James Robert Yates

James Wilson Yates's Family of Crawford County, Indiana

Created in 2001 by Jim Yates with Web Contributions by Ron Yates

The early 1860's were challenging days for families. Only 15 days before Wilson (as the family called him) was born, his brother Benjamin who was 21 months old died. Can you imagine John and Elizabeth Yates having to bury a precious baby and 15 days later having one born? Maybe in a way James Wilson was comfort for them. That would be short lived however for the fires of secession were being fueled and come November of 1861 when President Lincoln called for volunteers, John joined the Union army.

The family had to fend for themselves when John left and ultimately from then on for on July 14th, 1864, John was killed while Sherman was taking the city of Atlanta. Just 6 months before his death their daughter Evaline passed away. The Army didn't send John home to bury his daughter. I have his records from the National Archives and his Muster roll report for January and February of 1864 show him "Present".

James Wilson was only 10 when his father, John, left for the war. He was 13 when his father was killed. I am sure he felt the sting of all those events and also was called upon heavily for the needs of the family since he was the oldest of the boys living. Survive they did, I am sure with much hardship.

James Wilson Yates eventually met his life's companion in the person of Mary Ellen Ott (1859-1939) and on Jan. 1, 1879 they were married and lived in Grantsburg, Indiana. Her dad, Greenberry S. Ott (1832-1907), was an established blacksmith of some reputation in Leavenworth, IN. (10 miles SE of Grantsburg) Some years later his grandson Harry E. Yates (my Father) was to become a blacksmith also. I have always thought probably Dad learned his skills while spending time in Grandpa Ott's shop.

James Wilson and Mary had eight children between the years of 1881 and 1899 and six of them lived to adulthood. (See the Yates Sisters together in 1917 below) I had the privilege of knowing them all to some extent.

James was a farmer but also did other work to make ends meet. According to my cousin, Betty Musso, he was a carpenter and for some years she owned a small desk with a lift up lid that he had made. According to cousin Ruth Landers he also worked on the railroad.

James Wilson Yates (1851-1903) died with smallpox; he was born in Crawford County, Indiana, the third of seven children of John (1825-1864) and Elizabeth (Roberson) Yates (1823-1906).

It was this job on the railroad, according to Ruth Sarles Landers, where he contracted the dreaded disease of smallpox. Of course when he became sick he naturally went home. Then the whole family was exposed to the disease. My father had scars from the disease and so did Aunt Ruby, Betty's mom. Some of the others got it also. Then on September 16th of 1903 he died from the disease. A daughter Nellie also died from the disease and she died first on Jan. 1, 1903.

A story is told of a very brave man who risked his life and the life of his family to help the Yates's during that time. His last name was Blevins. In looking at the Grantsburg cemetery records I have always thought it was probably William Blevins (1867-1954) who helped them due to his age compared to the other Blevins' buried there. The story goes that when he learned of Grandpa's death he told his wife he was going to the Yates's and help the family prepare him for burial. Remember, the family was terribly sick also with smallpox.

He told his wife to bring him some articles and leave them on either side of the creek he would cross to go to the Yates place. The articles were: 1. A change of clothes. 2. Soap. 3. A towel. 4. A box of matches. After he had gone to the house and helped Grandma bathe and dress Grandpa for burial he went back down to the creek, took off his clothes, burned them, took a bath in the creek, and returned to his family. Of course we know these days that would not have been enough to protect them from the germ but he did the best he knew.

I have always been grateful for that kind, good hearted man who helped our family who were in great distress at that time. There was never a report that his family or he ever contracted the disease that I know of. If I ever come to know of any of his descendants I will surely want to express our family gratitude to them. Uncle Arthur, Wilbur and Imogene's dad, was the oldest of the family and so became sort of the head of the household after Grandpa died. He was about 22 yrs old by then. My dad, Harry, was about 15.

Now another example of bravery of a different type. Since the epidemic was so rampant and so many had died no one would come near the family. That included the undertaker. Uncle Arthur and Dad had to bury their own father. Dad said they loaded him into the back of the wagon, took him over to the cemetery west of Grantsburg, and buried him. I never knew if someone else dug the grave for them. I have tried to place myself in their position at that time. A respect fills my being for them upon every remembrance of this wrenching occasion. Because his headstone was drastically leaning and was just a small, low stone we had the gravestone re-set.

It was a privilege two of my cousins and I had the summer of 1997 to visit the site of the Yates farm where this all took place. Wilbur W. Yates, Orville Sarles, and I were taken to the site by the owner Carl Grant (Carl passed away this past year). Carl's father had bought the Yates place while Carl was a boy at home yet. He showed us exactly where the original house stood. Then he showed us a place where a log cabin had stood where the family moved to after Grandpa died in a sort of effort to escape the germ.

I can't describe the almost sacred feeling I had as we stood there where our parents had lived, played, laughed, and cried. I had heard my Aunt Goldie tell how she and her sisters discovered some love letters my Dad had received from a girl. She said Dad chased them all over those hills laughing and threatening. Some of them were older than he and apparently could still outrun him. Those thoughts from memory's lane came back to me.

The family had been moved down the hill to the log cabin for a few nights when one night the house on top of the hill mysteriously burned to the ground. It was always thought someone had torched it in an effort to kill smallpox germs.

I could go on with lots of other history but for now you have the most of the story. I hope you have enjoyed it and I hope our families are spared the hardships of what our forebears endured. These were tough survivors and we are their descendants.

I am proud of my Yates heritage. No, they weren't perfect, neither are we but we are here now to face our lot in life and face it we will with the tenacity they handed down to us.

Respectfully submitted to you by,

Jim Yates,

Son of Harry E. & Georgia (Tingley) Yates,
Grandson of James Wilson & Mary (Ott) Yates,
Great grandson of John & Elizabeth (Roberson) Yates
January 22, 2001.

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