The Native American/”free colored” Evans family of Granville County directly descend from Morris Evans (1665-1739) and Jane Gibson (1660/1670 – 1738) of Charles City County, VA. The Evans family resettled in and became a core part of Granville County’s Native American community in the 1760s immediately following the initial settlement of the founding Chavis, Harris, Hawley, Pettiford, Anderson, Bass, and Goins families. In this blog post I will document the Evans family from their earliest documented origins from a “free Indian woman” known as Jane Gibson the elder, to their settlement in Granville County. A word of caution: “Evans” is among the most common surnames dating back to colonial times, therefore not all “Evans” families are genealogically related. There were a few “free colored” Evans families originating in Virginia and it is not known if an how they may all be related. The focus of this blog post is about documenting the branch of the Evans family that begins with Morris Evans and his wife Jane Gibson. I do discuss two additional Evans families at the end, that may or may not be related.
Jane Gibson the Elder, “a free Indian woman”
Morris Evans’ (1665-1739) wife Jane Gibson (1660/1670-1738), had a mother also named Jane Gibson. To distinguish between the two women, the mother is referred to as Jane Gibson the elder (born 1640/1650). The elder Jane Gibson was called “a free Indian woman” by some of her descendants who were illegally enslaved. Though the Evans and Gibson families were free-born, that did not prevent some colonists from illegally enslaving them. Apparently, some of the descendants of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s daughter Frances Evans (1700-1771) were enslaved by a colonist named Goodrich Lightfoot. They were originally “bound out” to Lightfoot to be indentured servants but he instead enslaved them and after his death, they were subsequently sold to several slave owners. The enslaved Evans later sued for their freedom and provided information that they descended from a free Indian woman – Jane Gibson the elder.
The petition of Charles Evans, Amey Evans, Sukey Evans, Sisar Evans, Solomon Evans, Frankey Evans, Sally Evans, Milly Evans, Adam Evans and Hannah Evans holden in slavery by Lewis Allen, of the County of Halifax humbly sheweth: that your petitioners are descendants from Jane Gibson, a free Indian woman..
You can review the documentation on Deloris Williams’ website where she has graciously transcribed the chancery court documents and it is really worth a read, if you’re not familiar with these records.
I also found in the Saint Stephen’s Parish records for New Kent County, that Goodrich Lightfoot (the man who enslaved the Evans) owned an “Indian” slave named Charles who died on October 9, 1722. I’m unsure if this Charles is from the Evans family, but it certainly appears Goodrich Lightfoot enslaved multiple Native Americans.
Also noteworthy, the Native American/”free colored” Howell family of Granville County descends from a woman who was a servant in the home of Goodrich Lightfoot’s brother Sherwood Lightfoot of Saint Stephen’s Parish in New Kent County, VA. And after both the Evans and Howell families came to Granville County, they intermarried.
The exact tribal origin of the Evans family has also been a subject of a lot of debate among researchers. Morris Evans was noted as being a free person of color and we know from DNA testing that he was of at least partial African descent. It is unknown if his background included any Native American ancestry. Although he was born around 1665, the first confirmed records for him were at the end of his life in 1738. So there is a lot about Morris Evans’ early life that we do not know about.
However Morris Evans’ wife’s mother Jane Gibson the elder and thus his wife were noted as being “Indian”, yet no tribe specified. Charles City County, VA which is where Jane Gibson the elder resided, is located in the heart of Powhatan territory and perhaps that is where her tribal ancestry comes from. There is another Powhatan (specifically Nansemond) descended family of Granville County – the Basses, that I blogged about previously and the Evans intermarried with them in Granville. There was also a Walter Gibson recorded as a chieftan in the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation land deeds in Bertie County, NC in the 1770s. However, I have not seen any credible information that names his parents or children, so I’m not sure if he is at all connected to Jane Gibson of Charles City County. Another matter to consider is that Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s son Charles Evans moved to southside Virginia by the 1730s, about a decade after the Saponi reservation at nearby Fort Christanna was closed. Charles Evans and his family intermarried with the Saponi descendants residing in Virginia. The maiden name of Charles Evans’ wife is unknown, so more research into her identity is needed.
The Evans Move from the Tidewater to Southside Virginia
The Evans family line that came to Granville were not enslaved and as a result, they are well documented. Morris Evans and Jane Gibson also had two sons named Charles Evans (1696-1760) and Morris Evans Jr (1710-1754). Charles and Morris Jr were born in the Tidewater area of Virginia (York County) like their parents, but relocated to the southside Virginia counties of Brunswick, Mecklenburg, and Lunenburg (Lunenburg was formed from Brunswick in 1746 and Mecklenburg was formed from Lunenburg in 1765). Charles Evans moved first in the 1730s and his younger brother Morris Evans Jr moved later in the 1750s. Living next to the Evans families in Southside Virginia during this time period were other notable “free colored”/Native American families such as: Walden, Kersey, Harris, Brandon/Branham, Stewart, Chavis, Guy and Corn. I point this out because the Evans intermarried with most of these Southside families and they then moved together into the North Carolina border counties, including Granville.
Morris Evans Jr (1710-154) was married to a white woman named Amy Poole, who was the daughter of William Poole. After Morris Evans’ death, Amy remarried a John Wright and became known as “Amy Wright”. Her father William Poole in 1753, gave land in Lunenburg Co, VA to Morris Evans Jr and Amy Poole’s son named Richard Evans (1750-1794). This same Richard Evans later moved to Robeson Co, NC and is the most likely ancestor of the Evans family found within the Lumbee Tribe of Robeson Co.
Charles Evans (1696-1760) remained in southside Virginia until his death in 1760 and we have a good record of who his children were through land transactions and wills. Unfortunately not much is known about Charles Evans’ wife aside from her first name being Sarah. Charles Evans’ children were:
- Thomas Evans (b. 1734) – tithable in his father’s 1751 Lunenburg Co household. Was in very poor economic standing as his children were bound out because he could not provide for them. Thomas only received one shilling from his father’s will because he was “undutiful”. His wife may have been a Stewart. Some of his children intermarried with the “free colored”/Native American Jeffries family and moved to Orange Co, NC. This is the same Jeffries family that is a core family of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.
- Major Evans (1733-1814) – moved to Granville Co, NC and is the primary ancestor of the Evans of Granville Co. Will be discussed in the next section.
- Charles Evans (b. 1737) – remained in southside Virginia. In 1782, he was compensated for beef he provided to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. His daughter Nanny Evans married Eaton Walden.
- Richard Evans (b. 1740) – remained in southside Virginia. He did not leave a will, so his apparent children are not verified. He may be the father of Richard Evans b. 1772 who relocated to Chatham Co, NC. An earlier Isaac Evans (b. 1735) was the first “free colored” Evans to appear in the Randolph Co (which borders Chatham) records, so some of the apparent descendants of Richard Evans may in fact be the descendants of Isaac Evans. And it is not currently known if and how Isaac Evans may be related to the family of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson.
- Sarah Evans (b. 1742) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
- Joyce Evans (b. 1743) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
- Erasmus Evans (b. 1745) – had two sons named Anthony and Isham who were bound out. Anthony was called “Anthony Chavis”, so Erasmus’ wife was likely a Chavis. Anthony Evans/Chavis moved around a bit before settling in Chatham Co where he left a will but apparently no heirs.
From here, we will focus our discussion on Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-1814) who is the main progenitor of the Evans in Granville County.
Major Evans (1733-1814) comes to Granville County
Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-1814) who is the direct lineal ancestor of the vast majority of the Granville County Evans first appears in the Granville tax lists in the 1760s. By the 1780s and 1790s he had recorded several land transactions in Granville and short-lived Bute County (modern Franklin and Warren). Notably in 1780, he purchased 100 acres of land from Phillip Chavis off the Tar River in an area known as the Buffalo Race Path near Buffalo Creek. Phillip Chavis also sold Major Evans an additional 500 acres along the Granville/Franklin line. Phillip Chavis (b. 1726) was the son of William Chavis (1706-1778) – the original Granville land owner and founding community member. Phillip Chavis had numerous land transactions with his father William Chavis around Buffalo Creek and he also settled his father’s estate. In fact, Major Evans’ wife Martha Ann (maiden name unknown) may have been a Chavis given the close relationship between Major Evans and the William Chavis family.
It’s also important to remember that William Chavis’ wife was Frances Gibson was the daughter of Gibson Gibson (1660-1727) of Charles City County, VA. Perhaps Jane Gibson the elder and Gibson Gibson were related, given the shared Gibson surname in the same location. We know from witness testimony that Jane Gibson the elder had two children – Jane Gibson the younger who married Morris Evans and a son named George Gibson (born 1665) who died without having children. So William Chavis’ father-in-law Gibson Gibson could not have been a son of Jane Gibson the elder, but perhaps a brother or nephew. This is only speculation at the moment and hopefully some more documentation may confirm these suspicions.
Whatever the exact relationship between Major Evans and the Chavis family turns out to be, these land transactions placed Major Evans and his family in the heart of the Granville County Native American community. It’s also important to note that Major Evans still owned land in Mecklenburg County, VA and appears on the tax lists there in the 1780s, so he likely was moving back and forth (a very short distance) between his Mecklenburg County property and his Granville County property. This close relationship between the two locations explains why many other the Native American/”free colored” families from the Mecklenburg area including the Howell, Guy, Kersey, Brandon/Branham, Cousins, and Mayo families (most of whom had intermarried with the Evans) continued moving into Granville up through the first couple of decades of the 1800s. There was a Major Evans recorded in the Warren County tax list for the Six Pound District in 1814 and if this is the same Major Evans which it likely is, then it shows he moved yet again in his final years.
Nearly all of Major Evans’ children and descendants intermarried with families from the Granville Native American community. Below is a list of his children and their spouses:
1. * Morris Evans (1750-1834) married second Lydia Anderson, his first wife is unknown.
2. * Gilbert Evans (1757-1827) married Phoebe Lumbley. Phoebe was apparently white, and Gilbert appears in tax and census records as white as do their children. Because of strict laws forbidding interracial marriages, it could be that Gilbert “passed” for white in order to have a white spouse. This is a pattern that I have seen before.
3. Burwell Evans (1758-1820) married Mary Mitchell.
4. * John Evans (1759-1781) unwed and died in battle during the Revolutionary War.
5. Elizabeth Evans (1780-before 1860) married Isaac Chavis but they later separated.
6. Nelly Evans (1762-1849) married William Taborn
7. * William Evans (1764-1823) married Sarah Hays who was apparently white. Like his brother Gilbert, William “passed” for white and it was likely because he had a white spouse.
8. Sarah Evans (1770 – before 1860) married George Anderson.
* Paul Heinegg in his Evans family sketch on his website freeafricanamericans, lists the brothers Morris, Gilbert, John, and William Evans as the *possible* sons of Gilbert Evans b. 1730. However genealogist Deloris Williams has more up to date research on the Evans family and I agree with her conclusions.
Most of these families resided in Granville and Wake Counties. It is likely Major Evans’ land purchase in Newlight Creek which borders Wake County, precipitated the movement of many of his descendants into Wake.
The interconnectedness of the Evans family to the Granville County Native American community is also evident in the division of the estate of William Evans (1789-1871), a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. Deloris Williams has transcribed his estate record here. William was the grandson of Major Evans. Though William Evans had been married to Frances Anderson, by the time of his death he was widowed and had no living heirs. So instead he divided his estate among some members of the Native American community including the Anderson, Boon, Pettiford, Hawley, Mayo, Curtis, Taborn, Jones, and Evans families.
Below are some pictures of Granville County Evans who are directly descended from Major Evans (and further back descended from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson):
Pantheyer Brandon’s lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
Pantheyer Brandon; Hilliard Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans.
She is also descended from the Brandon, Bass, and Anderson families.
John Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:
John Evans; Polly Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans
John Evans is also descended from the Bass and Anderson families.
What about the families of Thomas Evans (1723-1788) and James Evans (1720-1786)??
So as I mentioned at the beginning of the blog post, there were other early “free colored” Evans families in Virginia that may be related to Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. In particular, there are two two early Evans’ ancestors that need to be discussed.
Thomas Evans (1723-1788):
One family begins with a Thomas Evans (1723-1788) who lived in the southside Virginia counties of Lunenburg and Mecklenburg. His parents at this time are unknown. His wife’s name is also unknown but she was a Walden. Thomas Evans and his descendants usually lived close to the known descendants of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. In fact, this Thomas Evans (1723-1788), Charles Evans and Major Evans (grandsons of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson) all together on 9 April 1782 in Mecklenburg County court proved their claim to be paid for 225 lbs of beef they each supplied the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. This suggests a close relationship between the three men (two of whom are documented siblings).
All of Thomas Evans’ children married other closely related Native American families of the area including Chavis, Brandon, Drew and Kersey. Thankfully Thomas Evans left a 1787 (proved 1788) Mecklenburg County will that named his heirs. His heirs were also named in a subsequent lawsuit. Many of Thomas’ descendants moved into and intermarried with the Native American community in Granville including his grandson Isaac Chavis who married and later separated from the previously mentioned Elizabeth Evans who was the daughter of Major Evans. Additional surnames that Thomas Evans’ descendants married into when they moved to North Carolina include: Locklear, Ivey and Hawley. All of this suggests a close relationship between Thomas Evans and the descendants of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson but I’m not sure what it is. I feel fairly confident that this Thomas Evans is related to Morris Evans/Jane Gibson but I’m still working on seeing where exactly he fits in.
James Evans (1720-1786):
And second there is James Evans (1720-1786) who first appears in the records in Surry County, VA in 1746. In that year he was charged with adultery for living with Eleanor Walden. Eleanor is presumed to later be his wife and mother of his children. Unfortunately, Surry County suffered major record loss, so further details on James Evans’ early life may have been destroyed. Such records may have named his parents, because James’ parents are unknown. By the 1750s, James Evans was living in Edgecombe County, NC as indicated by land purchases and militia records. Notably James Evans is listed next to several members of the “free colored”/Native American Scott family that was of Saponi descent and these families later intermarried. This part of Edgecombe became Halifax County in 1758, and James Evans continues to appear in the Halifax records. By 1786, his wife Eleanor (Walden) Evans was listed as a head of household in the Halifax records, indicating that James had died some time previous to that date.
James Evans’ descendants continued living in the Halifax County area. Again, please note that Paul Heinegg has different information for the descendants of James Evans. Instead I’m using the genealogy provided by Deloris Williams which I believe is more accurate. James Evans had a son by the same name James Evans Jr (1750-1830) who lived in Halifax Co. James Jr had a son named Leven Evans (1775 – before 1850) who is the main source of the Evans found within the state-recognized Haliwa-Saponi tribe in Hollister. Leven Evans’ first wife was Kizzie but her maiden name is unknown. His second wife was Harriet Scott (b. 1811). Harriet was from the same Scott family that her grandfather James Evans (1720-1786) enlisted in the Edgecombe Co militia with. Leven Evans’ descendants continued to intermarry with “core” families of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe including Richardson, Lynch, Silver, Mills, and Copeland.
Recent DNA testing suggests that Leven Evans (1775-before 1850) is not a descendant of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. At least 7 direct male lineal descendants of Morris Evans have done yDNA testing and their haplogroup is E-M2 which is a sub Saharan African haplogroup. At least one direct male lineal descendant of Leven Evans has done yDNA testing and his haplogroup is R1b which is Western European (most commonly Irish). This means we know that Leven Evans and Morris Evans do not share a common male Evans ancestor. But it’s possible that the Leven Evans branch may descend from a female Evans ancestor which would account for the different yDNA haplogroups. Like the paper trail, DNA results can offer a clue but not the full story about one’s heritage.