Biography of Oscar Maxel Yount

Oscar Maxel Yount. The person of this sketch, Oscar Maxel Yount, is perhaps the most wonderful example, everything being taken into consideration, of what a determined will-power can accomplish that the Sunflower State had ever produced. He had been a lawyer and engaged in the active practice of his profession since June 22, 1905. He is a native son of Kansas, and the work he had done in his profession and in civic affairs had brought him a place of special esteem throughout the state and especially in his home community of Galena.

He was not born with a “silver spoon in his mouth,” but was handicapped from birth with an extreme case of near-sightedness of vision which is equally as bad, and probably worse, as that of the immortal Blackstone. Mr. Yount never had but little more than 3 per cent of far-sighted vision according to optometrical measurement, his case being one that puzzles the best eye-specialists in this country. He was born on a farm in Cowley County, Kansas, July 28, 1883, and represents one of the early pioneer families of that section. He was started to school at the age of six years under the most trying circumstances, the teacher neglecting to teach him because he was unable to discern the words on the blackboard in the front of the schoolroom and advising his parents to keep him at home until he was twelve or fourteen years old but he was bent on going to school and his parents did not heed the bad advice but continued to send him. To make the situation still worse, he wore glasses and many of the scholars would call him “Grandpa,” and he was very sensitive and as a result of this occurrance he had numerous fights which invariably resulted in broken glasses, the sum total being $60 spent by his father during his first term at school for glasses. He was untiring, persevering, industrious, ambitious and extremely methodical from his earliest childhood, and when a small schoolboy it was his determination to make the best of his talents and the most of his resources. After graduating from the high school at Arkansas City, Kansas, in 1901, he spent the summer vacation on the Walunt River fishing and earned enough money from the sale of the fish to purchase Blackstone’s Commentaries; subsequently he took up the study of law, first at home, read industriously every authority he could procure for a short time and then entered the office of Hon. John H. Dunn; but the latter soon moved to California, whereupon Mr. Yount entered the office of Norman Barker, where he remained until his admission to the bar June 22, 1906. After his admission to the Kansas Supreme Court he spent a year in the further study of law in Chicago. Mr. Yount is a “self-made man,” having educated himself in the law from his own resources. Although his parents were amply able to send him through any law school in America they relied on the erroneous advice of an eminent eye specialist who was of the opinion that the future lawyer was making a mistake when he attempted to study law, and for that reason he did not receive any financial help from them.

But in the course of a few years Oscar Maxel Yount proved the fallacy of the doctor and today feels the stronger for so doing. He had a photographic memory and but few lawyers read more than Mr. Yount. Besides being a hard and constant student of the law he is also a close student of literature and history. He had no such word as “fail” in his vocabulary and his motto is “Go On.”

He did his first practice in Arkansas City, Kansas, and while there he was the junior member of the law firm of Long, Beekman & Yount. In April, 1906, he located at Florence, Kansas, where he practiced a few months, locating at Cimarron, Kansas, in August of the same year, where he spent six months. He moved to West Mineral, Kansas, and opened a law office November 17, 1908, where he practiced until June 1, 1909, following which he located at Sharon Springs, Kansas, at which place he practiced law until September 26, 1910, on which date he located permanently in Galena, Cherokee County, Kansas. Since that he had been favored with a growing civil and criminal practice. In 1914 he served as city attorney and made the unusual record of being present at every council meeting that year. He is now vice president of the Board of Education of Galena. Mrs. Yount had taught the beginners’ class in the Methodist Sunday School for the last five years. Nobody in Galena is more interested in general educational matters than the subject of this sketch and his estimable wife are. Mr. Yount owned a comfortable home at No. 809 Joplin Street in Galena. He is a republican, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, belongs to the subordinate and Encampment branches of Odd Fellowship, and is a past grand of the Odd Fellows Lodge.

His paternal ancestors, the Younts, came from Germany to South Carolina in colonial days in order to escape the military laws of the Fatherland. Mr. Yount’s grandfather, Peter Francis Yount, was born in Washington County, Indiana, in 1830. He served through the Civil war with an Indiana regiment, enlisting from Washington County in 1862. After the war he was a blacksmith and subsequently a farmer, and in 1876 came out to Cowley County, Kansas, and farmed there until he retired to Arkansas City in 1888. He died at Arkansas City March 10, 1889.

John Wesley Yount, father of the Galena lawyer, was born in Washington County, Indiana, September 17, 1855, and was about twenty-one years of age when the family came out to Kansas and settled on the frontier in Cowley County. He worked as a farmer in that section until 1887, and on March 23d of that year took employment with the Santa Fe Railroad and moved to Arkansas City. He had been in the employ of the Santa Fe ever since (now more than thirty years), and is now one of the oldest men in continuous service. He is a democrat in politics, a member of the Christian Church and belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. John W. Yount married Lovisa Froney Midkiff, who was born in Shelby County, Indiana, August 23, 1863. They had four children: Oscar M., who is the oldest and the subject of this sketch; Louise Ethel, who was born September 15, 1887, and died at the age of twenty-three months; Oral Ray, born August 26, 1890, is employed by the Santa Fe Railway and lives at Arkansas City; Anna Marie, born May 7, 1895, and living at Arkansas City.

Attorney Oscar M. Yount was married at Carthage, Missouri, June 1, 1909, to Miss Pearl Reba Berry, a daughter of Harry Herbert and Agnes E. (Howard) Berry. Her father, who was in the furniture business at Joplin, Missouri, died February 8, 1914. Her mother is living at Seventeenth and Byers Avenne in Joplin. Mr. and Mrs. Yount have two children: Helen Edith was born January 20, 1911, and Kent Elldon was born March 20, 1916, both in Galena, Kansas.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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