I just love it when a historical figure combines with a mystery. It sure makes for some interesting reading—and speculating.
Jesse Evans was half-Cherokee and graduated from the Washington and Lee College in Virginia. Why would a college graduate turn into an outlaw? That was my question and there seems to be no clear answer. The only thing historians can figure out is that his family turned him into one.
He was arrested with his mother and father in 1871 in Elk City, Kansas for passing counterfeit money. He was released not long after and wound up the next year in New Mexico Territory where he worked for a while for John Chisum on his ranch.
From there, he drifted and wound up in the John Kinney Gang for a while. He and John became very close. For some reason, they parted ways and Jesse was hired in the Murphy/Dolan faction in the Lincoln County War and fought opposite Billy the Kid’s regulators. Strangely, Jesse Evans was more feared than Billy. He murdered John Tunstall which ignited the powerkeg.
Following the end of the Lincoln County War, Jesse killed an attorney and went on the run from the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers caught up to him and a gang member near Presidio Del Norte in Mexico. Jesse killed a Ranger. They captured him and he was sent to Huntsville. One day during a work detail, he escaped. They recaptured him a few months later and he finished out his sentence.
Jesse was released in 1882….and disappeared. He was never heard from again.
Where he went, what he did from there is still a mystery.
Personally, he made so many enemies that I think someone was waiting for him and killed him. Maybe a Texas Ranger.
However this takes an odd turn…in 1948, 70 years later, Jesse’s brother died and his estate needed settling. A man named Joe Hines appeared, claiming to be Jesse and saying he’d been living in Florida under the alias. He was able to sufficiently prove it to the satisfaction of the court. But was it really true? No one knows.
This whole story of his life is strange to me. How could an educated man with a good start in life end up a murdering outlaw? Does something just snap in his head? And what about his parents? Why did they involve their son in their illegal activities? But still….to go from counterfeiting to killing? Just so strange.
What are your thoughts? I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to someone.