Life on the Frontier

Matthew Evans of South Carolina was an energetic young man drawn to opportunity on the American frontier.   Columbus, Georgia, on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, had been founded only two years before Evans arrived there in 1830.   Across the river in Alabama native tribes continued to resist the white man’s encroachment.   Matt Evans was a private in the local militia that helped put down an uprising that eventually led to the native tribes being forced to move west.

Evans began a mercantile business in Columbus with his brother and invested in Russell County, Alabama, where he began a plantation.  He attracted the lovely and talented Sarah Howard of a notable Georgia family and they were married in 1834.    But Matthew Evans lacked business sense and after sinking a fortune into an elaborate mansion for his wife and new family, was wiped out when the economy went bust.   The house and all his family’s possessions – including a number of slaves -- were sold at auction.   After a brief sojourn in Russell County, the family moved west by Conestoga wagon to the new frontier of Texas.

The family ended up in San Antonio, which proved to be a bad choice.  The town was full of ruffians, the Mexican War loomed and Commanche raiders had kidnapped hundreds of white people in the surrounding territory.   The business opportunities Evans had hoped for never showed up.   In 1849 when many Americans were headed west for California and its gold rush, Evans elected to head back to his native culture.   Mobile was chosen because the new Mobile and Ohio Railroad has just been announced; once again Matt Evans saw opportunity he hoped would reverse the family’s misfortune.