Today a modern courthouse annex stands in the "township" of Evans. The magnificent structure was completed in late 2001 and dedicated the following year. Located in the Columbia County Government Complex, this building is the benchmark of an outstanding city in the making - incorporated or unincorporated.
Appling, for so long the county seat, now has the official title in name only. Court sessions must be held there two times yearly for the small village to retain its status. In 1995, with newly enacted legislation, Appling lost its city charter when it was unable to provide certain required services. Many believe it is only a matter of time before Evans is named as the official county seat through legislation in Atlanta and by voters of the county at large.
Modern Evans features shopping centers, retail outlets, restaurants, supermarkets and a relatively new post office. Many schools can be found throughout the vicinity, and churches of many faiths abound in the surrounding area. The fast-growing Evans community has an up-to-date library and performing arts center, and an amphitheater for outdoor events.
But behind the facade of Evans, a little mystery has always lurked.
When the environs were first populated around the mid-1800s, the area first was called Darby's. That name faded away.
With the laying of tracks by the Augusta and Knoxville Railroad in the late 1870s and early 1880s, depots and villages sporadically sprang up nearby with more permanent settlements. A depot and stop 12 miles from Augusta became known as Jenkins Station, named for a family who owned much land here.
Thomas Jenkins, a local plantation owner, would become a mover and shaker in the vicinity. He wrote to the U.S. Post Office Department in 1881 and early 1882, proposing a postal outlet for the locality. Jenkins suggested the name Jenkins Station, like the train depot. But postal officials had recently instituted new rules that stated a proposed postmaster's name should not be in the post office name. They also were trying to shy away from suffixes such as "station," "burg," "ville," etc. The office of the postmaster general asked Jenkins to select another name.
It has to be assumed the name of Evans was suggested, but the post office didn't want any name that was in use in the state or in the United States at the time. It has to be taken for granted that Evans already was in use elsewhere, because officials in Washington, D.C., designated the name of the post office as Evens, Ga., and opened it for service on Jan. 10, 1882.
For the next 44 years, incoming postmasters wrote requests in large letters on their applications to change the spelling to "Evans," but to no avail.
Thomas Barrett Jenkins, depot agent and the first postmaster, largely is a forgotten name in local history. But it was through his efforts that Evans was brought to fruition. He lived to be only 48 years old, 26 of those years in the surrounding area. He died in 1893 and to him belongs the recognition for helping to name the town.
Jenkins is buried in Augusta's Magnolia Cemetery near the Evans section, where lies buried George Washington Evans - the man for whom the town is believed to be named. Evans was a former businessman and mayor of Augusta, who lived with his second wife at her elegant home, known as Cedar or Berry plantation, not far from present-day Evans.
Others have said Ben Evans, a local proprietor of a country store at the junction of Petersburg Road and the Augusta and Knoxville Railroad, was the namesake. Then there are those who pick Gen. Clement Evans for the honor. Additionally, an old cemetery off Scott Nixon Memorial Boulevard has numerous Evans family names from that era.
In 1893, under the auspices of the Port Royal and Western Carolina Railroad, timetables list the station here as Jenkins. Later came a name change to Evans, when ownership reverted to the Charleston and Western Carolina in the late 1890s. So, in essence, now there was a train depot named Evans and a post office named Evens. Take your pick!
It had to be confusing for the neighborhood patrons and residents until the post office finally made the change to Evans on Dec. 1, 1926, under postmaster Charity Norvell. A few months earlier, an influential school leader from neighboring Richmond County, Lawton B. Evans, joined the discussion in the pages of The Columbia News.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, lumber milling was a principle business here. The Evans meat locker, Rountree's store and a gas station or two dotted the landscape. The old train depot was eventually taken down. Later other more prominent businesses came and the town grew into what we know it as today.
I hope this helps to unravel some of the misunderstandings behind the naming of the town. I am sure Evans has a great future, and many happy days lie ahead for its present and future residents.
(Charles Lord, of Grovetown, is a local historian.)
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