Evans Town History

The History of the Town of Evans

by Donald D. Cook, Town Historian

The First Settlers

The very first settler in the territory later to be known as the Town of Evans was Joel Harvey. He arrived in 1804 and located on the west side of I 8-Mile Creek near its mouth. Mr. Harvey, with an eye to business in viewing the steady flow of emigrants from the East to the “Western Reserve,” decided to enlarge his home for hotel purposes. So in 1806 he opened a tavern, the first in the area, and quite appropriately named it The Frontier House.

Although many migrants stopped at the Harvey Tavern on the way to their lands newly purchased from the Holland Land Company, no permanent settlement came until early in 1809 when young Aaron Salisbury located about three miles southwest of the hotel and Aaron Cash settled near the North Evans locale.

In 1810 Anderson Taylor settled at the site of Evans Center while Elijah Gates, Nathaniel Lay, John Barker, and Martin and Seth Sprague built their log houses in the general vicinity but nearer the lake shore. The following year other newcomers in that area were Gideon Dudley, David Corbin, Timothy Dustin, and a Mr. Pike. About the same time, Job Palmer replaced Joel Harvey at The Frontier House.

Settlers arriving in 1811 included James Ayer, from Haverhill, Massachusetts, with his children: Gorham, Low Bradley, Mrs. Martha Dart, Mrs. Mary Low Beal, Mrs. Sarah Bradley Black, Mrs. Henrietta Atwood, and Ira. James, the youngest of the family, was not born until later, when the Ayers were ensconced in their new “wilderness” log home.

Later Hezekiah Dibble arrived, and in 1812 William Cash from Dutchess County came and located in the southwestern section of Evans along the lake shore. With his family of twelve children Mr. Cash cleared his large acreage and developed it into one of the fine farms of Evans.

Practically all of the families mentioned became prominently involved in the civic affairs of their community in those early pioneering days.

How Evans Became a Town

Year by year following the War of 1812 immigration to our lakeside area increased at such a brisk rate that it wasn’t long before the authorities began considering “town-hood” for our general area. Such planning became translated into action in March of 1821 when the Legislature of New York State proposed an passed an Act for the purpose of “erecting” the Town of Evans, to become effective on March 31.

Following is the actual text, in part, of this Act, Chapter CXLVII: “Be it enacted by the people of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, that from and after the thirty-first day of March instant, all that part of the Town of Eden, in the County of Niagara, known and distinguished by Township number eight, in the ninth range of the Holland Land Company, be, and hereby is, erected into a separate Town by the name of Evans, and that the first town meeting be held at the dwelling house of William Wright, in said Town…”

In 1852, the first railroad in Evans was built, and business feverishly moved to a new location, Evans Station, later to be known as Angola. Such moving became contagious, and soon other buildings were moved into the village where only three farms and farmhouses had been before.

How our Town was Named

David E. Evans was the nephew of Joseph Ellicott, prominent agent for the Holland Land Company, and served for many years david evansas clerk for that organization. In 1827 Jacob Otto, the resident agent, died; and David Evans was selected to succeed him.

Because of his efficient and humane management of the Holland Agency’s affairs in relation to their nearly impoverished settler-clients, he became very popular with both the pioneers and the Company. Under his administration about one half of all the lands ever owned by the Holland people in Western New York were sold, and the receipts of the Company were said to be larger than all such receipts under the administrations of Joseph Ellicott and Jacob Otto.

The generously worded obituary of Mr. Evans published in the Buffalo Courier stated in part that, “He was a kind, unassuming man, one of unaffected hospitality, and a man of very high order of talent.” In such a characterization as this must be the answer of why, when the Legislature formed our Town, it quite wisely named it for David Ellicott Evans.

Hotels of Evans

With the continuous coming of settlers, a housing problem developed. Log cabins and, with the assistance of the first sawmills, board-and-batten houses were hastily constructed to meet the every-increasing demands for dwellings. Yet the need never seemed to be satisfied. That is why our first hotels were built.

In 1806 Joel Harvey, the first settler of our Town, built an addition to his log home situated at the mouth of 18-Mile Creek on the south side and became the first hotel keeper of our Town. Quite appropriately he named his hotel the Frontier House.

It is interesting to note that every other hotel to follow filled a certain definite need and was given a name directly relating to the very reason for its appearance at that particular place. The National Hotel on Erie Road at Evans Center was named for a new nation, the American Nation. The Derby and the North Evans Hotels were named for the hamlets where they were erected. In the North Evans area there was a Hillside Hotel on a hillside.

When there became an Angola, the old William Wright house, our first Town Hall, was moved from Evans Center to Angola, quite properly to become the Angola Hotel. Angola, the Village the railroad built and originally known as Evans Station, soon was to have more hotels. About 1873 the Union Hotel was built by George Caskey for Elijah P. Smith. No doubt it was named for the Union Cause, which Mr. Smith had so warmly embraced.

Then on Commercial Street at Main Street Jacob Friend built the Farmers’ Hotel in honor of the farmers who so abounded during that period of Evans’ growth. The name was changed to the Central Hotel when it became just about the center of Angola’s business district. A neighbor to the Angola Hotel on Commercial Street to the south was the Railroad House. It was built and so named because of its proximity to the first passenger station of the early railroad. Not to be exclusive, but the bulk of its bar business was from railroad workers. A few years later a second railroad system came to Angola, the Nickel Plate. A hotel was quickly built near the new station and appropriately named the Nickel-Plate Hotel.

Some hotels bore their owner’s name; such as Cramer’s Hotel and Widmer’s Hotel. At Erie Road and Lake Street Charles Rogendorf built the Block Hotel, it was built out of cement blocks. It was the first of its kind, perhaps the only one of its kind, to open its doors to the public in the Town of Evans.

At Evans Center Boyer’s Hotel, named for its owner, Fred N. Boyer, arrived in the 1820’s. Point Breeze Hotel was built at Point Breeze for that is where the breeze was, and ever is. Still later, the Wagon Wheel Hotel was built down Jerusalem way. It was a handsome structure of brick and had a catchy name.

We must not forget Isaac Belote’s Hotel on Erie Road just past Cain Road and a trifle beyond our Town’s legal but not historic limit, for this was a regular stagecoach stop.

For more information, visit the Evans Historical Society web site.

Evans Historical Society

Map of Erie County, New York from 1855 from the Library of Congress Records

Map of Erie County, New York from 1829 from the Library of Congress Records

Check out the Document Center – Historical – for pictures from 1866.

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