Biography of J. K. P. Yeats

J. K. P. Yeats, who before he reached his majority gave loyal service to the Union in the Civil War, has spent half a century as a practical farmer in Champaign County and his life is closely identified with its welfare and making.

The Yeats family were pioneers in southwestern Champaign County and lived as close neighbors to that great pioneer whose name appears so prominent in this history, Henry Sadorus. Mr. Sadorus often told the children of the Yeats family many interesting experiences of his pioneer life.

J. K. P. Yeats was born in Fountain County, Indiana, and was five years of age when his parents, Zepheniah and Matilda (Kerr) Yeats, came to Champaign County in 1850. His father was a native of Ohio and his mother of Kentucky. During the youth of Mr. Yeats the only school in the neighborhood was one maintained on’ the subscription plan and he learned his lessons in that institution.

He was nineteen years of age when he enlisted toward the close of the war in Company H of the Twenty-third Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He went with other boys from Champaign County to Chicago, and almost immediately after his enlistment went on to Richmond, Virginia, and camped a mile and a half from that city. His company and regiment were in the Fourteenth Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Most of his duty was as guard around Richmond and he remained in the service until July 24, 1865, when he was mustered out and given his honorable discharge.

On August 26, 1867, Mr. Yeats married Elizabeth E. Johnston. She is a native of the Blue Grass State of Kentucky, daughter of Robert and Olivia (Muir) Johnston, also natives of Kentucky. Her parents came to Illinois and settled in Champaign County in 1854, when Elizabeth was a small child. She grew up in this state and gained her education in the Swearingen and the Kirkpatrick schools. After returning from the war Mr. Yeats was employed by Mr. Busey and boarded at the home of Mr. Johnston, and repaid his landlord’s kindness by marrying his Daughter.

After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Yeats located four miles north of St. Joseph, and for six years rented the farm of Harrison Drellinger. Later they moved to Sadorus, where they lived ten years on his father’s farm. This land, comprising 160 acres, had been entered direct from the Government by his father at the price of $1.25 an acre. Mr. and Mrs. Yeats finally bought 160 acres in Stanton Township, and made that their permanent home, and it is a place endeared to them and their children by many grateful associations.

Ten children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Yeats: Clara, Minnie, Carrie, Elmer, Anna, Nellie, Jimmie, Pearl, Carlos and Bernice. The oldest, Clara, died at the age of four months, and the youngest, Bernice, died when two years of age. The other children were well educated in the Baldwin and No. 7 district schools and some of them attended high school. Minnie is now the wife of Charles Martin, a farmer at Lebanon, Indiana, and they have four children, three daughters and one son, Myrtle and Mabel (twins), Vern and Lois. The daughter Carrie is the wife of Lee Dunn, a resident of Champaign, and their five daughters and one son are named Raymond, Wintress, Wilma, Mildred, Olive and Myrtle. The son Elmer is a Stanton Township farmer, and by his marriage to Alta Yeazel has children: Ray, Ralph, Ruby, Russell and Roma. The daughter Anna married Nathan Rudolph, a farmer in Ogden Township, and their children are Jimmie, Hazel and Blanche. Nellie married R. L. Davis, a farmer in St. Joseph Township, and their five children are Beulah, Glen, Pearl, Bernice and Mabel. The son Carlos is a farmer in St. Joseph Township and married Etta Wilson. Pearl married Elmer Bantz, and she died fifteen years ago.

Mr. and Mrs. Yeats have performed a noble part by these children, instilling in them principles of integrity and usefulness, and have the satisfaction of seeing them all well established in life.

Mr. and Mrs. Yeats are regular members of the Methodist Episcopal Church of St. Joseph. In politics he is a Democrat. Through the many years of his active work in Champaign County Mr. Yeats has had the counsel and assistance of a noble wife who has stood by his side, and it is now just half a century since they were married. Six years ago Mr. and Mrs. Yeats left their farm and located in the village of St. Joseph, where he bought a good home on Warren Street, just far enough out to combine the advantages of town and country.

Mr. Yeats has been a witness to the wonderful transformation which has recreated Champaign County from the days of the wilderness. As a boy he frequently saw deer in droves of fifty, and many other wild animals, including catamounts and an occasional panther, which struck terror to an entire neighborhood. Prairie wolves often wandered about the Yeats home and the boy J. K. P. frequently took refuge under a bed when these animals were prowling around the cabin home. As was the case with most of the homes, the Yeats house had its roof secured by weight poles. Not infrequently a heavy wind would blow part of the roof off and the beds underneath would be drenched with rain. Mr. Yeats’ memory goes back to the days when matches were very scarce and cost 10 cents for a box of a dozen. Comparatively few homes had them at all and the common resource for starting a fire was to load a gun with powder and cotton, discharge it, thus igniting the cotton and gradually nurse the fire into a blaze. Iron and steel were exceedingly scarce, and nails were seldom used in building houses or for any other purpose. Thus Mr. Yeats has been one of those who bore the heat and burden of the day in the pioneer development of Champaign County and great honor is due him and to all others who were sharers in this great work.


Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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