Born in Bells Corners-The Man Who Started Out to Become a Priest and Became a Train Robber – Anecdotes about Chris Evans and Daughter Eva

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Born in Bells Corners-The Man Who Started Out to Become a Priest and Became a Train Robber –  Anecdotes about Chris Evans and Daughter Eva

Old Ottawa And Bytown Pics

Blair Stannard  · 16h  · 

Ottawa – 1847 – Chris Evans , Outlaw, born in Bell’s Corners–this photo is after his capture at Stone Corral–Also read-GUNFIGHT AT THE STONE CORRAL: WILD WEST OUTLAW WAS FROM OTTAWA 2016- CLICK

BornFebruary 19, 1847
Bells Corners near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
DiedFebruary 9, 1917 (aged 69)
PortlandOregon, USA

Christopher Evans was born on February 19, 1847, in Bell’s Corner, about twelve miles from Ottawa, Canada. His parents, Thomas and Mary Ann Evans, were both Irish natives who came to Canada separately. They married in Bell’s Corner in 1837 and together they had eight children, including Chris. In various newspaper reports it was said that Chris was studying to become a priest in Bells Corners. By 1866/7 Bells Corners was a post village with a population of 150 in the township of Nepean. The village had a daily mail, two stores, a school and a church which was used by the Church of England, Presbyterians, and Wesleyan Methodists. 

In the summer of 1863, at age sixteen, Chris left home and crossed the border into the United States. They say he *joined the Civil War but no official record of this exists, assuming because he joined under a false name. In 1870, Chris moved to Visalia, California, where he began working for a lawyer named Daggett who helped Evans educate himself. A few years later, he began working as a teamster, hauling lumber to and from the mills is the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Soon after, Chris married Mary Jane “Molly” Byrd, a girl he met who ran an eating house along the road to the mills at a location known as Auckland, twenty-five miles northeast of Visalia. There, Chris and Molly Byrd married at her parents “Rattlesnake Ranch” on November 4, 1871. – Wikipedia.

Christopher Evans entered the United States at age 17 *because, as he once claimed, “the great struggle for freedom was going on and I left my home…to liberate the slave.” Newspapers painted a picture of Chris Evans as an enigmaand it was sais that he came to Tulare county in California from Bells Corners with just the blankets on his back.

He came to the West to work, he could do rough carpentering; knew how to handle horses and was generally someone that would be needed about a new community. He made no pretense to being anything more than a laborer, though the words he turned with just a shade of the Canadian twang were not such as wandering farm laborers or ordinarily used. So Chris Evans, the farm laborer, came to be a recognized as part of the communities between Fresno and Los Angeles.

Chris married Mary Jane “Molly” Byrd, a girl he met who ran an eating house along the road to the mills at a location known as Auckland, twenty-five miles northeast of Visalia. There, Chris and Molly Byrd married at her parents “Rattlesnake Ranch” on November 4, 1871

Chris, by this time a sturdy, middle-aged man, had established a character in the community. He was a solid man a man of sense and judgment, and his best friends were the Sontags, his future train robber partner.

Everybody knew how it was between his friend John Sontag and his daughter Eva. She was the oldest child a slender but strong slip of a girl with clear eyes and a resolute little mouth. The tall, quiet young man was waiting for her. The neighbors knew it and they waited, too, for a merry wedding of Chris Evans’ girl, for who in the town but liked the steady farmer! Eva married bachelor outlaw Sontag. Their union was brief because Sontag died later from his Stone Corral wounds.

Chris Evans-
Historical Crime Detective

One vice, and only one, could either Chris Evans or his son-in-law be charged with. They gambled, and gambled heavily. Still, they never went beyond their means, and with crisp bills settled their losses. Chris did not work much now. He had a timber claim and a mine up in the mountains, and these with the little orchard and what had to be done about the house and the barn took up all of his time. He and John and George were away at the mine when there was another robbery. It was at Cores and a railroad detective was shot through the throat There came a time when John and George wanted to visit their old home in the East. They had worked hard and were entitled to a holiday. George and John Sontag and Chris Evans went away from California.

George and John Sontag and Chris Evans eventually reappeared in California. The townspeople welcomed back the two young men and their older friend now a man of forty-five, a bit bent and bearded, but a sturdy man. There was some trouble about that settlement of the stable business at Modesto an unsatisfied note or something of that sort.

A man’s first duty is to his family, and Evans deeded over his timber claim and all else that he possessed. Mary, while John, like a true lover, made over all his little fortune to daughter Eva. So days went on. One morning a neighboring housewife pushed open the door of Evans’ cottage. John Sontag was within. At the opening of the door his hands went up and Eva and the rest laughed long at the joke. But the door opened once again that day and it wasn’t a neighbour. Chris was there then and no hands went up. Of the two officers who came one was left for dead and the other ran away, bleeding and scared. There had been another successful train robbery and out of the darkness of the night had shone the figure of steady, model Chris Evans, ribald and blasphemous, cruel and threatening.

And there came another night and Chris and John crept home to Mary and Eva, and again they were seen, and when the fight was done it changed into a victorious flight– a man lay writhing in the agonies of death in the stubble where Eva fed her chickens. And what did they do when father and son in law were following the sore wounded man to make his death a certainty? Why, they looked on and made no outcry. And when the Coroner and his jury considered above the murdered man, little Eva swore bravely against all the world and all possibility. And when she had told how two men had rushed into the house with drawn pistols upon father and lover she sat quite still looking at accusers and officers with her firm chin even firmer than usual and let the lawyers fire all the hard questions they had at her. And she never wavered a hair’s breath.

That is the kind of a girl John Sontag’s sweetheart was. Eva did everything she could to free her father to no avail. Mrs. Evans and her daughter Eva attracted attention in a play entitled “Evans and Sontag,” put on the stage for the dual purpose of creating sympathy for the bandits and securing money for Evans’ defense. She did theatre pieces all around the West to prove what a noble man her father was. On February 9, 1917, Eva was awakened in the middle of the night by a ringing phone. Her father the steady blonde- beared man who studied for the priesthood in Bells Corners was dead.

With files from

The San Francisco Examiner

This newspaper report says it was Chris’s wife, but it was really his daughter Eva. Molly was his wife’s name and Chris and his daughter Eva had a close relationship.

CLIPPED FROM
St. Joseph Saturday Herald
Saint Joseph, Michigan
30 Dec 1893, Sat  •  Page 4

Wikimedia Commons
File:Eva Evans(1893).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Eva broke them out of jail and married bachelor outlaw Sontag. Their union was brief because Sontag died from his Stone Corral wounds

Chris lost one eye and injured his hand in a shootout.. but the hand amputation was done in the Visalia jail-

CLIPPED FROMSt. Joseph Saturday HeraldSaint Joseph, Michigan30 Dec 1893, Sat  •  Page 4

CLIPPED FROMThe San Francisco ExaminerSan Francisco, California03 Dec 1914, Thu  •  Page 15

An Individual Opinion by Chris. Evans, Outlaw

CLIPPED FROM
The San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco, California
24 Jun 1894, Sun  •  Page 24

read-My MFA program at USC required a non-fiction book as well as a novel and a screenplay. I don’t remember who told me about Sontag and Evans but their story fascinated me. Basically, Chris Evans – a family man – and his buddy John Sontag became central California folk heroes by repeatedly robbing the hated Southern Pacific Railroad. The story everything – exciting robberies, a noble cause, escapes from jail, mountain communities aiding and abetting the outlaws and a shootout at the Stone Corral– CLICK HERE

Also read-GUNFIGHT AT THE STONE CORRAL: WILD WEST OUTLAW WAS FROM OTTAWA 2016- CLICK

The Story of Wild Bob Ferguson of Dalhousie Township

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 23- Code Family–Brother John — John Code Goes West

Going West — From Lanark County Names Names Names

Billy the Kidd’s Mistress — Roxy Theatre Time

The Tale of a Pirate named Bill Johnston

Did Anyone Find the Lost Barrel of Silver Coins That Lies at the Bottom of the Rideau Canal?

Murder on Maple Island

Stories from Ash Island

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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