The former canal town of Evanburg, once located along what is now Oxford Twp. Road 254, between Isleta and Orange, is long gone.
Today, very little exists to indicate that the once thriving town ever existed. There are virtually no memories to be shared any longer since the last of the younger generation that did live there, or at least heard the tale of Evansburg are also gone. Nowdays, the only supporting physical evidence is some of the nineteenth century county land maps, and the old Coshocton County Atlas that is occasionally found in the local estate sales, and auctions. Very few photos exist of the area, at least what has been discovered so far.
One of the only still existing structures, the Stone Fort, is actually credited as being located at Isleta (which was located farther east of Evansburg). Another reminder, a grim reminder, of Evansburg’s existence is the small cemetery plot that is oddly located in the midst of a corn field, just north-west of the fort. In the late fall, and winter months when the field is void of corn stalks, the cemetery can be seen on its elevated plateau.
Even though in plain view, the cemetery appears lonely and forgotten. The sandstone grave markers are flat, plain shaped, and indicative of the time period. There are maybe a dozen, or so still standing. Others are crumbling, and mired in the sandy soil. The names and dates have nearly faded with time, but the name of Evans, can be distinguished on a few of the stones. The Evans family, the family that founded the town, all later perished during an epidemic of typhoid fever that occurred in the late 1830s.
In 1801, brothers Henry and Isaac Evans arrived in Coshocton County, navigating the rivers all the way from the state of Virginia, in search of available land to purchase. When the Evans brothers finally had made their way to the three rivers community, they chose to take the eastern route, and followed the winding Tuscarawas River.
Eventually, they were brought to an area they felt was ideal in which to start a new community. They were in awe of the flat land that could obviously be easily cultivated, as well as the convenient access of the river, and a small spring of clear, cool water that would be a perfect source for the new town’s vital water source.
The brothers were later joined by two other brothers, Charles and Esaias Baker, also from the state of Virginia, who were interested in the Evans brothers’ plan for a new community. The brothers worked tirelessly to settle their new found land, and formed what was the nucleus of the second settlement in Coshocton County. Evansburg, named for its founders, would go on to have a nearly 40 year history as a bustling canal town and trading center before it faded into oblivion.
Isaac Evans, the dominant figure among the town, assumed the role of judge in the lawless territory. Evans had the experience of a natural born leader, having raised and commanded a company during the War of 1812.
On September 4, 1830, Evans had the land surveyed, and it was officially named it Evansburg, just a few short years before his demise. The Evans brothers had previously built a grist mill, and it was in full operation by 1818. A saw mill was later constructed, and began a successful venture just after the opening of the Ohio Erie Canal (situated between Evansburg and the Tuscarawas River) which was by now bringing many new Eastern travelers, as well as new business transactions to area.
Selling, buying, trading, business, and the town population was booming between the 1830s-1840s for Evansburg. Flatboats, and river barges carried grain to be ground at the gristmill, and timber to be cut at the sawmill, the final outcome then moving on to other areas in nearby towns, farther east, in need of the grain, and lumber. More and more immigrants arrived in Evansburg from the east as the years progressed, helping to build Evansburg into a sizable community. More establishments soon joined the community, a tannery, two dry goods stores, a grain warehouse, and later a hotel which was managed by Evans’s son, Isaac Evans, Jr.
Towards the late 1830’s the Evans family, young and old, were stricken with what was believed to be typhoid, a dreaded malady at that time. One by one, they were eventually buried in the town cemetery located in the middle of the town, the founding family wiped out in a short period of time. The few descendents that had moved away earlier, survived, and are connected to the current Evans family members that are still living in, or near, Coshocton County today.
The Stone Fort, located at the edge of the Evans family property was already in existence when the Evans brothers arrived in 1801. It was believed that the fort had been constructed as a place of refuge to protect the river travelers from Indian attacks which had been more prevalent years before. The fort’s origination has been a local mystery for many years since.
The town of Evansburg eventually followed its founders. Businesses closed, moved, abandoned buildings became more and more a familiar sight in the fading town. By the mid-1890s, the canal was no longer the popular mode of transportation, being virtually swallowed up by the opening of railroad in the mid 1850s.
Following the great flood (in March 1913) the Ohio Canal, or at least what was left of it, was now beyond repair, damaged by flood waters. The canal was ordered by the state as abandoned, and was eventually removed, and filled in by 1920.
What really led to Evansburg’s demise?
One speculation was that the town was no longer easily accessible after the canal closed. The river boats also were no longer a familiar sight populating the nearby Tuscarawas. The river, which was very swift and deep at Evansburg, was not easily forded (crossed by foot or by wagon), and there was no bridge at which to cross to travel further north to the more populated towns, and cities beyond. A ferry was used at the site for years when the town was more populated. It was also speculated that the town was becoming abandoned, and no longer a beneficial area in which to live. Many of the residents had moved on to the next town of Orange, and further north to Bakersville. The river, at Orange, is very shallow, and slow, and was very easily forded so that travelers could cross back and forth from West Lafayette to Orange, and Bakersville with little effort. A bridge was later constructed at that area in later years.
In the late 1890s a mysterious cyclone struck the area, destroying the majority of the few remaining farm houses, and abandoned structures, the old gristmill, sawmill, and hotel. The only surviving structure was the Stone Fort, the structure that was there before Evansburg, and now after Evansburg. The few residents that lived in the abandoned town were attending a picnic at nearby Orange, and witnessed the strange cyclone. The surrounding towns oddly, but miraculously were untouched, and those residents were unaware of the cyclone’s visit.
The town of Evansburg is now a ghost of the past, the memory forever lost, only now mentioned as local folk-lore. We now must at least keep its history alive by sharing the story, and passing the legend on to the future generations that will preserve it, and hopefully share it with their future generations.