Yanceys on the Mormon Trail??

 [ email of   11/30/2014 ]

Members of the Adam Yancey Family (most of them of the LDS faith)  have been researching, collecting and distributing information on the family off and on for nearly 100 years now. Interestingly though, in all that work,  one significant item of interest has for the most part eluded virtually all researchers and is that of the question of precisely when the Yanceys came west to the Utah Valley, in which wagon train, and under what circumstances

There is pretty solid evidence that the Yancey ancestors of Adam Yancey first converted to the Mormon faith in early 1844 at the preaching of Levi Stewart in Williamson County Illinois  (Southern Illinois).   There is evidence to believe that the Yanceys were part of the Campbellite movement – as were various LDS converts including people like Sidney Rigdon.  Many of the LDS converts “gathered to the city “Nauvoo” in Hancock County.  However it is interesting to note that there are no records of the Yanceys ever living in or even being at Nauvoo. It seems to be noteworthy that the Yanceys were NOT among those that received their “endowments” in the Nauvoo Temple in 1846.  There are no family stories or records of any type indicating that the Yanceys ever met Joseph Smith at Nauvoo or any other place – note however that Smith was assassinate in 1844 the same year the Yanceys had been baptized . Information about precisely when, with whom and how they journeyed West to Utah has been extremely sparse.

There is very solid evidence for the Yanceys being in the Utah Valley in the summer of 1854 living in the area North of Salt Lake around that area that is now Bountiful and Ogden Utah– when many of them received their Patriarchal Blessings at the hand of  Patriarch Isaac Morley.  There is one record that they may have been in the Utah Valley in the fall of 1853. But the one record to attest to this – is one that generates confusion due to some seemingly conflicting evidences – so we cannot take it without some reservation.   The first Mormon wagon trains left Nauvoo in the spring  of 1846 – however due to various hardships – the plan to reach the Rocky Mountains that first year was abandoned and many of the saints congregated in places like Winter Quarters (later called Council Bluff) before travelling on West in the spring of 1847.   The first Mormons arrived in the Salt Lake Valley  on July 24th 1847  (the reason we celebrate pioneer day each year on that date).   The Yanceys are found recorded on the 1850 census still in Williamson County, Illinois  - so they apparently had stayed in that area since their baptism up to that time and were not among the saints that had gathered in Nauvoo and among those that had left Illinois in the late 1840’s.

Most family researchers have just kind of assumed that all the Yanceys travelled together and would have arrived in the Utah Valley as one family group.  That does seem to make sense – though there is at least one exception to that in our specific case of the Yanceys.  Among the Yancey converts besides Hiram John Yancey Sr and family – was the apparent conversion of his sister Matilda (though we don’t really have any record of her baptism – other then inferences that it did take place) .   Matilda Yancey was born in 1803 and information about her has always been rather sparse.  But various family members of the 20th century knew early on that her grave was found in Holden Utah and that her grave marker was the 2nd source/witness for the parents of her and Hiram and their siblings as being one Austin & Myran (or Maria) Yancey. (The first source being the patriarchal blessing of Hiram John Yancey in 1854).   A more recent find in the Deseret News of  February 1875 is a short obituary for her – and interestingly states she came to Utah in 1850 and was actually at Council Bluffs (Winter Quarters) in 1848.   A photo of her and her husband William Stevens can be found here.  It should be noted that Matilda was not the first wife of William Stevens. William Stevens had married his first wife Marinda Thomas in 1827  and they had had no less than 13 children between 1829 and 1848. Marinda was one of the casualties of the extreme conditions at Winter Quarters and she died there in 1848 – one wonders if it was related to the birth of her last child.   It is kind of assumed that Matilda came to Utah with the Stevens – but further research needs to clarify this. William Stevens and Matilda are recorded s being sealed in Salt Lake City  in August of 1852 (there was no temple at this time but sealings were done in certain designated sites) – quite interestingly it seems that same exact day she also stood in as proxy for the sealing of William to deceased Marinda on the same date. One should consider the possibility that William and Matilda may have legally been married before this (possibly even back east) and this was the just the sealing ordinance “binding them together” for eternity.


So Matilda is a clear case of one of the Yanceys coming to Utah as early as 1850. But there is clear evidence that most (it seems all) the other Mormon Yanceys were still in Illinois at this time – based on census records among other things.


In recent years the LDS  church has created a database of  Utah pioneers and the immigrant wagon trains they came across the plains with. In some cases this was an easy compilation - because of some original registers or listings that were compiled of each group. In many other cases - things like journals and diaries have been referenced of those that were members of specific wagon trains.  My own ancestor Patty Bartlett Sessions kept a journal that many church historians have referenced. Life histories of most of my ancestors can be found here.


The church database just referenced of overland travel can be accessed here.


One can enter the name of Yancey or Yancy in the database search option- and see that still after this intensive collection of material concerning those who same across the plains in the early decades – that it is quite surprising that not even a single mention is made of our Yanceys ( which would have consisted of a group of no less than 15 persons * – adults and children) who certainly came across the plains some time between 1850 and 1854.  (* see listing at bottom of this report)

Written accounts of those Mormon pioneers  who made the trip across the plains makes for very interesting reading. To many of us, in our modern world with modern conveniences, the conditions of these overland trips and the specific experiences of these immigrants - may be totally foreign to us - and we may take totally for granted all that we have in our modern world -  that they never enjoyed  as they passed through the difficulties of  this trans continental  journey.  Something as simple as what they used to build fires and cook and keep themselves warm – was no small detail – as most of the plains were devoid of trees or wood for kindling.


One interesting set of written experiences of an 1853 wagon train - is the account of one Elijah Mayhew.    It is interesting for numerous reasons. 

One reason that this account is of interest to me personally is that both ancestors of my Father (The Freestones) and ancestors of my Mother (the Wilsons) were members of this specific company that is described in this account - the  Daniel Miller / John Coolley Company.    The other interesting point is the fact that it starts out citing the rules and regulations of the company. and then goes on to mention every family group that was in the company - ending with a total of 232 persons,57 wagons,  22 horses, 360 cattle, 126 sheep,  & 2 mules (the cattle count includes(apparently)  the oxen that pulled the wagons).  Also of interest are the accounts of meeting unfriendly Indians, hunting of buffalos  and the various day to day details of the trip – that really help in visualizing what this experience was like. 


Though there is not a single mention of the name Yancey or Yancy in this or other accounts of this wagon train. There is one name that is of interest to Yancey researchers  - a name easily missed by the casual reader.  That is the name of one “Gilbert Cox”.  Gilbert Cox was the name of the son-in-law of Hiram John Yancey who had married his daughter Adaline Yancey in 1843 and had about 8 children. BUT of note is the fact that in the original family listing (in the writing of Elijah Mayhew) which seems quite detailed (though not necessarily mentioning all the members of each household) - does NOT mention Gilbert or Adaline Cox. Why that is, makes one wonder. Gilbert is mentioned as being a "Captain of 10" in two places during the journal.  If this was  the same Gilbert Cox who married Adaline Yancey (and I have been unable to find any other Gilbert Cox among the Utah mormons of the 1850's  - one wonders - was his wife and family with him (as one would expect?). Were the other Yanceys somehow part of this caravan - but not mentioned somehow - - that seems highly improbable.  The name of Gilbert Cox on this record - brings up more questions than it answers.


Another key point that many Yancey researchers have often just passed over without noting the significance of -  is the account that Elizabeth (Pratt) Yancey (wife of Hiram J Yancey Sr) is to have died and been buried in Missouri along the trail - at the point that the family was initiating their trip West.  One account even gives the specific place of St Joseph Missouri.  However, most Mormon pioneers began their trek from Nauvoo and later Winter Quarters – and not St Joseph, Missouri.  St Joseph Missouri was one of the major “jumping off points” for those travelling to Oregon and California. This would almost make one believe that the Yanceys may possibly have come across the plains in a non Mormon wagon train – heading to California or Oregon.  This would be an explanation as to why no Yancey records are found on the Mormon wagon train databases.


The subjects herein discussed concerning Yanceys among Mormon pioneers – may generate more questions than it answers.

But in summary – it appears that the Yanceys most probably came to the Utah valley in the fall of 1853. Most of the Yanceys are known to have been in Illinois in 1852 and in Utah in 1854.  Matilda Yancey Stevens, however, came earlier to Utah in 1850.  One Gilbert Cox has been found to be part of the 1853 Daniel & Coolley Company – with this probably being the same Gilbert Cox who had married Adaline Yancey.  Whether the Yanceys were in this same company with Gilbert Cox – or rather instead possibly part of a non Mormon immigrant train that same year is uncertain.



What became of all of these Yanceys once the arrived in the valley?  There are records that various of them received patriarchal blessings, temple sealings and endowments and that a few of them are recorded among members of priesthood Seventy’s quorums.  This would seem to indicate that for a time they were considered worthy and active members.


The ultimate fate of the Yanceys:

As to the fate of Gilbert & Adaline Cox – they appear to have left the Utah Valley some time between 1856 and 1860. Family, church and civil records indicate they traveled back East and are found among R-LDS church members in the Independence area.  There are accounts of Adaline going blind and of her having a pet bird that people remembered.   Sister - Matilda Yancey raised the orphaned children of her husband William Stevens – never having children of her own – and as mentioned is buried in Holden, Utah.  Father - Hiram John Yancey Sr and various of his other children left the Utah Valley about 1858 and went on to California –many of them ultimately traveling to Oregon where they are buried. Hiram John Yancey Jr who had married Harriet Wood – ended up leaving his wife in 1858 – taking with him his oldest boy – about age 6 – while leaving his pregnant wife Harriet in Bountiful. She would later give birth to Adam Yancey – who himself recorded he never even knew that he was a Yancey until about age 14. Hiram Yancey Jr did not follow his father to Oregon – but eventually ended up back East around Independence, Missouri. He also joined with RLDS members while back East.  He died in 1912 and was buried in an unmarked grave. Over 60 years after Hiram J Yancey Jr took his son John and left his wife Harriet – John and his brother Adam would be reunited and would ultimately be buried next to each other in the Groveland, Idaho cemetery.


Click here for various photos and other interesting links


The Yancey Family Tree:


The Yancey Family Tree on



Other Links of possible interest:



The Yanceys as they would have consisted in 1853 when they came to Utah: (years in parenthesis are birth years)


Hiram John Yancey Sr.  ( 1804 age abt 51) - widower

1.     Son - Wiliam Riley Yancey (1825 age abt 28) married

Spouse:  Elizabeth Nelson Yancey
Child: Alonzo T Yancey (1847)
Child: Hiram B Yancey (1849)
Child William H Yancey (1852) (born in Illinois)

2.     Daughter - Adaline Yancey (1827 age abt 26) married

Spouse: Gilbert Cox
Child: Andrew J Cox (1846)
Child: Joseph H Cox (1849)
Child:  Chauncy Cox (1851)
Child:  Parley Pratt Cox (1852) (born in Illinois)

3.     Daughter - Emeline Yancey (1831 age abt 22)  married
Spouse: Thomas Yancey (1st cousin)

4.     Son - Hiram John Yancey Jr (1832 age abt 21)  single)

5.     Son - Jesse P Yancey (1835) age abt 1818 - single

6.     Daughter - Charlotte Yancey (1837 age abt 16) single

7.     Son - Oliver H Yancey (1843 age abt 10)

8.     Daughter  - Elizabeth  Yancey (1846 age abt 7)


Various maps / graphics

Salt Lake City 1860

another thing  I meant to mention in that writeup was that both the Yanceys and  Coxs

seem to have been persons skilled in wagon making, wagon transportation etc. 

There are some references to them "being well off in those days"  - -  I  dont think that means they had a lot of money in the bank - but during this time of much migration west - - Their skills, know how, and possession would have been very valuable. And in many ways they would probably have been less dependent on others in making their way west.

The Yanceys were well known for picking up and moving at a moments notice.  Hiram John Yancey Jr is to have actually crossed the plains multiple times.   One account also says he took a ship (probably from San Francisco - around South America - back to probably New Orleans - to get back East  (sounds like an extreme case of a round trip - but actually wasnt that uncommon)

The Yanceys did do a lot of travelling - - - and maybe with all I have stated here - felt they knew better than many of the Mormon Wagon train companies - and set out instead on their own (or rather - with a select group of their own - and independent of the Mormon Leadership - guiding the mormon wagon  trains) - and maybe thats why we dont find their name on mormon wagon train registers.