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A Letter to Upshur County from Gary W. Evans and Family

January 19, 2023

Mountaineer News

Upshur County Commission

Mountaineer News Photo

BUCKHANNON - During the January 12th Upshur County Commission meeting, Commission President Kristie Tenney read aloud a letter submitted by Gary W. Evans regarding the County's purchase of 10 parcels of property along Chancery Street from Mr. Evans and his family.

In the letter, Mr. Evans shares his family history associated with the properties and how, "...after a lot of prayer and weighted discussions, we decided to sell the family properties on Chancery and Locust Streets."

Here is the letter in its entirety:

"Rhys Thomas Evans was born and raised in Pickens, West Virginia. Tragically, as a young boy, death left the responsibility for his childhood to his grandparents, the Thomas family. With them, he grew up as part of a timber and coal mining family. As time passed, fate led him to the coal fields. There was no doubt that West Virginia's greatest Coal Mine disaster at Monongah in 1907, influenced his decision. Not only did he want to operate a coal mine, but he wanted to learn how to save lives of those in the industry.

The pursuit of his interest led him to an occupation as a miner. Soon he became a mine foreman and then operated his own coal mines.

In the middle of all his obligations, determination, and inspirations, he fell in love with a young lady from Silica. Love soon bloomed and they were married. As God would have it, over one-hundred years ago a young married couple, Rhys Thomas Evans and Elva Sines, left their childhood home in Pickens and Silica bound for a small farm they had bought on the outskirts of Buckhannon, at Red Rock.

His involvement and calling in coal mining continued to grow. Eventually, he attended and graduated from the West Virginia University School of Mines and was one of the first members of the West Virginia state mine rescue team in 1927.

After only a short while, Rhys and Elva had an opportunity to sell their farm and move closer to Buckhannon. The new Farm was located at Liggett edition. It was there that they had four daughters (Gertrude, Sarah, Mabel and Mildred). They also had one son, Reese Thomas.

Farming was very demanding and time-consuming in those days, and everything was done by hand. A large corn field and apple orchard consumed a great deal of family effort. In his spare time, he started studying and taking business classes. Soon, he graduated from West Virginia Business College. Still, he longed to help and serve others. Several of his family had entered the ministry but he felt a calling to do something different. Someone suggested the world of politics.

After much prayer, he decided to run for the newly available office of Upshur County magistrate. He campaigned very little and figured since he was not originally from Buckhannon that he would stand very little chance of winning. To his surprise, he won. He became one of the first magistrates in Upshur County. In addition, he was the only one. His obligations now changed and it became necessary for him to move close to the courthouse. He and his young wife bought a large apartment house on Chancery street. They now had enough room to raise their family. The rest of the buildings’ apartments could then be rented to ease the huge financial burden that the ”Great Depression” was causing.

Rhys built a small one room office on the other side of Chancery Street and set up his practice. Most of the time he was the judge, jury, and executioner. There just wasn't anyone else. His workload became tremendous since the courthouse had burned in 1888 and many records were stored in a rented building. In 1933 (sic), the new courthouse was completed and his small office became a storehouse while all the stored records were transferred to the new building. Actually, it became the “Upshur County Courthouse” for a while.

In addition he had to investigate and hold preliminary hearings on major crimes such the bank robbery in Adrian that resulted in the death of one of the bank robbers; the death of a person who fell asleep on the railroad tracks and was run over by a train, and investigating the theft of a cow when the accused claimed he had just picked up a rope and didn't know there was a cow on the other end until he got home. These stories were reported in the local newspaper. Some happenings were silly, some were serious, but they all required a fair judgment by a dedicated guardian of our laws and people.

Rhys Thomas Evans passed away in 1950. Elva and Rhys had always felt the calling to serve others. Elva turned her focus on becoming a nurse. After a lot of studying, she successfully passed all the requirements to become a registered nurse. She was soon fulfilling her nursing duties at Leonard Memorial hospital, here in Buckhannon. For quite a while, she continued to live in their apartment building on Locust street. After countless years of service, she retired with the eternal gratitude of all the medical staff and the many patients she so lovingly tended. Eventually, she moved from Locust Street to a home on Island avenue. She sold the apartment house and several adjoining lots to her only son Reese Thomas Junior Evans. Additional buildings were purchased and some even moved to the adjoining properties.

There comes a time in our lives when we need to ponder our own mortality and the fate of those we leave behind. Our greatest concern should be our own salvation, as well as the fate of those we leave behind. The recent events have once again reminded our family, and particularly me, of the single greatest importance of witnessing to others. Whether teaching, preaching, mining coal, being a public servant, nursing or tackling all of the hard work of dirty jobs, the true measure of our success is the sacrifice that we give to others through us, from God. And so our family came to a crossroads.

After a lot of prayer and weighted discussions, we decided to sell the family properties on Chancery and Locust Streets. We, at first, thought to list them with local realities, but after careful “soul searching”, we decided to approach the Upshur County Commission with our decision. That decision has been a struggle, NOT WITH THE COMMISSIONERS, they have all been wonderful, but with our own struggles of letting go of the property that has been in our family for six generations for over 100 years. We wanted this property to be owned by the people of Upshur county, that it may be a symbol of sacrifice of loyalty and patriotism of the people here have always had. So, negotiations began.

Approximately two weeks ago, we had reached an agreement that filled our hopes. We sold the property to the wonderful people of Upshur County. We hope that it will serve to help in the success of everyone for generations to come. We have sown the seeds of sacrifice in the rich soil of our County. Now we pray the blessings of God's wisdom will touch the hearts and minds of those who tenderly care for that seed to help it grow and produce a bountiful usefulness that will feed generations of citizens you have to come.

So finally, please know, dear people of Upshur County, that if love is unexpressed and lays in a dormant, useless state and is somehow not given, it serves no purpose. With that in mind, may you feel the love our family has for you. " Always have and always will ". May God bless each of you now and always."

Respectfully Submitted,

Gary W. Evans

Gary Evans and Family

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