|Jasper P. Evans
with wife Belle and son Thornton. ca. 1900
The Evans Family
Jasper P. Evans, an African-American and decorated Civil War veteran, moved west to find a better life for his children. Wanting to get as far as they could from the racist Southern states, he and his wife left Missouri with their six children and came to the Yakima Valley. In 1896, Jasper claimed 160 acres in Selah for his homestead. The Evans family were some of the first African-Americans to live in the Valley.
As Jasper had hoped, his new home was free from the discrimination he had experienced in the South. He was even able to march in the 1916 Memorial Day Parade, side by side with other Civil War veterans of all types—Union and Confederate, black and white.
Jasper always put his family first. The dreams he had for them led him to the Yakima Valley, where he saw those dreams fulfilled. Ultimately, Jasper had ten children, and many of their descendents have succeeded in making names for themselves worldwide.
One of Jasper Evans' grandsons, Henry Woods, was famous far beyond his hometown of Yakima. The son of Jasper's daughter Delia Mae and John Woods, Henry began boxing at the age of 14. This was in 1929, when he boxed in a Battle Royal competition against four other men at the Central Washington Fairgrounds and won. In 1932, he won the Lightweight Championship of the Northwest at the Eagles' Hall in Yakima. After putting himself through school and graduating, Henry went on to win the Washington and California Lightweight Championships. He was known by the nickname of "Yakima Flash" and was also called "Yakima Negro Pride" and "Yakima's Ghost of Joe Gans" (in reference to the first native-born Black American to win a world title). Throughout his boxing career, which lasted from 1929 until1942, Henry won 115 matches and lost only nine.
Over one hundred years after Jasper P. Evans settled in the Yakima Valley, his great-granddaughter Girthree Laura Evans-Culbertson has returned to piece together her family's history. She has given up a lot to return to her roots, but she does not regret it. "Someone had to come home," Laura says. She is proud of all the information she has found in her research. Many of her relatives never knew their family's whole story, and Laura is trying to gather more information so everyone will know about the achievements of Jasper and his descendants.
Laura feels that her family has produced teachers, school principals, judges, and ambassadors because of Jasper's "pioneer spirit," which he instilled in his children. You can listen to the oral history in which she explains more about her great-grandfather, Jasper P. Evans