Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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EVANS , JOHN ( 1770 - 1799 ), explorer .

Born at Waun-fawr, Caerns. (chr. 14 April 1770 ), son of Thomas Evans , a Methodist exhorter , and Anne , daughter of Evan Dafydd , also a Methodist exhorter . In 1792 he agreed to accompany Edward Williams ( Iolo Morganwg ) on a journey to visit the Welsh Indians who were reputed to be inhabiting the upper reaches of the Missouri . On Iolo 's withdrawal from the enterprise, Evans proceeded alone, reaching Baltimore on 10 Oct. 1792 . He set out for the Far West in Feb. 1793 via Philadelphia and Fort Pitt , descending the Ohio and ascending the Mississippi as far as St. Louis . The Spanish governor of St. Louis , Don Zenon Trudeau , regarded him with suspicion and detained him in prison, but he was eventually released, and, in Aug. 1795 , he accompanied James Mackay on the third expedition sent by the SpanishMissouri Company ’ to explore the river and find a way through the mountains to the Pacific coast . They spent the winter with the Mahas , and on 21 Nov. Evans went with the Indians on a twenty-five days’ buffalo hunt.

Early in Feb. 1796 Evans was sent on by Mackay to dislodge the French-Canadians of the North West Company who had established a post on the Missouri among the Mandan Indians . After proceeding overland for 300 miles he was forced to return because of an encounter with the Sioux . He set out again on 8 June and reached the Mandans on 23 Sept. He drove out the French Canadians , lowered the Union Jack , and hoisted the flag of Spain . Apart from one hunter ( Jacques d'Eglise ) he was the first white man to ascend the Missouri 1,800 miles above its junction with the Mississippi . He prepared an elaborate map of the river . After spending the winter among the Mandans he was forced to abandon the post and returned to St. Louis on 15 July 1797 . He remained in the service of the Spanish Government , but d. at New Orleans in May 1799 .

Sources:

  • David Williams , ‘John Evans's Strange Journey, part I, The Welsh Indians,’ American Historical Review , Jan. 1949 ;
  • part II, ‘Following the Trail,’ American Historical Review April 1949 .

Author:

Emeritus Professor David Williams, D.Litt., (1900-78), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959