Harriet Verena Evans was born in Lancaster, Pa., on April 28, 1782, the daughter of John and Sarah Musser. On May 21, 1807, Harriet married Cadwalader Evans (1762-1841), a former surveyor who went on to a distinguished career in politics, as one of the directors of the Bank of the United States, a promoter of the Schuylkill Canal, and president of the Schuylkill Navigation Company. The couple had nine children, including a set of twins.
The diary of Harriet Verena Evans is an unusual example of a woman's spiritual diary from early national Philadelphia. Beginning on her 46th birthday in 1827, the same day her seventeen year-old son John died, Evans made sporadic entries in her diary for seventeen years, marking birthdays, holidays, special events, and anniversaries of various kinds. Fixated upon praying (or fretting) over her spiritual state and future, Evans continued to mourn over John's loss for many years, remembering him regularly on the date of his birth, death, and burial. She was also particularly prone to composing (or copying) religious poetry, and in sections, the diary verges on a poetical commonplace book. Other entries reveal Evans' concern for her other children, three of whom were students at the University of Pennsylvania, and on July 25, 1832, she made a particularly long entry discussing the arrival of the cholera in Philadelphia.