The Evans Family

In 1814, Dennis and Minerva Evans gave birth to a boy named Dennis. Dennis married Matilda Coley, and the two had six children: John (b. 1844), Catherine (b. 1848), James (b. 1850), Thomas (b. 1851), Minerva (b. 1853), and Mary (b. 1856). The family lived in what was referred to as “the old servants’ quarters” down Via Sacra near what is now the college observatory. Dennis and Matilda divided their land between John and Minerva, who continued to live at Hampden-Sydney for years.

John Evans (1844-1922/3) served as a janitor and bell ringer at the college for decades. He was married to Mary Carrington (b. 1846), and the couple had a child named Dennis who lived to be only one year old. In 1888, Mary died in childbirth. John moved in with his parents briefly before relocating to nearby Mercy Seat.

Of Evans, Robert Brock writes in a 1933 Record of Hampden-Sydney College, “And who fails to recall John Evans? Heavy set, kindly, whose chocolate complexion did not conceal a benign countenance. He was one of the janitors, and was especially charged with the duty of ringing the College bell. He lived on the first floor of Fourth Passage on the north side of Cushing Hall, where he did his own cooking and took care of the dormitory both during the session and throughout vacations. He was a friend to all the students, and though he could see through the trifling and indifferent, he was kind to them all. Many will remember that he was the owner of an Edison phonograph and one side of his room was stacked with those then familiar wax cylinders upon which the record of the music was impressed. He had all manner of records, but a number of them were hymns. On Sundays the program was confined to sacred music, and nothing could induce him to  play a secular tune on the Sabbath day. Those were the days when phonographs and gramaphones were not well known in this community, and in the summer time he would open his windows and the music would be wafted across the campus as far as Mrs. Lacy’s, and he frequently had audiences listening to his concerts.”

Evans and his family are buried in an unmarked cemetery beside the observatory.  John and Mary have gravestones–likely placed there by their descendants–but at least twelve other graves are visible only by depressions in the ground.

John’s sister Minerva Evans married H. Lucas (b. 1852) on May 26, 1875. The two had six children: Matilda (b. 1885), Nancy (b. 1887), Mary (b. 1892), David (b. 1894), George (b. 1895), and Annie (b. 1898).

Eventually, most of the Evans/Lucas clan moved north. However, Minerva Lucas’s great granddaughter has been back at Hampden-Sydney in recent years doing research for a book about her family history. She has been a wonderful help to this project, and as soon as her book is published, we will provide more information about where to purchase it!



*Photos courtesy Bortz Library at Hampden-Sydney College, and Elizabeth Baker

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