Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Zachariah & Phebe Evans

In the Friend on May 2007, VaLynn Grant Woolley wrote an article called “Standing Up for Faith,” I wondered about the details of the story. She gave no last names of the members. No locations to speak of other than it happened in Tennessee. It was a great story, but it was miserable not really history [no details]. So I intend to fill in some of the details. Due to copyright restrictions I won't reprint the story here. But you can read it here.

The story told of the Evans Family who lived in Tennessee through the eyes of 4 year old John. John's father, Zachariah Evans was baptized by Elder John H. Gibbs on 14 Oct 1883, the second baptism of his mission. Born on 26 July 1830 to David & Eliza Evans in Greenville South Carolina, Zachariah moved with his family to Houston County Tennessee. There he met Phoebe Murphy whom he married on 11 July 1869.

By the time they met the missionaries in the spring of 1883, they had four living children, and had recently lost twin girls. Zachariah was baptized first, followed by Phoebe a month later and the three oldest children a month after that. Their last child, born in 1885 was a boy. They named him John Gibbs Evans in honor of the slain missionary who taught them the gospel.

Four years later, as the story was told, their family forced them to leave their Tennessee home and make their way to Zion.


Ardis Parshall said...

I don't regularly read the Friend and hadn't seen the story, so when you said it was "miserable history" I was afraid you meant that it was distorted and wrong, and I cringed at yet another misuse of history directed toward our kids. Now having read both that story and your comments, I realize you meant it was "miserable" in the sense that it didn't contain the details that historians crave (which is exactly what you wrote, but I didn't understand at first).

I'm impressed with how accurate the basic details of the published story were (there's no way to evaluate the fictionalized traits necessary to make it an engaging story for children) -- but I'm even more impressed that you ran to ground the historical details of a children's tale. Nothing about Cane Creek escapes you!

BruceCrow said...

Having done as much research as I have on Cane Creek, and never having heard this story before or about Zachariah for that matter, I thought that perhaps there was some distortion for the sake of a story. I have lost count of the number of false Elder Gibbs stories out there.

Turns out the Evans lived in Houston County, about a hundred miles from Cane Creek. But the documents support the history as presented in the story.

I wondered if some of the her fictionalization came from a journal or autobiography the family has. Of course, only she would know.

VW said...

Hi Bruce,
I wrote the story about Zachariah and Phebe. I'm sorry the lack of detail made you miserable :-) I was writing with children as the intended audience, and it didn't flow as well when I added more details like full names and dates. That was the only story I've ever written for publication. I was impressed with what I read about that family in the life history of David Roger Evans as told to his son, Evan E. Evans on March 21, 1956. I had heard the story of BH Roberts dressing like a tramp to sneak around Tennessee to bury the bodies of Elders Gibbs and Berry, and was surprised to learn of my ancestors' connection with Elder Gibbs. On Nov. 11, 1883, Elder John Gibbs baptized the Evans family members that were old enough. The account says that Phebe sheltered and fed the missionaries, did their laundry, cared for them when they were sick, and several times hid elders from mobs that came to lynch them. This account did not tell of a confrontation exactly like the scene I depicted, but it did tell of neighbors and extended family members threatening to harm or even kill the family if they didn't renounce their faith or leave the area. It says, "Father told them he would rather die than renounce his faith. So we started to plan our journey." Those lines really struck me, and I couldn't get the idea out of my head that I should write a story about that and submit it to the Friend. I was actually surprised when it was chosen to be published, but I'm glad that Zachariah's faith and courage were honored.

BruceCrow said...

I hope I didn't offend you. As I said, it is a great story. I can easily see why it was accepted. I apologize for my miserable choice of words.

I agree full names and dates would have done this story a disservice. I'm certainly no children's writer.

VW said...

No offense taken. I think it's cool that people are enthusiastic enough about church history to notice a little story like mine and do research to find more details.