Yantis Family

Among the members of the ill-fated 1852 wagon train led by Gilmore Hays were Benjamin Franklin Yantis and his family. "Frank" Yantis was born in Kentucky in 1807 and moved to Missouri about 1835. He served as a judge of the Superior Court of Saline County, Missouri. He joined his kinsman and friend, Gilmore Hays, in 1852 on the trek to the promised land of the west.

Near Fort Laramie the train divided into two parties. Yantis elected to join the group who refused to travel on Sunday for religious reasons. His wife, however, became sick with the same bout of measles that had afflicted the other party. As the Yantis family approached Salmon Falls, Idaho, they passed the grave of Gilmore's wife, Naomi Hays. Growing weaker, Ann Yantis requested to be buried next to her friend. And a short time later she was. She left 8 children motherless.

After the rigorous journey, the Yantis family settled on Bush Prairie. Tragedy struck the family again just a few months later. Son James, who was carrying mail between Cowlitz Landing and Olympia as a pony express rider, stopped to swim in Barnes Lake after a particularly hot and dusty ride. He developed an inflammation and died a few days later. He is buried here.

Restless like so many of the other early pioneers, Frank Yantis moved for a brief time to eastern Washington, where he became the first postmaster of Stevens County. On his return to this side of the mountains, he lived in Olympia. With A.B. Rabbeson he had a contract for carrying mail between Cowlitz Landing and Olympia, then a 2 day journey over rough roads. He served in the First Territorial Legislature and in several sessions after that. He died in 1879. Appropriately he is buried here in the Masonic Cemetery as he was the First Entered Apprentice initiated in Masonry north of the Columbia River.

Also buried here is son John V. Yantis who died in 1925. He also served in the Territorial Legislature and for a time was the Olympia City clerk. Frank's daughter Sarah married A. Benton Moses, who was one of the first casualties of the Indian War of 1855-1856. She married secondly George Blankenship. The Blankenships lie nearby.

Frank Yantis' oldest daughter, Marie, was married first to W.H. Pullen. Their first child died in her mother's arms near the Dalles after the arduous journey west. Marie's second husband was Richard Wood, son of Isaac Wood, source of the original name for the Lacey area, Woodland.

The Yantis family has been associated with this area for close to 150 years. After Judge Frank Yantis died in 1879, the Washington Standard made an observation that could apply to the whole family. "Judge Yantis was one of the few patriarchs in our midst, and in going hence, he leaves an impress which the lapse of years will not efface."

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