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Berkeley County, West Virginia EVANS Biographies

    Biography of James W.B. EVANS

         James W.B. EVANS, son of Tillotson and Mary Ann (Orr) Evans, an ancestor of John Evans II, who moved to Berkeley County, Virginia, in 1740, was a teacher in the public schools of the county for 43 years. He was a Democrat of the “old school,” and while he cherished a desire to hold public office, he never succeeded in that line. He was a candidate on several occasions: for the West Virginia State Senate in 1896; for County Superintendent of Schools, 1892; and Assessor of Madison County, Ohio. He held two appointive offices, President of the Board of Education of Gerrardstown District under John W. Shirley, County Superintendent, and Deputy Sheriff of Berkeley County under Sheriff H.S. Miller, 1916, where he was serving when he died on November 30, 1918.

         The State Tax Commissioner’s audit of his books showed not one cent deficit during the three years of his office and the Commissioner verified that by a letter of commendation to Mr. Evans, stating that his books were in the best shape of any in the state.

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    Biography of John EVANS II

         John EVANS II, son of John Evans I, who migrated to New Jersey from Wales and settled near Burlington, moved to the Valley of Virginia about 1740, bought land on Opequon Creek from the VanMetres. When trouble with the Indians was apparent in 1753, he hastily constructed a stockade fort 2 miles southeast of where Martinsburg stands now. This came to be known as John Evans Fort and was a refuge for the settlers of the region. He had married Polly VanMetre, who was the defender of the fort on several occasions when the men were away.

         This fort was visited by General Braddock on his way through Berkeley County to the Monogahela campaign in 1755 – from the Seaman’s Journal, written by Lieutenant Spendalowe of the detachment of Marines sent by Commodore Kepple of the British fleet, says, “May 1st – at 5 we went with our people, and began ferrying the army into Virginia, which we completed by 10 o’clock and marched in our way to one John Evans (Fort), where we arrived at 3 o-clock – 17 miles from Connecocheig, and 20 miles from Winchester. We got some provisions and forage here. On the 2nd – As it is customary in the army to half a day after three days’ march, we halted today to rest the army.”

         The families of Evans and VanMetre married and intermarried in several instances. In one, Abraham VanMetre married Isabel Evans. Of that line was descended James M. VanMetre and Isaac D. VanMetre of the Arden District. On another occasion, John Evans III married Margaret VanMetre; descendents were Tillotson Evans, the youngest of eight sons (no daughters). Tillotson Evans was a farmer who lived west of Arden in Gerrardstown District. Of that union was born James W.B. Evans.

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    Biography of Polly VanMetre EVANS

         In the corner of a field to the right of the State Road leading from Martinsburg to Charles Town and on the east side of Opequon Creek and adjoining the old bridge across that stream is a scattered pile of stone which is all that remains of John Evans Fort, and Polly VanMetre Evans was its heroic defender. This was a stockade fort, which was really two forts in one. The outer defense was a stockade, the inner a block house type, built of logs with a stone foundation. The fort was substantially, though hastily, constructed in the late spring of 1755 after the outbreak of the French and Indian War, by John Evans II, and was a refuge for the settlers of Berkeley County when attacked by the Indians.

         Polly VanMetre was the daughter of Abraham VanMetre and quite young when she married John Evans II, a young man of that region. They lived quietly and peacefully, tilling their farm on the Opequon River and had a family of boys and girls when the French and Indian War “burst upon them with all of its relentless fury.” Polly Evans, when she accompanied her father on his hunting expeditions, had learned to use a rifle almost as well as her father, who was a farmer. When the Indian hostilites began, she took up her rifle, which had been set aside to raise her family, in the defense of her home and carried it for a number of years strapped to her shoulder. Tradition relates that when she was prepared for burial her attendants found a depression in the skin across her shoulder caused by the constant wearing of the strap of her rifle.

         In those days, nurses were unheard of and doctors were so few and far away it was almost impossible to procure their services in case of sickness, so Polly Evans was the doctor and nurse of the region. She nursed the sick and attended most of the newborn babies of that community. She owned a large Great Dane, who always accompanied her on expeditions. He could “smell Injun” for a great distance if one happened to be in the vicinity and would indicate the fact by his incessant relentness and loud barking.

         On one occasion only the women and children of the neighborhood were at the fort when it was suddenly attacked by Indians. Polly Evans made the women load rifles and she did the shooting from one port hole after another and kept up such a raking fire on the Indians they abandoned the attack, supposing, from the incessant firing from the fort, that it was heavily garrisoned. On another occasion, she was returning to the fort from visiting a sick neighbor when a large savage warrior suddenly darted from behind a tree and grabbed both arms around her and started to carry her off, deciding, no doubt, to capture a valuable prisoner alive. The dog, for some reason, had not accompanied Polly on that visit. She immediately began calling for him and he came bounding through the forest and attacked the warrior with such vicious onslaughts that he was obliged to let his captive go in order to defend himself against the dog. That gave Mrs. Evans the opportunity to get her rifle into position to shoot and kill the Indian.

         Many a savage warrior boasted that her scalp, with its long tresses, would dangle from his lodge pole, but it never did. She was dreaded by the Indians, yet was respected by them. They gave her the name of “Wa-hon-da,” which signified in the Shawnee language, “Squaw Chief.” The fort was attacked several different times by the Indians, on two occasions led by a white men, believed to be a Frenchman, but they were driven off each time.

         Polly, together with her husband, was buried within a short distance of the fort. For many years their graves were undisturbed, but were at last desecrated by the plow, and no mark remains as to the resting place of the builder of John Evans Fort or its faithful defender.

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    Biography of Willis F. EVANS

         Willis F. EVANS, son of James W.B. Evans, was engaged in school work for Berkeley County for 36 years, teaching as well as being involved with teachers’ clubs and associations. He was educated in the rural schools, Shepherd College State Normal School and Shenandoah Normal School at Reliance, Virginia. He taught 32 years in eight different schools of Berkeley County and was the County Superintendent of Schools for 4 years. He helped to organize the Berkeley County Teachers Association and the Berkeley County School Improvement League and was the first president. He taught 1,540 boys and girls in the county, among them prominent citizens of Berkeley County, as well as other areas.

         He was an avid reader of classics and fiction and his favorite study was geology and history. In 1926, he organized the Berkeley County Historical Society with headquarters in the county courthouse, Martinsburg. He was its first president. He served on the State Grading Board at Charleston for the grading of teacher’s examination papers. In addition he was a market gardener to Martinsburg for 21 years, developing small fruit and apple orchards in the county.

         In 1924, he began the research for material to write a history of Berkeley County. He was a member of the Eastern Panhandle Teachers Association, the State Educational Association, and the State Historical Association.

         On December 30, 1902, he married Mable Claire Townsend and their children were: Arlington Wesley Evans, a graduate of Martinsburg High School, class of 1924, and school teacher in the rural districts after receiving his certificate from Shepherd College; Mary Ann Evans, graduate of Martinsburg High School, class of 1927, and at the time of this book, a student in the Nurses Training School, Emergency Hospital, Washington, D.C.; and Helen Orcutt Evans, a 1928 graduate of Martinsburg High School.

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    Submitted by Marilyn Gouge and extracted from History of Berkeley County, 1928.

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