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Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Benjamin F. Yantis, 1873-1875

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 | Comments Off on Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Benjamin F. Yantis, 1873-1875

Bejamin Yantis

Benjamin Yantis

 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]

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Urban East Hicks, 1858

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013 Posted in Articles, State Library Collections, WSL 160 | Comments Off on Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Urban East Hicks, 1858


Urban Hicks

From the Desks of the Central Library Staff

Urban Hicks, the man with the paradoxical name, was born May 14, 1828 in Missouri where he learned the printing trade in the towns of Paris and Hannibal. Coming to Oregon Territory in 1851 as part of the Ruddell Party, he lived in several places before settling in Olympia. Hicks held a variety of local offices, including County Clerk and Assessor. Served with distinction during the Indian War of 1855-1856, rising to the rank of Captain. He was charged with erecting blockhouses for the protection of the settlers during the hostilities. Hicks was a school teacher in what is now Lacey 1856-1857. Appointed as Librarian/Auditor 1858, and later as simply Auditor 1865-1867. During his first term, according to Briahna Taylor, the Library was not Capt. Hicks’ primary concern:

“Financially, Hicks’ tenure as auditor was burdened by a territorial debt from the Indian War. Under the federal Organic Act, counties served as the collector of local and federal taxes. Of those taxes remitted to the federal government, Congress appropriated funds to the territory to finance territorial government operations. But counties faced challenges collecting all taxes owed, thus reducing revenues submitted to the federal government and ultimately allocations to the territory. Hicks faced mounting territorial debt.”

In between his terms as Auditor he published the Vancouver Telegraph, 1861-1862. He returned to Olympia and produced the Washington Democrat, 1864-1865. His editorials bought about accusations from Republicans that he was a Copperhead. Even so, he was sworn in as Territorial Quartermaster General in 1865. After the Civil War he continued to be on the move and working in the newspaper business up and down the Pacific Coast. In later years he lived on Orcas Island and eventually became a resident of the Soldiers Home and Colony in Orting, where he died in March 1905. The family name lives on geographically through Hicks Lake in Thurston County. 

More information can be found in the work Pioneer Reminiscences of Urban E. Hicks.