The Evans Family Singers

This episode originally aired on KCPW December 28, 2007.
This episode’s audio file may be found at http://www.utahhumanities.org/BeehiveArchive.htm.
© 2007 Utah Humanities Council

The Script:

On May Day, 1900, two brothers, David and Richard Evans, were killed in a tremendous explosion that rocked the Winter Quarters Number 4 mine near Scofield in Carbon County.  The Evans brothers were only two of two hundred miners who lost their lives in the deadly Winter Quarters blast, but what makes their deaths so poignant is the fact that they had recently begun to achieve local fame as part of their family’s musical performance troupe.

The Evans family immigrated to Utah from their native Wales, where Isaac, David and Richard’s father, had honed his skills as a poet and musician and their mother had developed a reputation as a talented vocalist.  Upon reaching Utah, the Evans family put down roots in Castle Dale, and Isaac and his sons—five in all—worked as coal miners. 

Mining, however, seems to have been just a way to make ends meet for the Evanses.  Their true passion was music.  According to a contemporary observer, the Evans family singers were consummate professionals.  Not only had they won several prestigious local awards for their fine musical talents, the observer noted, but they had the “best orchestra” in the Emery County area.

Such positive reviews of their music make the loss of David and Richard Evans in the Winter Quarters tragedy all the more unfortunate.  Ironically, they appear to have survived a mine explosion eighteen years earlier while still living in Wales.  But they weren’t so lucky in Utah.  The personal impact the brothers’ deaths had on their family is hard to detect from historical sources, but it’s not hard to imagine that it hurt them deeply.  It’s possible to even speculate that their deaths contributed to their father’s passing not even a year later in Castle Dale.

The Rest of the Story:

The Winter Quarters explosion was a tremendous community tragedy.  There are other stories equally as compelling as that of David and Richard Evans.  Nancy Taniguchi, in her book Castle Valley, America, for instance, relates the account of Jack Wilson, who was thrown more than 800 feet into a gulch by the blast.  Miraculously, Wilson survived, though the force of the explosion had sent a huge splinter through his abdomen and the impact of his fall broke his skull.  (Wilson’s three brothers—James, Willie and Alexander—weren’t quite so lucky; they all died in the explosion.)

Another interesting story from the Winter Quarters tragedy involved Tom Pugh, a young miner, who, when he heard the explosion, put his cap over his mouth and ran more than a mile through the pitch-black mine until he finally reached a door to the outside where he promptly fainted.   Pugh lived, but his father didn’t.  Another boy named Willie Davis tried to do as Pugh had done, but died when he dropped his cap trying to help an older miner who had become trapped by falling rubble.

Sources:

See Edward A. Geary, A History of Emery County (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society and Emery County Commission, 1996), 158-159; J. W. Dilley, History of the Scofield Mine Disaster (Provo, Utah: Skelton, 1900); and Nancy J. Taniguchi, Castle Valley, America: Hard Land, Hard-Won Home (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2004), 109.

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4 responses to “The Evans Family Singers

  1. Bruce “Utah” Phillips, the folksinger of the 1950s and 1960s, lived in Utah and wrote a number of songs about the area. One was “Funeral Train,” about the Scofield Mine Disaster.

  2. Their father (Isaac Robert Evans) is my great-great grandfather. I had no idea about their musical success in Utah. Thank you!

  3. Jacob-

    You never know what you’ll find when you delve into Utah history! I’m glad we uncovered a little about the Evans family for you. I think this demonstrates that the history of the state is sprinkled with interesting stories that sometimes are also personally relevant..

    Brandon

  4. Hello,

    I hope you are all doing well. My name is Bill Houskeeper and I am a native of Carbon County Utah and am currently working on a documentary about the Winter Quarters Mine Disaster (A.K.A. The Scofield Mine Disaster.) I would like to get in touch with as many families who had ancestors, or who just have photos, stories, or journals that they would liek to share with me to make sure this story gets told with the integrity it deserves.

    Please feel free to contact me at Outofthedarkproductions@yahoo.com

    Thanks,

    Bill

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