"Major" Charles Yancey

Biography from: "200 Years of Freemasonry in Buckingham County, Virginia" By Carl Coleman Rosen

Charles Yancey, our worthy Brother who did so much for Masonry in Buckingham County and the State of Virginia, was born 22nd March 1770, in Trinity Parish, Louisa County, Virginia. The son of Rev. Robert Yancey, minister of Trinity Parish Church, Louisa County and Ann Crawford Yancey. Brother Charles Yancey married, 5th April 1791, to Nancy Spencer, daughter of Francis Westbrook Spencer and Mary Horsley Spencer, of Traveler's Rest. At a very young age he removed from Louisa to Buckingham County. Their one child, Mary Chambers Yancey, married John Horsley, who died on a deer hunt at the age of 32. His children were raised by their Grandfather, Brother Major Charles Yancey.

At one time Brother Yancey owned an estate of 26,000 acres. He owned the following homes along the James, Traveler's Rest, Island View (near Manteo), Montevideo near Wingina Station, formally known as Hardwicksville, and owned first by the original Cabell settlers, Yellow Gravel a plantation situated on the James River between Warminster and Wingina. He gave Montevideo to his daughter.

Brother Charles Yancey was initiated on 25th June 1791, in George Lodge No 32, A. F. & A. M., at Warminster, (then Amherst County), two months after George Lodge was chartered. He was raised to a Master Mason an 24th March 1792, and elected Secretary of George Lodge, on 22nd 3une 1792. The Grand Lodge Proceedings show that Brother Charles Yancey and other brethren from George Lodge were granted a Dispensation, and Chartered Buckingham Union Lodge No 38, on October 29th 1793, located in the town of Diuguidsville, Buckingham County, Virginia. Brother Yancey was the first Worshipful Master and the first Past Master of a Masonic Lodge in Buckingham County. It is possible that he was Master of Buckingham Union Lodge during the ensuing years. Records show that he was back a member of George Lodge in 1800, as its Worshipful Master.

Brother Yancey was again a member of Buckingham Union Lodge No 38, when it was rechartered and moved to Buckingham Court House, in 1817. He was the Worshipful Master 1817, and was shown on its roster as Past Master through 1828. While he was listed as Past Master in George and Union Lodges, he became very active in the Grand Lodge as follows:
1819 Grand Senior Warden
1820 Grand Senior Warden
1821 Deputy Grand Master
1822 Grand Master
1823 Grand Master

During the War of 1812, Brother Lt. Col. Charles Yancey was commanding officer of the 1st Regiment (Yancey's), Virginia Militia. This Regiment was shown on the muster roll, July 1814 to February 1815 at Camp Holly. He also served in the Virginia State Legislature, while commanding the regiment in U. S. Service. For this service he was paid, $662.45, in pay, forage, subsistence and clothing.

In 1817, while Brother Yancey was in the chair in the Grand Committee, at the Grand Lodge, a petition of sundry brethren residing in and near the town of New Canton, Buckingham County, praying for a charter to open a Masonic Lodge in the said town, was received, to which was annexed a certificate and recommendation of Buckingham Union Lodge No 38: "Resolved - That a charter do issue for the establishment of a Lodge in New Canton, by the name of Monroe Lodge No 107."

Most Worshipful, Charles Yancey, was very helpful in the Dispensation issued to Eureka Lodge No 134, at Bent Creek, Buckingham County. He represented this Eureka Lodge, at the Grand Lodge during 1828 and 1829. Known throughout the land as the "Wheel-Horse of Democracy", Brother Yancey was a gentleman of the highest order, intelligent with marked influence. His patriotism and wisdom were attested to by his long service in the Virginia Legislature, representing Buckingham County.

Brother Yancey's service in the General Assembly was as follows: 1796-1798, 1800, 1801, 1811-1813, 1817-1821, 18231825, 1829-1831, 1833, 1835, 1837, 1838. He served in the Virginia Senate, representing Buckingham, Albemarle, Amherst and Fluvanna Counties over the years, 1802-1805.

Brother Yancey was instrumental in getting the General Assembly of Virginia to elect Peter Francisco as sergeant-at-arms of the House of Delegates. Francisco served for six years. When death came to Peter Francisco, in 1831, it was his old friend, Charles Yancey, who informed the House of Delegates that the noted Revolutionary War hero, from Buckingham County, was dead. Brother Yancey was appointed on the committee on arrangements. Brother Charles Yancey died November 9, 1857, and was buried in the Horsley Cemetery, at Traveler's Rest on Highway 604, Buckingham County.

On his stone is written:

In this dark world of Sin and Pain
We only need to part again
But when we reach the heavenly shores
We then shall need to part no more

DJY:  It should be noted that the county records of Buckingham County were destroyed by fire in 1869 - for these reason virtually no court/county records are extant in relation to Charles Yancey - including any will/estate distribution records as well as deed records etc.
It should also be noted that it would appear that the Charles Yancey who served in the the 1st Reg during the War of 1812 - was Col. Charles Yancey of Albemarle and not Major Charles Yancey of Buckingham.


Above image from the book "Samuel Spencer of Virginia" by Spencer W Wilkinson

[Images of Letters between Charles Yancey and Thomas Jefferson]

Letter to Thomas Jefferson from Charles Yancey in relation to Buckingham County Courthouse.

Buckingham July 4th. 1822 --
My dear Sir,

Your highly esteemed favor of July last enclosing a draft for our Court house was duly received, and I owe an apology for not answering it earlier, which is As follows -- upon the Submission of your plan to the board of Commissioners, it was disapproved, much to my mortification, and a plan adopted Similar to the Albemarle Court house, I still indulged the hope that before the work progressed too far to Make a Change of the plan, that the Strong objections to the plan would be manifested, and fortunately two of our Commissioners were Called over to Charlotteville last month, while there they saw & heard from the Members of the Court & bar the Strong objections to the plan of your Court house, that they have Changed their op[in]ion, & on Saturday last I obtained A board, when your plan was adopted entire with one dissentient only, -- we have directed a wing on each Side, of 16 feet Sqr. attached to the Main building by an entry of eight feet with an Arch on each Side, flat roof & Colums to the Wings, the propriety of which I doubt as they will not finish well to the porticoe of the main building, & being So Much lower will obstruct Air &C -- their being no partion wall to Support the outer walls we have thought it but to make the latter two bricks thick -- Mr. Brookes a tinner at the university has offered to do our roof, but having heard you had dismissed him for extravagance in price although A good tiner; we returned him for Answer that, we would employ him to do our Court house if he would Submit the price of the Work to you, in his proposals I think he offers to do the work for About $6.30 A Sqr. the roof -- guttering piping &C Another Charge but I do not recollect the prices -- we have determined to Cover with Tin, As you advised, & any information you May Choose to Afford us, <either> in relation to Mr. Brookes, the price of Such work, & whether other persons than Mr. Brooks, equally Skilled in Tining Cannot be had; will be thankfully receved by Me who has already tresspased too Much on your Valuable time, patience & goodness with real & Sincere regard, yr. H Servt.

Charles Yancey --

P.S. the Wings are intended for the offices of the Clk of the Superior & County Courts


Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey:

Monticello July 12. 22.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 4th. is just recieved. mr Brooke's price of 6. D 30 the square for laying on the tin of a roof, is exorbitant. it may be done, as well as he can do it for 1. Dollar the square. we went on at the University giving him that price until of the houses were covered. we were led to it from a belief that it could not be done without the very expensive & complicated machine which he used to bend the tin, which he told us was a patent machine, costing 40. D. and not to be had in the US. at that stage of our business I got him to come and cover a small house for me. seeing his machine at work, and how simple the object was, I saw that the same effect could be produced by two boards hinged together. I had this done accordingly, and it did the work as neatly & something quicker than his 40. D. machine, while this could be made for 50. cents. we then ceased employing mr Brokes, and set a common negro man to work with our board machine, & he has covered all the remaining houses as neatly and securely as those done before. any person will learn to do it in a day as well as in a year, and when you are ready, mr Brockenbrough will spare you this man for a week or so, to shew any body you please how to do it: you will have to get your tin from Richmond at 13. D. a box. a box does a square & a half, and a handy man will lay a square a day. your building exclusive of the wings will require nearly 30. boxes.

You should take care that the roofs of your wings do not rise so high as the bottom of your entablature. indeed this cannot be necessary, for if the rooms be 16. f. square and 12 f. pitch, the roof, if of pediment pitch, will be only 4. f. high, making 16. f from the floor, whereas the bottom of the entablature of the main building is 20. f. from the floor. but if you put flat & guttured roofs on them (as our dormitories have) they are but 2 f high. I recom<mend> this strongly, because they will be vastly handsomer & <much> cheaper than the common roof. they need no rafters, no tin covering, and the gutturs are better of wood than of tin or any other metal. the manner of making them may be seen at the University or a[t] this place. I heard you were at our last court, and should have been much gratified had you taken your quarters here. I would have gone to the University with you, & pointed out the particulars which you should attend to in your building. should you pay another visit to the neighborhood I shall hope you will do me the favor to call. Accept the assurance of my <sincere> esteem and respect

Th: Jefferson

"The Monthly Magazine - Feb 1 1800 V 9 page 10
Southern Cultivator, Volume 11 - 1853

Autobiography of an octogenarian

 By Robert Enoch Withers


The Cabells and their kin: A memorial volume of history, biography
By Alexander Brown

Page 464

Page 301


“ Laurus Crawfurdiana - Memorials of that branch of the Crawford Family
 which comprise the descendants of John Crawford of Virginia 1660-1883” published 1883.

[Letters from Maj Charles Yancey to Rev. Wm. Crawford]


Buckingham,   Dec 20th 1814

My Dear Sir

 I addressed a letter to you early last month, informing you of the death of my mother Etc. which I fear you have not received, as I asked of you to have her death inserted in the Enquirer, which was not done till lately and I understand by another friend.   I know not how better to direct to you than as before “Louisa Ct House – Bishop Moore will preach here a funeral sermon on New Years day, when we shall be happy to see you, Cousin Rhoda and aunt if possible, and any or all of the family.   We are all through mercy in good health.  I hope you and family are enjoying the same blessing.  My sister and the girls join me in love to aunt and all your family.

I am very sincerely yours.
Chs Yancey


Charles Yancey

Letter concerning Yancey Family Origins written by William Lowndes Yancey
with family information supplied by Major Charles Yancey

The letter below - written by William Lowndes Yancey may be of interest to those researching the origins of the Yancey family.  One must take the letters contents, however,  with much caution. To give a little background – William Lowndes Yancey – the famed secessionist – was only about 3 years old when his Father died in 1817.  His father – Benjamin C Yancey was also orphaned under the age of 10 – by the death of his father James Yancey – who also <James> at a young age had run away from the Yancey home in Culpeper, Virginia and seeming lost contact with his parents. This resulted in William Lowndes Yancey and his brothers having virtually no close relatives  and growing up knowing virtually nothing in detail about their ancestry. In the mid 1850’s William and his brother  Ben – contacted members of the Yancey family in Virginia – and re-established contact with very distant cousins.  One of these cousins was Major Charles Yancey of Buckingham County Virginia – a very affluent and respected member of the family – who one would surely think would have been a good source for information on the family. HOWEVER, Major Charles Yancey – happened to be in his mid 80’s at the time and from reading some letters he wrote about the early Yanceys at this age and comparing with other known and clearly established facts it seems his mind and memory were totally  unreliable  and he seems to have been the source of many twisted or outright false statements about the early Yanceys.

 Below is a classic  example of one of many instances of how and why  misinformation on the Yancey origins was initiated – and then once it was placed in print (in the biography of William Lowndes Yancey as an example – and placed in the general public) –  was then passed on by  most of the Yancey researchers  that followed – the biography of William Lowndes Yancey being a source for most all early Yancey genealogists.  In this case Major Charles Yancey was simply trying to answer a letter  from his  new found cousin William Yancey  – but he replied based on his faulty and flawed memory.  I’m sure Major Charles Yancey had no idea that such statements in a quickly written letter based solely on memory or word of mouth -  would be written down and stated as if fact in publications of a later date concerning the origins of the family.  On the other hand I’m sure William Lowndes Yancey had no real reason to have any doubts about Major Charle’s comments about the early  Yanceys – and such information ended up in his family papers and later his biography.  

      Note imbedded numbers - corresponding to comments below

Montgomery 20 Feb 1853

Dear Ben,   <1>

From what facts we had gleaned from Uncle Charles <2>  and James Gray and old aunts Harrison and ----- -----, and a letter just received from old Major Charles Yancey<3>, it is clear that he and our father were own cousins. This is it----three brothers, Lewis Davis - Henry and Richard Yancey emigrated from England. <4>

Lewis Davis Yancey settled on Little River, Louisa Co., Virginia <5>- where he had sons - Archelaus, John, James, Tyre, Robert.

James (our grandfather) in 1784 <6> removed to Boston where he married Abigail Cudworth (then styled "the Boston Beauty") whose mother was an Otis, and near relative of the celebrated Boston revolutionary Orator of that name. The Cudworth, her father was a near relative of the well known Dr. Ralph L. C. author of "That Intellective System" in England.

It is supposed that our grandfather was in the army, which occupied Boston, early in the revolution and there made acquaintance with Miss C. whose charms induced him to remove to Boston immediately after the Revolution.

Robert, the brother <7> of our grandfather was father Major Charles Yancey who inherited the place where Lewis Davis Yancey lived and died.

Another of the three brothers, Henry, <8> settled in Culpepper Co. and had 2 sons, Robert and Layton - who were Captains in Lee's celebrated Legion during the---- wars. Robert removed to Hawkins Co., Ky. The third brother Richard <9> settled in No. Caro.

This accounts for the origin of the whole race in Virginia, NC, SC, KY, TN, and MS.

By the by have you written to Mr. Dessan - sure - or any one else, to aid O'Veoli --- preparing a history and view of father's character as a lawyer? <10>

It is necessary to "urge the Judge" a little. I fear ---- has too much business to do it well --- Dessan sure would have abstracted it better. Love to all.

W.L. Yancey


1 – This would have been Benjamin Cudworth Yancey – 1817-1891

2 – This would have been Charles Cudworth Yancey <alias Charles Cudworth> - (1791-1850+)

3 – This was Major Charles Yancey (1770-1857) of Buckingham County, Virginia – a very affluent and respected member of the family.

4 – The common family tradition, though not proven is that the family descends from the Welsh family of Nanney, though there may be reasons to believe this is not correct and that the family is indeed English and not Welsh.  Lewis, Henry & Richard – early Yanceys were closely related – but NOT brothers (and living in the 1700's not the 1600's) – see comments on other notes.

5 – Lewis Davis Yancey (????-1784) – one of the very earliest documents Yanceys – established himself in Culpeper County, Virginia – NOT Louisa County.  It was Charles Yancey who settled in Louisa County and had, among other sons: Robert, James, Archelaus (Tyree was a grandson).

6 – James Yancey (1750-1790) had spent time in Boston during the war (late 1770’s) and married there in 1777. About 1784 he traveled from Boston to live in South Carolina with his new wife and children.  Much has been written about the Cudworths – including the book:

7 – The father of Major Charles Yancey of Buckingham was the Reverend Robert Yancey who was the son of a prior Robert Yancey.  Major Charles and William Lowndes Yancey were probably about 4th or 5th cousins.

8 – It was Lewis Davis Yancey (????-1784) who settled in Culpeper County – and it was his son Robert and his grandson (William) Layton Yancey who were prominent in military affairs.

9 – This is probably in reference to Richard Yancey of Mecklenburg County Virginia (????-1780) – (right across the border from Granville County, NC) – or his brother James Yancey ( ????-1779) who did reside in Granville County, NC.

10 - Note biography of Benjamin Cudworth Yancey at: http://yanceyfamilygenealogy.org/bcypic.htm

A similar letter found in

The Alstons and Allstons of North and South Carolina

 By Joseph Asbury Groves - page 301

Most of the same errors noted above are reproduced below.


Other Links:
Cemetery Information
Bible Record
The Issue of Slavery
Address to the Buckingham Agricultural Society     [Complete text in Farmer's Register here]
Slave Schedules from Account Records
Samuel Shepard Letter and mention of Charles Yancey and his family origins.
Analysis of various early Charles Yanceys.
Book:  Samuel Spencer of Virginia
Book: The Cabells and their Kin
Letter from John C. Calhoun.
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