Thomas Evans laid out the village of Evansburg along Breakneck Creek in present-day Butler County in 1838. The village remained small until the Pittsburgh & Western Railroad built a station in 1879. The borough of Evans City, Pa. was incorporated in 1882.
Although the population of Evans City grew each decade through the 1980s, the borough never attracted a cohesive Jewish community like the nearby towns of Beaver Falls, Butler, Ellwood City, New Castle and Rochester. One of the first Jews to settle in Evans City was Barney H. Eber, who immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1890 and brought his wife, Libbie, and their three daughters over in 1895. They ran a dry goods store in the city. Their daughter Sarah Eber married Louis Abels, who was a young merchant in the Fifth Avenue wholesaling district in Pittsburgh and might have met the family through sales calls to Evans City. The Eber family appears to have moved to Pittsburgh by 1920.
The brothers Joseph and David Zeman immigrated to the United States from Lithuania in 1883 and peddled across Pennsylvania before opening the New York Store in Evans City about 1890. During the early 1930s, while Joseph ran the store, his son Bernard worked as a road salesman for a Fifth Avenue wholesaler. After learning about a Jewish merchant in Nanty Glo who had an eligible daughter, Bernard made a sales call on the town and eventually married the young woman, named Dora Donofsky. Bernard and Dora Zeman took over the Evans City store in 1935 and changed the name to Zeman’s.
With their son, Allan Zeman, the family made regular trips to Pittsburgh to visit the Jewish wholesalers, book dealers, butcher and bakers on Fifth Avenue. “Fifth Avenue was probably my first exposure to what might be called a ‘Jewish community,’” Allen Zeman said in a 2007 oral history. Zeman’s remained a fixture in Evans City until Bernard died in 1955 and the family sold the store rather than continue for a third generation.
In addition to making trips into Pittsburgh and supporting Pittsburgh charities, the few Jewish families who lived in Evans City also regularly participated in Jewish social, communal and charitable events in nearby towns, especially in Butler and New Castle.
The Emma Farm Association “fresh air” camp occupied a site north of Evans City in Harmony, Pa., from 1922 until 1972, when it moved to its current facilities in West Virginia. The unrelated Camp Kadimah operated in Evans City from 1937 until 1959.