JOSEPH FRANKLIN EVANS 1879 – 1972
by Ronald P. Evans
Joseph Franklin Evans was born on September 19, 1879 at Mascot Tennessee. He was the fourth child of Peter and Maggie Evans. Shortly after his birth, the Evans family moved to Union County.
Life in the late 1800’s was simple with the activities centering on farm work. Joe and his brothers would work the farm while their father taught school. Joe said that his father would expect a lot from the boys, and would work them very hard.
Since Joe’s parents were both school teachers, all the children were expected keep up with their studies. A family story is told of a time when the boys were studying their lessons and. Joe’s sister Etta was talking loudly and bothering them. Joe became upset and broke his writing slate over her head. But other than minor sibling quarrels, the family was very loving and got along together very well.
Joe attended an academy in Anderson County so that he could be a school teacher. After graduating, he taught school in Anderson, Union, Roane, and Knox Counties. One of the teaching positions was at Wheat School (which later became Oak Ridge) in Anderson County. Family stories tell of a time when Joe and his father, Peter, were competing for the same teaching position. It is said that Joe’s teaching credentials were better than his father’s, so he got the job.
On March 29, 1899, Joe married Minnie Humphrey and started a family which, over the next 14 years, would produce 8 children, Flossie, Olen, Oscar, Ethel, Creed, Moss, Mable, and Woodrow. They lived near Joe’s parents in Anderson County, near Andersonville.
In 1919 Joe moved his family to Powell Station in Knox County. The family moved their belongings on a horse drawn hack.
Joe started a small community store at the corner of Sharps Road and Copeland Road.
There was plenty of land so he also spent lots of time farming. On the farm, there was a pond that was stocked with fish. Woodrow would tell a story of two boys asking Joe’s permission to fish in the pond. Not knowing what the boys had planned, he gave them permission. The boys had planned to blast the fish out of the pond using dynamite. The plan worked, but the dynamite shattered the rock base and the pond never held water again.
In 1923, Joe and his family suffered a great loss. Minnie became ill and died of pneumonia on June 10.
Over the next several years, Joe moved several times around the Powell area. He finally settled down in a large white house on property that fronted on Emory Road, and was bordered to the rear by Spring Street.
Joe quit teaching school and worked at Brookside Mills for a short time. He then started carrying mail for the Powell Post Office.
Joe carried mail in an “A” Model Ford and, near the end of a pay period, would mix kerosene with his gasoline to save money. It is said that the car would pour out black smoke and would leave a smell in the air that would last for an hour or so.
Paul and Rennie Webber were on Joe’s mail route and said that when the Sears and Roebuck catalog was delivered (a very important event in the country), Joe would leave all the catalogs at the bottom of the hill beside the road. The catalogs were so heavy that the car would not make it up the hill. All the neighbors would walk to the bottom of the hill and get their catalog.
On December 23, 1930, Joe married his second wife, Effie Harris Phibbs, daughter of Albert Wilken Phibbs and Catherine J. Cooper Phibbs. They lived at Joe’s house on Spring Street in Powell.
Moss remembers that his sisters and some girls from around the neighborhood were taking care of the house then. He said that Joe came in and said “I’m bringing Effie in and I don’t want anybody to run over her.” The comment was said in light overtone but it did help break the ice. With family gatherings and friendly card games with the children, Joe and Effie were very happy.
After a long career at the Post Office, Joe retired in the early 1950’s. He spent much of his retired time reading books and teaching himself skills like short hand.
Joe was active in local politics. His granddaughter, Margaret Evans Weaver remembers riding with him in a car with a loudspeaker mounted on top, supporting a local candidate.
In 1963 Effie died and was buried in the Glenwood Baptist Church cemetery. Joe’s health was starting to decline at this time. He still lived at the house on Spring Street but his children kept a constant watch and care for him. He spent much of his time writing diaries that would quote scriptures and different philosophies on life.
His grandson, who is also named Joe, remembers him saying that it was a shame for a man to live long enough to see his children pass away.
The author remembers being a young child when “Grandpa Joe” visited us at the Dry Cleaning building. He would always have a buffalo nickel to give me. As I grew older, I would walk with him down Emory Road from the Dry Cleaning building to his house and spend the day with him. I remember that he had a dog (a white beagle) named Piedro. Most of the time I would go into the parlor and “bang” on the piano (the only song that I knew was chopsticks).
Joe’s great grand daughter Laurie Shell Bagwell has similar memories of her visits at Grandpa Joe’s. Laurie grew up in Michigan and occasionally would visit in the summer. She remembers sitting on the front porch with grandpa Joe and watching the trains go by.
As Joe grew older, his health continued to decline, he was moved to his daughter’s, (Ethel Walczyk) house to keep closer watch on him. While he lived here, he suffered from a stroke. His health continued to decline, and soon he was moved to Hillcrest Nursing Home. On August 19, 1972, Joe passed away at the age of 92. His death was attributed to pneumonia that was a result of suffering from cancer of the lung.
Joe was buried between Minnie and Effie at the cemetery at Glenwood Baptist Church in Powell.