While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


H. Allen Anderson

EVANS, JOHN F. [SPADE] (1849–1935). John F. (Spade) Evans, pioneer cattleman, was born on May 1, 1849, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. About 1860 he moved with his family to Jefferson, in Marion County, Texas, and later to Parker County. After his father's death in 1861, John quit school and went to work to help support his family. He soon became one of the free-range cowmen of the Northwest Texas frontier. After the Civil War he ran a supply store at Palo Pinto and later traveled for a saddlery house in St. Louis, Missouri. He became associated with such cattlemen as Charles Goodnight and William S. Ikard.qqv In 1872 Evans marketed his first herd at Wichita, Kansas.

In the 1870s he formed a corporation known as J. F. Evans and Company with Judson P. Warner, Joseph Glidden's co-agent for the sale of barbed wire in Texas. In the summer of 1880 they purchased twenty-three sections of land in Donley County from J. A. Reynolds. They then gathered a herd of cattle in Lamar County and moved them west to the Panhandle, along with necessary supplies. At the suggestion of a friend, Dave Cummings, Evans adopted a Spade brand in 1883 and was known thereafter by the nickname Spade. He erected a dugout on Glenwood Creek, but later built a log house on nearby Barton Creek, which he designated as permanent headquarters for his Spade Ranch. Although Evans had his business offices at Clarendon during the 1880s, his wife, Elizabeth (Lizzie), and four children remained at the family home in Sherman throughout the winter months and went out to Clarendon and the ranch during the summer. Furthermore, other business interests downstate took up much of his time, prompting Evans to turn the Spade operations over to resident managers.

Evans helped organize and write the bylaws for the Panhandle Stock Association in 1881 and served as its first president for two years. He also chaired that organization's Protective and Detective Committee, composed of Hank Cresswell, Nick Eaton,qqv Goodnight, and Evans. Backed by the association, the committee was a vibrant force in maintaining law and order on the Panhandle frontier. In 1881 and again in 1883 Evans attended sessions of the Texas legislature in Austin as a lobbyist for the Panhandle cattlemen's interests.

Apparently J. F. Evans and Company was affected by the droughts and blizzards of the late 1880s, for in December 1888 Evans sold his ranch and cattle to Isaac L. Ellwood, who subsequently developed the Renderbrook and Spade operations in the South Plains area. Afterward Evans ran a hardware store in Gainesville and bought cattle and real estate. He was a partner in the Smith, Reed, and Evans firm in Clay County. He also joined the Northwest Texas Cattle Breeders' Association and served, along with C. C. Slaughter, Samuel Burk Burnett, and John N. Simpson, on its twelve-man executive committee. His influence helped bring about cooperation between the Panhandle and Northwest Texas associations.

During the 1920s Evans lived for a time in Lubbock before retiring to a farm four miles east of Altus, Oklahoma, in 1929. On January 11, 1935, he was struck by a car on the highway near his home and apparently killed instantly; a passing motorist found his body and severed leg shortly afterward. He was buried in Altus. At the Texas Centennial celebration in Dallas in 1836, Evans was among the cattlemen portrayed in the Hall of Fame exhibition.

Amarillo Daily News, January 12, 1935. Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). Willie Newbury Lewis, Between Sun and Sod (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1938; rev. ed., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, H. Allen Anderson, "EVANS, JOHN F. [SPADE]," accessed June 02, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fev23.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...