Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Benjamin F. Yantis, 1873-1875
Benjamin Franklin Yantis,
From the Desks of the Central Library Staff
Born Mar. 19, 1807 in Garrard County, Ky., B.F. Yantis emigrated to Missouri in 1835, where he became the Superior Court Judge of Saline County. In 1850 (some sources say 1852) he was part of an overland party to the Oregon country that was an ordeal even by pioneering standards. His wife was included among the several deaths in the group. Judge Yantis ran a stage line to and from points south of Olympia, and in this capacity was frequently the first member of the community to greet new settlers to the town. He was the father-in-law of the previously mentioned Indian War casualty A.B. Moses.
In 1854 he was a member of the 1st session of the Territorial Council (Senate). In the later 1850s Yantis was active in Eastern Washington as part of the “Colville Gold Rush” and even participated in early Idaho Territorial legislative politics. He was also Captain of the civilian militia group, the “Spokane Invincibles” during the Indian War. Returning to Olympia, he served in the 1862 10th Session of the House, and the 1873 4th Biennial Session of the House. Also in 1873 he was the last Territorial Librarian elected by Legislature. Yantis listed his occupation as “W.T. Librarian” in the 1875 census. Yantis’s grandson, George Blankenship, recalled in a 1932 speech:
“My grandfather possessing sufficient political influence to procure the position, which he did not want, turned the office over to me to assist me in procuring what I laughingly refer to as my education, and then proceeded to wash his hands of the matter.”
The Judge died in Feb. 1879. The Yantis name has been part of Thurston County political history for well over a century. WSL has a copy of Psalms and Hymns Adapted to Social, Private and Public Worship in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (1843) inscribed by B.F. Yantis in several places.
[The Territorial Librarian profiles were compiled by Sean Lanksbury, Mary Schaff, Kim Smeenk, and Steve Willis]
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