top of page

Contractor by trade, Wm. V. Evans took a turn at teaching penmanship

William V. Evans, photo originally submitted to by Stephen Evans in May 2013.


Long before there was train service between Hannibal and St. Joseph; long before the city of Hannibal had its first steam-powered fire engine; and long before budding writer Sam Clemens left with his family for Keokuk, Iowa, James F. and Martha E. Evans were raising their young son, 4-year-old William Virgil Evans, in Miller Township, just to the west of Hannibal, Mo.

Also living with the Evans family in 1850 was Robert Evans, 66, a carpenter by trade, and grandfather to the young boy.

This heritage is significant in that extended family is likely what lent a core work ethic to young William V. Evans, which would serve him well for the remainder of his long life.

A carpenter

William Virgil Evans (1846-1925), a Union Army veteran of the Civil War, adopted his grandfather’s trade, working as a contractor and carpenter, for most of his adulthood. He followed the call whenever there was a need for housing; his hammer and tools always at the ready.

With one exception. For a few years, roughly from 1888 to 1891, he taught penmanship at Hannibal’s Bluff City Commercial College.

Family heirloom

Ted Simmons, great-great-grandson of William Virgil Evans, shared, via, a transcribed copy of a treasured family letter written by his ancestor on Feb. 20, 1876. Ted, in turn, is intrigued by his heritage concerning Marion County, Missouri, and agreed to share the information with readers of this column.

The letter was originally transcribed by Roland Glenn Wood (1925-2007) of New London, Mo. The letter was discovered among family financial records. Roland Wood made a note to accompany the document, “The letter … was written with a beautiful script handwriting.”

Ted Simmons is the great-grandson of William V. Evans. He descends from Evan’s first marriage, to Nancy J. Calvert, of Marion County, Mo., who died as the result on childbirth in 1870. The only child of that marriage was Eddie Calvert Evans (1870-1931), Ted Simmons’ great grandfather.

W.V. Evans ultimately left young Eddie (born Feb. 22, 1870) in the care of the boy’s grandparents, Gabriel and Sarah A. Calvert, and two as-then-unmarried aunts, Juliet M. and Sarah S. Calvert, the latter who was nicknamed by the family as Poss. William V. moved to Dallas County, Texas, where he went to work building houses.

In Fort Bend, Texas, William Evans was married to Rachel in 1874, and by 1876, they had a year-old young son together, Willie.

The letter, addressed to Poss, begins: “This leaves all in moderate good health,” William Evans wrote on Feb. 20, 1876, “and hope it may find you the same. … Since the 8th of last July (1875) I have been busy at work. I have been taking contracts building houses. I am at present moving a large mill house. I get all the work I can do. I have established a good reputation here as a workman.” He was in hopes, at that time, that he would be joined in the fall in Dallas by his father, James F. Evans, and other members of his family.

“Tell Eddie he has got a little brother, Willie, here and as sweet a brother as he can find. Tell Eddie to be a good boy and think of his father sometimes, and as he cannot see just how I look from where he is, I will send him this picture. Tell him if I live I will come and see him sometime. I am pleased to learn he is a pert boy, but don’t spoil him too much. Please send me his picture soon as you can.”

Growing family

Rachel Evans brought into her marriage to William V. Evans four children from a prior marriage, Mary E., Sallie E., George W. and Ida S. Loudermilk. In addition, by the 1880 census the Evans’ had three children of their own, Willie Evans, 6; Claud Evans, 5; and Cora A. Evans, 2.

Rachel’s death sometime after the 1880 census once again left W.V. Evans a widower.

Married again

In 1888, William V. Evans, 46, was back in Hannibal, this time with his new bride, Margaret Ramsey Evans, 16 years his junior, who was a sister of Andrew Ramsey, featured in last week’s column. (Rough and tumble Hannibal boy transforms into national hero.)

William V. and Margaret took in a girl born circa 1892, from a home in Quincy, Ill. They named her Irene.

While the Evans family was living at Oakland, Indian Territory, in May 1900, Irene, 9, went missing. They apparently found her, because 10 years later, in 1910, William V., Margaret and Irene, then 17, were living together in Mission, San Diego, Calif.


William V. Evans and his wife, Margaret, ultimately settled in Los Angeles, Calif. In 1920, he was admitted to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at Sawtelle. He died there in 1925.


In 1920, the Evans’ daughter Irene reached out through her attorney in Reno, Nev., in hopes of finding her birth family. The Quincy Daily Herald published on Aug. 2, 1920:

“She is now 28 years of age and has children of her own. She is in good circumstances, is a good woman and is desirous of learning something of her relatives. She believes that she had a sister and a brother who were also in that institution. She does not know what her name was and has never been able to learn anything concerning her parentage.”

Bluff City College

The commercial college was in operation roughly from 1885 to 1892.

1885: Bluff City Business College, Jones and Henderson, principles, over 223 Broadway.

1888: Bluff City Business College, Ferdinand Henderson, proper., 103 N. Main.

1889: 189 Market, later changed to 1631 Market. (Later the location of Swan and Gottman gas station)

1892: Bluff City Commercial College, J.P. Fisher, pres.; J.A. Carmody, treas.; 601 Broadway.

J.P. Fisher, president of the college in 1892, died Oct. 22, 1893. He had been a teacher in Hannibal for at least a decade prior to his death, and during those years lived at 189 Market, behind the building that served as the school in 1889. He was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Bluff City Commercial advertisement, printed in the 1892 Hannibal City Directory, accessed via the Hannibal Free Public Library’s web site.

William V. Evans, who at one time taught penmanship at Hannibal’s Bluff City Commercial College in Hannibal, Mo., died in 1925 at the National Home for Disabled Soldiers, West Los Angeles, Calif. Wikipedia

Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” and “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’” 47 stories of the Market Street Wedge and on west to Lindell Avenue. Montgomery can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


 Recent Posts 
bottom of page