I CAME BEFORE C in the full lexicon of railroad identities of the 1840’s through the 1880’s as the Illinois Central had gnawed its way northward up the center of Illinois, Cairo to Dunlieth, now East Dubuque.
Those initials were on everyone’s lips: IC, IC, IC just as CGU had captured the attention of the “top-o-the-state” earlier, a railroad Chicago to Galena to bring out the limitless wealth from the lead mines.
The CGU was simply known as “the Road.” It was one of the few of the hundreds of “roads” that never went broke. It paid dividends. But then its markets, diversified, included eastern Carroll County and Green County, Wisconsin as well as Stephenson and Jo Daviess, all their progress heightened by the rails, one branch or another.
It was just a six hour ride by train, Freeport to Chicago as opposed to the usual two day-plus wagon trek through the marshes, fording rivers and so forth. Freight cars ran in the same time.
In the usual complexity of all railroad organization of the time, the IC would take the tracks from Stephenson County to Galena (and the Mississippi trade) the line for which was completed in 1854.
The horizon to the broader world that went through Dixon, LaSalle, Cairo, St. Louis and beyond. The new day was dawning.
It took a long time. And as beaks came about they were specialized.
Every decade brought some new branch, offshoot, line to add small market depots to all the tracks. These can be found detailed in the latter pages of the Stephenson County History, 1970—too lengthy to print here. Besides that their name was changed at every whim: Legal might have been Liegel or Liegelville but probably Legal. Then in 1886 to 1902 it was a post office—store with a depot because someone recalled that a small creamery was supplied by neighbors with milk, cream, butter and promoted additional patrons to bring contributions, too. The produce couldn’t have been large but back when customer was king—even the railroad stopped.
Above is the earliest known photo of Evarts which was taken in 1891. Seen is the north side of the Evarts Depot. An outdoor toilet stands on the left. The ground is not landscaped and the semaphore is not installed on the depot. John Everts’s elevator is west of the depot. The first section foreman’s house is located to the far right. This photo was taken facing west.
By the late 1870’s it was discovered that instead of using track of other companies, the IC should build their own. This major project was begun in the mid-1880’s when an East Friesian couple, John and Mary Everts sold property in 1886 to the C, M, N RR (Chicago, Madison, Northern Railroad); again in autumn, 1888 east and south of Rock City Road. In 1895 Jacob Molter sold land to the IC on the west side of Rock City Road.
Branches to Madison and Dodgeville greatly expanded and enhanced the markets — “After 1870 the population of Wisconsin increased sixty percent, Minnesota roughly tripled.”
Thus, even the tiniest depot/market had access to a stopping train. (“Stevens” had been the post office, established May, 1889 to July, l906 that later became Evarts.) Details are found in the 1970 history. From then on it became Evarts or Everts, the names of the former landowner.
Many of the emigres changed the spelling of their names on arriving in America!
Those little depots were called the heart of their neighborhood—not only did they arrive and depart from the depot-store but gather there on the off-chance friends or family would be there also.
Passenger trains passed through three times a day. It was only a ten-minute ride to Freeport, costing 30¢ one way so shopping, commuting, a quick get-away was an inexpensive luxury - leave at 11:00 a.m., back at 4:00 p.m.
Commute by horse? Tie the equine to the picket fence or tree in front of the Brookmans (who helped assemble a story of Evarts) and they would feed your horse for 10¢ a day. Walking between Freeport and Evarts? Wave at the train engineer; he’d stop, pick you up and take you either way!
Service was a key word as was the thrift and efficiency of the East Friesians and Lowland Germans. They have been told about earlier in PDQ Me - 1997 - Oct. 1, 8, 15, and 22.
They added and promoted their “milk station,” did business with one another and lived comfortably, made fun in the common way with one another.
Churches organized, school districts formed—they named for local people.
“German” was spoken for years, traditions were kept, new habits made, Festivals incorporating new and old were created. And then in the way of the world, people moved or married away to other areas, Evarts dwindled in size—a map is seen here. The railroad that had given it life and energy was steaming past as iron horses did.
In the history book, 1970, it is listed as a “ghost town” along with others. There were only echoes of the dance hall, the school bell chimed no more except at the Stephenson County Museum. Most of those who recalled were no more except that a MODERN day had come to Evarts, even a future day with the building of Gyro-copters, a contraption made of mere wire, thread, lightest of woods.
In the early 1960’s an entire new technology arrived—repairable televisions. The IC labor shed was utilized as well as the dirt-floor garage to work on RCA, Whirlpool and Olympic TV’s (more initials).
The Carpenter family helped Ron and Fran and their two children, Terri and Ron, start their repair business, repair and new assemblage from scratch. It was challenging especially the new technology, some of which was soon ruled by the government as being “outdated.” That was technology then—and new.
Many rules followed the Gyro-copter, some of which was to be built by the “pilot,” etc. Russ Janssen was among the “prototype” of builders, users, etc. but unfortunately, Russ suffered a fatal accident in 1986. His wife and children carried on the business later. The electronics business turned Evarta from a sleepy little milk station into a high-speed electronics, spot, website. Change takes place in America, even in Ridott Township.
Turn south at Ridott Corners, go under the high railroad bridge, turn left and, ironically, a dead-end road leads you to the remains of Evarta. An American example! EVARTA on the IC