Evan  Thomas, Wales to Hilltown, PA

Evan Thomas, Wales to Hilltown, PA

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Original research documenting family history that Evan Sr., wife, Mary, and 4 children arrived from Pembroke Wales by 1720. Settled in Hilltown by 1721; Evan died and buried New Britain Baptist Church cemetery. Death is recorded January 1, 1766 although it may have occurred much earlier. Only known children were Richard, Joseph, Evan, and Diana. He was the first Evan in Hilltown and New Britain. However, there were others in the surrounding areas then and later in New Britain.There is no indication anywhere of any children beyond the four who came from Wales with Evan and Mary. It is very possible that Sarah, his 3rd wife, was the sister of Edward Farmar (see below) who was past childbearing age. This is the culmination of years of research. Please evaluate my conclusions for yourself. After consultations with various genealogical experts and my own research I feel confident his Bucks county death is well established and other details of Evan Sr.'s family are correct.

Evan Thomas, Sr Immigrant Ancestor

  • Wales to Bucks County,
Comparison of marks of Evan of Bucks and Evan of Loudoun 1755, 1757
About Evan Thomas New Britain 1766 burial record.

From "The Thomas Family of Hilltown, Bucks County, Penn" by Edward Matthews 1884: “Lewis Thomas and Evan Thomas, both Welshman, were among the earlier settlers of Hilltown, holding lands in the western portion, near Rieff's corner, and eastward of the village of Telford." Mathews was not only a Thomas descendant but had access to both court house records and private collections as well. In these collection were family bible, land records and family history notes that weren't and still aren't available to the public, especially would never be found in the LDS Library or online. Therefore he had access to a great deal we don't today.  He also had access to a great deal of oral history.  There were only a few generations between him and early Welsh settlers.

Be sure to read the introduction to the above mentioned work for a full understanding of the breadth of his research.    All statements of fact are verified through materials at BUCKS COUNTY historical society or DAR records. Most are posted in the overview section.  There are some documents we can not post because of copyright law.  In addition, in the past we have posted everything and it was misused and abused.

We do wish to thank the librarian at the society for the wonderful research help. We were also able to locate family bible information and some photocopies of original pages through DAR records. These were invaluable in providing family information--birth and death records. These have been in the possession of descendants of Evan's sons. We would not have been able to put it all together without tracing the descendants down several generations.  Most of what we discovered is in the Evan Thomas tree on ancestry.

Evan Thomas was born  c1675-1688 in Wales, probably in the vicinity the first Baptist chapel in Pembrokeshire.

Evan Sr. would have married Mary before 1710 in Wales. She died 1721 in Pennsylvania. He then was married to Elizabeth, briefly, and then Sarah (possibly Farmar) by 1732 as confirmed by two deeds of land sale attached. Sometime after 1738 he married Ann as confirmed by a 1757 land transaction.

He was dismissed to New Britain Baptist Church in 1755 . Edward Mathews had sorted and compiled the church records so was extremely familiar with them. When speaking of Evan Sr Mathews writes that he found a "significant" entry for Evan Thomas’  death in New Britain Baptist Church records for Jan. 1 1766. Even though it was ten years after Evan sold his property he would be able to determine it was senior because Evan Thomas Jr was always referred to as Evan Thomas Jr in these records. The church clerk was very consistent using the suffix with Thomas family along with all others. Evan jr was never recorded without  junior in church records--not even once. He certainly would have wanted to have the correct Evan recorded as having died. That Evan's Sr death was in Bucks County is confirmed by materials held at BUCKS COUNTY historical society and items at the New Britain Baptist church.  Because Evan Sr  was cut off from communion and voting in 1726, he doesn't appear on 1764 membership list. Even though his full membership was never restored he could be buried there. The intention was not to separate him from God but to encourage him to repent. They are to be forgiven seven times seventy. So he was referred as Brother Evan Thomas in the death record (no junior because this record meant Evan Sr.).

Researchers who believe Evan Sr. was missing from the 1764 membership means he had died or possibility gone to Virginia are almost  certainly misinterpreting what makes one a member of most Baptist churches.   From “Loudoun Discovered, Volume 2, Leesburg and the Old Carolina Road” by Eugene Scheel: “Before the war the neighborhood was known as New Valley be¬cause since 1767 a congregation known as New Valley had worshipped close by. In July of 1767, Elder Joseph Thomas, a Bucks County Pennsylvanian, came to Loudoun for a few days and organized the church. There may have been a place in Bucks County called New Valley, but more likely his home congregation called itself the Valley Meeting. By March of 1771 a house of worship had been built on ground that William Jones in his will had given to the congregation a piece of land Containing one and one half acres whereon the baptist Meeting House is built. Joyning this Plantation. To Joseph Thomas Minister & William Lewis & Thomas George Elders of sd. Meeting to them and their survivors and ministers & elders of sd. Congregation for ever. A person had to attend church regularly to remain a member."  This is still a qualification today.

The Joseph Thomas mentioned above was ordained in NBBC so is continuing the membership practices of that place.  Joseph is also the son of Evan, Sr.  Since this Evan was "cut off" in 1726 from Montgomery Baptist with no record of his having been restored, the obvious interpretation of his missing from the 1764 list is he did not attend church regularly.  He was also quite elderly and could not sign his name in full in 1757 so probably was also infirm.

The lack of references to Evans sr ever being restored to full belonging to the church is the most obvious reason for his not being noted n 1764. However, he could have died earlier, or the list is not perfect, so the clerk just could have made mistake.

It has been determined that Evan Jr died in the spring of 1766 and his death was not entered in the church book. Their records were very sketchy at the time per the historical society. These death dates are from materials also gathered by a paid researcher who went over every mention of junior and senior in Bucks County. She saw no reason to interpret them any way but how we did. She knew of the absence of Evan Sr on the 1764 church list.  Finally May 5, 1766 for the first probate hearing follows the usual practice of probate beginning a couple weeks after death. A very few individuals believe the death record in the church book referred to Evan jr. When one reviews membership lists, deaths, births of various Baptist churchs in the colonies one see the clerks were very precise in describing people's relationships with each other so it was clear that an individual referred by his name with no suffix  was the oldest of that name, hence Evan Thomas, father, is the one who died in 1766. Couldn't be clearer.

No will has been located in Bucks County for Evan, Sr.  It’s very likely that he settled his estate with his children before he died or had  nothing left.  It was not necessary for a will or probate hearing when he died as he no longer held real estate, having sold his farm in 1757 to Edward Mathews. His wife’s signature is just a straight line which indicates age or infirmity, as well. (See attached samples). It seems reasonable that it was sold before he died he because he was obligated to a yearly “quit rent” to the Penns. Plus he may not have been able to farm to pay the quit rent. The property was considered mortgaged or entailed meaning it could not be inherited. Edward Mathews had to pick up this obligation as stated in the 1757 terms of sale.  It was likely he was quite infirm and lived with one of his children or moved to other land that is noted in a 1757, recorded 1767, deed of Robert Heaton.

Children of Evan and Mary:

  • Richard Thomas, born Bet. 1710 - 1716 in Wales; died 1776 in Hilltown, Pennsylvania; married Elizabeth Walton 1736 in Abington Meeting, PA

    • Diana married John Mathews, son of Simon and brother to Edward and Margaret Mathew

    • Evan, Jr. married Margaret Mathews in 1742 in Philadelphia Presbyterian Church. Died   Spring 1766

    • Joseph married Martha Lewis in Philadelphia, Presbyterian Church in 1737. Ordained Baptist  minister 1766

There is no record or mention any other children than these in Bucks County or elsewhere.

Evan's arrival in Hilltown in 1721 is confirmed by biographical information for his son, Joseph
from VA Baptist Register XXXIX: "Joseph Thomas b.1718 Wales, came to Hilltown in 1721 with parents. Joseph baptized by Benjamin Griffith in 1730 in Montgomery Church, Montgomery Co. Pa. Ordained at New Britain in 1766, preached 1750-60". Materials Towards A History of the Baptists by Morgan Edwards

In 1720 the Montgomery (PA) Baptist Church received Evan and Mary Thomas from the Pembrokeshire, Wales Baptist Church. This church was the first Baptist Church in Pembroke--Rhydwilym. Statistics from Table 1 of the Transatlantic Brethren by Samuel Jones shows the only 1720 arrivals to Montgomery Baptist were a man and a woman from Rhydwilym--Evan and Mary. On Rhydwilym’s c1696 church records is an Evan Thomas with wife Joan from Pembrin, County of Cardican (Penbryn, County of Cardigan). This might be the same Evan but this can't be known.

Also there are two Thomas Evan who were baptized in 1704 & 1706 at Rhydwilym—could be he or his father. The church of Rhydwilym had a wide geographical ambit, from mid-Cardigan to Amroth by the sea, from Haverfordwest to Llanllawddog. But after 1700 it began to become more concentrated in the vicinity of the Rhydwilym Chapel; other churches having been established in those areas more
distant.

The early membership at Montgomery and other Pennsylvania Baptist church were monoglot Welshmen. They settled near each other to speak the language and maintain their communities. Most of very first members at Montgomery were from Rhydwilym.

**Montgomery Baptist Church records:**Evan and Mary Thomas received from the Baptist Church Pembrokeshire, Wales 1720

Mary, wife of Evan Thomas died 12//22/1721

Elizabeth, wife of Evan Thomas received Jan. 1724

Died, 10/28/1724 Elizabeth wife of Evan Thomas

1726 Evan Thomas "cut off" for several untruths and oft repeated drunkenness

1755 Evan Thomas dismissed to New Britain Church.

Church records also show Diana, Evan, Jr. & Joseph Thomas, children of Evan Thomas baptized 1730 at Montgomery. Evan Sr  was received in New Britain with his daughter, Diana, and son, Joseph, on October 30th, 1755. There is no record of his having been restored to full membership at either Montgomery or New Britain Church. Hence he is missing from the 1764 list of those members who were considered to actually belong to New Britain Church. One must be careful not to make the same assumption I did at first, in thinking Evan Sr had died because he is not on the membership list. I investigated deeper and found how wrong I was.

There is a circa 1723 record in criminal papers of Evan Thomas and John Lewis witnessing George Wilson, mariner, selling rum to an Indian at the tippling house in Hilltown.

The only Evans, father and son, who had land in earliest Hilltown immigrated to PA 1720 and moved to Hilltown in 1721. During 1720's & 30's Evan owned a great deal of land southeast of the large tract owned by Andreas Van Buskirk. It may be this land about which Mathews was talking--it is not too far from Reiff's Corner, east of Telford and in the western part of the township.

The first Hilltown land record I found for Evan  was in 1724 on the southeast side of land Andreas Van Buskirk sold to Bernard Young. Young's and Evan's property in 1730 was divided by the "Great Road", today the Hilltown Pike. The general location of this property appears to be in the southwestern part of the town east of Chalfont Road, south of Hilltown Pike and west of Callowhill Road. Certainly, this could be land he purchased in 1721.

He was deeded 200 acres where he was already living in this area from Edward Farmer and William Lowther in 1729. This property is on or near the Hilltown/New Britain border and is described only as being in Bucks County. Although one tract is known to have adjoined Van Buskirk, William Thomas, and John Humphrey and the other adjoined land of said Evan on the northwest side and was said to already be in his possession.

1732 Evan Sr., and Sarah (wife) Thomas sold property in Hilltown to John Lewis near Frets Mill. At the time of the sale the record described him as Evan Thomas, yeoman, Hilltown. This property along with above mentioned one totaling 200 acres was bought for 10 shillings from Edward Farmar/Farmer and William Lowther in 1729. In 1738 Evan Sr. and Sarah passed by contract the 2nd 100 acres acquired in 1729 to Evan Jr. It does appear that the majority of the land that was originally shown as belonging to the Evans on the 1876 map attached eventually belonged to Evan, Jr. probably as gifts. Although there is a piece on the northeastern end that may have stayed in Sr. possession a while.

No marriage record or death date has been found for Sarah. Nor is there any evidence documentary or circumstantial that she and Evan had any children. Nothing more is known about her, although it is possible that she was connected to either the Farmar or Lowther family. Edward Farmar did have a sister named Sarah, who would have about Evan's age.

My theory is Evan badly needed a wife in the1720's.  Sarah Farmar had been orphaned as a young girl and left in the care of her much older siblings. She had not married and needed a husband and Evan needed someone to care for his minor children. The land which Evan later sold at a big profit was her dowry that encouraged Evan to marry an older woman beyond the age of childbearing. Hence no children.

When property is sold for such an undervalued price as the above property was it is often because there is a relationship by marriage of some sort between the two parties to the sale. It was actually deeded to Evan for a yearly quit rent of 10 shillings--part of the original warrant to Farmar and Lowther from William Penn--so essentially they gave him the land. William Lowther was part of the Abington Monthly Meeting at the time Richard Thomas, Evan Sr's son, and Elizabeth Walton were married there. This could have been the link between the families.

Another 150 acre tract of land in New Britain was warranted in 1734 by Evan Thomas Sr. The northeasterly border began at the Green Hill School House on Callowhill Rd southwest 201 perches, then southeasterly for almost a mile to Ferry Road. In 1757 this piece of land was sold to Edward Mathew, son of Simon, brother-in-law to two of Evan's children. Edward Mathews, author, wrote a piece first published in the Doylestown Democrat in 1800's about this property that was then known as the Sliffer Homestead that on the attached map of New Britain would be the J. Funk property.

Whether Evan had ever lived on this land is not known. In 1745 he is still considered of Hilltown according to court records. He was also Hilltown overseer of roads then. In 1754 he was in charge of building a road through his New Britain property.  It is possible he just farmed the land, remaining on an original purchase in Hilltown or he could have lived on land originally belonging to one of his later wives.

As to when he married Ann it would have been after 1738 as Sarah was still alive then. The fact Ann didn't sign 1755 mortgage tells us nothing. Wives typically didn't sign mortgages just deeds of sale.

There was often confusion between EVAN Jr. who married to MARGARET MATHEWS and Evan Sr., except in the church records where it was always distinguished they meant junior by using that suffix.

The following file #400 applies to Evan, Jr. not Sr. who bought property on his father's line in 1734 and mortgaged it in 1749. Evan, Jr. also bought property in Hilltown in '36 and sold it in ’44. (A point of interest Evan, Jr. signed his full name on one document and later used a mark. This could be related to incapacity of some sort as well. He died fairly young and appeared to have some financial hardship.)

Orphan's Court File #400 - Evan Thomas, (junior) Hilltown  Dec 8, 1766 -Widow Margaret. Sons John and Benjamin over 14 petition for guardians. Thomas Jones, Jr. appointed for John, Joseph Lunn for Benjamin. There were other children who were not all minors--papers mention several children, male and female, who are unnamed. There is a very good chance that two of the daughters were Jane and Rebekka. Elisha Thomas b1760, who first appears in Virginia with brother Benjamin is undoubtedly also a son--one of the unnamed minor children mentioned in court records.  His inventory showed 7 chairs, so there may have been 5 children living at home.

Source: Book 1, Orphans Court Records, Bucks Co., Pa. Margaret was ordered by court to sell all land and mansion house to cover debts and expenses for children. The land totaling 115+ acres was purchased by David Mathias. At least 20 additional acres had been sold to Ebezner Owen.

** Researchers must be cognizant that there were many men named Evan Thomas in the Philadelphia area. Certainly several with wives named Ann, Mary and sarah.  ****So do not assume Evan Sr is the one you seek without solid documentation. Not something that fits in some places but all. Marks should match, BUCKS COUNTY or New Britain should be mentioned and children should match. Over and over I have found men with names such James, John, Evan etc with surname Thomas and wives of same name.  Absolutely nothing can be assumed about a single man. The subject of this story died in Bucks County.  Be careful not to confuse him with other Evans in the Philadelphia area or those in nearby states.  All existing documentation points to his never having left Bucks County.    There is nothing in Bucks County that even hints he left after settling there in 1721. Nor is there any sign that he had children beyond those mentioned above. **

For confirmation of the information included above go to sources below.  Unfortunately, when this material was compiled it was not going to be posted so citations or footnotes were.not included.

Sources for Evan Thomas of Hilltown

  • Pennsylvania, Wilcox-Roads-Rhoads, Allen, Blue Bell, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, over a period of years, also by Miss Elma C. Bishop, Berwick, Genealogical Material copied by Mrs. Philip Meridith

  • The Thomas Family of Hilltown, Bucks, Penna by Edward Matthews. link:https://books.google.com/books?id=Pk5WAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP9#v=onepage&q&f=false

  • Bucks County Deed Book; Bucks County Grantor/ Grantee Index

  • History of Montgomery Baptist Church, Edward Mathews

  • "Wandering through Historic Hilltown" Edward Matthews.

  • Va Baptist Register XXXIX

  • Papers read before the Society and other historical papers, Bucks County Historical Society. Louis Ely Thompson. 1937 link:

  • https://archive.org/stream/papersreadbefore07buck/papersreadbefore07buck_djvu.txt

  • Transatlantic Brethren: Rev. Samuel Jones (1735-1814) and His Friends : Baptists in Wales, Pennsylvania, and Beyond (Google eBook)

  • Judy Russell. The Legal Genealogist. legal.genealogist.com

  • Bucks County Probate Records, Orphans' Court Records 1766-1801 vol 1-2

  • The Sliffer Homestead, Edward Mathews, Doyletown Democrat, before1887

  • New Britain Baptist Church Record Book, 1754-

  • Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants, 1694-1742. [Vol.I]

  • A HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTS - Volume - 2 - By Morgan Edwards A.M.

  • Information obtained by visiting Bucks County

  • Bucks County Historical Society collection and library  assistant

  • Family Bible pages available through DAR applications

  • Byberry Waltons, 3rd edition, Norman Walton Swayne


Additional Info
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Created:
7/2/2007
Modified:
5/26/2017
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