1845 – Testimony about Last Years of Jesse Evans

[The following are transcriptions of depositions taken in Joseph Evans and James S. Evans v. George King, et al., a suit to establish the November 11, 1841 will of Jesse Evans. The case was filed in Osage County, Missouri, on September 7, 1843, and ordered transferred to Cole County, Missouri, on March 7, 1844. Documents in the combined case file are available on microfiche, and docket entries are on Microfilm C47523, both in the MIssouri State Archives (Joseph Evans, et al., v. George King, et al., Case No. 1113, Cole County Circuit Court, filed May 13, 1844).]

Wesley Browning
deposition taken at office of John H. Watson, law commissioner, in St. Louis, Missouri
April 17, 1845

Wesley Browning of lawful age being produced, sworn, and examined on the part of the Plaintiffs deposeth and saith.

I was well acquainted with Jesse Evans late of Osage County in the State of Missouri. As nearly as I recollect my acquaintance with Jesse Evans commenced about February Eighteen hundred and forty two. From that time I was occasionally at his house to the number of three or four times previous to his death. I am a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church and was at that time Presiding Elder of the district in which Mr. Jesse Evans lived. The first time I saw him was on the occasion of a quarterly meeting held at his house in Febr 1842. My stay at Mr. Evans’ house was sometimes protracted to two or three days and was never less than half a day. The first time I visited Jesse Evans I staid [stayed] with him three days at least and conversed with him a good deal, chiefly on religious subjects. Occasionally he would change the conversation or introduce a conversation relating to the scenes of his early life and his sufferings and exposure in the army. On the subject of his early life he cherished a very warm feeling and would frequently converse on the subject with great animation and excitement. On moral subjects, his mind seemed to be sufficiently awake and his views distinct and clear. On religious subjects, by which I mean experimental religion, his mind did not appear quite so distinct & clear as on moral subjects, but he invariably evinced the most decided sincerity and honesty of purpose and an ardent desire to improve in that matter, and sometimes spoke with a good deal of feeling, even to tears, of his hopes of happiness beyond the grave. These were mostly the topics of conversation between Jesse Evans and myself though we frequently alluded to worldly and business matters.

I cannot tell exactly the date of my visit to Jesse Evans’ house on which he spoke to me concerning his will. It was early in 1843 (eighteen hundred and forty three). During that visit he took me aside and commenced conversing with me about his will, which had been previously executed. The manner of introducing the subject of his will was this. He took me into a small room in his house, there being no one present but ourselves, and told me that some time before that he had executed a will leaving his property among his heirs as he judged best. That some of the heirs had become very much dissatisfied with the provisions of said will and had exhibited very unkind feelings toward him about it and that he wanted my opinion in regard to this his last will. He gave me a simple statement, that in his last will he had disposed of his land and personal property except the slaves to his other heirs, and the slaves he gave principally to Joseph Evans. He told me he had left several of his slaves free, for the reason that they had been exceedingly good servants and faithful to him and for this reason they deserved their freedom at his hands. Charity was the name of one of those emancipated.

Throughout all my different conversations on all these subjects with Jesse Evans he said Evans evinced an entire sanity of mind. And I could not discover in his different conversations anything like unsanity of mind.

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George Smith
deposition taken at Boone County Courthouse, Columbia, Missouri
October 2, 1845

George Smith of lawful age being produced, sworn, and examined on the part of the plaintiffs deposeth and saith.

That his place of residence is in the county of St. Charles in this state; and that he is a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In the fall of 1840 I first became acquainted with Jesse Evans decd late of Osage County, in this state, at his own house in said county. My acquaintance with him was continued until late in the summer of 1843. My acquaintance was of a friendly, familiar and intimate character. During said acquaintance said Evans very often conversed with me about his business affairs and arrangements. My residence at that time being in the county of Callaway in this state, and my duties as a minister of the Gospel frequently called me in the vicinity of his farm. The Missouri River on which Mr. Evans place was situated at that time dividing my circuit from that in which Mr. Evans lived; and I availed myself of these occasions to visit his family frequently and my wife also visited Mr. Evans family occasionally, and spent as long a time as two weeks on some of her visits. Mr. Evans was very talkative and we conversed together upon a great variety of subjects. At an early period in my acquaintance with Mr. Evans, he introduced the subject of disposing of his property by a will; and several months before he executed it he expressed to me his intention of the manner, in which he meant to dispose of his property by will; and after the will was executed he showed me the will itself, or a copy, I am not certain which, and that will corresponded as well as my recollection serves me, identically with the manner in which he had previously told me he intended to dispose of his property. The will gave to his heirs on the north side of the river and his son George on the south side, his lands and personal property, with the exception of his negroes, giving one negro, however, to Mrs. Farmer his daughter who lived on the north side of the river.

My impression is that the will emancipated two negro women and one negro man named Peter, I think, and the residue of the negroes were given to Joseph Evans and Joseph Evans children, by name James S. Evans and Jesse Evans, and his daughter Sarah, now Mrs. McDaniel. Said will also gave to the negroes that were freed the houses in which they lived with some land during their lifetime; and the household furniture which they had in their houses absolutely. On a subsequent occasion old man Evans informed me that some of the heirs on the north side of the river were dissatisfied with his will; that they were insisting that he was incapable of managing his own affairs; and that they had employed council and were making an effort to have the property taken out of his hands. The old gentleman then said they had better be still or he would alter his will and leave them none of his property.

In various conversations with me in relation to the disposition of his property, said Jesse Evans decd informed me that he had on different occasions given a negro boy and other property to his son George Evans, and had also given property to his heirs living on the north side of the Missouri River; that said George had squandered the property he had given him, and had so abused the negro he had given him that he had bought him back from George to save him from further abuse; and that he was determined that George should not have another of his negroes, nor that any of his heirs living on the north side of the river should have any except Mrs. Farmer to whom he had given a negro before stated. That if his negroes went to the north side of the river they would be divided and sold and sent to the South. The negroes were family negroes and the old gentleman seemed to regard them with parental affection.

On the whole of my acquaintance with said Jesse Evans, I discovered nothing that indicated a want of capacity to manage his affairs properly or to make a judicious disposition of his property. His eyesight was very much impaired, so much as that he could not distinguish between persons at a short distance say across an ordinary size room; but his hearing was pretty good, his memory concerning the events of the principal part of his life very vivid, but in reference to recent transactions and the names of persons very imperfect, that in relation to his business affairs he seemed to have a correct knowledge.

Joseph Evans and his wife lived in the same house with old Mr. Evans, and I never saw anything like an attempt on the part of said Joseph to exercise a control or influence over the old man, his father. The old man told me that previous to his making his will he had written to James S. Evans, son of Joseph Evans, requesting him to be present at the making of his will; but that James did not arrive until after the will had been executed, at which the old man appeared much displeased. On a certain occasion old Mr. Evans sent a similar request by me to said James and when I delivered the message, James replied that he would not be there when the will was being executed.

The deportment of Joseph Evans & his wife toward the old gentleman appeared to be such as should characterize the conduct of children to their parents, viz a kind and affectionate behaving.

And further the deponent saith not.

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James M. Jameson
deposition taken at Boone County Courthouse, Columbia, Missouri
October 2, 1845

James M. Jameson of lawful age, being produced, sworn and examined on the part of the plaintiffs deposeth & saith.

I became acquainted with Jesse Evans late of Osage County in the fall of 1839. I first saw him at his residence in Osage County, and my acquaintance with him continued until near the close of his life. Being a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, I visited his residence in that capacity. At the time I became acquainted with him I was in charge of Saint Louis District as a Presiding Elder. My acquaintance with Jesse Evans was intimate, and our conversations familiar. We conversed on various subjects—such as occur in the common concerns of life, but principally on the subject of the Christian Religion. During the time of my acquaintance with said Evans I was informed that he had made a will by which he had disposed of his property among his heirs. I also learned that there was some dissatisfaction among some of the heirs in reguard to the disposition of the property which he had made; but the will I never saw. Some time after this, being at said Evans, he requested me to take a walk with him—I did so. We walked into the field, north of the houz [house], and sat down. He stated to me that he had made a will, and that the heirs were dissatisfied with it—that they thought him to be crazy, and wished to take the property out of his hands—and that he wished to state to me the reasons which influenced him in making the will as he did. Said that he had once before given to his children several servants, and that they had been badly treated by the children. Said that he had given his son, George Evans, two—a boy and a girl—that they had been so abused that they went off and lay out, and were badly frostbitten and that the girl finally died. That his son George told him that he intended to sell the boy—that he told George he would give him a note, on some man, whose name I do not remember, for the boy and in that way got the boy back—that he did not think it would be right, in him, to give those heirs servants again, who had not treated them well before. That he had given them other property in lieu thereof, or instead of slaves—asked me whether I thought it would have been right in him to have given those heirs slaves—stated that the boys toes was so badly frostbiten that he had cut them off—made the boy show me his foot after we returned to the house.

I considered Jesse Evans of sound disposing mind at the time I became acquainted with him, and saw no change in his mind from that time until the time he made his will. Though like most, if not all old persons, he did not remember recent occurances, as young persons do, yet I reguarded his mind as sound and his judgement good, and he fully competent to dispose of his property understandingly.

My place of residence at present is Lafayette County, State of Missouri.

At the time I became acquainted with said Jesse Evans his eyesight was dim and continued to become more so to the close of my acquaintance with him,. He could get no glasses to afford him any relief in this respect. His hearing was better than his eyesight.

In the conversations which I had with said Evans on the subject of the Christian Religion he spoke of the goodness and mercy of God as manifested in His divine providence with much feeling and good sense—spoke of the comforts arising from the enjoyment of religion personally, as a Christian, and frequently spoke of his unshaken confidence in God as his Heavenly Father, and his anticipations of resting at last in Abraham’s bosom. During the whole time of my acquaintance with Jesse Evans his son Joseph Evans and his wife resided in the same house with him. Their deportment towards him was kind, and, in my judgement, such as children should have toward a parent. They, so far as I saw, used no undue influence over said Jesse Evans. He managed the affairs of the farm with the servants and on sever[al] occasions I walked with him through the fields to look at the corn and other crops, and to see how the servants were getting along with the business. During these walks we conversed in reguard to the different parts of agriculture, and he appeared to be well acquainted with everything which was going on upon the farm. And frequently spoke of his arrangements in reguard to his business and, on all those subjects, his mind appeared to be well informed.

And further the deponent sayeth not.

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Thomas T. Ashby
deposition taken at Boone County Courthouse, Columbia, Missouri
October 2, 1845

Thomas T. Ashby of lawful age being produced, sworn and examined on the part of the plaintiff deposeth and saith.

I am a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church residing at this time in the Town of Boonville in this state.

I first became acquainted with Jesse Evans of Osage County in this state, now decd, in the fall of 1837, which acquaintance continued until the fall of 1838, during which time I was engaged in preaching the Gospel, in the circuit that included Osage County; and the house of said Evans was one of my stated placed of preaching, and I stayed at his house about two days in every period of three weeks. My acquaintance with him was of a very intimate and friendly character and during the period of my acquaintance with said Evans, his son Joseph was not living with him and I understood that he Joseph was residing during that time in the southern part of the state.

I never saw Joseph or any of his family at said Jesse Evans’s during the period before spoken of.

During the time of my ministry a colored man belonging to Jesse Evans professed Religion, and offered himself to the Church for membership. I spoke to Mr. Evans as the master of the slave to know whether it would be agreeable to his wishes that the slave should join the Church, who gave his consent thereto. This said man was the same slave that old Mr. Evans informed me, he had given to his son George, as my memory serves me, and when he had bought back in consequence of the abuse his son had given said slave. The old man in said conversation informed me that he had given a female servant to some other member of his family that had died, in consequence as the old gentleman stated of the treatment she had received.

Said Jesse Evans then said that the members of his family living on the north side of the river should never inherit any of his slaves. He then informed me he had a son living in the southern part of this state to whom he intended to give all his slaves except three whom he intended to emancipate; these whom he said he intended to emancipate were two women and a man named Peter I think. I understood from Mr. Evans that his reason for emancipating these slaves was that they had been faithful and trusty servants and were far advanced in years and at the same time spoke of making some provisions for them to aid them in making a support for themselves in their old age. In all this as well as other conversations he seemed to manifest a deep interest in the welfare of his slaves and his deportment towards his slaves so far as it came under my observation proved to me that he was sincere in his professed concerns about their well being.

I conversed often and closely with Mr. Jesse Evans on the subject of religion and on that subject he manifested a reasonable and proper understanding; and upon other subjects he manifested as much common sense and judgment as ordinary men. His eyesight was very deficient. He informed me that his eyesight was so far gone that any glasses that he could get were of no assistance to him. From the defect of his eyesight I do not think that he could distinguish between men’s features at the distance of six feet. He frequently did not recognize me when I called on him until I spoke to him, but always did as soon as [I] spoke, and seemed to know me from my voice rather than from his sight. His memory of recent occurrences seemed very imperfect, though of older events distinct and clear.

He manifested no lack of capacity in the management of his affairs and his conversations at all time were rational and intelligent. During the time of my acquaintance with him he was cultivating a large farm, had no overseer, and superintended and managed the whole in person. He was very fond of talking and conversed upon a great variety of subjects during our acquaintance.

And further the deponent saith not.

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Dr. Appleton Allen
deposition taken at Dr. Allen’s house in Callaway County, Missouri
October 7, 1845

Dr. Appleton Allen of lawful age being produced, sworn, and examined on the part of the defendants deposeth and saith.

That he became acquainted with Maj Jesse Evans Sr in the year 1835 or 36 not certain which. At that time I was of the opinion that the said Jesse Evans Sr had been a man of strong mind but that his mind then was much depreciated. The grounds of my belief for that is that by conversing with him on different subjects I found that his mind and recollection upon things which transpired in the early part of his life was clear and good but upon things or subjects of the present time that his mind and memory had failed.

I saw him three times between that period and the year 1840 and each time that I saw him upon conversing with him I discovered that his mind was failing and had become unsound and on my last visit I was with him which I think was in 1840 for at least two o’clock on Saturday until 10 or 11 o’clock on Sunday. And by conversing with him during that time on different subjects I became fully satisfied that the mind of the said Jesse Evans had become so unsound that it rendered him incapable of making a will or of transacting any kind of business.

And further this deponent says not.

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James Allcorn
Howard County representative in the first Missouri legislature
deposition taken at home of Dr. Appleton Allen in Callaway County, Missouri
October 8, 1845

James Alcorn of lawful age being produced, sworn, and examined on the part of the defendants deposeth and saith.

That he was personally acquainted with Maj Jesse Evans from the year 1779 to 1788. He then resided in Montgomery County in the State of Virginia during that period and I would say that the said Jesse Evans during that time was a man of a strong mind all most superior to any other man in that section of the country. That he was elected to the Legislature of that district and the people of that country had utmost confidence in his abilities to fill that station and could be promoted almost to any office he wished to fill. He acted as High Sheriff of that county and his abilities for trading was not excelled by no man.

In 1788 I left Virginia and come to the west and from that time up to the year 1816 or 1817 I had no opportunity of knowing much about him. But in 1816 or 1817 as aforesaid he the said Jesse Evans himself moved to the State of Missouri or about that time I then again had an opportunity of knowing the said Jesse Evans. I have been at his house at different times while he lived in Gasconade now Osage County and at other places and by conversing with the said Evans on different subjects I found that his mind was considerably impaired and considerable unsound and I saw plainly that he was controlled by his servants and that he went to them for counsell respecting the ordinary business of the farm. And I would further state that according to the best information I could get he the said Jesse Evans would be about 91 years old.

And further this deponent says not.

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James H. Relfe
Missouri congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1843-1847
deposition taken at the post office in Caledonia, Missouri
October 31, 1845

James H. Relfe of lawful age being produced sworn according to law to depose and testify the whole truth of his knowledge touching a certain matter or cause now pending in the Circuit Court of Cole County and State of Missouri wherein Joseph & James S. Evans are plaintiffs and George King and others are defendants on the part of the defendants, deposeth and saith as follows.

That sometime in the years of eighteen hundred and thirty nine or eighteen hundred and forty but in which deponent cannot recollect, Joseph Evans, one of the plaintiffs in this action, had been absent from his residence in this neighbourhood for some time. When he returned, he informed this deponent that he had been on a visit to his Father Maj. Evans on the Missouri, that owing to the frailty of the old gentleman he had been compelled to remain with him, and that he the said Joseph with his wife would have to return and remain with his father as long as he lived for he had become so frail and childish that he could not take care of his property but would soon give it all away if there was not someone there to prevent it. Soon after this conversation Mr. Joseph Evans left there and deponent has no recollection of having seen him more than once until after he heard the report of old Maj. Evans’ death.

Question by defendant: What did you hear Joseph Evans say relative to the condition of his Father’s mind.

Answ: From the conversation with Joseph Evans, the impression was made on me that he considered his Father[’s] mind so impaired from the infirmities of age, that he was incapable to direct his business or take care of his property.

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