann the sum of five pounds of good and British money to be paid her when she comes to the age of eighteen years by my executors hereinafter named.    
  • I give and bequeath all the rest and residue of my goods and chattels and personal estate whatsoever unto my well beloved wife Janet Evan and my son Evan Rees who I do nominate and appoint to be my only sole executors of this my last will and testament.  
In witness whereof I have hereunto put my hand and seal the day and years above written."

The Evans of Gwynedd, Pennsylvania

Four brothers – Thomas, Robert, Owen, and Cadwalader (the sons of Evan Robert Lewis) – assumed the Evans name and came to America from their Fron Goch home near Bala in north Wales.  They were Quakers seeking the religious toleration that was available under William Penn.

Thomas arrived first in 1697 ahead of the others in their Welsh party and purchased the land which was to become the Welsh settlement of Gwynedd township in Pennsylvania.  It was at his log home that William Penn stayed when he visited.  Robert, a Quaker preacher, was there by 1698.  Some of the stone house that he built on Penn Oak Road still stands.  Cadwalader was also a Quaker minister at Gwynedd, as was his son John. 

Other early settlers in Gwynedd came from the same area of Wales and were probably related.  William John, for instance, who acquired the land initially with Thomas Evans, is believed to have been his first cousin. 

These Evans and related immigrants left a large number of descendants in the area.   One line is said to have gone to Abraham Lincoln’s wife Nancy Hanks.

Evans and the Battle Hymn of the Republic

In the 19th century, the Battle Hymn of the Republic was adapted to fit prominent American surnames of the time, including Evans.  The Evans version had two stanzas of specific references.  They ran as follows: 

“David, Thomas, Evan, John were fathers of our clan;  
Posterity of Oliver and Richard never ran;  
Henry was quite virile, Caleb was a sturdy man.  
The clan goes marching on!  

‘Bob” Evans was the admiral who was with courage blessed;  
In covered wagons, Caleb led his comrades to the west;  
The Evans all are loyal and they will do their best.  
The clan goes marching on!”  

David, Thomas, Evan, and John were all Welshmen who came to Pennsylvania around 1700 or slightly later. Thomas was the founder of the Welsh community at Gwynedd.  Evan was an Anglican minister who arrived there shortly afterwards.  David was another immigrant.  John was a colonial governor of Pennsylvania who later returned to Wales.  

Oliver, born Delaware in 1755, invented the elevator and the conveyor.  Richard emigrated from Wales in the 1720’s and settled near Hagerstown, Maryland.  Caleb was a Baptist preacher who championed the American cause of independence from England; while Henry, if this was the Henry, was a black Methodist preacher practicing in North Carolina in the 1790’s.  

Admiral Robert D. Evans of the US Navy was known as “Fighting Bob.”  Caleb left Pennsylvania for new lands in Ohio on a covered wagon in the 1790’s.

John Evans and the Welsh Myth of America

In the late 1700’s there was an upsurge of interest in Wales in the story of The Welsh prince Madog who, according to folklore, had sailed to America in the 12th century.  There were also rumors of there being a tribe of Welsh-speaking Indians in America.  

The stories excited John Evans at his home in Carnarvon and, at the age of 22, he set off in 1792 for America by himself to discover whether these rumors were true.  He ended up in Spanish Louisiana and got Spanish backing for an exploration of the Missouri.  He travelled 1,800 miles up the Missouri river but found no trace of Welsh Indians.  He went as far as what is now North Dakota before returning in 1797 to St. Louis.  Two years later he was dead. 

His map, however, proved especially useful to later explorers such as Lewis and Clark.

Daniel Evans in Patagonia

The Evans family, like a number of other Welsh pioneer families who came to Patagonia in 1865 on the Mimosa, was from Mountain Ash in the Rhondda valley in Glamorgan. 

Daniel Evans was just three at the time of this voyage.  He grew up in the new land to become one of the finest horsemen in the country.  He was a daring adventurer and an able leader, so much so that he was known as the Baceano. 

He went out several times to explore the Pampas, the most celebrated occasion being in 1883 when his party was attacked by Indians in the Kel-Kein valley.  His three companions were killed before he himself miraculously escaped on his Malacara pony.  He also led a party to the Andes in 1885 and helped found the Welsh community of Cwm Hyfryd there.  He was one of its first settlers in 1891.  He spent the remainder of his life at Cwm Hyfryd and died there in 1943 at the age of eighty three. 

His story was recounted in John Evans’ 1997 booklet Daniel Evans in Patagonia.

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