STAR TANNERY - Remember that oft- uttered line in the iconic Western, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” in which Paul Newman and Robert Redford, as the eponymous on-the-lam outlaws, repeatedly wondered about the identity of their pursuers?
“Who are those guys?”
Well, I’ve wondered the same thing about the two men whose names adorn a rather notable children’s home of f Cork Street.
Just who are Henry and William Evans?
For some reason — and somewhat uncharacteristically, may I add — my inquisitiveness never prompted me to take the next obvious step. That is, until a few weeks ago when Marc Jaccard, executive director of the Henry and William Evans Home for Children, addressed fellow Winchester Rotarians.
Marc’s intent was to thank the club for its decision to use proceeds from the annual Kaleidoscope gala/ fundraiser to establish scholarships for private placements to the home. In doing so, he also provided a little historical background. “Here goes,” I thought. “Finally, an answer to that ‘Who-are-those guys?’ question.” Alas, Marc did not pony up that snippet of info, but then and there I decided it was time to shelve my slacker-ism and go to the source.
To my good fortune, Marc that afternoon had a copy of the Evans Home history penned by his predecessor as executive director, Kirby Lloyd. He also invited me over to the home for an extended look-see at Evans family memorabilia, a visit I made Tuesday morning.
Soo- ooo, for the record: Brothers Henry and William Evans rode into Winchester in the 1850s from somewhere — “out West” has long been the assumed best-guess — blessed with an abundant bankroll, the origin of which also engendered rampant speculation.
Partners in the pursuit of additional riches, they began to acquire real estate in downtown Winchester, including a cigar shop and a hotel — appropriately named the Evans — located at the corner of Piccadilly and Loudoun streets.
That the Civil War was a “war between brothers” was never more true in their case, as Henry and William swore allegiance to different sides in the conflict. But following Appomattox, they resolved these differences, to the betterment of their business interests, jointly pursued.
So how did these 19th-century men — both died in the 1890s — ultimately lend their names to a children’s home still going strong in the 21st? Chalk it up to Henry’s daughter, Molly Evans Janney, and his only grandchild, Lillian Sheetz, daughter of Molly’s sister, Lillie.
The two women struck an agreement. Molly would pass on the lion’s share of her estate to Lillian, and, should Lillian die without an heir, what remained of the family trust would be dedicated to the establishment of a home for “abused, orphaned, and otherwise needy children.”
Long story short: Lillian never married, and when she died in 1946, the money left in the family coffers — the legacy, essentially, of Henry and William ( whose marriage did not yield any progeny) — went to the benefit of “children in need” from Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties.
Four years later, in November 1950, the Henry and William Evans Home opened its doors to eight children at the old Evans “homeplace,” Henry’s three-story Victorian pile on North Loudoun, later the residence of Molly.
In time, it became apparent that the old house was an unsuitable dwelling for children, and so the property was sold, paving the way for construction of the current home in the meadow alongside Cork Street.
But this growing-pains story, not to mention that of the brothers’ reputed stash of buried gold, are tales best left for another day. Tune in next Wednesday.
Adrian O'Connor has been the Editorial Page Editor of the Winchester Star since December 1992. He has been writing his weekly column 'Valley Pike' since March 1997.