Dr. & Mrs. John M. Evans Sr. Home
104 West Main Street, Evansville, WI 53536
Researched and Written by Ruth Ann Montgomery
The building that is now the Masonic Temple at 104 West Main was once
the home of Evansville's namesake, Dr. John M. Evans. Built in 1884, this
beautiful High Victorian Gothic style home replaced an earlier brick home
Evans had built in 1850. Both buildings used locally manufactured
vermillion-colored brick. When the old house was taken down, it was
reported to be one of the oldest in the city.
In 1846, Dr. Evans, a young carpenter turned physician, came to the small
settlement along Allen's Creek called "The Grove". He was poor, but
determined to find a community where he could use his new skills as a
doctor. From 1846, until 1903 when he died, Evans lived in Evansville, with
the exception of a few months in Janesville and four years that he served in
the 13th Volunteer Wisconsin Infantry during the Civil War. He watched as
every house, school and church was built and took a personal interest in
the success of the community.
His story begins years before. Evans was born in February 13, 1819 in
Rutland County, Vermont. He was one of five children born to Calvin and
Penelope Goodrich Evans. When he was fifteen, John's mother died. His
father remarried and moved to La Porte, Indiana. For about four years
young John Evans lived with his maternal grandparents, the Allen
Goodrich's near Benton, Vermont.
In the late 1830s, other family members moved west during the settlement
period in Indiana. His brother, Jason, moved to LaPorte, Indiana with his
father, Calvin, who operated the La Porte Hotel.
In November 1838, Jason wrote to John who was still living in Benton,
Vermont. "Land sales commence next Friday, then we shall be full all the
while. This is a very pleasant place and if you and Sarah and Martha
(sisters of John and Jason) were out here we should be happy. You must
come out here as soon as you can."
At the age of 19, John decided to join his father, his step-mother, Anna, and
his brother, Jason, in La Porte. John traveled by stage coach and along the
way became sick and had to stay in Ohio for a few days. The journey from
Vermont to Indiana took nearly two weeks.
John found a job as a carpenter's apprentice. After spending three years in
the building trades, he was advised by a doctor to find another occupation.
Carpentery was very strenuous and John suffered from severe pain in one
of his hips.
Seeking a new line of work, Evans entered the new La Porte Medical
College run by Dr. Daniel Meeker. When John enrolled in the school in
1842 there were 12 men in the first class taught by Dr. Meeker. In 1846,
after four years of study, Evans was a member of the first class to graduate
from the school. The La Porte Medical College existed only a few years,
then merged with Rush Medical College in Chicago.
After graduation, Evans began looking for a suitable place to begin his
practice. The young medical school graduate purchased medicine in La
Porte, loaded it into his saddle bags and traveled by horse to Chicago. In
this emerging city, he purchased more medical supplies and spent $18 for
books on surgery, midwifery and children's illnesses. Evans then headed
west to Freeport, Illinois. Not satisfied with the opportunities in Freeport, he
decided to follow some of his Indiana friends to Wisconsin.
John Evans arrived at the settlement near Allen's Creek that was called
"The Grove" for the large stand of oak trees located in the heart of what
would later become Evansville. The young doctor found one frame house,
owned by Henry Spencer; one log school-house and one double log-cabin
owned by Amos Kirkpatrick.
Living quarters were in short supply and since there were no other rooms
available Evans was invited to live at the Henry Spencer home. Spencer
had built the first frame house in 1845 which was located along the top of
the hill on what is now Mill Street.
Henry's wife, Margaret, would later tell Dr. Evans, "I remember well when you
lived with me, and your riding from morning till night. You had a hard time. I
was sorry for you, but I could not help you only to give you needs."
The Spencer's allowed Evans to use their upstairs as an office. Since there
were few people in the new settlement and others were spread out across
the countryside, Evans rode his horse from homestead to homestead to
care for the sick.
It was not easy for a young man to come into a new territory and make a
living as a physician. Most people used the barter method to get goods and
service, or purchased on credit until crops or animals could be sold.
Country doctors were often paid in goods rather than cash. Dr. Evans' own
supplies of medicine and other supplies were purchased on credit from
pharmacists in La Porte, Indiana.
Evans stayed with the Spencers for two years, then bought a house that
stood on the south east corner of Main and Madison Streets from Henry
Spencer's brother, Lewis. In May 1848, Evans gave Lewis Spencer $375
for an acre of land and a small house that faced Main Street. (This house
was later moved to Liberty Street). Lewis Spencer held a mortgage for the
Evans quickly earned the trust of the community. Soon after he arrived,
many people became sick with a fever that was thought to be caused by
rotting grass from the sod turned over by plowing the prairies. His remedy
was to give them quinine.
The young doctor rode day and night to care for his patients and did not
have enough quinine to give all of those who needed it. So many people
were sick, that there were few able bodied enough to help those who were
By the time the epidemic had subsided, Evans had become a local hero,
known for his kindness and tender care for his patients. When a post office
was established in 1849, the citizens named it Evansville, in honor of their
new doctor. Many felt he was responsible for saving the lives of those who
survived the fever.
To help with the household duties, he bachelor doctor invited his sister,
Sarah, to live with him. Evans had so many patients that he employed two
apprentices, William Quivey and Egbert Winston. In September 1849, he
sent the two young men to La Porte for medical training. Quivey later
returned to Evansville and practiced with Dr. Evans. Egbert Winston also
practiced medicine in the Evansville and in the Albany area.
In 1850, Evans decided to build a new house. He purchased land on West
Main Street from Henry Spencer. The 10-acre site was one of the prettiest
in town and included a portion of the original oak grove. Evans' property
extended from West Main north to the mill pond.
Although the rough timbers for the new house could be cut from oak logs at
the local saw mill owned by Erastus Quivey, the finishing lumber had to be
transported to the site from Milwaukee lumber yards. Evans purchased
lumber, shingles and other building materials from the St. Clair Lumber Yard
in Milwaukee and the material was brought to Evansville by wagon. Another
early settler, Jacob West, manufactured the brick for the house at his brick
yard near Allen's creek.
The 1850 census taker recorded "farmer" as the occupation of most men
living in the vicinity. Only one carpenter was listed, 30 year-old Lyman
Nash, who may have helped Evans build his new house. No records exist of
the builder and since he already had skills as a carpenter, Evans may have
worked on the house himself.
The new house was a two-story intersecting-gabled structure with one-story
addition to the north and a large veranda facing south. The large house
was used for living quarters and Evans' medical practice. A barn was built
to accommodate the horses and grain storage.
Although the residence may have seemed large for a single man to build,
Dr. Evans had several members of his family living with him. When the 1850
census was taken, the 30-year-old Evans was listed as the head of the
household that included his father and stepmother, as well as his
29-year-old sister, Sarah, and a nephew, William Whitman. William's age
was listed as 4 and he was living with his uncle because the young boy's
mother, Martha Evans Whitman, had recently died of consumption.
The size of the household changed in the early 1850s. John Evans' father,
Calvin Evans, died in 1851. Dr. Evans' stepmother, Anne, purchased a
home further west on Main Street where she lived until her death in 1877.
Sarah married and moved to Chicago.
Kindness to family and friends was one the characteristics of young Dr.
Evans. Although his own income was uncertain, there is much evidence
that Dr. Evans was generous with his neighbors and willing to invest what
little excess money he had help others.
When Erastus Quivey needed money to purchase castings for his mill on
Allen's Creek, Evans signed a note to secure the loan. When Erastus' son,
William, needed money to attend La Porte Medical College and later Rush
Medical College, Evans gave him the funds.
His generosity and the fact that a depressed economy in the early 1850s
kept patients from being able to pay him cash for his services, meant that
Dr. Evans was often forced to borrow money from others. His inability to
meet his debts brought urgent requests for payment of bills for medical
supplies that he ahd purchased on credit. Overdue bills plagued the young
doctor throughout his early career.
There were few social distractions for the young doctor. While living in La
Porte, he had joined the Masonic Lodge. In 1851, he joined the Janesville
chapter of Masons and in the next few years was devoted to organizing an
Evansville area group. The Union Lodge of Masons was formed and Evans
helped to consecrate the Lodge's hall on October 5, 1852.
In 1857, he joined the Knights Templar order of Masons in Janesville.
Ironically, seventy years later, his home at 104 West Main became the
Masonic Lodge hall.
In the spring of 1853, another epidemic broke out. This time it was small
pox. Several cases had already been reported in Janesville and Dr. Evans
received a letter from residents in Magnolia asking him to bring vaccine to
help protect the children living in that area.
His work in saving people from the small pox epidemic enhanced his
reputation as a doctor and the community expressed their satisfaction by
electing the young doctor to political office. In 1853, the 33-year-old doctor
received 168 votes and won the election for assemblyman of the 2nd
District of Wisconsin. The district was one of four assembly districts in Rock
County and included Avon, Spring Valley, Plymouth, Magnolia, Porter,
Newark and Union townships.
With his busy schedule, Evans still found time to court his young
sweetheart, Emma Clement, who lived in La Porte, Indiana. Emma was born
in 1821 in Erie, Pennsylvania and moved with her family to La Porte,
Indiana. John Evans and Emma were married in La Porte, Indiana on June
For a few months after their marriage the couple lived in Janesville, where
Evans entered a partnership with Drs. Treat and St. John. By September
1855, the firm dissolved and Evans and Emma moved back to Evansville.
Once more took up residence in the brick house on West Main Street.
Their first child, Elizabeth Emma, was born on April 7, 1855. A second
child, Annie Penelope, was born in September 1856. When Annie died a
month before her second birthday, Emma was already pregnant with her
third child, John M., who was born in November 1858.
In the fall of 1861, recruiters were organizing a regiment of men to fight in
the Civil War. Dr. Evans was persuaded to go with the men from Evansville
into the Wisconsin 13th Regiment. He enlisted in October 1861 and
became the surgeon for the Regiment that went into camp at Janesville.
Evans served until March, 1865 when he returned home. He had resigned
due to ill health. The strain of caring for the sick and dying had taken a
hard toll on the doctor.
While he was in the south, other doctors took over his practice in
Evansville. Dr. William Quivey, the young student Evans had helped in
medical school, had completed his studies and was practicing in Evansville.
He lived in a house on West Main Street, directly across the street from Dr.
In Evans' absence during the 1860s several other doctors also started up
practices. Dr. Egbert Winston opened an office in 1862 and almost
immediately began looking for a position in another town because times
were so hard in the Evansville area. Winston was still a medical student in
the winter time and needed a lucrative practice to help pay his school
costs. Dr. Evans generously loaned Winston the use of his horse to use in
Another physician, Dr. Stephen E. Robinson opened an office in early 1862,
but he also found that the business was not very lucrative. By November of
that year, Robinson had decided to go Iowa and establish a practice in new
territory opening up for settlement.
It was no wonder the doctors were anxious to move away from the village of
Evansville. Jacob West had been given the responsibility of collecting Dr.
Evan's bills and everyone was complaining of hard times. "Some of your
claims are forever lost", West wrote to Evans.
People still paid bills by the barter system. Butter and cheese, corn and
oats and even potatoes were offered in lieu of cash to pay doctor bills. The
doctor found his army salary to be a great benefit. In letters to his wife, he
commented that although his pay in the army was not great, at least he did
not have to beg for the money the way he did when he tried to collect from
his patients at home.
For a short period of time, while Dr. Evans served with the 13th Regiment in
the south, Emma Evans took the two children to LaPorte, Indiana and lived
near relatives. George Backenstoe, a painter who had recently lived in the
nearby village of Cooksville, offered to rent Dr. Evans' home while Emma
and her children visited in Indiana.
Emma Evans frequently wrote to her husand and told him about Evansville's
growth during the Civil War. She told him that new houses were being built
and older houses were moved to make room for new ones on West Main
Henry Spencer had sold his hotel and his house on Mill Street and in 1863,
built a new house on a lot west of Dr. Evans' home on Main Street. To
make room for more spacious dwellings some houses were moved. Dr.
Quivey's house was sold to a Mr. Plaisted and moved to a site near Dr.
Evan's stepmother's house on West Main. At the corner of Main and Fourth
Street, the Semans house stood in the way of a road improvement and was
moved ten rods north of its original location.
Trees in "The Grove" that had once extended north and west of the main
intersection of Madison and Main Streets were cut down to make room for
the new building sites in the business and residential areas. New houses
and barns were built in the village that had been named Evansville in 1855.
Progress could be seen on every street.
Dr Evans' letters to his wife and her correspondence with him during that
period reveal much of the history of Evansville and their own personal
history. Emma begged him to come home and he patiently said no because
he was needed with the regiment. He made every effort to take care of her
financial needs through his business agent, Jacob West and even arranged
a visit for his wife and children to his army camp.
A rare look at some housekeeping techniques was found in one of Emma
Evan's letter to her husband. She wrote that moths had invaded the parlor
carpet and to rid the house of the pests, the carpet was removed. Then the
floor was thoroughly swept and washed with scalding water. Ground
cloves, pepper and snuff were rubbed into the cracks of the floor.
Emma was also troubled by mice that invaded the pantry. On a more
pleasant note, she wrote that the strawberries were blossoming. The cow
was giving good milk and was sleek and fat.
Dr. Evans returned home from the Civil War to find a changed community.
Not only were there more houses, but the long awaited railroad line between
Evansville and Beloit had been completed in 1863. Dr. Evans had helped to
support this project.
In 1862, Evansville promoters of the Beloit-Madison line sent urgent
requests to Dr. Evans at his regimental post asking him to purchase stock in
the railroad. Dr. Evans responded with his usual willingness to help his
fellow townsmen. Evans had to mortgage property to buy the railroad
The population of Evansville was near 500 people by 1865. The business
district had nearly doubled in size. A cheese factory, planing mill,
blacksmiths shops and other businesses had opened in Evansville. There
were three stores, two hotels and a large livery barn. The grain mill had a
new owner who was digging a new mill race for a deeper fall of water that
would increase the mill's power.
When Dr. Evans returned home from the Civil War, he joined Dr. Charles M.
Smith and his former apprentice, William Quivey, in the drug store
business. In August 1865, they built a new brick store on the southeast
corner of Main and Madison streets and hired Daniel Lovejoy, another
veteran, to clerk in the store. The doctors continued their medical practices
and Lovejoy acted as pharmacist. The drug store also had a soda fountain
for summer time refreshments.
Dr. Evans now took up the cause of promoting the welfare of the soldiers
who had served in the Civil War. In 1866, he was chosen as one of the
state delegates to attend the Soldiers Convention in Pittsburg. The
veterans hoped to find jobs for the disabled, support widows and children of
those who had died in defense of their country.
That same year, the first Evansville newspaper, The Citizen, owned by Isaac
Hoxie, began publication. Later Hoxie changed the name of the paper to
the Evansville Review. With the publication of the first paper, the little
village at last had a public voice to record its history. Dr. Evans began to
advertise immediately and Hoxie responded by picking up interesting news
items about the Evans'.
By 1870, Dr. Evans was 50 years old and was leading a more comfortable
lifestyle than he had during the early years of his practice. Though he was
by no means wealthy, Evans could afford some of the services other
businessmen were enjoying.
Evansville's doctors had owned and cared for their own horses but by 1870
there were several livery stables in town. The firm of Evans and Smith
decided to let others take care of their horses, carriages and robes. The
doctors sold their buggies and animals to the local liveries and hired the
stable owners to take them on house calls. The doctors advertised that
they would still maintain their very extensive ride, but they would no longer
have to care for the horses and vehicles.
In 1872, Dr. Evans once again ran for the state assembly. He ran as the
Democratic candidate, although he claimed that he did not agree with all of
their principles. The campaign was filled with mud-slinging. Evans'
opponent, David L. Mills, was said to have been in league with the liquor
interests and Evans was accused of being opposed to the temperance
Dr. Evans' personal character was attacked by his political enemies. His
partner, C. M. Smith, a staunch Republican, openly opposed Evans'
nomination and supported Mills. It was the end of their business
relationship and the partnership of J. M. Evans and C. M. Smith dissolved in
October 1872. Patients of Dr. Evans worried that he could not longer
attend to his duties as a physician if he was serving in the legislature.
In 1873, the Evans house was featured in the Rock County Atlas. A drawing
gave an artist's rendition of the structure. It seemed only fitting that such a
prominent physician should be recognized in a promotional atlas that sang
the praises of the prosperity of the county.
The home was the site of many pleasant events that were held in the Grove
north of the Evans house. In 1874, the grounds were cleared for a picnic
and there were games of croquet, boat riding on the mill pond and other
festivities to mark the day. People from town and country came to the
celebration planned by D. C. Griswold and J. C. Sharp. Ice water was
provided on the grounds.
His children were growing up. Lizzie graduated in 1874 from the Evansville
Seminary. John, Jr. graduated in 1876 from Evansville high school and
went to Rush Medical College in Chicago to train to become a physician.
When school was not in session, John, Jr. worked with his father.
In 1877, Lizzie was married in her parent's home. Her husband, DeWitt C.
Griswold, was a young druggist and medical student who had come to
Evansville in 1872. He worked in the Pioneer Drug Store operated by
Evans and Smith and was hired on the recommendation of Dr. C. M. Smith..
Griswold started out as a clerk and later became a partner in the drug store
business. He courted Lizzie and they were married. They had one child, a
In 1881, Griswold sold his interest in the business back to Evans and moved
his family east. DeWitt and Lizzie's marriage was troubled and did not last.
They were divorced in January 1886. Lizzie and her son, Roy, returned to
Evansville to live with her parents when the marriage ended.
Census records give a snapshot view of the economic life of a family. The
1880 census was taken in the summer of that year and J. M. Evans was
reported to have 14 acres of land, 3 horses and 1 cow. He had four acres
in corn and 1/2 acre in potatoes.
Newspaper "personals" give a view of the social life of the Evans'. In the
summer of 1880, Evans' grove to the north of the house was once again
used for the 4th of July community picnic. The organizers put up a stand for
the political and patriotic speakers who addressed the crowd that gathered.
The Evans' lawn provided the site for other entertainments including
Evansville Cornet Band concerts and ice cream socials.
The difficulties of a country doctor's practice included the hazards of
weather. In 1881, southern Wisconsin was the scene of a terrible blizzard.
Roads were blocked by snow but Dr. Evans still tried to make house calls to
the sick. When Dr. Evans and his driver, Charley Winship tried to make
their way through the drifts to the Searles farm, drifts were higher than the
horses' backs and the sled got stuck. The doctor and Winship had to dig
their way out several times before they were able to get to the farm so the
doctor could tend to the sick.
On June 1, 1882, John and Emma Evans celebrated their 28th wedding
anniversary in their home. Their friend and fellow pioneer, Daniel Johnson,
gave a speech on the occassion and the Evans' served cofee and cake to
their many friends. The Evansville Review noted that their friends had
presented the Evans' with a set of chinaware and $18.50. In the 1880s it
was common for the local newspaper to print a list of gifts received for
weddings and anniversaries.
Prosperity was the reward Dr. Evans and Emma had hoped for and a large
beautiful house was one of the signs of a successful business life. At the
age of 64, Evans began to make plans to rebuild his 1850s home. In May
1884, the Evansville Review reported that the Evans house was being
dismantled so that a new one could be built in a style "more comfortable and
convenient" for the aging physician and his wife.
This time the Evans' chose a style of architecture that was unique compared
to other Evansville houses. The only other building in Evansville similar in
style was the Methodist Church.
The Gothic Revival style featured steeply pitched roofs with steep cross
gables. The doors and windows had brick moldings and a rounded
keystone arch. Carpenters installed wooden hoods above the windows and
doors with dentils at the base of a crown-like design. The front center gable
was lighted with a Palladian window in the attic and decorated with a
cut-work wood piece at the apex of the gable.
The masons incorporated the old brick from the house that was dismantled
and used new brick manufactured in Evansville. Although the village of
Evansville had no water works system, the Evans designed a plan for
running water in their home. The bedrooms had sinks with faucets. The
water was supplied from two large rainwater tanks in the attic.
Improvements in the house and modern conveniences were added over the
next few years. A small one-story porch was added to the home in 1885.
The following year, a phone was installed between Evans' drug store on the
corner of Main and Madison and his home at the corner of West Main and
John M. Evans, Jr. completed medical school and joined his father in
practice in the early 1884. He continued to live at home until he was married
in the fall of 1885 to Mae Johnson, the daughter of Reuben Johnson, a
With his son established in his medical practice, Dr. John M. Evans and
Emma were finally able to enjoy some leisure activties. Although he
continued to practice medicine, at the age of 69, Dr. Evans entrusted his
patients to his son for brief periods of time and took well deserved
The Evansville Review reported in the summer of 1889 that John and Emma
traveled with Mr. & Mrs. Daniel Johnson, Mr. & Mrs. C. H. Wilder and Mr. &
Mrs. Nelson Winston to Yellowstone National Park. They boarded the train
in Evansville for the trip. Later that same year, Dr. Evans and several of his
fellow club members went to a National Knights Templar meeting in
Washington D. C.
The doctor suffered from rheumatism, as many Civil War veterans did. He
frequently traveled to a resort in Mt. Clemmens, Michigan to try to relieve
the disability. However, he did not let his physical problems keep him from
being active in promoting public improvements.
With several other prominent Evansville men, Dr. Evans pushed for a water
works system to create better sanitary conditions in Evansville. The project
was put on the ballot for village voters in 1892 and the voters rejected the
$25,000 proposal because it would raise taxes. As with many civic projects
that were proposed, the cost rose dramatically when the improvements were
delayed. The water system was finally approved in 1902, just ten years
later, and the cost was nearly double the 1892 proposal.
In 1893, the two Doctor Evans' built a small two-story addition at the south
end of their drug store to use as a hospital. They named it the Evansville
Sanitarium. While the senior Evans had all but retired from practice, he
added his name to the roster to strengthen the public's trust in the facility.
The adminstration of the hospital was in the hands of Dr. John M. Evans, Jr.
Evansville continued to grow and large houses were built by many of the
businessmen that moved to Evansville. To accommodate the growth, the
pasture behind Dr. Evan's house and barn was subdivided in the early
1890s and became blocks 1 and 2 of the Evans addition. Blocks 1 and 2
were separated by Garfield Street. Eleven building lots were in block 1 of
the addition, including the home of Dr. Evans. Eight building lots were in the
block 2, running north from Garfield Street.
The first to purchase building lots were John P. Porter and Dr. John M.
Evans, Jr. In 1893, the two men had large new homes built on the vacant
lots fronting on West Main Street. The following year, Mary and Robert
Antes purchased a lot facing North First Street.
The population of Evansville continued to grow and the voters decided
Evansville should become a city. In 1896, Dr. Evans was honored by his
fellow residents and chosen as Evansville's first mayor.
The following year he received another honor for his eighteen years of
service as the Evansville school district treasurer. His thoughtfulness and
affectionate interest in children and the kindness to women teachers and
women on the school board was praised by Mrs. Minnie Savage.
Three local newspapers, the Badger, the Enterprise and the Tribune,
supported Dr. Evans. The editors thought it was appropriate for the first
mayor to be the namesake of the community. They praised Evans for his
devotion and service to the community. At the first council meeting, Evans
was presented with a gavel made from pieces of an apple tree that had
once been planted on the grounds of his home.
As the turn of the century neared, many of the old settlers had either moved
away, died or were in their final years. John Evans' beloved wife, Emma
Clement Evans, had been married to the doctor for nearly 45 years when
she died in 1899.
Emma had also earned the love and respect of her fellow townsmen. Her
obituary listed her achievements, "a tireless worker and supporter in the
Episcopalian congregation". She left her devoted husband, her daughter,
Lizzie and son John, Jr. to mourn her. Her grandson, Roy Griswold, was
also named as a survivor, in the obituary. The funeral was held in the
Lizzie and her son continued to live with her father in Evansville until 1902,
when she remarried. Her second marriage also took place at the Evans
home on West Main Street. Dr. Ed L. Cary of Whitewater was the
bridegroom. Her son, Roy Griswold was one of the attendants. An
orchestra from Janesville was hired to provided music for the festive
Dr. Evans survived his wife by just four years. He died in 1903. His
obituary described him as a man of genial nature; quiet and unassuming in
manner; courteous and gentlemanly in deportment. He was the last
surviving charter member of the Masonic lodge formed in Evansville in the
The Grand Army of Republic post took charge of the service and stood
guard over the body, first at the house, and later at the Episcopal Church.
The Masonic order took the remains to the church for the funeral service.
The Episcopal Bishop of Milwaukee, Bishop Nicholson, assisted the local
rector and others in performing the service at the church. The Grace
Episcopal choir of Madison, joined the local church choir in singing for the
P. C. Wilder, Mayor of Evansville, gave the following tribute; "Dr. J. M.
Evans; Patriot of Nation, Godfather to Evansville: Respected by business
associates; honored by our people; adored by all the children has gone to
Lizzie Evans Griswold Cary was living in California and when the estate was
settled, the house was put in John M. Evans, Jrs. name. Lizzie received
other compensation from the estate.
John Jr. had built a house next door but had sold it in 1903 and moved in
with his father so that he could care for him. John, Jr.and his wife,
continued to live in the house until his death in January 1918. May Johnson
Evans then sold the contents of the house and eventually moved to
Cleveland, Ohio to be with her daughter, Mrs. Robert Harris
In 1921 the Masonic Lodge purchased the Evans house at the northwest
corner of Main and First streets. They made plans to enlarge the north
wing of the building and tore off the old brick north wing.
In 1922, a new two-story brick addition, 33 x 55 feet, was built. The wing
included a dining room and auditorium on the first floor. The second story
was to be used for lodge meetings.
The lodge installed a new steam heating system and laid hardwood floors in
the new addition. A large fireplace with a beautiful mahogany mantle was
built on the north wall of the north wing.
The main part of the Evans house was used for parlors and club rooms for
the Masons and the Eastern Star. A conservative value of $30,000 was
placed on the 1922 improvements to the building.
The responsibility for the contract and overseeing the project was in the
hands of lodge members Lev Frantz, J. W. Ames and V. A. Axtell. The
Masons also added a large porch and furnished it with wicker chairs.
The Evansville Review called the new Masonic Temple a credit to
Evansville. "Union Lodge, now has a home which for size, comfort and
beauty and value is surpassed by few buildings of its kind in the state,
having now a brick temple, which will last for generations to come."
By the late 1960s, the large porch had deteriorated and needed repair, the
Masons decided to restore the original smaller porch. Local building
contractor, Roger Thompson, built a new porch similar to the size and
design a porch shown in a photograph of the house taken in 1900. Stains
showing the outline of the larger porch remained on the south wall of the
The house at 104 West Main Street is a stately reminder of the homes that
were built by Evansville's prominent families. The home of Evansville's first
doctor has served as a home for the Union Lodge No. 32 and the Eastern
Star for more than 75 years. The adaptive reuse of this building as a
meeting place for the Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star has preserved the
integrity of the building for future generations.
104 West Main
Home of Dr. Evans
Built in 1884
Made from brick
made by local
brick maker, Isaac