homepage logo

VStained glass window holds lasting legacy

By Staff | Mar 7, 2019

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary An English immigrant, Mrs. Sarah Evans, nee Simpson, is one of five women named on stained-glass windows at the circa 1901 Picture Rocks United Methodist Church along Laurel Road within the Eastern Lycoming County borough.

PICTURE ROCKS – Two hundred years from now, will research reveal women as adventurous, accepting changes in residences and supportive of family, church and community? Those qualifications seem to personify Sarah Evans, a woman who came to embrace the Picture Rocks area.

Born 1820 in Birmingham, England to Scottish parents John and Ann (Smith) Simpson, she and her husband Richard Evans would come to America. Sailing on the high seas in what today would be considered antiquated ships, the couple arrived in New York City with two daughters.

At the time of their crossing in 1854, daughter Isabella was age ten while her younger sister Olivia was eight. The following year the family was listed as residents of New York City’s 12th Ward. They remained there where the father was a member of the Metropolitan Guard. In 1862 following the break out of the Civil War, Evans became a Corporal with Company D of the 162nd New York Volunteers, where the 45-year-old remained more than three years

Meanwhile, the Evans household was without a provider. By this time, eldest daughter Isabella was sixteen and eligible for work. A few decades later, a census lists her in Hanover, Pennsylvania as a domestic in the household of a lumber merchant.

Upon discharge, Evans rejoined his family, continuing his occupation described as an ornamental painter. Shrouded in time is the when, why and how the decision was made to relocate to Lycoming County and the village of Picture Rocks. There seems to be no members of either the Simpson or Evans family older than this couple in the area where they arrived to be included in the 1870 census.

When members of the Grand Army of the Republic were allotted pensions for service in the Civil War, Richard Evans was among 55 eligible men living in the townships of Wolf, Shrewsbury, and the borough of Picture Rocks. Perhaps while in the war, Evans met one or some of them who described the picturesque area and the industries where he might use his talent as an ornamental painter.

The family were members of the local Methodist congregation. In 1901 when the current building was built on Laurel Road to replace the one destroyed by flooding near the creek, stained glass windows were part of the structure. Five of the windows are specifically dedicated to women, one bearing the name of our subject, Mrs. Sarah Evans. Reasons for the choice eludes us. As Sarah’s death did not occur until 1908, it was not a memorial window. There is no reference to being a Sunday School teacher as was for Mrs. F. R. Dieffenderfer and Reva S. Williams. No indication as donated by family who often covered a window’s cost.

Whatever the reason, it would seem Sarah Evans was a staunch supporter of the church. In addition to the three women previously named, there are also Margaret E. Corson and Dollie Phillips.

The church’s teachings would provide spiritual reinforcement for life’s joys and sorrows. Daughter Olivia wed Henry O. Steele, becoming an invalid following the birth of the first of her six children. In 1891, Sarah was widowed, and in 1906 witnessed the passing of Alvin Eddy Steele, her one-year-old grandson. Marriages of family members would come to include familiar local names such as Little, Lorah, and Eddy. Most would move from the area taking up residences in Berks, Lebanon and Schuylkill Counties.

From Nov. 24 through Dec. 1, services leading up to the church’s 1901 dedication were held two consecutive Sundays with services each evening between them. Among the many committee’s named was the Reception Committee in which was listed Sarah’s 20-year-old granddaughter, E. Isabella Steele. Other recognizable names among the 12 all female group were Maud Artley, Lillian Gordner, Bessie Rodgers, Hattie Sill and Caroline Longbay.

When Sarah died in December 1908, grandson William Henry Steele of Picture Rocks was listed on the death certificate as informant. The attending physician was Dr Wackenhuth, the mortician J. O. Coleman of Hughesville with internment make in nearby Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

Next year marks 200 years since Sarah’s birth. Likely even she could not have predicted her life’s journey from England to New York City and eventually as an estimated 38-year resident of Picture Rocks. As long as the United Methodist Church remains on Laurel Road, so will a stained-glass window be proclaiming the identity of one of its own, Mrs. Sarah Evans.

Worship services are held at the church on Sundays at 11 a.m.