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Jesse Evans (1853 – ????) was an outlaw and gunman of the Old West, and leader of the Jesse Evans Gang. He has received some attention due to his disappearance in 1882, after which he was never heard from again.
Early outlaw life
Jesse J. Evans was believed to have been born in Missouri, although some historians believe he was born in Texas. He was half-Cherokee, and a graduate of Washington and Lee College in Virginia. It is unknown as to what caused Evans to go from a promising life to that of an outlaw. It is possibly due to a poor influence within his family structure, as he was arrested with both his mother and his father on June 26, 1871, in Elk City, Kansas, for passing counterfeit money. He was released shortly thereafter, and by 1872 he was in New Mexico.
He began working as a cowboy, employed by several ranches, to include that of John Chisum. After he ended his employment with Chisum, Evans ventured to both Las Cruces and La Mesilla, New Mexico, where he became associated with John Kinney. At the time, Kinney was leading one of the more well known gangs of the New Mexico Territory, called the John Kinney Gang. Evans joined the gang, and over time he and Kinney became close. On the night of December 31, 1875, Kinney, Evans, Pony Diehl, and Jim McDaniels went into Las Cruces. While there the gang members became involved in a disagreement and later a brawl with soldiers of the US Cavalry stationed at Fort Seldon. The outlaws lost the fight, and left, only to return and open fire on the saloon, killing two soldiers and one civilian, and wounding another two soldiers and one civilian.
Forming of his own gang
Kinney had been badly wounded in the earlier fight, and needed to heal. A short time after that night, while Kinney was still healing, Evans and gang member Samual Blanton shot and killed Quirino Fletcher in Las Cruces, for reasons still not known. There was also alleged to have been a third shooter present, a man named Morris, but that is unconfirmed. Evans stood trial for the murder, but was somehow acquitted. It was around this time that Evans broke away from the Kinney Gang to form his own. Several of the Kinney Gang members followed him as members of his new gang, to include Billy Morton, Frank Baker, Jim McDaniels, Buffalo Bill Spawn, Dolly Graham, Tom Hill, Bob Martin, Nicholas Provencio, and Manuel Segovia. Although usually referred as the "Jesse Evans Gang", they referred to themselves as "The Boys". They became involved in numerous acts of robbery and cattle rustling between 1875.
Lincoln County War and after
In late 1877 the gang was hired by the "Murphy-Dolan faction" prior to and eventually during the Lincoln County War, to face off against Billy the Kid and his faction. Despite the fame that Billy the Kid would eventually receive due to the war, by many accounts Evans was the most feared of the two factions. Evans and members of his gang harassed rancher John Tunstall, and on February 18, 1878, Evans, Frank Baker, William Morton, and Tom Hill murdered Tunstall, which ignited the Lincoln County War.
Evans would figure prominently into the range war, often taking the lead on operations against the Lincoln County Regulators. His role is often downplayed, but in most documented accounts, Evans was at the front. In later letters written by Billy the Kid to Governor Lew Wallace, Evans was mentioned, and Billy Bonney even stated in one that he feared being assassinated by Evans. William Morton and Frank Baker were tracked down by the Regulators and killed for the Tunstall murder, and on that same day Evans and Tom Hill were rustling sheep during which Hill was killed and Evans was wounded by the sheep farmer. On April 29, 1878, Evans led a posse that killed Regulator Frank McNab and badly wounded Regulator Ab Saunders.
On April 30, 1878, Seven Rivers Warriors members Tom Green, Charles Marshall, Jim Patterson and John Galvin were killed in Lincoln, and although the Regulators were blamed, that was never proven, and there were feuds going inside the Seven Rivers Warriors at that time. The Regulators reacted by tracking down Manuel Segovia, the Seven Rivers gang member believed responsible for the death of McNab, killing him. Starting on July 15, 1878, Evans and his gang were a main factor in the Battle of Lincoln, which ended in a draw with three dead on the Regulators side, and three dead on the Murphy-Dolan side, along with several wounded.
After the Lincoln War ended, Evans and gang member Billy Campbell killed an attorney named Huston Chapman on February 18, 1879, who was the lawyer hired by Susan McSween on behalf of her husband Alexander McSween, who was killed during the Battle of Lincoln, and the gang was again on the run from lawmen. Texas Rangers caught up to them near Presidio del Norte, in Mexico. In the ensuing gunbattle, Evans shot and killed Ranger George Bingham, while gang member John Gross was wounded by the Rangers, and gang member George Davis was shot and killed by Rangers D.T. Carson and Ed Sieker. Ranger Carson was also shot and wounded. The gang had already lost several other members, killed prior to Presidio while Rangers were pursuing them, to include Dolly Graham. Evans was arrested, tried and sentenced to prison. However, he escaped while on work detail one day, but was recaptured a few months later. Sent to Huntsville Prison, he was released in 1882 and was never seen or heard from again. Where he went and what happened to him is a mystery.
In 1948, probate investigator William V. Morrison was sent from St. Louis, Missouri to Florida to investigate the case of an elderly man attempting to claim his recently deceased brother's land. The deceased man had been Jesse Evans' brother. The man's name was Joe Hines, but during Morrison's interview of Hines, the latter allegedly revealed that he was really Jesse Evans and discussed his part in the Lincoln County War, and his association with Billy the Kid. He revealed that of those involved in that range war, three, including himself, remained alive; the other two were Jim McDaniels (an Evans Gang member) and Billy the Kid. Hines claimed that Billy the Kid was going by the name of Ollie P. Roberts, living in Hico, Texas. With some coaxing, Roberts did talk to Morrison, but eventually his story was discredited by almost all historians. Hines won his case, and was granted his brother's land in Florida. It has been asserted that Hines in fact had been Jesse Evans, but no one has been able to explain why, if Roberts was not Billy the Kid, Hines/Evans pointed Morrison in his direction. Morrison also attempted to track down former Evans Gang member Jim McDaniels, locating him in Round Rock, Texas. McDaniels, along with Severo Gallegos, Martile Able, Jose Montoya, and Bill and Sam Jones, all of whom had known Billy the Kid, signed affidavits claiming to verify that Roberts was in fact Billy the Kid.
- Westcoast Sign Guy (31 May 2006). "Brushy Bill Roberts and Billy the Kid---The Complete Facts". TheSignSyndicate.com.
- Jesse Evans
- Jesse Evans Gang as Enforcers
- Lincoln County War
- Lincoln County War Start to Finish
- Huston Chapman, Attorney for Alex McSween
- Billy the Kid's Cooperation with Lew Wallace, Murder of Huston Chapman
- Chronology of Billy the Kid