HON. DALTON HUGER YANCEY

Source: Florida Historic Dramatic Contemporary, page 34.

HON. DALTON HUGER YANCEY, attorney, legislator, one of the keenest-minded statesmen of the early days of Florida's growth and one of the men influential in the forming of Lake County, was born in Greenville, South Carolina on February 13, 1845. He was the second son of William Lowndes and Caroline (Earle) Yancey.

The Yancey family first made its appearance in America in 1642 in the person of four brothers, Charles, William, Joel and Robert. They were natives of Wales, and they and their families came to this country in the company of Sir William Berkeley. Settling in Virginia, they prospered and acquired plantations along the James River. Lewis Davis Yancey, a son of one of these pioneer settlers married Mildred Kavanaugh. They removed to Culpeper County, Virginia and one of their sons, James Yancey, served in the Revolutionary War. He later moved to the western part of South Carolina, and there married a Miss Cudworth of Charleston. James Yancey was the father of one son, Benjamin, who married a daughter of Colonel William Bird of Warren County, Georgia. To them were born two sons, William Lowndes and Benjamin Cudworth, the former of whom was the father of Dalton Huger Yancey. He married Caroline Earle, and their other children, in addition to the subject of this sketch, were Benjamin Cunningham, William Earle, Goodloe H., and Mary. William Lowndes Yancey sought a career in the law and in public life. He served two terms in the United States Congress as a representative of his district in Alabama and in 1861 was appointed by President Jefferson Davis as head of the special commission to the European Courts of England and France to gain recognition for the government of the Confederacy. He returned from Europe in 1862 and was elected to the Confederate Senate. He died the following year while still serving in this office.

His son Dalton early followed the trend of the father's interests. He was educated at the following schools according to a record made by him for his family. In 1856, at Oakbowry in 1857-1858, in Carolina school at Slabtown, part of 1858, 1859 and 1860, in Montgomery, Alabama, at school to Wilkinson; in the autumn of 1860, attended college at LeGrange, and in the following year entered the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.

While Dalton H. Yancey was completing his education, the war clouds were gathering, and in the spring of 1863 he joined the Confederate States Army and was elected captain of Company K, Seventh Alabama Cavalry, Clayton's Brigade. This brigade performed patrol duty from Pensacola. Florida to the western part of Mississippi. In 1864, Captain Yancey's regiment was transferred to the Forest Brigade and became a unit of the Forest Scouts. With this command, he remained until the end of the war. With it he surrendered at Athens, Georgia in April of 1865.

From May, 1865 to February, 1866, he was at his home in Montgomery, Alabama, and thereafter until July, 1866, was studying law in Athens. This was during the period when the South seemed irrevocably lost - the days of the scalawag and the carpetbagger, and of the Negro who knew not the meaning of his newly won freedom. Such men as Dalton H. Yancey and his brother Benjamin C. were profoundly sensitive to the tragedy of their homeland, and the latter moved to Brazil, South America to make his home. Dalton soon determined to follow him there, and in August of 1866 went to New York, whence he embarked for the South American republic, arriving there on the last day of the year. However, that country seemed to him to him lacking in possibilities, and in favorable living conditions, and he returned to Athens in September of 1868.

He resumed at the same time his interest in the study of law at the University of Georgia where he had taken his degree, under judge Lumpkin, in May of 1866. For the next three years he practiced his profession and concurrently taught school in Stewart County, Georgia.

Following his marriage to Hettie Lenora McCook in October, 1869, he made his home at Cusseta, Georgia for several years. In 1873 he moved to Clayton, .Alabama, where for some time he engaged in sawmill operations in association with his brother-in-law, John L. Harrell.

Removing once again to Chattahoochee County, Georgia, he resumed his practice of law and in 1871 was postmaster of Cottage Mill. Meanwhile his brother Benjamin, the perennial traveler, had returned from South America and was now living in Sumter County, Florida, whence he wrote Dalton glowing letters, depicting wonderful opportunities in the newly developing state and urging him to move there. Accordingly, in 1883, Mr. Yancey left Cusseta with his family in a covered wagon drawn by two mules and accompanied by a horse-drawn carriage. Mrs. McCook accompanied her daughter to Florida and remained there with her for a short time. They visited Benjamin's home in Umatilla while their own home was being built. This was located two miles west of Umatilla and later took the name of St. Clair. There Dalton Yancey farmed, and planted an orange grove which, when full grown, was one of the most beautiful in the State.

Since the country roundabout was prospering and fast filling up with new settlers, the need for a new county administration became apparent. This was made imperative by the distance between towns, and their inaccessibility except by private conveyance. Dalton Yancey was one of the leading spirits in the movement for a new county, and meetings in which he took an active part led to the proposition of erecting a county from Sumter, Orange and Marion counties Thus Lake County was formed, as enacted by the Florida Legislature on May 27, 1887. When the then governor of Florida appointed county officials from among its residents, Dalton H. Yancey became county judge. Bloomfield was at first named the county seat, and the newly appointed jurist moved with his family to that place. After three elections, Tavares superceded Bloomfield as county seat, and the Yancey family then had to move there. At the end of his tenure as judge, he practiced law in Tavares until he was elected State Senator, the first from Lake County to serve in the Florida Legislature. This was in 1889.

During Mr. Yancey's term in the Senate, two of the most bitterly contested political battles ever waged on Florida soil took place. One was the election to his third term of United States Senator Wilkinson Call. After six weeks of political maneuvers and debate, Call was elected, with Dalton H. Yancey leading his forces. The other contest involved the passage of Jacksonville House Bill No. 4. Here Senator Yancey was given most of the credit for the victory and the citizens of Jacksonville showered him with notes of thanks, flowers, and social courtesies.

The family moved to Fort White, Florida, in 1892, and there Mr. Yancey served as superintendent of the phosphate mines owned by General William Bailey. In 1893, he accepted a position as division chief of the Treasury Department, and moved his family to Washington, D. C. He later served as assistant registrar of the United States Treasury, adding honors in a high position in the federal government to the laurels he had won as a Florida legislator. In 1895, he returned to Florida with his family, having been appointed inspector of ports with headquarters at Tampa. In that city, the pioneer settler and statesman made his home until his death.

Dalton Huger Yancey was a charter member of John Darling Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons, and was also a member of Camp Loring, United Confederate Veterans, serving at various times as camp commander and brigade commander. At the time of his death he was living in Tampa, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Theodore Lesley, where his death occurred on August 5, 1925.

On October 14, 1869, Dalton Huger Yancey married, at Cusseta, Georgia, Miss Hettie Lenora McCook the only daughter of W. Wright and Ruhamah (Wilson) Harp McCook. She followed her husband in death at Tampa, Florida on September 17, 1934. Dalton Huger and Hettie Lenora (McCook) Yancey became the parents of eleven children: 1. Ella Bird, who became the wife of John D. Hall. They had one child, Dalton Yancey Hall. 2. Sara Ruhamah, who was married to William Taliaferro Lesley. They were the parents of two children: Mrs. Jarnes E. Montgomery, and Mrs. Eugene Pringle. Mrs. Lesley married, second, Charles Cabiness Martin. 3. Goodloe Earle, who married Miss Marion Bond. They had two children: Mrs. Willard K. Goodney, and Mrs. William Zimmerman Jemison. 4. Carrie May, who married Theodore Lesley. They became the parents of two children: Theodore and Mary Lowndes Lesley. 5. Georgia Florence, who married Livingston Grillon Lesley. Three children were born to their marriage: J. Livingston, Mrs. R. C. Wilson, and Mrs. Judson B. Smith. 6. Dalton Huger, who died in childhood. 7. Mary Lucy, wife of William Grier Hope. They had four children: David, Mrs. Malcolm Rouse, William Grier and Mrs. Peter J. Hovey. 8. Betty Moore, who became the wife of Frank Lavall Green. To them were born four children: William Yancey, Francis Lavall, Mrs. Betty Boulineau, and Lesley Green. 9. Benjamin George. He married Martha Blackwelder, and they had one child, now Mrs. Clarence G. Olsen. Benjamin G. Yancey married, second, Mrs. Ella May Riley. 10. John Rosborough, married first, Charles Eldridge Shepherd. They had two children, Mrs. Carl Saphos and Mrs. Phil England. Mrs. Shepherd married, second, Lewis Bean, and they have one child, William. 11. Lewis Davis, who married Ida Margaret Anderson.

 


 

 

Members of the Florida State Senate gathered on the capitol steps for a group portrait - Tallahassee, Florida (1891)
The man standing in the middle of the door way (top center) is Dalton H. Yancey.

 

Civil War Pension File