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Description: Mrs. A. L. Evans One of Early Teachers in Bonne Terre Public School System.

Newspaper published in: Bonne Terre, MO

Source: Scrapbook

Mrs. A. L. (Clara) Evans has been living in Bonne Terre for almost 80 of the town's 100 year history. She will remember first hand many of the events to be dramatized in this summer's Centennial theatrical production. Mrs. Evans was teaching school in Bonne Terre before the old Central school was erected; she then taught at Central and lived to see the building become obsolete before it was torn down to make way for a modern elementary school.

We visited last week with Mrs. Evans to learn more of the background of this lady who has been a highly respected citizen in her own right as well as the wife of one of the area's best known physicians, the late Dr. Albert L. Evans.

Clara Evans did not change her name when she married. Born in Irondale, Mo., 1879, she ws the youngest of the five children of Wm. and Catherine Evans. Her 2 brothers and 2 sisters are no longer living. The brothers were William and Louis Evans; her sisters were Mrs. A .V. (Ettie) McGahan, long time resident of Flat River; and Mrs. Everett E. (Mary) Turley, long time resident of Bonne Terre.

The Evans family moved from Irondale to Bonne Terre shortly before Clara's sixth birthday. One of the first placed the little girl went after arriving in town was the Methodist Sunday School. It was the beginning of a log association. She has been a regular attendant since then and for about the past 30 years she has been teacher of the women's Mizpah Class.

In the days when candidates were qualified to teach school on the basis of their performance in tests, Clara Evans began her teaching career at the age of 15. At this age, now considered to be one of carefree youth, Miss Evans tackled the job of teaching Bonne Terre's first and second grade pupils. When she was still a teenager but with several years of experience, one of her first graders was W. L. Bouchard (editor and publisher of the Lead Belt News), who remembers Miss Evans as an excellent teacher.

The frame school where she taught was located in the area later known as the old ball park and now the Huff Court neighborhood. All the elementary grades were housed in the building and four teachers comprised the faculty for the eight grades. They were the superintendent, Mr. Haverstick; Mayme Thomas, who later became Mrs. Robert Moran, wife of the founder of the Moran Mill; Mary Jennings who married W. H. Andrews, furniture dealer and leading Bonne Terre businessman; and Clara Evans, who became the wife of Dr. A. L. Evans on June 2, 1902.

While the Central building was under construction, fire destroyed the frame school. Mrs. Evans recalls that classes were in progress that day when Mr. Haverstick announced the building was burning. The first and second grade pupils listened to their teacher's instructions and marched calmly out of the building with Miss Evans. During the intervening time of the fire and the completion of the new building, classes were held in quarters made available at the Catholic School.

The newly completed Central Building was occupied in the fall of 1898 and more teachers were hired. One of the staff was Miss Nankie Woodside, sister of the late Mrs. W. B. Massey of Bonne Terre. Following an administrative hassle which developed shortly after the new school was opened, Mayme Thomas took a job in DeSoto, Mary Jennings quit and Clara Evans accepted teaching assignment in Desloge.

Not long after this, Clara Evans quit teaching to devote her time to being homemaker and wife to Dr. Evans. Her interest in the schools and the children of the community continued, however, and Mrs. Evans was a prime mover int he organization of the Parent-Teachers Association and the establishment of a school lunchroom where children could get nourishing food at nominal cost.

The concern which Dr. Evans and his wife shared for the underprivileged was expressed throughout the years by their anonymous generosity, particularly to children they believed to be needy and deserving of help.

Dr. Evans opened his office in Bonne Terre upon completion of his medical training at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis in the year 1900. The office on East School where he hung out his shingle was the one in which he remained throughout his 58 years of practice. An epidemic of small pox was raging at the time and the young doctor was hired by the county (at something like $5 a day) to make arrangements for the isolation and treatment of the disease victims. Before the epidemic subsided, some 600 persons contracted small pox. Patients were removed to a place of isolation near South Big River, between Bonne Terre and Desloge. There were light to moderate cases along with serious and hopeless ones. There was such a fear of contagion that most of the dead were moved from the "pest house" to a nearby burial ground. The place is one now believed to be part of the Valley Dolomite property.

After seeing all this misery and even contracting a light case of small pox himself, it is no wonder that Dr. Evans later became known as almost a crusader for vaccination and immunization against infectious disease. Dr. Evans also achieved recognition for his knowledge of infant care and his sensible approach to mankind's common ailments. He followed the advice he gave to others and was able to carry on with his work until just a day or two before he died at the age of 87 on Dec. 28, 1958.

Three children were born to Albert and Clara Evans. The oldest, a daughter named Nellie, is a physical therapist employed by the U. S. Public Health Service at Memphis, Tenn. A son, John Lowell Evans, lives in Kirkwood and has a position with the Chevrolet Company, St. Louis. He is married to the former Dorothy Felty and they are parents of a 16 year old son, John S. Evans. Louis, the youngest child born to Dr. and Mrs. Evans, died at the age of 14 in a tragic sledding accident.

An orchard farm, a few miles from Bonne Terre was the place where the Evans family went in their brief periods away from home. For practically all of his 58 years of practice, Dr. Evans stayed within call of his patients. Once, in the early years of 1900, the doctor took his wife and little daughter to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where Dr. Evans attended an international Medical Society meeting. This combined business and pleasure trip was the only vacation Dr. Evans ever took from his professional duties.

In the final analysis, however, it is not the places one has been that determines the richness of experience. Mrs. Evans moves slowly these days in her comfortable home, recovering satisfactorily from the effects of a recent fall. Her mind moves with agility as she recalls events of the past and keeps up with present day happenings. Mrs. Evans at 85 has a rich store of memories. While she has lived in a circumscribed area, there is no way of measuring how much her good deeds have influence on the lives of others.

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Submitted: 01/19/18

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