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John Evans (governor) : biography

March 9, 1814 - July 2, 1897

John Evans (March 9, 1814 – July 2, 1897) was a U.S. politician, physician, railroad promoter, Governor of the Territory of Colorado, and namesake of Evanston, Illinois; Evans, Colorado; and Mount Evans, Colorado. He is most noted for being one of the founders of both Northwestern University and the University of Denver.


John Evans was the father-in-law of Samuel Hitt Elbert, the sixth Governor of Colorado Territory from 1873 to 1874. Mount Evans is named in Evans honor, and Mount Elbert is named in honor of his son-in-law.

Denver's Riverside Cemetery]]


Evans was born in Waynesville, Ohio to David Evans and Rachel Burnett. After starting his studies in medicine in Philadelphia at Clermont Academy, he graduated with a degree in medicine from Cincinnati College in 1838. He then moved to Attica, Indiana, where he practiced medicine and helped found the Indiana Central State Hospital in Indianapolis. He was appointed its first superintendent.

He married, first (1838), Hannah Canby (1813–1850) and, second (1853), Margaret P. Gray (1830–1906). Hannah Canby Evans and three of their sons are buried in the old cemetery in Attica. He later moved to Chicago, where he helped found Lakeside Hospital, later named Mercy Hospital, and was responsible for bringing the Sisters of Mercy to staff the new Mercy Hospital, founded the Illinois Medical Society, and taught at Rush Medical College.

His wealth garnered him a fair amount of political power; he founded the Illinois Republican Party and became a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. He sold much of his Chicago holdings prior to a trip to England. While away, the property he sold was lost in the Great Chicago Fire. In 1851 he was one of the group of Methodists who founded Northwestern University, and was elected the first president of its Board of Trustees.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln appointed John Evans the second Governor of the Territory of Colorado on March 31, 1862. Governor Evans and his good friend the Reverend John Chivington founded the Territory's first college, the Colorado Seminary, which later became the University of Denver. In 1864 Governor Evans appointed the Reverend Chivington as Colonel of the Colorado Volunteers and sent him with 800 cavalry troopers to "quiet" the Indians. Chivington and his men knew of the unarmed band of Cheyenne and Arapaho led by Black Kettle, seeking peace talks, camped along Sand Creek in the east central part of the Territory. On November 28, 1864, Colonel Chivington ordered his men to attack the encampment killing about 53 unarmed men and 110 women and children and wounding many more. Most of the dead were mutilated. Governor Evans decorated Chivington and his men for their "valor in subduing the savages" and fought off rumors of an unprovoked massacre. In February 2013, Northwestern University formed a committee to investigate his involvement with the massacre and to determine whether the financial support he gave to the university came from the policies and practices he pursued as governor.

On July 18, 1865, new President Andrew Johnson asked Governor Evans to resign because of his attempt to cover up the Sand Creek Massacre. Evans resigned as Governor, but he remained popular in the Colorado Territory for his perceived toughness in dealing with the "enemies" of the Territory. Dr. Evans continued to serve as the Chairman of the Denver Seminary Board of Trustees until his death on July 2, 1897. Evans was charged for manslaughter in 1899.

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