Papers of Rosalie Caden Evans, ca. 1860-1950 Evans, Rosalie Caden, Papers of 2895

Papers of Rosalie Caden Evans, ca. 1860-1950

A Collection in
The Special Collections Department
Accession Number 2895


Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia 22904-4110
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Special Collections, University of Virginia Library
Accession number
Papers of Rosalie Caden Evans 1860-1950
Physical Characteristics
The papers of Rosalie Caden Evans contain ca. 3850 items (9 Hollinger boxes, ca. 3.8 linear feet) and consist largely of personal correspondence, financial records, legal papers, and journals dating from ca. 1860-1950 (with some items dating from the mid-sixteenth century and to the 1960s).

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

See the University of Virginia Library’s use policy.

Preferred Citation

Papers of Rosalie Caden Evans, Accession #2895, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.

Acquisition Information

The Rosalie Evans collection was presented to the University of Virginia library in several installments, beginning on March 15, 1948. It was a gift of C. Edmonds Allen, III of New York City.

Scope and Content Information

The papers of Rosalie Caden Evans contain ca. 3850 items (9 Hollinger boxes, ca. 3.8 linear feet) and consist largely of personal correspondence, financial records, legal papers, and journals dating from ca. 1860-1950 (with some items dating from the mid-sixteenth century and to the 1960s). Included in this collection is material pertaining to Evans' attempts from 1918 to 1924 to regain control of her hacienda, San Pedro Coxtocan, which was under threat of expropriation by the Mexican government and seizure by local agrarians. The collection also contains records of the extensive legal battle for ownership of the hacienda which arose after Evans was murdered by agrarian revolutionaries in 1924. These legal papers are mostly those of her sister, Daisy Caden Pettus, who acted as executrix of the Evans estate. Also included are typescripts and correspondence concerning the 1926 publication of The Rosalie Evans Letters from Mexico by the Bobbs-Merrill Company. The original letters and journals from which this volume was compiled are to be found within the Evans collection. Other papers of interest include those of George Camp, who acted as overseer of San Pedro Coxtocan both before and after Evans' death, and those of Juan Strathaus, a young German employee of the hacienda who was critically wounded while defending Evans at the time of her murder. The collection also contains some short works of fiction by Rosalie Evans, two research papers (1965 and 1986) on the political and legal ramifications of the expropriation and assassination, and several photographs and newspaper clippings dealing with Rosalie Evans and her struggle to maintain her rights to San Pedro Coxtocan.

Evans was born Rosalie Emma Caden in Galveston, Texas in 1877. A sickly child, she nonetheless valued learning and was an avid reader and fine artist in pen-and-ink. Childhood correspondence is mostly between Evans and her sister, Florence, with whom she was particularly close. In 1896, Rosalie made her first trip to Mexico, where she met Harry Evans, an Englishman who was then manager of the Puebla Bank of London and Mexico. In 1898, she married Evans in Virginia and returned with him to Puebla. The two spent much of their time with Rosalie's sister, Florence, who had also married and settled in Mexico.

When, in 1904, Florence died, Harry Evans resigned from the presidency of the Bank of London and Mexico and purchased San Pedro Coxtocan, a sixteenth century hacienda located within fifty miles of Mexico City. Mr. Evans hoped that the project of restoring the neglected 166-hectare estate would improve Rosalie's spirits after the death of her sister. The couple soon became dedicated to the restoration of the property, and their improvements, including an irrigation system and repairs to the buildings, greatly increased the value of the hacienda. They lived at San Pedro Coxtocan until 1910, when political unrest due to the fall of the Diaz regime forced them to quit their property and move to Mexico City, where they remained for three years. Further political uprisings forced the couple to leave Mexico altogether, abandoning all of their assets and interests in the country.

For the next four years, Mr. and Mrs. Evans travelled in America and Europe, often writing letters to Rosalie's sister Daisy Pettus, until financial troubles compelled them to attempt to regain control of San Pedro Coxtocan. The hacienda was under threat of expropriation by the Mexican government and its fields and buildings were being used by local farmers. The situation required Evans' presence in Mexico City, so Rosalie remained with family in the United States while Harry travelled south to negotiate with the Mexican government. On his second trip to Mexico City, in November of 1917, Harry Evans suddenly became ill and died before Rosalie could reach Mexico. There existed some suspicion that Evans was poisoned by parties hostile to his ownership of San Pedro Coxtocan, but this claim was never firmly established.

Rosalie's letters and journal entries from this period illustrate her great grief at the loss of her husband, but they also indicate her faith in spiritualism and the afterlife. Early journal entries chronicle her attempts to communicate with Harry's ghost through meditation, consulting with mediums, spirit-writing, and the use of a Ouija board. Most records of these attempts were edited out of the published account The Rosalie Evans Letters from Mexico . Evans' journal entries from the time of her husband's death take the form of nightly letters to him, relating the day's events, but also telling of her endeavors to contact him and asking for his spiritual intercession in her daily life. These journals are to be found among the bound volumes at the end of the collection.

A little over a month after Harry's death, Evans resolved to travel to Mexico to continue his attempts to re-establish ownership of the hacienda San Pedro Coxtocan. She left her sister's home in Charleston, South Carolina, in early January, 1918. Correspondence from this time until her death in August, 1924 consists mainly of letters from Rosalie to her sister, Daisy Caden Pettus, describing her struggle to maintain her rights to the property. These are the letters which Pettus published (in greatly condensed format) in 1926. They express Evans' powerful commitment to regaining the hacienda, a cause she considered to be sacred to her husband's memory, and detail her negotiations with the Mexican government, American and British embassies in Mexico City, and local agrarian leaders from the villages surrounding San Pedro Coxtocan.

A dynamic woman, Evans wrote that she "always seemed to win out in a personal interview" in which matters could be discussed rationally; however, she was recorded to have resorted to riding out into her fields, waving a pistol and cracking her whip, in order to drive off agrarian invaders. This was a time of great tension between Rosalie Evans as a landowner and the native members of the agrarian movement, between Evans as a female and the male-dominated culture in which she found herself, and between Evans as a foriegner and the nationalistic forces in the Mexican government. Violence erupted several times over the six years that Evans remained in Mexico; her fields were regularly seized, her workers attacked, her water supply diverted, and her buildings burned. Evans' letters paint a vivid picture of life at San Pedro Coxtocan during this turbulent period. Her struggle to maintain her property rights was one of frustration and hardship. Conversely, it also served as a time of great personal development for Evans as a woman forced to rely only on her strength of character in order to prevail.

In early August 1924, as she was travelling by buggy to her hacienda, Rosalie Evans was ambushed and shot by a group of agrarians who hoped that, on her death, the ownership of her property would revert to local villages. Her driver, Juan Strathaus, was seriously injured in this attack. He survived, however, and was able to draft several statements concerning the circumstances of Evans' murder. These statements, along with other letters and records concerning Strathaus, his role in legal proceedings concerning the Evans case, and his financial situation after being crippled, are grouped together and filed with the financial and legal papers of this collection.

After Evans' death, the struggle to establish control of San Pedro Coxtocan was taken up by her sister, Daisy Caden Pettus, who was named executrix of the Evans estate. Her attempts to claim the hacienda developed into a protracted legal battle with the Mexican government which was not resolved until the late 1940s, when the Evans land was awarded to the local villages of Tianguismanalco, San Mateo, Santa Maria, and Tepeyacac. A small cash settlement, reportedly far less than the market value of the hacienda, was paid to the estate of Rosalie Evans by the Mexican government. The records of lawyers associated with the case are filed among the financial and legal papers of the collection and consist mostly of the correspondence of attorney Francis Price, who worked in the interest of the Evans estate both in America and in Mexico. Other lawyers employed by Mrs. Pettus include Hugh Sinkler, Thomas G. Corcoran, and Salvador M. Cancino.

Also among the financial and legal records in the Evans collection are the papers of George Camp, a Texan who was briefly in the employ of Rosalie Evans and who was later hired by Daisy Pettus to act as administrator of the hacienda San Pedro Coxtocan following Evans' murder. These papers include general payrolls and financial records, and correspondence concerning the political climate around the hacienda, along with reports on the condition of crops, buildings, and property. Also included are Camp's letters to farming supply companies and records of his attempts to cut and sell timber on the Evans/Pettus property. Camp, identified as "Dashiel" in The Rosalie Evans Letters from Mexico , was ultimately fired by Daisy Pettus for his mismanagement and disregard for her interests, and also because she felt that he desired personal ownership of San Pedro Coxtocan. He had been previously dismissed by Rosalie Evans due in large part to the blood-thirstiness with which he defended her hacienda and because of his unwanted sexual advances. Financial records and payrolls for the period 1920-1925, before Camp's term as administrator, are grouped separately among the financial and legal papers under the subheading "Accounts of Hacienda San Pedro Coxtocan." As financial reports during Camp's tenure were often made to Mrs. Pettus and her lawyers, accounts from 1926 on are filed with the general financial and legal papers.

Papers dealing with the 1926 publication of The Rosalie Evans Letters from Mexico have been separated into two folders and are located in Box 8. These papers consist mostly of correspondence between Daisy Pettus and the Bobbs-Merrill Company concerning the terms of their agreement and editorial decisions regarding what should be omitted from the published letters. Also included in the collection are three wire- bound volumes of Evans letters readied for publication. These typescripts are NOT exact copies of the letters from Rosalie Evans to Daisy Pettus found in the correspondence series of this collection. Rather, they reflect the editing and omissions decided upon by Pettus and the Bobbs-Merrill Company.

Photographs and newspaper clippings relevant to the Evans case have been separated into two folders in Box 7. They include pictures which were used as illustrations in The Rosalie Evans Letters from Mexico along with other photographs of Mr. and Mrs. Evans, George Camp, Evans' employees, and views of the hacienda. Articles from both American and Mexican newspapers are among the clippings in the collection. They date from approximately 1924 to 1927, and cover Evans' attempts to hold her property against the Mexican government and the agrarian movement, her subsequent murder, and the legal case which Daisy Pettus pursued after Evans' death.

Also included in this collection are two research papers which deal with the Evans case. The first, a thesis entitled "Mexican Agrarian Reform in the United States," was written by C. E. Allen III while a student at Washington and Lee University in 1965. The second essay, called "Rosalie Evans and the Expropriation of San Pedro Coxtocan," was written by S. M. Volkersz, an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, in 1986. (Also of interest, although not a part of the Evans collection, is a 1990 master's thesis, "Agrarian Politics, Violence, and the Struggle for Social Control in Puebla from 1918 to 1927: The Case of Rosalie Evans," by C. P. Dussaud (UVA). This thesis is part of the University of Virginia library holdings.)

Two short, undated works of fiction, both imaginative adventure stories by Rosalie Evans, are included in the collection. "Antonio," an autograph manuscript, is a fantasy story about a mouse, and the typescript "A Vision of Mitla" is a love story with an Aztec flavor.

Finally, a folder contains oversized material in the Evans collection. This includes three maps of the hacienda San Pedro Coxtocan and its environs and a plan of the irrigation system used on the hacienda. Also included are an oversized Mexican legal document concerning the estate of Rosalie Evans, and an 1853 certificate of American citizenship belonging to Thomas Caden, Rosalie's father.

The Evans collection exists as a valuable resource, not only for the light it sheds on the political situation in Mexico in the early part of this century, but also as an intimate portrait of a woman whose personal convictions caused her to lead an extraordinary life.


Various additions to the Rosalie Caden Evans papers have been reorganized and interfiled in the main accession, #2895. The papers are organized into two main series, Correspondence and Financial and Legal Papers, in which documents are organized chronologically in Boxes 1 through 6. Documents concerning Juan Strathaus and the accounts of the Evans hacienda are to be found at the end of the Financial and Legal series. Photographs, newsclippings, and original fiction and essays are located in Box 7, while Box 8 contains documents concerning the publication of The Rosalie Evans Letters from Mexico . Finally, a series of bound volumes, including the journals of Rosalie Evans, is to be found in Box 9.

Contents List

  • Box 1
    Correspondence 1862-1923 May
    12 folders
  • Box 2
    Correspondence 1923 Jun - 1926, n.d.
    6 folders
Financial and Legal Papers
  • Box 2
    Financial and Legal Papers 1559-1924
    6 folders
  • Box 3
    Financial and Legal Papers 1925-1926 Feb
    13 folders
  • Box 4
    Financial and Legal Papers 1926 Mar - 1938
    14 folders
  • Box 5
    Financial and Legal Papers 1939-1943
    8 folders
  • Box 6
    Financial and Legal Papers 1944-1967, n.d.
    12 folders
  • Box 7
    Financial and Legal Papers: Juan Strathaus 1917-1926
  • Box 7
    Financial and Legal Papers: Accounts of Hacienda San Pedro Coxtocan 1920-1925
    4 folders
  • Oversize Folder
    Certificate of United States Citizenship, Thomas Caden 1853
  • Oversize Folder
    Plan of Irrigation Systems, Haciendas San Pedro Coxtocan, Santa Maria, and San Mateo ca. 1920
  • Oversize Folder
    Mexican Legal Document re: Evans Estate 1927
  • Oversize Folder
    Blueprint Map of Hacienda San Pedro Coxtocan n.d.
  • Oversize Folder
    Blueprint Map of Hacienda San Pedro Coxtocan and Annexes n.d.
  • Oversize Folder
    Map of Hacienda Santa Maria Coxtocan n.d.
Box 7
Photographs ca. 1920s
Box 7
Fiction by Rosalie Evans n.d.
Box 7
Newsclippings re: Evans Case ca. 1924-1927
Box 7
Thesis: "Mexican Agrarian Reform in the United States," C. E. Allen III, Washington and Lee University 1965
Box 7
Essay: "Rosalie Evans and the Expropriation of San Pedro Coxtocan," S. M. Volkersz, University of Virginia 1986
Box 8
Drafts and Correspondence re: Publication of The Rosalie Evans Letters from Mexico (1926) 1924-1947, n.d.
2 folders
Box 8
Bound Volumes: Typescripts of Letters, Rosalie Evans to Daisy Caden Pettus, 1918-1924 1924-1926
3 volumes
Box 9
Bound Volume: Notes re: Caden Estate 1901-1902
Box 9
Bound Volumes: Journals of Rosalie Caden Evans 1886-1920
12 volumes