B. F. Yantis

Yantis portrait

"Early History of Thurston County, Washington; Together with Biographies and Reminiscences of those Identified with Pioneer Days." Compiled and Edited by Mrs. George E. (Georgiana) Blankenship. Published in Olympia, Washington, 1914. p. 272.


Snow beginning the latter part of October and falling to a depth of fifteen inches, and himself and eight children being forced to subsist on potatoes and dried salmon straight all through the winter months, was the experience of Judge B, F. Yantis and family, when they reached Bush Prairie in 1852.

Starting in the Spring of that year from the old home in Missouri, where, although money might be a little scarce, there was an abundance of the fat of the land for subsistence, travelling all those long, weary months over the old. Oregon trail, leaving his wife and the mother of his children in a lonely grave on the sage brush plains of Idaho, with his motherless child, Fannie, an infant of but three years of age, the prospect awaiting the hardy emigrant when he reached the El Dorado of his dreams seemed cold and forbidding.

The trip, undertaken in company with a number of kinsmen and friends, had been an unusually trying experience. Besides that of Mrs. Yantis, there were many other deaths occurring in the train, owing to the appearance of black measles, a sister, Mrs. Eliza Ostrander, with her children, being among the sufferers. Judge Yantis' oldest daughter, Mrs. W. H. Pullen, with her three-year-old baby in her arms, was obliged, as were all the women and children, to walk across the five miles of portage below The Dalles. This child was ill when the weary march through the hot sun was begun, and grew rapidly worse as the mother plodded along. Before the little boat was reached in which the party was to be brought on down the Columbia, the baby was dead in the distracted mother's arms. That evening a tiny grave was made by the banks of the majestic river and the party were obliged to proceed on their journey.

When the Big Sandy was reached the march was again resumed to the Cowlitz River, where Indian canoes and bateaus were employed to bring the weary emigrants to Cowlitz Landing. Judge Yantis' oxen were so exhausted by the trip across the plains that he left them to be wintered at The Dalles. In the Spring he found that all had perished but one ox. But nothing dismayed, and with the pluck and endurance which was characteristic of the sturdy pioneers, Judge Yantis at once proceeded to take advantage of the opportunity he saw on every hand, for bettering his financial affairs. A homestead was pre-empted out on Bush Prairie, a few miles from where Plum Station now is, and a comfortable home was soon established.

Before the family had lived many months in their new home, another terrible blow was dealt them. The oldest boy,James, became a pony express rider, carrying the mail from Cowlitz Landing to Olympia. One day, being hot and dusty from the riding, he went in swimming in Barnes' Lake, and contracted inflammatory rheumatism, which caused his death within a few days.

After several years spent on the homestead, Judge Yantis moved into Olympia and took a contract for carrying mail and passengers from Cowlitz Landing to Olympia. This was a two days' travel, over what has frequently been described by other pioneers as the "worst roads on earth," but the mail was always delivered with regularity, and the passengers in safety.

While living in Missouri B. F. Yantis was Judge of the Superior Court of Saline County, and after reaching the West served in the first Territorial Legislature. He was an unswerving Democrat and a life-long member of the Presbyterian Church, and was the first Entered Apprentice initiated in Masonry north of the Columbia River. A man of high ideals of honor and justice, Judge Yantis was held in great esteem by his fellow pioneers.

His children were: Mrs. W. H. Pullen, who in later years became Mrs. Richard Wood, and the mother of Oscar and Addie Wood: Sarah, who was made a girl widow when her husband of a few months, was killed at the beginning of the Indian war. It was for the killing of Moses that Chief Lesehi was hung, after peace was declared. Sarah afterwards became the wife of George C. Blankenship, and the mother of George E. and Robert L. Blankenship; James H. Yantis, the lad who died on Bush Prairie; Wm. M., Robert L., John V., Mary, who died in infancy, and Frances L., wife of Capt. J. J. Gilbert. Of this goodly family of sons and daughters the youngest son, John V. is left, the last, leaf on the tree. His living children are George, Annie, Robert, Hope, and Faith.


Submitted to the Washington Bios. Project in July 2007 by Diana Smith. Submitter has no additional information about the person(s) or family mentioned above.