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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Historical Figure Evans Had Roots In Waynesville Area

Dallas Bogan on 28 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 220
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

A Warren County man who is seldom mentioned went on to become one of the most distinguished gentlemen from the County. His many accomplishments far exceed that of modern day adventurisms. His name is John Evans. He was a physician, teacher, writer, governor, railroad builder, founder of a city and two universities. John Evans was born March 9, 1814, in Waynesville, Ohio, to David and Rachel Burnet Evans. He was the oldest of 13 children.
The first of the Evans family to move to Warren County was Benjamin and Hannah Smith Evans, the grandparents of our subject, the time being October 1803, shortly after the organizing of the State and County. The Evans families were devout Quakers. In 1811, a decision was made to build a house of worship by the Friends. By 1812 the lower section of the brick structure was completed. In 1813, an upper portion was added. The relevance to this building is that the marriage of David and Rachel Burnet Evans was the first to be performed in the new structure.
David Evans owned 640 acres of good land in Wayne Township. John, being the eldest, was to acquire the land and holdings of his father. But John's mind wandered toward the aspects of a medical career. He was destined to be a friend to humankind. In 1833, when only a lad of 19 in Waynesville, he wrote his cousin: "It is the imperative voice of the Almighty that we shall do all the good we can."
His mother apparently prodded John along in his medical career. He entered Clermont Academy in Philadelphia, but was graduated in 1838 from the medical department of Cincinnati College. With his father's forgiveness and a gift of a pony, saddle, bridle and ten dollars in cash, John ventured west to gain his personal undertaking.
He spent about a year roving and finally settled at Attica, Indiana, in which he spent nine years. He proceeded to leave his mark in the State. Dr. Evans and others grappled with the State and finally persuaded them to build the first school for deaf mutes. He and his accomplices petitioned for the insane and the outcome was a new institution called the Indiana Lunatic Asylum. He was made superintendent and director of the building project. In this particular era the procedure was that the insane and the hardened criminals were housed within the same establishment.
One year later, in 1845, he was assigned professor of obstetrics at Rush Medical College, this being a dual role while overseeing the building of the Lunatic Asylum. In December 1848, the Asiatic cholera was spreading like wildfire. No cure was available at the time. Dr. Evans surmised that it was a transmutable disease that followed the shipping routes and rail lines. Many medical authorities seemed amused at the Dr.'s idea, however, his perspective was accepted and laws of quarantine were initiated nationally.
From 1848 to 1852, Dr. Evans edited "The Illinois and Indiana Medical Journal," his subjects being limited not just to medicine. Aside from his editorialization, he was an inventor of sorts. Among other inventions, he invented an extractor, which he considered superior to forceps.
Dr. Evans removed to Chicago and again made his mark. He served on the city council and was responsible for the establishment of the first high school in Chicago, the years being 1853 to 1855. While serving on the council, he brought up an issue for the adoption of an ordinance in which all the low-lying streets and sidewalks be elevated for health as well as traffic purposes.
Perhaps his most notable accomplishment was the founding of "Northwestern University," the name being derived from the Northwest Territory. As he stated it, the establishment of a Christian college would "mold minds and characters for good."
The university was located amongst a wild and wooded portion of land along Lake Michigan just north of Chicago. The Illinois Legislature granted a charter for the university January 28, 1851. Immediately a community sprang up which was appropriately named "Evanston."
It seems odd that Dr. Evans was a born Quaker; apparently the turn to the Methodist faith was inspired by Bishop Simpson's preaching.
Dr. Evans had much influence in creating the Hospital of the Lakes, later known as Mercy Hospital. His father sent substantial sums for purposes of investment in the expanding Chicago area. Using these funds wisely, Dr. Evans ventured into real estate. Some of his holdings were: the Methodist Church block, which was one of Chicago's first office buildings; the Methodist book concern; and the "Northwestern Christian Advocate."
Filling in his spare time, he managed to take charge of a rail line from the Indiana border to Chicago. The line was the western end of the Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad, it being part of a system that extended from Pittsburgh to Chicago.
Politics was the next move for this man of many vocations. He was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln, thus becoming a member of the convention of Mr. Lincoln's nominating committee in 1860. President Lincoln remembered Dr. Evans and in 1862 convinced him to become Territorial Governor of Colorado. He moved to and resided in Denver, which at that time was a "shanty town of twelve or fifteen hundred inhabitants."
After Lincoln's assassination, President Andrew Johnson vetoed the Colorado Bill that caused the doctor to leave politics, but he diligently remained in Colorado for the next 35 years.
While residing in Denver, Dr. John Evans founded the Colorado Seminary, first school of higher education in the State. Out of this venture grew the "University of Denver." His accomplishments in Denver included: a business block, the Evans school, a station on the Denver and Pacific railroad, the first cable car, and a mountain peak in the Rocky Mountains appropriately named "Mt. Evans." Dr. Evans donated enormous sums to the universities he founded. Being an extremely generous man somehow seemed to reap rewards far beyond our imagination.
This man of personal enormity was married twice, first to Hannah Canby, December 11, 1838. The union saw the birth of four children, three of which died, while a daughter, Josephine, married Samuel T. Elbert, who was Governor of Colorado in 1873-74. Hannah Evans died in Chicago on October 9, 1850.
His second marriage was to Margaret Gray in August 1853. Four children were born to this wedlock.
Dr. John Evans died July 3, 1897, his physical being surely missed, but his deeds will always live on.

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