Apr 082013

Evanston RoundTable, March 28, 2013

This was my contribution to our annual April Fools’ Day issue. (Leonard F. Slye was Roy Rogers’ real name.) The published story deleted most of the specifics in the fourth and fifth paragraphs to the controversy, which are true.

By Leo F. Slye

With mounting pressure to repudiate John Evans for his role in a notorious Indian massacre years after helping put Evanston on the map, the City Council last week issued a media advisory saying the real namesake of the City was none other than Dale Evans, famed TV cowgirl and wife of the even more famous TV cowboy Roy Rogers.

Ms. Evans, who passed away in 2001, could not be reached for comment, but the advisory pointed out that the actress was also an accomplished, singer, songwriter and best-selling author. From 1951 to 1957 she co-starred with her husband in the TV hit “The Roy Rogers Show.” “As to this other Evans, the one who arrived here in 1855, where is the proof [he also founded the City]?” the advisory asked.

The surprising action was taken shortly after the City Council went into a closed-door emergency session to deliberate, after which white smoke could be seen emanating from the building’s chimney. Neither the Mayor nor any Aldermen could be reached to elaborate on their somewhat-cryptic announcement.

John Evans was previously reputed to have had a stellar career as a physician, hospital administrator and railroad magnate before arriving in the area now known as Evanston. As one of its earliest settlers, he helped found and was the first president of Northwestern University and helped launch the Illinois Republican Party. But the current controversy swirls around his term as governor of the Colorado Territory, a position to which he was appointed by President Lincoln in 1862. During his tenure a 700-man territory militia attacked and destroyed the Sand Creek village of friendly Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes people. In the resulting scandal, he was forced to resign. The village is now a national historic site.

Gov. Evans’ role in the massacre has yet to be determined, but Northwestern students have taken up the cry for a full-fledged investigation, and the school administration recently responded by naming a faculty committee to probe the incident.

A spokesman for the City, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said changing Evanston’s namesake “ends all that messy controversy stuff, and aligns us with a star of radio, stage, screen and television, with possible Hollywood money and movie rights to ensue.”

Meanwhile, a Kickstarter campaign has been launched to bring the stuffed remains of Ms. Evans’ beloved horse Buttermilk to Evanston. Sources say it will be installed, much like the famed dinosaur Sue in the Field Museum, on the main floor of the Morton Civic Center.

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