John J. Evans was a native of Cherokee, Georgia who arrived in Michigan in 1845. His father was a white planter in Georgia and his mother a slave.
When the Georgia legislature adopted a law expelling all free blacks from the state, his father John and his mother with four other children relocated north to Indiana, where they lived until 1846, until his father died.
Evans arrived in Battle Creek and began working as a barber in an old wooden building with only one borrowed barber chair without a cushion or a footstool. However, he was able to grow his business, employing six other barbers and assistants
He also invented and manufactured an insect repellent, the “ Kill ’em Quick” Roach Destroyer. He was called the Booker T. Washington of Michigan.
He was also delegated for the Colored Masonic Lodge convention in 1874 and attended the National Republican Convention as a delegate in 1892 and was vice president of the Young Men’s Republican Club in 1904. He was also a Knight Templar.
Evans was later appointed a state representative to the world’s fair in New Orleans. He died September 13, 1915, at Marshall, MI.
The Martich Collection, Willard Library, Battle Creek