Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens
THOMAS YEAKLEY. This biographical memoir has to do with a character of unusual force and eminence, for the late Thomas Yeakley, whose life chapter has been closed by the fate that awaits us all, was for a long lapse of years one of the prominent citizens of Greene county, having come to this section in pioneer times, and he assisted in every way possible in bringing about the transformation of the country from the wild condition found by the first settlers to its latter-day progress and improvement. While he carried on a special line of work in such a manner as to gain a handsome competence for himself, ranking for decades among the most extensive and progressive agriculturists and stock men of this section of the state, he also belonged to that class of representative citizens who promote the public welfare while advancing individual success. There were in him sterling traits which commanded uniform confidence and regard, and his memory is today honored by all who knew him and is enshrined in the hearts of his many friends.
Mr. Yeakley was born in Greene county, Tennessee, November 25, 1809. He was a son of John and Matilda (Grills) Yeakley. John Yeakley was also a native of Greene county, Tennessee, his birth occurring there on November 15, 1809. He was a son of Henry Yeakley, of Pennsylvania Dutch stock. The latter married Susanna McNeece, who was a daughter of Isaac McNeece, a native of Scotland, and -a weaver by trade. As early as 1804 the Yeakley family located in Greene county, Tennessee, and there to Henry Yeakley and wife the following children were born: Samuel, who was a soldier in the War of 1812, and was at the battle of Horseshoe, fought by Gen. Andrew Jackson; Mary, Henry, Isaiah, Elizabeth, Lydia, Ann, George, John, Joseph, Malachi, Jacob and Betsey, all of whom lived to reach manhood and womanhood. Henry Yeakley, father of the above named children, owned and operated a farm, but he was by trade a gunsmith. He had obtained a practical education in the German language, but also spoke intelligent English and was a well informed man in every respect. He died at an advanced age and was buried in the old Quaker church cemetery in Greene county Tennessee. His wife was a little girl when the battle of Brandywine was fought, in Revolutionary times, was near the field and saw the battle, about which she frequently related stirring incidents to her children in after years. She was a Quaker, while Mr. Yeakley was a Lutheran, and both were deeply religious.
John Yeakley, father of the subject of this memoir, was reared on the old homestead in Tennessee and when a young man, learned the blacksmith's trade, which he followed as his main vocation throughout the subsequent years of his active life. He retained until his death an old anvil which his father took with him from Pennsylvania to Tennessee, now one hundred and ten years ago. John Yeakley was well acquainted with Azariah Doty, who lived to be over one hundred and four years old and who was one of General Marion's men during the war for independence. When twenty years, of age Mr. Yeakley married Matilda Grills, in 1829. She, too, was a resident of Greene county, Tennessee. To this union six children were born, namely: Thomas, Henry, Rhoda, Betsey A., Jane and Benjamin, who died when a child. In the fall of 1839.he removed with his family to Missouri and after passing the winter in Polk county, came to Greene county in the spring and settled on eighty acres on which he spent the rest of his life, in west Center township. The journey from Tennessee was made in a small two-horse wagon. The Ozark region was at that time a wild and sparsely settled country, a great portion of which was covered with great forests in which there was an abundance of wild game. Henry Yeakley's farm lay along Big Sac river. This he cleared and improved into a valuable farm, through much industry, and prospered with advancing years, becoming an extensive land owner, and he gave each of his sons a good start in life. His first wife died and he subsequently married Eliza Allen, who also died, and he took for his third wife Margaret L. Cochran, to whom he was married on November 4, 1880.
For many years Mr. Yeakley voted the Whig ticket, having cast his first vote for Andrew Jackson and his last on that ticket for Peter Cooper. In later life he was a Republican. In his religious views he was always a Methodist, and assisted to build the first Methodist church in west Center township, called Yeakley Chapel, and when it burned he gave the land for a new church which he assisted to build and which also took the name of Yeakley Chapel, and he served as steward in this church for a number of years. His last wife also attended this church and was one of the principal teachers in the Sunday school, although she held membership in the Presbyterian church in Lawrence county. During the Civil war Mr. Yeakley remained neutral, and, contrary to the usual custom, was left unmolested, having only two stands of bees stolen, one by the Federal and one by, the Confederate soldiers. But both armies took heavy toll from his neighbors.
Thomas Yeakley, the immediate subject of this sketch, was ten years of age when he accompanied the family from Tennessee to Missouri, and he grew to manhood in Greene county and here spent the rest of his life. A complete biographical sketch of this unusual man's life would be a history of the development and growth of the county. He often recalled the incidents of the journey across the rough country from his native county to this, the trip requiring several weeks. In the wagon were his father, mother, and brothers, Henry and Benjamin, and sister, Rhoda, besides himself. In the party were Henry, Nathan, Ann and Bettie Paulsell, also Daniel Delaney and family, Jonathan Pickering and family. School opportunities in Greene county three-quarters of a century ago were meager and not much in the way of "book learning" could be had, but while young Yeakley did not learn much from text-books he learned how to work in a pioneer environment, and was naturally intelligent and investigating and he not only prospered with advancing years, but became a well-informed man on current topics. On July 17, 1851, he married Elizabeth M. Young, a daughter of George B. and Margaret (Leeper) Young. She was born on August 17, 1834, in Lafayette county, Missouri, and was brought to Greene county when one year old, the family locating in Republic township, where her father entered land from the government and he and his wife died here. He was a prosperous farmer and when he died owned several hundred acres of Greene county land.
Thomas Yeakley devoted his life to agricultural pursuits and was unusually successful, having been a man of great industry, sound judgment and wise foresight. In 1854 he settled on the land where his widow now resides. The place then consisted of but forty acres on the edge of Grand Prairie, and by industry and thrift he added to it until he became owner of about twelve hundred acres of as fine land as the county affords. Through it runs Pond creek and Big Sac river. It is very productive and has been brought up to a high state of cultivation in improvement, all of which improvements our subject himself made and planned, and which do much credit to his intelligence and progressiveness. He carried on general farming and stock raising on an extensive scale and was a leader in his line of endeavor.
Politically, Mr. Yeakley was a Democrat, but never sought to become a public man. He was always interested in the cause of education and assisted to build up fully one-half of the first school houses in his district, in fact, no man ever did more for the locality in which our subject spent the major portion of his long, useful and honored life.
To Thomas Yeakley and wife six children were born, namely: John, who died in early life; James also died young; George, who is a successful and widely known farmer and stock man of the vicinity of Republic, married Celestia J. Redfern, and a full sketch of them is to be found on another page of this work; Henry is deceased; Margaret M. (known to her friends as Maggie), was married on March 22, 1887, to Dr. Edwin B. Robinson, of Bois D'Arc, this county who died several months after their marriage; he was a graduate of the Missouri Medical College of St. Louis, of the class of 1879, and in 1882 was graduated from Bellevue Hospital, New York City, after which he practiced in that institution for three months and then at Bois D'Arc, where he built up a good practice; Mrs. Robinson subsequently became the wife of W. E. Drum, for many years a successful merchant of Bois D'Arc, where he died several years ago and his widow is a resident of Springfield. Rebecca, youngest child of our subject, is deceased.
The mother of these children is a devout member of the Methodist church and is a broad-minded, neighborly and charitably inclined lady who numbers her friends only by the limits of her acquaintance.
During the Civil war Thomas Yeakley had several narrow escapes from death. He did not take active part in the strife, remaining at home as a secret service agent in the employ of the government. He was on several occasions attacked at night and in one encounter was slightly wounded by a bullet which passed through the house in which he was living. Upon being called to the door one night and commanded to light a match, Mr. Yeakley responded by firing at his unwelcome visitors. They retreated, bearing away a badly wounded companion, their trail being marked with blood. That he had frustrated an attempt at murder was shown in subsequent developments. On the day of the battle of Wilson's Creek, August 10, 1861, he visited the battlefield with some of his neighbors, mixed with the soldiers and saw the dead and wounded the next day.
Mr. Yeakley, who was reputed to be one of southwest Missouri's wealthiest and most influential men and who had lived on the same farm for the unusual period of sixty years, was summoned to his eternal rest off May 11, 1914, at the advanced age of eighty-four years. Rev. J. B. Ellis, formerly president of Morrisville College, now living retired at his home in the suburbs of Springfield and for many years a presiding elder in the Methodist Episcopal church, South, in this state, conducted the funeral at Yeakley Chapel, and he had the following to say concerning Mr. Yeakley's religious life and church relations, in part: "Thomas Yeakley united with the Methodist. Episcopal church, South, some years after the Civil War, at a small church a few miles northwest of Republic. About 1875 he set about a parcel of ground four miles south of Bois D'Arc for church and cemetery purposes. A substantial building was erected and he became a charter member of this class. He was a liberal supporter of his own church, and likewise of other churches, having assisted in the erection of many churches in Greene and other counties. He was interested in the general welfare and contributed to various enterprises and benevolences."
Springfield-Greene County Library