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Thomas Bowen Evans

Thomas Bowen Evans and Susannah Smith Evans

Thomas Bowen Evans was born 15 February 1860 in Glamorganshire, Wales, the oldest child of Jonah Evans and Frances Bowen. Jonah had been a farm worker who, after an injury, became a coal miner. The family immigrated from Glamorganshire, Wales, to Utah when Thomas was the tender age of three.

Thomas’ mother had given birth to his little sister, the only girl in the family, in August 1862, but this baby did not survive, so Thomas was still an only child when crossing the ocean and later the plains. They crossed the ocean on the ship Amazon, about which Charles Dickens wrote his famous essay, writing admiringly of the immigrants as being “the pick and flower of England.”

Thomas’ mother gave birth to six more sons in Utah, but died in 1876, a day after giving birth to her eighth child when Thomas was only sixteen years old. The baby boy, Francis, lived only a few months. All the other sons lived, including Lorenzo who would be a fellow homesteader with Thomas in the Bannock Valley.

In 1877, Thomas’ father remarried Catherine Deer, a widow with several children. She was also a Welsh immigrant from Glamorganshire, then living in Brigham City. The family later relocated to Samaria, Idaho (by Malad) around 1880. Samaria was thought at that time to be part of Utah Territory, as the final survey had not yet been made. The couple had six children of their own (three of whom did not live long), adding to the six living sons Jonah had with his first wife Frances Bowen, and the three living children (of four) Catherine had with her first husband.

Both surnames of Evans and Bowen are common names in Wales, and subsequently also in Malad and Samaria, Idaho, which boasts of the largest concentration of Welsh blood in the world outside of Wales.

Thomas married Susannah Smith 18 October 1883. Susannah was born 24 May 1864 in Brigham City, Utah to Samuel and Sarah Jane Ingram Smith, the sixth of nine children; both her parents were immigrants from England. There was a warm friendship between the two families when both families lived in Brigham City, which continued afterwards even though Thomas’ family relocated to Samaria in 1880. They were married in the LDS Endowment House in Salt Lake City, as the temple was still under construction. 

Thomas and Susannah had four children born while they were living in Brigham City. During this time, Thomas was an engineer on the Southern Pacific Railroad in the Ogden area.   Their children were: Maude Frances, 1884; Bertram Thomas, 1886; Jonah Edgar, 1888; Ruth, 1898; and Constance, 1906. Connie was the only one born in Idaho.

Tom and his brother Lorenzo had reserved water rights in Bannock Valley in 1894 in places called Meadow Springs and Locomotive Springs. Tom moved his family to Arbon (Bannock Valley) permanently in 1900. At first they lived in a dugout, which was warm and easy to heat in the winter, and cool in the summer. However, regardless of its advantages most wives did not like living in a hole in the ground, especially with four active children.  Susannah’s “courage, thrift, and industry…served her and her family in good stead through the trials and hardships of pioneer life” (https://www.familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/15137128).

Tom and Susannah’s first home in Bannock Valley, after the dugout, was of logs. They also operated the first store in the valley. The location of the store became a good stopping place for anyone going north out of the valley or through the Crystal area. A biographical sketch written by their granddaughter Neva (Joe’s daughter) stated: “The hospitality and generosity of this couple soon won them the affection of everyone that stopped and they were soon known to all as ‘Aunt Sue and Uncle Tom’” (https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/9WG6-KYJ).

As with all Arbon homesteading families, medical care was always a challenge, and especially so in the wintertime when sometimes it was impossible to get out of the valley.  A family tragedy hit the Evans family in February 1909, when their son Bert died at only twenty-two. He was buried in the Arbon Cemetery.

According to the Bannock Valley history, the first post office in the valley was in the Tom Evans’ home. They had if for many years; Susannah was the first postmistress for twenty-five years.  For a time, Tom’s brother Lorenzo was the rural mail carrier, riding weekly to Malad and back.

Thomas and Susannah’s oldest child, Maude, later married Adam Affleck and settled in Arbon Valley with their two children about 1907.  They homesteaded 160 acres next to her parents’ place. The Affleck family wasn’t in the valley long, moving to Pocatello about 1915 and later to Boise.  They made an impact on the valley in that Adam helped string the first primitive telephone wires, which was barbed wire on fence posts. One can imagine that the reception over these first phone lines was not very clear.

Thomas and Susannah’s son Joe (Jonah) farmed for the family until his untimely death in 1931 at age forty-two from pneumonia. He had been sick for a week, and died at the General Hospital in Pocatello.

After living for forty years in Arbon Valley, Thomas and Susannah sold their farm to the Lee and Gena Newport family in 1940 and moved to Pocatello. Thomas died 28 April 1942. Susannah survived another eleven years, dying on 26 March 1953.  They were both buried in Pocatello, the same cemetery where their son Joe was buried.

Sources:

Ward, Laurie Jean, Bannock Valley (Providence, Utah: Keith Watkins and Sons, 1982).

https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/9WG6-KYJ

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/22204201/thomas-bowen-evans

The links provided here will lead to links to other family members.