THE MAN BEHIND THE STATUE
ROSS MERLE DILLARD ALPHONS EVANS
Ross Evans (22 December 1898 - 28 December 1985) was the youngest son of Calvin and Ada Virginia Cave Tyler Evans. He was born at Talcott, West Virginia near the Great Bend Tunnel where he lived his entire life. Ross and his wife Berta reared eight children. All of his children received a college education and went on to become responsible, respected citizens.
His grandmother Mariah was part Indian (tribe unknown). She worked as a maid and companion to Dr. James P. Rogers on his plantation at Earlysville, Virginia.
His father Calvin Evans was born into slavery 3 September 1852. In 1869, at the age of 17, Calvin left home for West Virginia. He worked several railroad jobs until he was semi-disabled due to a railroad-related accident. On 4 July 1876, he married Ada Tyler at Ruckersville, Virginia. They eventually settled in Talcott where they purchased a house near the Great Bend Tunnel. After his injury, he and Ada opened the first restaurant in Talcott. To paraphrase a quote from Ross, during the hard times of World War I, his father gave away more meals than he sold thus causing the restaurant to close sometime in 1917. Calvin was a man of strong character whom people of all colors knew, trusted, and respected to the extent that they allowed their children to stay all summer with him and his family.
His mother Ada Tyler Evans was born into slavery 9 August 1858 on a plantation near Ruckersville, Virginia. Her father as a white man. Unfortunately, his name is not known. After her birth, her mother Nellie married Wash Tyler. Ada was a woman of strength and conviction. She cared for eight children, livestock, a garden, and the house while Calvin was away at work all week. She was a devoted Baptist and taught Sunday school for 30 years. She organized the committee to construct the Second Baptist Church at Talcott and raised the most money for that purpose. She was honored by a plaque hanging to this day on the wall of the church. She was called the Mother of the Church.
Ross was a favorite child from birth and he received attention from everyone. His early life was full of outdoor activities including hunting, fishing, or just roaming the surrounding mountains. He started work at an early age and worked a lot of different jobs during that time. When he was fourteen, his father arranged for him to be a camp cook for a deer hunting party on Bald Mountain. This side occupation would continue for most of his working days. He began his railroad career in 1917 as a cook and ended his career 46 years later as a passenger train porter for the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O). He met Berta Mae Barnett during the summer of 1920 and married her the follow year on 7 September 1921 at her family farm at Springfield, Virginia. Berta shared his love of the outdoors and they both spent as much time as possible together in that pursuit. Berta was a midwife in the community helping women deliver children of all colors. At the 1973 C&O annual shareholders meeting, Ross and Berta were guests of honor at the White Sulphur Springs Hotel along with three other employees and their wives representing some 35,000 Chessie system employees for outstanding service to fellow workers and their communities.
Ross, a charter member and Finance Chairman of the Hilldale-Talcott Ruritan Club, spearheaded the fund drive for the John Henry statue and the overlook park above the tunnel. Singer Johnny Cash was one of the first that donated to the project along with then Secretary of State and future West Virginia Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, local bankers, businessmen, school children, and many other donations from the people of all walks of life. The likeness of this statue is of Ross—a hardworking, dedicated, determined, and trustworthy man.