Thursday, May 20, 2010

Evans Family

There were at least three sets of Evans families in early Itawamba County. In addition to my own William M. Evans family, I've counted at least two more: the Parrott Evans family who lived near Tilden (actually a bit south of there) and the John Evans/Meeky Crawford family who lived in the northern part of our county, up near Mud Creek and Sandy Springs. John and Meeky are my husband's great-great-great-great grandparents, through their granddaughter, Betty Griffin Thornton.

William M. Evans, and wife Sarah A. Pearce, were both Georgia natives. According to William's biography, which appeared in the 1891 edition of Goodspeed's Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi, he was born in 1818, the son of William Evans and Sela Dunn. Sarah was the daughter of John Madison Woods Pearce and Elizabeth "Betsey" Skinner. William and Sarah married in Paulding County, Georgia about 1844, according to the biographical sketch in Goodspeed's, and they had seven children together, five reaching adulthood. Unfortunately, Sarah died in 1863 at the young age of 39, probably after giving birth to her last child, William D. Evans (I suspect the middle initial stood for "Dunn" but cannot say for sure). William did not remarry after Sarah's untimely death but instead raised their children by himself.

The land deed records of Itawamba County, as well as scraps of information gleaned from Marion County (that courthouse had several fires, the last one in 1887, with all old records destroyed), indicate that William was a large landowner, and Goodspeed's stated that he owned nearly 5,000 acres in 1891, five years before his death, "the largest amount owned by any one man in the southern part of the county." His in-laws, the Pearces, owned quite a bit of land as well. Sarah's father established Pearce's Mill in eastern Marion County, and her younger brother James Pizarro "Jim" Pearce owned over 30,000 acres at his death in 1915.

William was a self-made man, arriving in Itawamba County around 1846, and it has long puzzled me as to his early beginnings. Working from the only clue I had, the name of his parents given in the Goodspeed's biographical sketch, I've spent a lot of time trying to learn more about him and the rest of the earlier Evans family. William didn't come to Itawamba County alone - his older brother (by seven years), Thomas was actually here first, arriving by 1844 when he purchased a 160 acre tract of land jointly with Jacob Floyd Martin, his wife's brother-in-law and a minister who is generally credited with the founding of Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church near Tremont. Thomas married Henrietta Adair Clayton, daughter of Middleton Clayton, on June 11, 1838 in Paulding County, Georgia. After Henrietta's death sometime before 1873, Thomas moved to Itasca in Hill County, Texas where he died about 1889.

In addition to William and Thomas, I've identified at least one other brother, Henry D. Evans, who remained in Georgia and raised a family in Walton County. Henry's middle initial "D" is undoubtedly for "Dunn", and he named sons William and Thomas, and named a daughter Cela Dunn Evans. Henry's wife was Nancy Griffith, daughter of David Hannah Griffith and Sarah Eberhart. By researching Henry and his family, I've been able to pinpoint other clues as to the heritage of William M. Evans.

An important discovery was made when I found estate records for Henry Dunn in Hancock County, Georgia. Henry died without a will on January 30, 1800, and his personal estate was sold the following month for support of his widow, Nancy, and for division among his heirs. In neighboring Wilkes County in May 1800, "Celia Dunn, orphan of Henry Dunn, dec'd" requested that Purnal Truett be appointed her guardian. Sometime between 1800 and 1804, Celia, or Cela, married William Evans for in August 1804, William Evans signed a receipt for his wife's "legacy, being one of the heirs" of Henry Dunn, deceased. Other heirs were Susannah Dunn, who later married Athelston Gupton in 1818; William Dunn, possibly married to Rhoda Ransom; and Henry Dunn, Jr. of which nothing is known.

The difficulty in researching the Evans and Dunn families in this area, during this period of time, is that there were several with the same name..... numerous William Evans and several Henry Dunns.... and it is hard to keep them straight, especially when fellow researchers have claimed this William or that Henry as "their own" when records might not necessarily support their "claim."

Part Two continued tomorrow....

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