Evan W. Evans (1829-1901) and My Welsh Immigrant Ancestors
Updated: Dec 16, 2021
My grandfather’s great-grandfather was an immigrant from Wales. Until a few months ago, I knew nothing about him, except that his son, Thomas, was a farmer on Betsinger Road in Sherrill, New York, and that Thomas's son, Lloyd, was my grandfather’s father. Evan W. Evans is buried in the Wright Settlement Cemetery in Rome, New York, next to his wife, Ellen, who was also born in Wales and died in 1905.
The first piece of information that we have, other than his year of birth, is the date of his immigration to the United States. The 1900 U.S. Federal Census was the first to record year of immigration for non-U.S. born residents and it states that Evan entered the country in 1852. I could not find an Evan Evans of the right age on any ship passenger lists to New York from 1852, so at present the only solid evidence we have of his immigration date is the 1900 census note. There was a Welshman named Evan Evans who arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Tonawanda from Liverpool on the 22nd of April 1852, of the right age to be him (24), but there is no evidence to confirm that it is the same person.
The first definite sign of him is in the 1860 Census when he was living in West Turin, Lewis County, New York. He was 30 years old and listed as a farm laborer born in Wales. He lived on the farm of Francis Johnson, born in Scotland, with Johnson’s wife, Jane, and two of his children, John and Mary. Another farm laborer lived there as well, John Merifee, an American aged 21.
Where Evan Evans was between his arrival in the U.S. in 1852 and the census of 1860 is not clear. He does not seem to have lived in Turin at the time of the 1855 New York State Census. There were no non-related laborers living on the farm of Francis Johnson at the time. There were several Evan Evanses in New York State in 1855, but none seem to be him. There were two Evan Evanses of approximately the same ages in the Oneida County Town of Western – near where Evan Evans set up his own farm after the Civil War – but we can rule these out. One had a family already, and the other was the American-born son of a Welshman. I could find no other Evan Evanses in the State of New York in 1855 with the right age and profile.
There are several possible explanations for this. One is that ‘our’ Evans Evans did not immigrate in 1852 and that the year recorded in the 1900 census is incorrect. I think this unlikely. A second is that ‘our’ Evan Evans did immigrate in 1852 but was not in the State of New York at the time of the 1855 Census. If he arrived in Philadelphia, he may have lived in Pennsylvania for some time, but there is no further evidence to support this. A third is that he was in New York, but wasn’t counted in the census for some reason.
In the 1860 Census, there were 22 men by the name of Evan Evans living in Oneida County and five Evan Evanses in Lewis County, all of whom lived in Turin or West Turin. Two of them were adult males between 20 and 35 years of age. One of these was younger – aged 23 – and worked as a farm laborer living on the farm of Sylvester Foster, an elderly Connecticut-born man. The other, whom I believe to be ‘our’ Evan, lived in with the Johnsons in West Turin as noted above.
We have no information about his activities during the Civil War, except that he married Ellen Griffiths (1840-1905) in 1863 and that his first son, William, was born in 1864. Ellen’s obituary and the 1900 census confirm that she immigrated at age 8 with her father Owen Griffiths. The other Evan Evans of Turin was drafted in 1863 but the 1865 New York State Census records that ‘our’ Evan Evans was not currently or formerly in the military of the United States, so we can presume that he did not serve during the war.
Evan Evans had a sister, Elizabeth, who also immigrated to America. She married Robert Jones of Westernville, Oneida County, and died February 1888, before her husband. Her obituary cites that he was an “active member of the Presbyterian church of Westernville” and that she had a sister in Wales. She died at the age of 61, so was born around 1828, a year or so before her brother Evan. Elizabeth was already married and living in Westernville in 1855. She appears on the New York Census as the wife of Robert. Both Elizabeth and Robert (also from Wales) are listed as being in their second year of residence in the county, suggesting that she might have immigrated to the U.S. at the same time as her brother, around 1852. Her tombstone is in the Westernville Presbyterian Cemetery on Stokes Road.
In 1865, a few months after end of the Civil War, Evan and Ellen Evans were living in the Town of Lee, Oneida County. Their first son William’s place of birth in 1864 is listed as Lewis County in the 1865 New York Census, so their move would have been fairly recent. Evan is now listed as an “owner of land.” His nearest neighbour was also a Welsh immigrant called Evan Evans – an indication of the prevalence of Welsh immigrants in Oneida County, and of care that must be taken in genealogical research given the nature of Welsh names at the time. The 1870 Census also shows them in Lee, near the West Branch Post Office. It records that some of his nearest neighbors were Henry and Samuel Wyman, whose homes are shown on the 1874 Atlas of Oneida County. The Evanses probably lived along the West Branch of the Mohawk River, just west of the boundary with the Town of Western. In 1872, my great-great grandfather, Thomas, was born there.
Somewhere between 1870 and 1880, the Evanses moved from Lee to the Town of Floyd. In the 1880 U.S. Census he appears aged 50. Ellen was 39. We know from the local Directory that he lived near the crossroads hamlet of Camroden which was heavily Welsh and had two Welsh churches. Ellen’s parents, Owen and Jane Griffiths, seem to have already moved from Turin to Floyd by 1865, which suggests that Evan and Ellen might have moved to be nearer to them. They are both buried in Wright Settlement Cemetery, near Evan and Ellen. Owen died April 24, 1883 at age 68. His tombstone says he was a “Native of North Wales.” Jane died in 1891, aged 69. Owen seems to have been a deacon in a Welsh church. His death notice in the Roman Citizen said: “Deacon Owen Griffith, an exemplary Christian gentleman of Floyd, died at his residence, in Camroden Tuesday morning of dropsy of the heart. His age was 68 years. He was buried yesterday in the Wright's Settlement cemetery.”
Evan is mentioned a few times in the local press during the 1890s. In 1896, he served on a jury. In Sept. 1896, his daughter Mary married John Parry at home in Camroden with Rev. M. Mon Hughes of Rome conducting the ceremony. In 1897, he raised a cow barn “with perfect success.”
In 1900 Evan W. Evans was 72 years old. The census of the year shows that he was still living in the Town of Floyd. They had had seven children. One son, Owen, b. 1866, was a widower living in the same house with his own two sons, Carlton H. (age 9) and Eland (age 4). Evan Evans’ daughter Nellie, b. 1877, age 23, was also living at home at the time. Evan and Owen are both listed as farmers. His wife Ellen’s immigration year is given as 1848. Evan owned his farm but had a mortgage according to the Farm Schedule 139.
Evan’s tombstone says that he died in 1901, but strangely there is no other evidence of the date of his death. His name does not appear in the NY Death Index for 1901 or in the years either side of it. Ellen died 1905. Her obituary says she lived on Floyd Hill – a name for the elevated area on which Camroden is located.
There is still much that we don’t know – and sadly, may never find out – about Evan W. Evans. I could not trace him back to his native part of Wales, and without any indication of which part of the country he came from, any attempt to trace the family further back would be speculative. However, we do now know a significant amount about the later decades of his life. He was a member of a large Welsh community in central New York. I know of several dozen descendants from his grandson Lloyd's branch of the family. With seven children, most of whom founded large families themselves, he may well have over a hundred or more descendants.
Notes  Evan W. Evans Tombstone, Wright Settlement Cemetery, Rome, NY. (Link)  The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Record Group Title: Records of the United States Customs Service, 1745-1997; Record Group Number: 36; Series: M425. (Link)  New York State Census, 1855 for Francis Johnson, Lewis County, West Turin, E.D. 2. (Link)  1860 United States Federal Census for Sylvester Foster, New York, Lewis County, Turin. (Link)  Utica Daily Press, August 12, 1905.  Utica Weekly Herald, Feb. 28, 1888.  New York State Census, 1855 for Elizabeth Jones, Oneida County, Town of Western (Link)  Westernville Presbyterian Cemetery, Oneida County, New York, Link  New York, U.S., State Census, 1865 for Evan W Evans, Oneida County, Town of Lee (Link)  Town of Lee, from Oneida County 1874, Published by D. G. Beers & Co. (Link)  Churches can been seen on the map of the Town of Floyd, from Oneida County 1874, Published by D. G. Beers & Co. (Link); Oneida Directory for 1884, p. 195 (Link)  New York, U.S., State Census, 1865 for Owen Griffis, Oneida County, Town of Floyd (Link); 1870 United States Federal Census for Owen Griffiths, New York, Oneida County, Town of Floyd (Link)  Tombstone of Owen Griffiths (Link)  Wright Settlement Cemetery, Section 2 (Link)  Roman Citizen, April 27, 1883 (Link)  Rome Daily Sentinel, September 30, 1896 (Link) and Nov. 24, 1896 (Link)  Rome Daily Sentinel, October 26, 1897 (Link)