JOHN A. EVANS has for many years furnished much of the business enterprise and civic spirit by which Cimarron has made progress in the ranks of Kansas municipalities. His life has been an exceedingly active one and though he first came to Cimarron in 1888, soon after the establishment of Gray County, he spent a number of years in Old Mexico, chiefly as a mining engineer.
Mr. Evans represents one of the families that came to Kansas in its territorial period. His birth occurred October 7, 1863, in Atchison County, on his father's farm northwest of Atchison in the "Good Intent" neighborhood. The Evans family several generations ago lived in Wales. His grandfather, Benjamin Evans was born in Ohio, son of a Welshman. He married Miss Allison, an Irishwoman, and they were the parents of a numerous family.
Capt. Andrew J. Evans, father of John A., was a prominent character in Kansas for many years. He was born in Ohio and came to Kansas in 1856, bringing his family with him. He homesteaded in Atchison County and built a small water mill, doing all the work himself. For a long time this was the only mill in that section. When the war came on he became captain of a militia company, and subsequently took the second company which he had drilled and joined the regular forces. He saw active service in Missouri and Arkansas and for a time was with General Lane, participating in the defense of Kansas City during Price's raid. He was also in the campaign after the Confederates following the battle of Pea Ridge. He was one of the early members of the Grand Army of the Republic and presented his cavalry sword to the Netawaka Post in Kansas. Subsequently he was a member of the Captain Hudson Post at Cimarron. Captain Evans was a stanch republican. He was an old neighbor of Gov. John A. Martin, who appointed him to take the census and organize Gray County in 1887. It also developed upon him to fix a place for the county seat. When Cimarron was selected the Town of Ingalls contested the honor, and that inaugurated the famous Ingalls-Cimarron county seat contest. Captain Evans was also elected a member of the Legislature in 1868 and in 1870 again represented Atchison County in that body. Captain Evans spent many years at Cimarron, and died there June 1, 1901, at the age of seventy-six. He was active in church affairs and was one of the early members of the Congregational Church in Atchison, and was superintendent of the Sunday School at Cimarron.
Capt. A. J. Evans married Mary A. Ebright, who was born in Pennsylvania, of Pennsylvania Dutch stock. She died in 1911 and her body now rests beside that of her husband in Cimarron Cemetery. Her children were: Frances, who married Frank Robinson and died in Morrill, Kansas; Contello, who died at Sierra Mojada, Mexico; Emma, wife of H. M. Hale, of Dodge City; Charles, of Kansas City, Missouri; John A.; and William H., who is associated in business with his brother John.
John A. Evans spent his early life in Atchison County, attended the public schools, and he secured his milling experience in the grist mill and elevator owned by his father at Netawaka. His skill as a machinist was due to the instruction received at Netawaka from Tom Hatch, one of the characters of that locality and withal a very expert mechanic. From Netawaka Mr. Evans went to Kansas City, Missouri, and became a stationary engineer. His first work was during the construction of the Eighth Street tunnel near the Union depot. He then went to the Kansas City Smelting Company, and was with them as an expert machinist, construction man and master mechanic.
When Mr. Evans came to Cimarron in 1888 be bought from the St. John & Marsh Lumber Company the only lumber yard in the county. However, he did not remain to engage in business himself but went on to Old Mexico and spent three years in the State of Coahuila. One year of that time was spent in setting up machinery for the Kansas City Consolidated Smelting and Mining Company at Sierra Mojada. He returned to Kansas and from 1891 to 1893 had active charge of the lumber yard and also put in a stock of hardware, the second hardware business of the town and afterwards for several years the only one. In 1893, Mr. Evans returned to Mexico and at Mapimi Durango was chief engineer and master mechanic for the railroad company and the mining and smelting company. He continued that work four years and since then his permanent home has been in Cimarron.
Here he took charge of the township flour mill, and managed that business successfully for a year. The plant had been erected by Cimarron Township and Mr. Evans was the first one to give the machinery a thorough test. It was conducted as a merchant mill but also did some exchange work. After Mr. Evans retired from its management the mill soon ceased to be a paying proposition and was abandoned. From milling Mr. Evans turned to the mercantile business, which has been his chief hold in the town for a number of years. From 1906 to 1909 he was associated with A. D. Wettick, the pioneer merchant, in the firm of Evans & Wettick. During that time the lumber yard was sold, and the Citizens Bank was established and for a few months its office was in Mr. Evans' store and on the site of his present cement warehouse, a site that was occupied by his store for some eighteen years. In the organization of the bank Mr. Evans was associated with Mr. Wettick, Mr. Luther, M. A. Granger and his wife, Mrs. Evans. Mr. Wettick became president of the bank and then retired from the mercantile and lumber business.
For a few months Mr. Evans was burdened with the responsibilities of publishing the Gray County Republican, a republican paper which had been left without an editor and he assumed that disagreeable duty. It was a stock concern with Mr. Evans as president, and during the emergency he made a creditable record in managing the paper and looking after its editorial work. The plant finally went back to Ellis Garten, its founder, and this released Mr. Evans from a connection which he never really appreciated.
In politics Mr. Evans was reared a republican and stayed firmly with the party in all his mature years. He stands stanchly for the principles of America first. His first official service at Cimarron was as a member of the school board. He was with the board for eleven years, from 1898 to 1909. When he first became connected with the board there were only two teachers and school was kept in the four-room brick building which was the original schoolhouse of the town. For several years Mr. Evans served as city marshal without salary, and with nothing attaching to the office except some hard words when he interfered with persons who were not keeping peace and order. For five years he was deputy sheriff under Sheriff R. J. Preble. That service was at a time when Gray County was much troubled with cattle rustling and other thievery and outlawry. Cattle rustlers, mostly residents of the county, frequently killed cattle belonging to others and would sell the beef and bury the hide. For sixteen years, without missing a single moment, Mr. Evans has served as a member of the council or as mayor of Cimarron. He was twice mayor by vacancy and was once elected to that office. This period of service has marked a time of great improvement in Cimarron. The council rehabilitated the waterworks and established an electric lighting system and brought about many other improvements. Mr. Evans was responsible for inaugurating the first electric light system in the town in his own store. Later he and F. M. Luther put in a city plant, conducting it under their ownership for a couple of years, and then selling to the city, after which the plant was reconstructed. About that time Cimarron got rid of its heavy indebtedness which it incurred during the boom period and has been on a substantial financial footing ever since.
Mr. Evans has always justified his own faith in Cimarron by his work and his investments. He has one of the good homes of the city and has built other cottages along Avenue A and a few years ago erected a cement warehouse, which is one of the business landmarks of the town.
Mr. Evans married at Argentine, Kansas, November 22, 1889, Miss Minerva Asher, daughter of James H. and Margaret (Howe) Asher. Her father was a Civil war veteran, a lawyer by profession and for many years filled the office of auditor in Wyandotte County. Mrs. Evans was one of two children, her younger brother, James Asher, being a banker at Pond Creek, Oklahoma. Mr. and Mrs. Evans have five children: Mary, Margaret, Edith, Harold and Helen. Mary was born at Sierra Mojada, Mexico, in 1894, was a successful teacher for several years, and has since taken up Red Cross work in the McCarty Hospital in Dodge City. The daughter Margaret, like her sister, finished her education in the Kansas State Normal School, and is now bookkeeper for her father.
Mr. Evans is a member of the Masonic Order, taking his first degrees in the lodge at Cimarron, and he also belongs to the Chapter and Knight Templar Commandery at Dodge City, to the Consistory at Wichita, the Mystic Shrine at Salina, and the Council at Hutchinson. He is past master of his lodge and is also a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks at Great Bend. While not an active church member he has taught a Sunday school class for years and is one of the trustees of the local Methodist Church.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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