Evan Smith, born in 1856 in Wheeling, West Virginia, moved to Missouri with his parents and siblings pre 1870. Job Smith was a plasterer, first working in Spencer Township, Pike County, and later in Saline Township, Ralls County.
A front-page story in the Monroe City Democrat dated June 30, 1904, described a construction material new to the area, called artificial stone.
Touted as better than its counterpart — natural stone — and cheaper than either brick or stone, artificial stone was expected to be a boom to the construction industry.
The stones — more commonly referred to today as concrete blocks — could be made on the construction site in any shape or size up to 18 inches long by 12 inches wide.
Evan Smith, a Monroe City plasterer turned contractor, purchased a machine in 1904 with which to manufacture the blocks.
The special feature of concrete blocks, the Monroe City Democrat reported, was their hollow cores, which made them fire-proof, frost proof and damp-proof.
“Concrete construction has passed the experimental point and the making of concrete stone is a business that will grow and Mr. Smith has a business that will increase as the years go by,” the Monroe City Democrat reported.
Projects on the horizon in 1904 for Evan Smith:
• A foundation of concrete stone for J.O. Gilson;
• A foundation for a house for Byron McFarland; and
• Erection of three large store rooms at Stoutsville for Rice, Ellis & Henderson.
The special feature of the artificial stones was that they could be molded into various designs.
Born in the East
Evan Smith, born in 1856 in Wheeling, West Virginia, moved to Missouri with his parents and siblings pre 1870. Job Smith was a plasterer, first working in Spencer Township, Pike County, and later in Saline Township, Ralls County. Evan, among the oldest of Job Smith’s large family, followed his father into the trade.
In 1884, Evan married Emma M. Little at Sedalia, and by 1890, they had resettled at Monroe City. In that small Northeast Missouri community they would raise their own family, and Evan Smith would build his reputation as a trustworthy craftsman.
Maddox House hotel
By the turn of the 20th century, Evan had turned his focus away from plastering and toward cement contracting.
Already established in this new field, he was presented with an opportunity to showcase his business in early 1906, following a fire at the Maddox House hotel on Summer (First) street shortly after Valentine’s Day.
The hotel, owned by Mr. and Mrs. T.M. Maddox, was destroyed by a fire, which started in the flue. Friends and family members helped them remove their personal possessions before the fire completely destroyed the frame structure.
Mr. Maddox announced that the structure would be rebuilt as soon as practicable. As plans progressed, he made a vow that the structure would be ready for the annual Monroe City Fair, scheduled for late August.
And thanks to his architect, a contractor and town craftsmen, he was able to keep his word.
Plans for the new hotel were specific: It would be built upon the same site, it would contain 18 rooms, and it would be built of fireproof artificial stone.
W.L. Bond served as architect for the project. Evan Smith got the contract for the stonework. While work was underway, Quincy architect, H. Chatten, stopped by the construction site for an inspection. Chatten told the Monroe City Democrat:
“The finest cement block work I have ever seen is that in the new Maddox House (hotel).”
To finish up the hotel: “Evan Smith is putting in 275 running feet of granitoid walk in the front and around the Maddox House which is nearing completion. Aug. 23, 1906, Monroe City Democrat
While other contractors entered the cement business in Monroe City, Evan Smith continued to garner his share of construction projects.
1912: Evan Smith had a neat two-story residence built for his family.
1913: Evan Smith built a concrete tank for Al Cassidy at Ely, Mo.
1914: The Smooth Bros., from Palmyra were in Palmyra laying brick for one of Evan Smith’s projects.
1915: Contractor Evan Smith did the cement work for the paving and curbing of Winter from Main to Chestnut streets. And Smith received the contract for paving Main Street from the First Baptist Church corner to the Catholic Church corner. The bid was $1.14 per square yard for the paving and 32 cents per lineal foot for the curbing.
1916: Evan Smith laid a cement walk in front of the building occupied by the J.O. McAllister grocery store in Monroe City.
1919: Mr. and Mrs. Evan Smith and other members of the Smith family were to hold a family reunion from Friday until Sunday at the home of their daughter, Mrs. Julius Jackson and family north of Monroe City. The members of the family who were to be present were Mr. and Mrs. Evan and daughter, Miss Margaret of Monroe City Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Smith of Palmyra; Mr. and Mrs. Harry B. Maddox and Mr. and Mrs. Fred W. Smith of Hannibal.
Evan Smith, born in 1856, died Jan. 31, 1924, at the age of 67. Emma Little Smith died in 1927. They were parents to seven children; six of whom lived to adulthood.
Mary Lou Montgomery is a writer, speaker and researcher with a specialty in history. She is the former editor of the Courier-Post.