William F. Evans has been identified with Champaign County for over twenty years, and he and his capable wife now enjoy the comforts and pleasures of a fine country home a mile and a half west of Rantoul and have near them their children and grandchildren and can look back with pardonable pride over many years well spent.
Mr. Evans was born in Franklin County, Ohio, in 1856, the third in a family of twelve children whose parents were Daniel and Isabel (Engle) Evans. His father and mother were also natives of Ohio. When he was nine years of age the family came to Illinois, locating a mile and a half west of Dewey. Here William F. Evans grew to manhood, attended the district schools and made himself proficient in those duties and responsibilities which are the portion of the industrious farmer.
When he was twenty-seven years of age, on December 31, 1883, he married Miss Sarah Belle Rider. Mrs. Evans, the only child of Jason L. and Mary (Forshee) Rider, was born in Michigan, twenty miles west of Detroit, and her parents were also natives of the same state. She was well educated in the public schools of Michigan and at the age of twenty-three, her mother having died and her father being lonely after the home was broken up, removed to Kansas, where his daughter joined him. It was while in Kansas that she met Mr. Evans, who in the meantime had gone out to the western counties of that state to take up a homestead. They were married in Hodgeman County.
For ten years Mr. and Mrs. Evans struggled with the adverse conditions of life in western Kansas. They had youth and enthusiasm and industry, though Mrs. Evans suffered much from ill health. Nearly all the experiences that the pioneers in western Kansas endured were a portion of the life of Mr. and Mrs. Evans. They lived in a stock-raising country, and Mr. Evans acquired a large herd of cattle. There were droughts, hot winds, crop failures, and twice they were burned out by prairie fires. In the great blizzard of 1886 they lost much of their stock. Through an accident Mrs. Evans suffered a severe injury to one of her feet, and about that time Mr. Evans decided to sell his stock in order that he might have more time to wait on his wife. When the stock was sold he put the money in the bank. Then came the year of panic and hard times, 1893, and the treasurer of the bank absconded with all the money, including Mr. Evans’ hard won savings. After that disaster he was left with his sick wife and with only his land and a few dollars in money.
Prospects were so discouraging that they determined to sell their Kansas interests and return to Illinois. In the meantime two children had come into their home, Frank Lee and Hazel Belle. For the return journey Mr. Evans fitted up a wagon into the model of the old type of prairie schooner. In this they made provision to live as comfortably as possible during their journey, and they spent fifty-one days on the return trip. They slept in the wagon, never once in a house, and finally arrived at Mr. Evans’ old home in Champaign County. Here for one year he rented a farm near Dewey, later farmed for his father, and finally was able to purchase 160 acres, comprising the beautiful farm that he now owns near Rantoul.
In Champaign County Mr. and Mrs. Evans were fortunate in having superior educational advantages for their children. The son and daughter completed the course of the eighth grade and afterward were students in the Rantoul High School, where they graduated. The son took the agricultural course at the University of Illinois and is now a practical and scientific farmer on a place adjoining his father. He married Miss Mina Elsie Webster, a native of Champaign County and a daughter of Charles B. Webster. Two children are in their home, June and Paul Arthur. The daughter, Hazel Belle Evans, after graduating from the Rantoul High School, became a very successful teacher. She taught two years in the Hyde school, also at the Union Center school, and her unusual qualifications caused the school board to employ her to teach the higher courses in the district school, and thus she afforded the pupils the opportunity of carrying on high school work in a common school. She is now the wife of Edward Fanning Webster, a farmer living near Rantoul. Their household comprises three children, a son and two daughters, Charles William, aged six; Dorothy May, aged four; and Ruth Pearl, aged two.
Thus Mr. and Mrs. Evans have five lively grandchildren, who consider a visit to the home of their grandparents one of the greatest opportunities and pleasures. Mrs. Evans finds it a difficult matter to keep her cookie jar filled when her house is invaded by her grandsons and granddaughters, bringing with them all the sunshine of life.
In politics Mr. Evans is liberal in his views and believes in voting for principles instead of for party. However, he has long thrown the weight of his influence on the side of temperance and looks forward even within his own lifetime to the day when nationwide temperance will be a reality.