On the pages of the pioneer history of Des Moines county appears the name of Thomas T. Evans, who assisted materially in the early development of this part of the State, and aided in reclaiming the wild land for the purposes of civilization. A native of Wales, he was born about 1800, and acquired his education in the public schools of that land. He afterward learned the weaver's trade, becoming an expert in that department of labor. He wove in all colors and designs, and because of his superior ability was able to command good positions. He was married in his native country to Miss Mary Morris, who was also born in the little rock-ribbed land of Wales, her natal year being 1804.
Desirous, however, of enjoying the better business opportunities of the New World, and the higher wages here paid, Thomas T. Evans crossed the Atlantic to the United States in 1833, settling first at Ruseanee, N. Y., where with his wife and three children he established his home. They crossed the Atlantic on the old sailing vessel, "Sidol," which several years afterward was lost at sea, and nine weeks had been added to the cycle of the centuries before anchor was dropped in the harbor of New York. About 1835 the family went from the Empire State to Portage county, Ohio, where the father engaged in the transfer or teaming business, making trips from Portage county to Pittsburg. His residence in the Buckeye State covered about nine years, after which he came to Des Moines county, Iowa.
It was in May, 1845, that Mr. Evans arrived in this State. He purchased forty acres of land, and later he entered one hundred and sixty acres from the government, through the medium of a Mexican land warrant which had been granted to a soldier of the Mexican war in recognition of his service, the soldier selling the same to Mr. Evans. In this way the latter became owner of a quarter section in Washington township, about a half mile west of the boundary line of Yellow Springs township. His son, Moses, also bought eighty acres in the same neighborhood, but in the spring of 1850 he went to California, attracted by the discovery of gold on the Pacific Coast. Later he returned to his farm, bringing with him about two thousand dollars which he had made in the mines of the West. He died in Des Moines county in 1854, leaving his property to his father, and this was the family homestead until the death of the parents.
Mr. Evans was an enterprising agriculturist, placing his land under a high state of cultivation, and living a busy, useful, and active life. He died in 1855, and within a week his wife and two daughters passed away, Catherine Sophia being then sixteen years of age, while Mary Augusta was fourteen years old. John Jones, an old-time friend of Mr. Evans who had lost his wife in Des Moines county and afterward resided in different places, contracted the cholera, and Mr. Evans, out of the kindness of his heart, went to nurse him during that illness. He then returned home, bringing with him the dreaded disease, and he and his wife and daughters all succumbed to it. There was only one other death from cholera in the locality, a girl by the name of Virgin.
Mr. and Mrs. Evans were the parents of ten children: Elizabeth, a resident of Portland, Ore., is now the widow of William P. Jones, who died in 1896; Moses, died when twenty-four years of age; Henry; Ann, married Frederick Gowdy, of this county, and died in 1878; James Grimes, died at Salenas, Cal., in July, 1903; Catherine Sophia, died of cholera; Mary Augusta, whose death was occasioned by the same disease; Joseph, died in Des Moines county in July, 1867, at the age of twenty-two years; Jane, died in San Francisco, Cal., in 1903, being survived by her husband, Andrew Gartley, a former resident of Burlington, Iowa; and Thomas Charles, living in Winona county, Iowa.
Henry Evans, to whom we are indebted for the history of Thomas T. Evans and his family, was born April 8, 1832, in Wales, and was therefore only about a year old when his parents came to America. He pursued his education in the schools of Ohio and of Des Moines county, Iowa, and for a time was a student in the public schools of Burlington. In 1853 he went to California, sailing from New York on the steamer "Star of the West," by way of Nicaragua, and was engaged in mining there when he received the sad news of the death of his father, mother, and two sisters. It was accompanied by an appeal for him to return home, which he did by way of Panama, for he was left the eldest of the family, and naturally the obligation of caring for the younger members fell upon him. He therefore returned to Iowa, and took charge of the old home place, and of his younger brothers and sisters. He continued the management and operation of the home farm, there residing for six years.
Dec. 12, 1861, he was married to Miss Catherine Williams, a daughter of W. W. and Margaret (Owens) Williams. Mr. Evans brought his bride to the old homestead, and finally purchased the interest of the other heirs in the property, continuing to reside thereon until he purchased an additional tract of one hundred and sixty acres. Upon this quarter section he erected a new and commodious residence, residing here until his retirement from business life in 1892, when he then removed to Mount Pleasant. He owns an extensive tract of land, which is devoted largely to the raising of stock, making a specialty of Hereford cattle and Poland China hogs. This place is operated by Merrett T. Evans.
Mr. and Mrs. Evans's children were: Margaret Ann, who died in 1898: Austin J.; Will H.; Merrett: Augusta: Laura, wife of A. W. Miller; Bertha, died at the age of five years; and one that died in infancy. The family have all attended the Iowa Wesleyan University and are Methodists.
Mr. Evans was elected township trustee on three different occasions on the Republican ticket, and he has always been a stanch advocate of the principles of the party. Almost his entire life has been passed in this county, where he located when a lad of twelve years, and he has therefore witnessed the many changes that have occurred here as the locality has put off the evidences of frontier life and taken on all the improvements of a modern civilization. His business affairs were capably managed, and his close application, frugality, strong purpose, and laudable ambition enabled him, as the years passed by, to add annually to his income. He is now one of the extensive land owners of the county, and leaving the care of his farms to others, he is now enjoying a well-earned rest.