J. W. EVANS, a prominent and prosperous citizen of McLean County, is one of the stockholders and Director of the Bloomington Stove Works, and a lumber merchant, engaged in the manufacture of sash, doors and blinds, and also in contracting and building. Our subject was born in Cambria County, Pa., on the 12th of February, 1828, and is the son of John and Margaret (Jones) Evans, both natives of Montgomeryshire, Wales. His grandparents, John and Jane (Watkins) Evans, were also of Welsh ancestry and parentage, and were engaged in agricultural pursuits. Of their family of children John was the third.
John Evans was reared to farming pursuits, and attended school during his earlier years, and finally learned the blacksmith's trade in his native county. In 1818 he emigrated to America, and proceeded to Ebensburg, Pa., where he opened a blacksmith shop, and after getting it fairly under way returned to his native land and was there married. Shortly afterward he brought his bride back with him to Pennsylvania, where he resumed labor in his shop, and operated it for twelve years thereafter. He then purchased a farm about two miles from the village, which he occupied for about thirty years, and then retiring to the village departed this life there in 1877. He was a respected and useful citizen, a Deacon of the Congregational Church for many years, and held various offices in the county. He gave to each of his children a good education, and took an intelligent interest in all matters pertaining to the intellectual and moral advancement of his community. John Evans and his wife were the parents of six children David, Mary, John W., Morris, Richard and Jane A., all of whom lived to become men and women.
The subject of this biography was reared on a farm, and attended school three months each year in the winter, until he was eighteen years old. A year afterward he went to learn the carpenter's trade with his uncle, David H. Roberts, of Ebensburg, where he served three years, and for two years following worked as a journeyman there. He then came West, in 1852, and visited Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, went north to Michigan and southwest to Missouri; then returned East to New York, and thence to New Jersey, where he remained a short time and from there went to his old home, having been gone a year. In 1854 he started westward once more by way of Louisiana, where he spent the winter and worked at his trade. From there he went up the river to Quincy, Ill., where he spent the summer, and in October of that year came to Bloomington, where he has since remained. He worked at his trade until March, 1855, and then formed a partnership with J. W. Hayes, and they engaged in contracting for the following eighteen years, until the death of Mr. H. During this time they put up more buildings than any other firm in the city, and during the time they operated together established a lumber-yard and built a planing-mill, in 1859. which was destroyed by fire in April, 1861. They immediately rebuilt and operated the same until the partnership was dissolved by death in 1873, since which time Mr. Evans, who purchased the interest of his partner, has continued the business alone. The main office is located on the corner of Center and Mulberry streets, where the shops, built of brick, cover an area of 3,500 feet. Mr. Evans gives employment to thirty-five men; the lumberyards are on the opposite side of the street. Mr. Evans was one of the original organizers of the Bloomington Stove Works, and was President from 1885 to 1887. He has also been Treasurer, and was a Director from its organization.
The marriage of J. W. Evans and Miss Martha Williams took place in Ebensburg, Pa., May 20, 1860. Of this union there have been born six children, as follows: Fremont is engaged with his father in the lumber office; Cora, Roland, Fred, William and Susan are at home. The wife and mother departed this life in 1879, at the home of her husband in Bloomington. Mr. Evans and his family occupy a beautiful residence at the corner of Chestnut and Center streets, which was erected in 1864, at a cost of $6,000. It is built of brick, and in furnishing and finishing is indicative of cultivated tastes and ample means.
Mr. Evans commenced life single-handed, without means or influence, and his present possessions are the result of his own industry and enterprise. He possesses marked business talent, and is well informed upon matters of general interest. He has been prominently identified with the affairs of the community since coming here, and among other positions of trust was Alderman of the Sixth Ward for five years, and has always contributed cheerfully of his time and means for the promotion and encouragement of whatever was calculated to be for the general welfare of the community. He is Republican in politics, and in all respects a representative citizen. Our subject is connected with the Presbyterian Church, of which Mrs. E. was also a member in good standing.
Portrait and biographical album of McLean County, Ill. : containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Illinois, and of the presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887), 123-124. Transcribed by Judy Rosella Edwards