Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Jason Evans ~ Businessman and Philanthropist 1807~1876



Jason Evans was a wealthy Cincinnati pork packer and banker who had been born in Waynesville into the influential Evans family. Jason was one of the sons of Benjamin and Hannah Smith Evans, who had immigrated from Bush River Meeting in South Carolina to Waynesville with their five children. He was the youngest brother of David Evans and the uncle of John Evans who was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to be the territorial governor of Colorado on March 26, 1862 (see, http://www.colorado.gov/dpa/doit/archives/govs/evans.html for more information about John Evans).

The following memorial of Jason Evans is taken from Cincinnati, Past and Present or Its Industrial History as Exhibited in the Life and Labors of its Leading Men by J. Lundy (M. Joblin & Co., Cincinnati, 1872), pp. 114-16. The following memorial was also printed in "Memorial of Cincinnati Monthly Meeting of Friends Concerning our Deceased Friend, Jason Evans (Cincinnati, 1877):


The subject of this memoir was born November 25, 1807, in Warren County, Ohio. His family on the paternal side is of Welsh descent, his ancestors having emigrated to this country near the close of the seventeenth century, and settled in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.



His father, Benjamin Evans, at the age of twenty-five, and just after the close of the Revolutionary War, actuated by a spirit of adventure and a laudable ambition to be self-supporting, left the scenes of his youth, and with knapsack on back, traveled on foot to Chraleston, South Carolina. While there, in search of employment, he was induced by some country people to accompany them home to the district of Newberry, where he finally established himself and carried on his trade of auger-making. It was his custom annually to make a journey to Charleston, to dispose of his manufactures and lay in a stock of raw material. These trips were made by wagon, and for a distance of one hundred and fifty miles through a sparsely settled country, and over very indifferent roads.



Having acquired what was thought in those days to be a comfortable living, he married Hannah Smith, the daughter of a Carolina farmer and a members of the Society of Friends. He too espoused that faith, and with others of that persuasion, were induced to seek new homes by reason of the "testimony they bore" against the institution of Slavery. In the year 1803 an exodus took place, and he, with many of that particular belief, emigrated to the distant Valley of the Miamis, in the then wilderness of the Far West. Their route was through a dreary and almost trackless forest. Their women and children, with a few household effects and a limited supply of provisions, were transported in covered wagons. Their route was through Cumberland Gap, thence through Kentucky~then known as the bloody ground~and they finally after weeks of toil and privation, reached the Ohio River and crossed over into the "promised land", at the village of Cincinnati, then containing less than a thousand inhabitants; pushing on they at length settled in Warren County, not far distant from the present site of Wayensville. Then commenced the struggle to subdue nature and to pluck subsistence from her virgin soil. Soon the log cabin was erected to shelter the wife and wee ones; by day was heard the ringing sound of the axe and the crash of falling timber, and the gloom of night in a primitive forest was dissipated by the brush-fired of the pioneer.



Amidst such surroundings the subject of this sketch (Jason) was born, being the youngest of a family of nine children, five boys and four girls. Farm duties, early imposed upon him, left little opportunity to gain anything more than an insight into the rudiments of an English education. Such a thing as a high school or an academy was then unknown; in fact an education was thought to be complete when one could read, write, and ciper to the singe rule of three. When he arrived at the age of fifteen, the older boys having left home to shift for themselves, and his father being then too infirmed to do manual labor, he found the entire management of the farm devolving upon him. Being blessed with a robust constitution, and possessed of a self-reliant spirit, coupled with indomitable energy, he knew of so such word as "fail" and proved himself equal to the emergency. At this tender age he commenced making regular trips to Cincinnati, driving a four-horse wagon, loaded with farm products, which he usually disposed of in market. Owing to the frequently almost impassable conditions of the mud roads of those days, it was the common practice for several neighbors to start for the city from the same settlement; when one wagon got mired in a slough or balked on a hill, the balance made common cause and doubled teams till the difficulty was surmounted. After disposing of their marketing and gaining the top of the hills back of the city, on their return, it was their custom to stop to blow their horses, count their money, narrate their adventures in the city, and , in fact, to take the first good long breath since they left their homes. The round trip usually required a week, depending much upon the season of the year and the condition of the roads. They aimed to pass the night at some road-side tavern, but if belated, a camp fire in the woods answered every purpose.



Thus time wore on; one year with another being made up of journeys to the city, going to mill, tilling the soil, harvesting the crops, and cutting winter's wood, with scarce an incident transpiring to lend variety to the monotony of a farmer's life, till the year 1829, when he married Amyrah, eldest daughter of John Haines, of Montgomery County. Scarcely had he larned to appreciate the treasure he possessed in a good wife, till death entered his home and claimed the partner of his bosom, adding to his bereavement the care of two children of tender years; these, too, he followd to the grave within a few months.



In the year 1835, having left the farm and settled in the town of Waynesville, he purchased a mill property, consisting of a grist and saw mill, and operated both for several years. The success of this new enterprise may be questioned, as he is free to acknowledge, from his own experince, that "it takes ten mills to make a cent."



In 1836 he married Mary Haines, a younger sister of his first wife, who, with two daughters and a son, still survive to solace and comfort his declining years. The eldest daughter, Sarah, is the wife of W. J. Lippincott; and Susan the wife of B. S. Cunningham; and the son, B . F. Evans, is also settled in life, and is extensively engaged with his two brothers-in-law in the pork-packing buisiness in this city. The whole of this interesting family are living in beautiful suburban villas on Mount Auburn (Cincinnati).



A favorable opportunity offering, he disposed of the mill property in Waynesville, and in the year 1842 moved to Cincinnati, which presented a more extended field for well-directed enterprise. The firm of Evans, Eulass & Pence was formed, and the buisness of pork-packing was carried on for two years, the firm occupying the building on the northeast corner of Sycamore and Ninth Streets. This business connection was dissolved in 1844, and he was then joined by Mr. Briggs Swift, and the same business presented under the firm of Evans & Swift. This co-partnership existed nineteen years; and notwithstanding the vicissitudes which characterized that peculiar branch of trade during the term embraced, it may be noted as a remarkabele instance of either good fortune or sound judgement, or both, that their annual balance sheet never showed a loss.



In the fall of 1857, after the failure of the Ohio Life & Trust Company, Evans & Swift embarked in banking, being joined by Mr. H. W. Hughes under the title of Evans, Swift & Hughes. Mr. Briggs Swift retiring, in 1865, the business was contined under the firm of Evans & Co. In 1863 the firm of Evans & Swift, in the provision business, was dissolved, and their real estate, which had been held in common, was divided. In the fall of the same year, Mr. Evans associated with him his son, Benjamin Evans, W. J. Lippincott and S. C. Newton. In the fall of 1866 his son and W. J. Lippincott retired and the business was continued under the firm of Evans & Newton.



The subject of this sketch has thus been identified with one of the leading business interests of our city for nearly thirty years, and may truly be said to be a pioneer among the pork-packers. When he first embarked in the business in 1842, the principal parties engaged in packing were Samuel Davis, Jr., Hartshorn & Childs, Miller & Johnson, Lot, Pugh & Co., and R. W. Lee. These, with one or two exceptions, have all passed away.



Jason Evans has long been identified with, and maintained, the religious doctrines of the Society of Friends, as promulgated in the writings of Fox, Barkley and Penn, and by his daily walk and conversation, has ever set an example worthy of imitation; unassuming in manner, unobtrusive in speech, and charity for all~ever ready to assist the deserving~ and by the exercise of his many Christian virtues has given proof to those who knew him best, that his profession is not a cloak of self-righteousness but prompted by those higher and holier incentives which ever characterize the true Christian.



Having early won a well-deserved reputation for integrity of character, sound discretion, profound judgment, and a nice sense of business honor, it is not at all surprising that his career as a merchant and banker has been crowned with sucess, or that his character as a man should be referred to as a standard for all to emulate.

Jason Evans, a self-made man, was always very generous in his support of schools. His advantages of schooling were rather limited when a youth but he attained the equivalent of a business education and taught mathematics in the Waynesville public schools. He also was the clerk of Miami Monthly Meeting while he still lived in Waynesville. [i] Before he and his wife Mary moved to Cincinnati in 1843, he was from 1832 to 1840 owner with Stephen Cook of the Jennings Mill along the millrace in Waynesville.[ii] He also owned the Buena Vista Saw Mill one mile below Waynesville.[iii] After becoming sole owner, Evans sold the Jennings Mill to William Oliphant for $14,000 in 1840.[v] Jason became a prominent member of Cincinnati Monthly Meeting being at one time its clerk, a trustee, its treasurer and an elder. He was the largest contributor to the establishment and sustaining of Miami Valley Institute ~ A Hicksite Quaker College in Springboro, Ohio and controlled the majority of the stock. The Wright family of Springboro and the Butterworths of Foster's Crossing supplied the liberal philosophical point of view for Miami Valley College and provided administrative and teaching skills, as well as money. Jason Evans provided the bulk of the material wealth needed to accomplish that mission.


According to Mary Chapman, the author of the book Aron and Mary Wright, Jason and Mary Evans were good friends of Dr. Aron and Mary Wright of Springboro. "Among their close friends were Jason and Mary Evans of Cincinnati. Jason Evans originally came from Waynesville, and with Briggs Swift established a pork packing business in Cincinnati, in which they were very successful. As Jason Evans prospered he acquired other interests, and his son Benjamin and his sons-in-law, Briggs Cunningham and William J. Lippincott, were associated with him. You all know what a close friendship existed between Sarah Lippincott and Mother during their entire lives".

Mary Chapman continues saying that both Aron and Jason were interested in the plight of the Native Americans. The Evans and Wrights made a trip out to the Pawnee Indian Reservation north of Omaha under the auspices of the Society of Friends. (Aron and Mary Wright by Mary W. Chapman [New York: Charles Francis Press, 1942], p. 37-38. Mary Evans was the second wife of Jason Evans. He was first married to Amyrah Haines, the daughter of John and Jemina Haines on November 26, 1825. They had no children. He married his first wife’s sister Mary Haines. and they had three children, Sarah (1837-1916), Susan (1841-1898) and Benjamin (1843).


The Jason Evans' home in Cincinnati was first on 8th Street. In 1865 the family moved to Mt. Auburn at 2314 Auburn Ave. It was a two-story Second Empire style house with an observatory. By 1880 it was owned by Melville Ingalls who was the president of the Cincinnati, Indianapolis and St. Louis Railroad. In 1974 the Planned Parenthood opened the Elizabeth Campbell Center in the mansion. Unfortunately, in 1985 there was a firebombing of the center. The mansion was torn down. The new Campbell Center was dedicated two years later (The Bicentennial Guide to Greater Cincinnati: A Portrait of Two Hundred Years by Geoffrey J. Giglierano, Deborah A. Overmyer with Frederic L. Propas (Cincinnati, Ohio: The Cincinnati Historical Society, 1988), pp. 200-201.

[i] (Proceedings~ Centennial Anniversary~ Miami Monthly Meeting~ Waynesville, Ohio, 10th month, 16-17, 1903 (Waynesville, Ohio, Press of Miami-Gazette, 1903), p. 43).

[ii] Jason Evans married Mary Haines of Springboro Monthly Meeting of Friends 11th mo. 1835 (Minutes of Miami Monthly Meeting, Book I, p. 659). On 25th day 10th mo. 1843 Jason Evans and Mary his wife requested a "certificate of removal" for themselves and their minor children, Sarah, Susanna and Benjamin, to Cincinnati Monthly Meeting.

[iii] See, Miami-Visitor, April 7th, 1850 and January 28th, 1852.

[v] Waynesville’s First 200 Years, 1797-1997 (The Waynesville Historical Society: Copyright 1996), p. 234 and 236.

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