The history of county boundaries in Missouri is almost as complicated as in Virginia. In 1821, Jesse Evans’s place of residence at Cote Sans Dessein became part of Callaway County.
At about the same time, Gasconade County was formed on the south side of the Missouri River. Then, in 1841, the land directly across the river from Cote Sans Dessein would become part of the new Osage County.
In 1828 at age 68, Evans moved to the south side of the Missouri River into what was then Gasconade County. (Note 1.) His new home was in the small valley of a creek now called Luzon Branch.
This land had not previously been settled, and he purchased from the federal government two adjoining parcels totaling a little more than 200 acres. As shown on the accompanying map, one of the parcels ran about a half mile along the river bank. The other parcel was further inland and less subject to flooding. It was in the center of this second parcel that he probably built his new home. The patents for the two parcels were issued in 1836. (Note 2.)
The 1830 federal census for Gasconade County, Missouri, lists the following members of Evans’s household of 17 persons:
- White male, 5-9: 1
- White male, 10-14: 1
- White female, 15-19: 1
- White female, 30-39: 1
- Slave male, under 10: 2
- Slave male, 10-23: 3
- Slave male, 36-55: 1
- Slave male, 56-99: 1
- Slave female, under 10: 1
- Slave female, 10-23: 1
- Slave female, 24-35: 1
- Slave female, 36-55: 2
This census shows that he owned 12 slaves. It also reflects that a white woman in her thirties and her three children were living with him. It is possible that the woman was one of his widowed daughters or daughters-in-law, perhaps Sally Newell Evans, wife of his son John. (Note 3.)
Since moving to Missouri, Evans had continued to operate his business affairs separately from those of his children, and he would continue to do so the rest of his life. He was considered to be one of the wealthiest men in the county. (Note 4.) There is no indication that Evans ever invested his wealth in a substantial house, however. Contemporary references to his home south of the Missouri River use the word “cabin”; perhaps it was a structure similar to the one near the New River ferry pictured in Part VI. (Note 5.) Unfortunately, no building from the early nineteenth century survives on his Missouri property.
Even late in his life, Evans continued his efforts to build wealth. He purchased three more lots in Jefferson City. In 1827, he bought Lot 286 from Thomas Goode. (Note 6.) Then, in 1831, he bought Lots 37 and 51 from Andrew Walker. (Note 7.)
These three lots are all several blocks to the northwest of the Missouri capitol. Their locations are marked with red circles on the accompanying map. Lot 286 on High Street is now occupied by an office building and parking. Lot 37 on Water Street is now part of the site of the Missouri State Information Center, which houses the State Library and Archives.
Lot 51 (incorrectly numbered on the accompanying map) was later the site of a railroad roundhouse, as shown on the map. The lot is now the west corner of a state-owned parking lot across Harrison Street from the State Information Center.
In 1832, Congress passed its last legislation that gave pension benefits to veterans of the Revolutionary War. (Note 8.) The act did not require a veteran to prove financial need in order to qualify to receive benefits, and Evans would be due payments under the act.
He had served in the Virginia forces instead of the Continental Army, however, which meant that the state would need to certify his service to the federal government. In some circumstances, service for Virginia would also entitle a veteran to bounty land from the state. Evans submitted a petition for benefits to Virginia in 1833, accompanied by an October 16, 1833 affidavit from his son-in-law George King; an October 19, 1833 affidavit from Josiah Ramsey of Callaway County; and a December 20, 1833 affidavit of Joseph Ramsey (1762-1845) of Wythe County. (Note 9.) The relationship between the two Ramseys isn’t known, but each testified that he had known Evans at the time of the war and believed him to be about 76 years old as of 1833.
Perhaps unbeknownst to Evans, the extent to which he was entitled to benefits was a matter of some doubt within the Virginia government. It was not disputed that he was entitled to a pension of half pay for life, but it was questioned whether he was entitled to bounty land. His file includes a special memorandum by Commissioner John H. Smith discussing whether Evans had served “3 years” (which he probably hadn’t) or to the “end of the war.” The memorandum concluded that the latter was the case and that he was “entitled to land for the war because there is nothing on which a suspicion of his resignation can rest for a moment.” In January 1834, Governor John Floyd approved the recommendation and initialed the memorandum.
Smith was apparently unaware of the resignation letter that Evans had sent to General George Rogers Clark on October 4, 1781, but Josiah Ramsey’s affidavit supports the idea that Evans had nevertheless continued in service until “after peace was made.”
The doubt about Evans’s service had originated with a 1782 return made by Clark that purported to list all of the officers of the Virginia Illinois Regiment but omitted Evans and a number of other officers who had undoubtedly served. Adding to the complexity is the fact that Clark himself had been part of the commission that met at Louisville in August 1784 to determine Illinois Regiment veterans’ land claims under the Virginia act passed in October 1783. (Note 10.) With Clark’s apparent knowledge, the commission explicitly disallowed a grant to Evans. It may be, however, that the basis of the land grants determined at that time was different from what was under consideration in the 1830s.
In 1834, Evans decided to convey to his son Joseph and to Joseph’s sons James S. (Smith) Evans and Jesse R. (Robbins) Evans all of his interest in his veterans benefits. Accordingly, on December 3, 1834, he executed a deed that was recorded in Gasconade County giving to Joseph and James S. jointly his pension payments and three-fourths of his Virginia bounty land grant. To Jesse R. he deeded the remaining one-fourth of the land grant. (Note 11.) This deed would prove to be a source of contention within the family for almost 20 years. Whether any of Evans’s land grant in Virginia was ultimately redeemed has not been learned.
For reasons that aren’t apparent, in 1839 Evans submitted an additional declaration in support of his benefits. (Note 12.) This declaration, which is part of his file in the federal archives, is the best description of his military service in his own words and is included in full on the page “1839 – Pension Declaration of Jesse Evans.”
The excerpt of that document shown here contains Evans’s original signature at age 79. In the document, he refers to Josiah Ramsey as a fellow veteran. The document is also noteworthy in that it contains the signature of William Scott, a circuit court judge at the time, who authenticated the declaration. Scott would later be appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court where he would write that court’s opinion in the Dred Scott case.
As he approached 80 years of age, Evans continued to acquire land. On January 30, 1840, he bought a small parcel from Swan and Jane Ferguson a couple of miles downriver from his home. (Note 13.) This acquisition, which was only 10 poles by 16 poles (160 feet by 256 feet), was on the river bank and must have been intended to serve as a ferry or riverboat landing. The approximate location (within Section 5 of Township 44 North, Range 9 West) is shown on the accompanying map. Because the river’s configuration has changed significantly since that time, it may be that the land is now under water.
Evans also expanded his holdings where he was living. On October 1, 1840, a patent was issued to him for two 40-acre parcels further inland from the river and adjoining his existing property. (Note 14.)
He would still be in the process of acquiring more property when he died. On August 1, 1844, a last patent was issued to him for nearly 80 acres that adjoined both the river and his other property. (Note 15.) The patent certificate numbers suggest that he had applied for this patent along with the one issued in 1840 but that it had taken four more years to finalize.
By the 1840 federal census, Evans is shown living without any family members. The census for that year lists six slaves in his household, which is almost certainly incorrect since he described more than a dozen slaves in his will that was written the very next year. (Note 16.)
A partial reason for the discrepancy might be that he had lent or given some of his slaves to his children, although that would not seem to account for the entire difference in numbers. For example, as Evans would write in his will in 1841, he had loaned his “negro woman named Nancy” to Sally Evans, the widow of his son John. Other information about his disposition of his slaves during his last years comes from testimony given in 1845 by several ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church as part of a lawsuit over his will. (Note 17.)
By 1840, Evans’s youngest son, George, was also living in Gasconade (later Osage) County. (Note 18.) The ministers’ testimony is generally consistent on the fact that Jesse had given George two slaves, a boy and a girl, and that George had severely mistreated them. The kind of mistreatment was not stated by any of the ministers, but the consequences were described in the greatest detail by James M. Jameson, who testified that the elder Evans had told him 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 [in his will], who had not treated them well before. . . . that the boys toes was so badly frostbitten that he had cut them off—made the boy show me his foot after we returned to the house.
The majority of Jesse Evans’s other surviving children and their families were living north across the Missouri River in Callaway County. Sorting out exactly who everyone was that had the surname Evans, King, or Farmer is beyond the scope of the present research, but the accompanying map shows many of their land transactions in the southern part of the county prior to the Civil War. Note 19 provides a key to the locations identified on the map.
It is possible that one or more of the individuals involved in these transactions shares a surname with Jesse Evans’s descendants but is not related. Almost all are certainly his relatives however. More property was owned by members of the family further north in Callaway County, particularly along the northern border with Audrain County. Here can be found many transactions in the 1830s by John Evans, who was probably not Jesse Evans’s son of that name, but may be the grandson John, Jr. (Note 20.)
Many descendants of Jesse Evans’s oldest daughter Ann and her husband James McCampbell also ended up living in Callaway County, as reflected in the probate records of Evans’s estate in the 1840s, although there is no evidence that Ann or her husband had moved to central Missouri. (Note 21.) Jesse Evans’s daughter Betsy Evans Robbins had died in the 1820s, after which Prospect K. Robbins and their son Jesse Robbins moved to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. (Note 22.)
Evans’s son Joseph was established dozens of miles to the southeast in the lead mining region in Washington County, Missouri. But about 1840, Joseph and his wife Betsy began living full-time with Jesse. (Note 23.) The arguments about Joseph’s reasons for living with his father and what he did during that time would eventually play out in court in a bitter family dispute about who should get the elder Evans’s property.
There is little doubt that Joseph and Betsy were living with Jesse at the time that Jesse drafted his will, which he executed on November 11, 1841. (Note 24.) By then, Jesse was 82 years old by his own account, although some people who knew him thought he was even older. His eyesight was failing. His hearing was in somewhat better condition. The condition of his mind was either feeble and childish or sound and able, depending on who was describing it.
It seems that Jesse made the content of his will known to his prospective heirs. Almost all of them (except Joseph and his children) were displeased, believing that they should inherit more than the will provided. Preparations to contest the will began while Jesse was still alive. Various heirs in Callaway County, led by Jesse’s son-in-law George King, retained attorney John Jameson of Fulton. (Jameson was one of Missouri’s representatives in Congress for three terms: 1839-1841, 1843-1845, and 1847-1849.)
Jameson, in turn, wrote to Abiel Leonard, who was a prominent attorney in the early history of Missouri then practicing in Fayette in Howard County. In a March 12, 1843 letter, Jameson sought to have Leonard join him in representing the unhappy prospective heirs. (Note 25.)
I am directed by Col. Geo. King and other heirs of Jesse Evans to write to you to engage you for them with myself in a difficulty that will likely arise between them and Joseph Evans a son of Jesse Evans. Jesse Evans is between 90 and a 100 years old, has considerable property and as they think they will be able to show has been incapable for the last two years of making a will. Joseph however has recently come to reside with the old man and has in the last few months succeeded in getting him to make a will, willing him nearly all of the estate.
It is expected by them that the old man will shortly die in which event they wish us to act as their counsel in breaking the will and will in the meantime wish from time to time such counsel from us as will be necessary to secure the property in preventing it from being run off or wasted. The main object of this letter however is to engage you in time and [ ] next circuit court there we can confer fully about this matter and give such counsel as may at that time be needed if the old man should still be alive.
Joseph was aware of the impending storm, and he himself sought Leonard’s legal services in a letter dated March 23, 1843. (Note 26.) Joseph was too late, however, and Leonard and Jameson would work together on behalf of the Callaway County heirs.
In the meantime, Jesse Evans remained sociable to the very end of his life, hosting many traveling guests overnight or for days at a time, including ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He died on July 28, 1843, and was memorialized in an obituary published in the October 6, 1843 issue of that church’s Cincinnati-based newspaper, the Western Christian Advocate. (Note 27.) The author of the obituary was “L. Waugh,” who is probably Lorenzo Waugh, a Methodist circuit rider in Missouri during that time. Waugh’s name does not appear otherwise in historical records about Jesse Evans, but the obituary describes a relationship between the two men much like that described by the other ministers who became Evans’s friends during that time.
Waugh had a vested interest in portraying Evans as a convert to the church, and the obituary describes him during his last years as having become Christian and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. The following passage written by Waugh is worth highlighting as an accurate description of what Evans did, if not necessarily accurate with respect to how his “servants” felt.
He had a certain spot on a hill near his dwelling, to which he resorted for private prayer as long as he was able to walk. There, he told me himself, he had often sweet communion with his God. Indeed, with him, the privilege of praying seemed specially esteemed. And I always observed that when prayer was to be attended to in the family, he was particularly desirious to have all the servants come in. I have often hear him repeat two or three times, “Tell them all to come in” and no man ever died more lamented by his servants than he: three he left free. Father Evans was remarkably fond of religious company; and in his house Methodist preachers always found a welcome home and a hearty friend.
The photo shown above was taken from the location that is probably the “spot on a hill near his dwelling” described in the obituary. During the nineteenth century, the site became a small burial ground and now is called Stony Ridge Cemetery, although only one contemporaneous gravestone remains visible. The site is on private property and not directly accessible from a public road.
In 1870, Jesse Evans’s grandson, James S. Evans, wrote to historian Lyman Draper that Jesse “was buried on the bluff overlooking the Mo. river.” (Note 28.) During the 1990s, other researchers concluded that Jesse was buried at the site of the Stony Ridge Cemetery, which is consistent with that description. (Note 29.) A marker was provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and placed at the burial ground by the Osage County Historical Society in 2000. (Note 30.)
Copyright 2012-2014 Gregory Hancks
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