In the years immediately after the town of Evansham was founded, Jesse Evans continued to acquire property in the valley of Cove Creek.
In 1795, he purchased from Patrick Calhoun the central parcel, on which the Evans family was already living. At the same time and in the same deed, Evans also purchased from Calhoun another parcel just west of Cove Creek’s bend to the north toward Cove Mountain. The tributary of Cove Creek that runs through this second parcel was called Tates Run. (Note 1.)
The same year, Evans purchased an adjoining tract from Hugh Montgomery, as well as repurchasing from Alexander Smyth the 75 acres that Evans himself had initially patented. (Note 2.) Also in 1795, the nearby Breckenridge property changed hands from Evans’s brother-in-law, Robert Breckenridge, to Smyth. (Note 3.)
The following year, Evans acquired Smyth’s claim on 1000 acres to the north of Evans’s land, extending across Cove Mountain to property owned by the Crockett family. (Note 4.) Transfer of the claim was recorded in both an entry book and a survey book, but Evans would never actually acquire title to all of this land. He would eventually patent, then sell, only a 150-acre portion as described later in this Part V.
The period from 1795 to 1800 was the high point of Evans’s land ownership at Cove Creek.
The accompanying Photo A looks southeast across the valley from the point shown on the map above. This land was part of what was called the “Bowling Green” survey and still carries that name.
Photo B, whose location is also shown on the map above, looks south down Interstate 77. From 1795 to 1800, Evans owned all of the land pictured. The highway bridge in the distance crosses Cove Creek.
Although Evans was engaged in major acquisitions at Cove Creek in 1795, by that time he was already turning his attention a dozen miles to the southeast along the New River, as described in Part VI. It’s not possible to know from the available records exactly when the Evans family moved to the New River, but it must have taken place prior to 1800. It was in that year that Evans’s main Cove Creek property was sold.
That sale was not voluntary but was a sheriff’s sale in execution of a judgment against Evans that had been obtained by the Commonwealth of Virginia in the statewide General Court. (Note 5.) The General Court’s jurisdiction included cases against public debtors, such as local officials who were delinquent in their accounts with the commonwealth.
Here is how the deed describes the execution proceeding:
a writ of fiere facias issued from the Clerks office of the General Court on a Judgment obtained by the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Virginia on behalf of the said Commonwealth against Jesse Evans & Walter Crockett for ten thousand pounds Debt & Seventeen dollars and eighteen Cents Cost dischargable by the payment of nine hundred dollars and forty Cents . . . .
The judgment against Evans and Crockett was based on the £10,000 bond they had provided for James McCorkle for his service as sheriff of Montgomery County. (Note 6.) McCorkle, who was sheriff from 1778 to 1780, died in 1794 still owing £700 to the Commonwealth.
As McCorkle’s securities, Evans and Crockett would have had little defense against the debt. For his part, Evans submitted a petition to the General Assembly requesting relief. (Note 7.) The petition is not dated but contains a note from the Auditor stating that $117.45 had been paid as of December 22, 1801. The petition also contains a note stating that Evans’s request was rejected one week later, on December 29. A complete transcription of the document is on the page “1801 – Petition for Relief of James McCorkle Debt.”
Evans was in the process of selling other Cove Creek property at about the same time. On December 10, 1800, he sold the Tates Run parcel to Lewis Hutsell. (Note 8.) A little later, in 1802, he purchased and then immediately resold a 108-acre parcel along the ridge south of Cove Creek. (Note 9.)
In 1811, Evans finally obtained a patent for 150 acres out of his Cove Mountain claim. (Note 10.) In 1814, he sold this property to Robert Crockett. (Note 11.) At about the same time, Evans also sold Crockett 70 acres that was essentially Evans’s initial patent on Cove Creek. (Note 12.)
Then the following year, when he was preparing to move to Missouri, he sold his last remaining Cove Creek property. (Note 13.) The deed to James Ward reflects dual ownership by Evans and his son Joseph. This is because Jesse had sold Joseph a 106-acre portion in 1809. (Note 14.) Joseph may have made this land his home from that time (when he was 24) until he moved west with his father about 1815.
Public Service 1793 – 1800
In 1793, Evans once again served as his county’s representative in the Virginia House of Delegates, this time from Wythe County. The county had two delegates, and he served with James Campbell (McCampbell). (Note 15.) He served as a delegate the following year, as well, this time along with Peter Kender (Kinder). (Note 16.)
At the time, Evans was a member of the Democratic Society in Wythe County. The political leanings of that group can be found in an opinion piece published in 1794 in a Philadelphia newspaper, Dunlap and Claypool’s American Daily Advertiser. (Note 17.) The piece was drafted by Alexander Smyth and adopted as the views of the group, which also included Daniel Sheffy, Jehu Stephens, Joseph Crockett, William Drope, and William Hay. The complete text can be found on the page “1794 – Address by Wythe County Democratic Society.”
The precipitating event for the group’s concern was President Washington’s use of Chief Justice John Jay to negotiate the Treaty of London of 1794, which was viewed as contrary to the separation of powers:
What is despotism? Is it not a union of executive, legislative, and judicial authorities in the same hands?
The group was likewise troubled by the closer ties with Britain represented by the treaty, which the group believed was made at the expense of providing greater support to the new French republic. Overall, the opinion piece reflects greater alignment with the views of Thomas Jefferson than with President Washington, whose actions were seen as straying from the values of the Revolution. As a result, the piece supported a constitutional amendment to limit the presidency to eight years. Disillusionment with the country’s first president would have been especially painful for Evans, who in 1790 had named his youngest son George Washington Evans. (Note 18.)
In 1795, the year after Jesse Evans’s last service in the House of Delegates, he began service as a judge or justice on the Wythe County court. No record has been found of his appointment, but he initially appears as a justice in the court’s order book on November 10, 1795. (Note 19.)
Coincidentally, it was during the same court session that Evans’s acquisition of the Herbert ferry across the New River was recorded:
Jesse Evans Gent. Acknd. his bond with security as the law directs that he will keep a ferry on New River at his plantation according to law.
Evans would serve on the county court for 20 years, until September 1815, despite the fact that for most of that time he would be living at his New River property, which was 13 miles as the crow flies from the courthouse. A complete list of the dates that the county order books show that he was present in the capacity of justice is provided in the accompanying notes. (Note 20.)
Of the earliest such entries, the following are noteworthy:
- March 16, 1797: Jesse Evans and Alexander Smyth were appointed to contract for building the county clerk’s office.
- April 13, 1797: Evans was added to the commission to contract for construction of a bridge across Reed Creek.
- November 11, 1798: Evans was allowed payment of expenses incurred in the sale of town lots.
By this time, Evans had received a promotion to the rank of major in the county’s militia. It was this appointment (not his Revolutionary War service under George Rogers Clark) that was the basis for referring to him in later life as Major Evans.
No direct record of the promotion has been found, but a March 8, 1796 entry in the Wythe County order book states:
John Montgomery Jr. is Captain in the first battalion of the 35th Regiment, in the room of Jesse Evans promoted.
Evans continued to serve in the Wythe County militia until September 1800, when he resigned his commission. (Note 21.)
Copyright 2012-2014 Gregory Hancks
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