First Annual Meeting of Evans Home Historical Society, September 18, 2021, draws Abolitionist Descendants back to Oberlin
One hundred sixty-three years—and five days—after African American abolitionist Wilson Bruce Evans joined the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, risking his own liberty to emancipate captured freedom seeker John Price, more than two dozen of his descendants will return to Oberlin. On Saturday, September 18, 2021, at 11 am, they will join residents and other champions of African American history in Oberlin’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Park, across from the house Evans built, where they will celebrate the First Annual Meeting of the Evans Home Historical Society, a nonprofit founded in January 2021.
The Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society will restore for use as a museum and educational resource the sturdy home built by this freeborn carpenter in 1856 for his family when they moved from North Carolina. As a result his defiance, Evans spent three months in the Cuyahoga County Jail awaiting trial for violating the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law; he returned to his home unbowed, and continued harbor in it people seeking escape from enslavement. The Society intends to honor Evans and the efforts of all those who continue to struggle for Black freedom, equality and racial justice. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and named a National Historic Landmark by the National Parks Service in 1997, the house has been unoccupied for the last quarter century. While in need of restoration inside and out, the home is testimony to the longstanding vision of its builder and his descendants who have carefully safeguarded its treasures, including original furniture, photographs and portraits.
On display on September 18 will be plans for the restored Evans Home, envisioned as a focal point and destination for community members, students, and tourists from all over the world who are interested in understanding how Black abolitionists in this small town in the vanguard of the antislavery struggle worked, thought, raised families and stood up for emancipation and African American empowerment. The day’s program will include remarks by Evans descendants Dr. Doris Hughes-Moore and Nina Grooms Lee as well as greetings from the National Park Service and from the Hillsborough Historical Commission in the North Carolina town where Evans was born. Two “Legacy Guardians” will be honored—Oberlin historians Dr. Margaret Christian and Thelma Quinn Smith, both of whom worked with the last resident of the house, Dorothy Inborden Miller, to insure recognition of the historical significance of the building, its contents, and the family.
Oberlin’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Park, holds monuments for the Oberlin-Wellington Rescuers as well as Oberlin’s citizens martyred in John Brown’s Raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859—Evans’ nephew John A. Copeland, and Evans’ brother-in-law Lewis Sheridan Leary.
Members of the public are invited to attend—and to join the Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society as founding members for $10. For more information, please see evanshhs.org or contact [email protected].
Restoring 165-Year-Old Home to Honor Oberlin African American Abolitionist
On Tuesday, July 20, 2021, the newly formed Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society strode a giant step closer toward its goal of opening the Civil War-era home of this African American abolitionist as an historic site and educational resource that honors Evans and the efforts of those who continue the struggle for Black freedom, racial equality and social justice.
After a presentation by Charles Hall from the Cleveland-based firm City Architecture, the City of Oberlin Historic Preservation Commission voted to issue the Evans Home Historical Society a “Certificate of Appropriateness” for plans to rehabilitate the house at 33 East Vine Street. The plans include restoration of a Civil-War era front porch and replacement of the badly deteriorating rear addition with historically appropriate new construction for use as an educational resource with accessible entrance.
Formed in January 2021, the Wilson Bruce Evans Home Historical Society brings together Oberlin residents with interests in African American history and descendants of Wilson Bruce Evans, a free man of color born in North Carolina who moved to Oberlin in 1854, where he built the home that still stands today. According to family lore, the Evans family hid freedom seekers in the basement and attic of the house; in 1858 Wilson Bruce Evans joined in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue securing freedom for self-emancipated John Price. His nephew John Anthony Copeland and his brother-in-law Lewis Sheridan Leary participated in John Brown’s Harpers Ferry uprising.
Evans Home Historical Society Trustee and founder of the Oberlin African American Genealogical and Historical Group (OAAGHG) Phyllis Yarber Hogan recently explained, “I am overjoyed that the Wilson Bruce Evans family home, built by and for African Americans at the forefront in the battle for our freedom, will now stand as a site for all children to learn about the contributions of Black men and women to the history of Oberlin and our entire county.”
Plans for the building and its grounds will be on display at the First Annual Meeting of the Evans Home Historical Society, scheduled for11 am, Saturday, September 18, 2021 at Oberlin’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Park, across the street from the home on East Vine Street (rain location at nearby House of the Lord Fellowship Church at 125 South Pleasant Street. Trustees, including Evans descendants, will celebrate progress on restoring the house. Membership in the Society is open to all.
Founding memberships in the Evans Home Historical Society, priced at $10, are available up to and including the annual meeting. The Evans Home Historical Society is a nonprofit charitable organization and can receive tax-deductible contributions. To join, support, or receive more information, write the Evans Home Historical Society at P.O. Box 284, Oberlin, OH 44074 or email [email protected].