The Ellicott Family can be seen as the First Family of Batavia, and prominent in its early growth and success.
This of course begins with Joseph Ellicott, resident agent of the Holland Land Company and founder of Batavia. But a second generation of the Ellicott family in Batavia also played an important role in carrying the torch in shaping the future of Batavia and Genesee County.
David Ellicott Evans, Joseph’s nephew, followed his uncle’s example in many aspects of his life, most among them professionally and politically. Evans would even go on to fill the very same role as Joseph Ellicott at the Holland Land Company.
David Ellicott Evans was born to Rachel Ellicott and Lewis Evans on March 19, 1788 in Ellicott Upper Mills, Md. He came to Batavia in 1803 at the age of 15 to work for his uncle, Joseph Ellicott, as a clerk for the Holland Land Office.
This position was the beginning of a long familiarity with its operations and details of business. He was then promoted to accounting clerk for the company. During the time which Jacob Otto served as the resident agent of the Holland Land Company in Batavia, Evans was appointed as an associate, though he was more focused on his burgeoning political career.
He had a brief political career, being elected to the State Senate for one term, serving as a member of the council of appointment. Evans later served as a representative to Congress on the Jacksonian ticket in 1826, and was in office for only three months before resigning.
Evans was also heavily involved in the banking field in New York. He attended a banking convention in Albany in 1827, to advocate for a protective tariff.
David eventually took ownership of his uncle Joseph’s mansion on Main Street in Batavia across from the Land Office. He inherited the home from Joseph’s remaining siblings, and would live in the home until his death.
After the death of Jacob Otto, his uncle’s successor, Evans declined a position in government service to become the resident agent at the Batavia office in 1827.
Evans was charged with turning around the company’s fortunes in Western New York, in order to sell off as much of the still available land as possible. He instituted a general plan for the modification of land contracts, which was a relief to many of those who still owed money on land bought from the company. Essentially the policy allowed debtors to enter into a new mortgage structure, if the original mortgage prices exceeded the current prices.
Another part of Evans’s restructure plan revolved around deeds for schools. The new policy allowed for individuals, not just the company, to give land for schools, and then be reimbursed.
He was in that position when settlers and farmers rebelled against the company’s collection policies causing what would be called the “Land Office War” in 1836. He was even forced to fortify the Holland Land Office from possible attack, though it stopped short of the doorstep. During his time as resident agent, Evans sold nearly half of the company’s land in Western New York before its dissolution in 1836. He would officially resign the post the following year.
He then retired from public life to pursue his own business and personal interests.
David Ellicott Evans passed away on May 27, 1850 at the age of 62 and was buried alongside his relatives in the Ellicott and Evans family plot in the Historic Batavia Cemetery. The Town of Evans in Erie County was named in his honor upon its formation in 1821.
Ryan Duffy is executive director of the Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia. “History with the HLOM” column appears twice a month in The Daily News. To read past columns, go to thedailynewsonline.com.