In my last post, I gave some insight into the life of Seth Hill Evitts, my fifth great-grandfather. I was so amazed when I “found” Seth and couldn’t believe that my family had roots in Maryland. I had found records that Seth was born in Annapolis to John and Martha (Woodward) Evitts, so I decided it was time to look into these individuals. Today’s post will give some insight into the life of John Evitts, my sixth great-grandfather.
John Evitts was born in Anne Arundel County, presumably in Annapolis, Maryland in 1725 and was the only son of Joseph Evitts. A 1744 deed indicates that Joseph’s wife is named Sarah Evitts. This could potentially be John’s mother, but I have no records to confirm this. I have not been able to find any records to document the early years of John’s life. I do know, however, that John had two sisters, Martha and Mary.
The earliest record that I have found is a deed dated March 20, 1744. The deed records Joseph Evitts selling, for five shillings, part of Lot 96, on Prince George Street, in Annapolis, Maryland. The deed indicates that both Joseph and John are joiners. An interesting aside on lot #96….this lot is the location of the Sands House. The Sands House is believed to have been built sometime between 1690 and 1700 and is the oldest frame house still standing in Annapolis and possibly in all of Maryland. Archaeological digs have revealed pottery shards that date from the time that Joseph and John Evitts were living at the site. The history of the home that is posted online indicates that Joseph Evitts leased the home for five years and then purchased it from a Dr. Charles Carroll. Deed records that I have found confirm this. It’s pretty amazing to think that one of my ancestors from the eighteenth century lived in a home that is still standing! Once again, proof that you never know what your family research is going to reveal!
According to an ad in the Maryland Gazette on April 22, 1746, “John Hutchinson” was selling Barbados rum at “Mr. Evett’s home”. I am assuming that John Hutchinson was a guest staying in John’s home, but I have no information on him. A deed record dated June 1, 1747 records John purchasing household goods from a Susannah Murray. The items included: three feather beds, six rush bottom chairs, one dozen new pewter plates, half a dozen, old pewter dishes, one [Bavan?], three iron pots, one kettle, one pair bellows, one frying pan, one pair [tongu?], one spitt, and one new spinning wheel. John purchased these items for eight pounds (I’m not sure what the modern day equivalent would be). Some of these items appear to be included in the inventory of John’s estate, meaning that he kept these items for some time.
In 1748, an ad in the Maryland Gazette shows that John was selling the house next door to him “on Prince George’s street near the prison”. This leads me to believe, and the history of the Sands House seems to confirm, that there were several houses on lot #96 at this time.
Sometime before 1750, John married Martha Woodward and their first son, Seth Hill Evitts was born. On August 31, 1752, a deed record indicates that John purchased forty-five acres of land, at the fork of the Patuxent River, for sixty-seven pounds and ten shillings. Based on newspaper articles that I have found, it seems that John and his family did not live on the land that he purchased on the Patuxent River. Maybe he rented out the land or had another use for the property. Another Maryland Gazette article dated April 9, 1752, shows an Alvin Hyatt selling West Indian rum at “Mr. Evitt’s in Annapolis.” Since this is the second article announcing the sale of rum, it seems like John Evitts provided a location for some of his friends to sell this libation.
On November 20, 1755, an ad in the Maryland Gazette reads, “John Wilmot has hired, as an Assistant in the Public School of Annapolis, one Mr. Clajou, who was recommended by the Rev. Mr. Addison (with whom he resided for 18 months). Mr. Clajou will also keep an evening School. Apply to him either at the Free School or at Mr. Evitts.” Now we see that John Evitts played some role in the education system within Annapolis. Exactly what role he was playing, is not entirely clear. Between 1751 and 1764, John and Martha had two more sons, Abraham and Woodward. Martha died sometime prior to 1765….perhaps she died in or around the birth of Woodward.
In 1765, John married his second wife, Mary Todds, but apparently that marriage did not last long. An ad published in the Maryland Gazette on July 17, 1766 reads, “Whereas my Wife has lately abscounded from her Home and Family, without any just reason of Complaint, but chiefly owing (as I have just Reason to believe) thro’ the Persuasion and Encouragement of ill Designed Persons who Delight in the Distraction and Pain of Families; Her Behavior and Misconduct as the above Occasion, oblige me to take the following Resolution, viz-To sell all my Household Furniture, as likewise a valuable Negro Woman (I will be writing another post on the history of slavery within our family tree), also, to Let my House and Let for a Term of Years, any Persons inclinable to purchase the above, at private Sale, may be treated with on the Premisses. John Evitt”. Just a couple of weeks later, in a Letter to the Editor, published in the Maryland Gazette on August 7, 1766, John writes, “…to my Wish and Expections…I am not insenseable that many of your Readers are acquainted with my Reason for so doing, and in Justification to my Conduct in the unhappy Difference subsisting between my Wife and me; I am obliged to inform the Public, that I endeavored for a Reconciliation, which has been absolutely refused, with a Return of insulting Language. Finding myself this slighted by my Wife, and insulted by her Friends; I hereby declare to the Public, that from the Date hereof, I will not Pay any Debt of her Contracting; and so by these Present forbid any Persons to Trust her on my Account; As Witness my Hand John Evitts. This is to give notice, that the Subscriber will Let for any Term of Years, to be entered in immediately, his Dwelling House, near the Dock, and will expose to Sale at the Said House on the 30th Day of the Instant August, a Parcel of valuable Household Furniture, to tedious to mention here. J.E.” I really wish I knew the story behind this “failed” marriage. Clearly, Mary Todds did something to upset John Evitts…or was it the other way around? And who were these “ill designed” individuals that encouraged her to leave? It sounds like we had a colonial drama in the family!
The next records I found were dated October 11, 1754 when John Evitts sells the land on the fork of the Patuxent River to Matthew Robertson. There is another gap in the records because the next time I find John Evitts is in 1771. An ad published in the Maryland Gazette on December 12, 1771 reads, “Taafe, Lawrence, AA (Anne Arundel County), advertised that he would open a school at the house of Mr. John Evitts, opposite the prison, on 15th inst. (Dec. 15), for the purpose of teaching children reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. Anyone entrusting him with the car of his children would shortly be informed of the progress the progress the children are making.” Once again we see a connection between John Evitts and education within Annapolis. John Evitts died sometime in 1774.
There you have it! My sixth great-grandfather, John Evitts, was a carpenter and joiner, who allowed his friends to sell rum out of his home as well as allowed children to be educated there. From the records that I have been able to find, it seems to me that John Evitts had a very complex life! I hope that I can find out more about the type of person that John Evitts really was!