Orval & Mary (Keeler) Yancey and Family

Wedding photo of Orval Yancey and his wife Mary (Mamie) Keeler.
They were married on 6 Jan 1904.

Orval & Mary (Keeler) Yancey and Family

I was born 12 September 1882 at Chesterfield, Bannock County, Idaho, the second child and second son of Adam Yancey and Alice Tolman. I was also the first Mormon child born at Chesterfield, Lamoni Tolman's son, Chester, being the second. Two neighbors, Mary Call and Aunt Della Tolman assisted at my birth, so they tell me, and everything was not right. They had to take a team and drive ten miles for a lady who lived at a place called "Ten Mile." She came and mother got along alright.

When about two years old mother took the team and with me on her lap drove to the store. The team was hitched to the running gears of the wagon with just a plank across and while coming home the plank slipped onto the horses legs. They ran away, the wheels going over mother's hips. I got out with just a scratch or two, while mother could hardly move for weeks.

I went to school which was just a short distance from our home but did not like to study. When I was eighteen years old the folks moved to Blackfoot, Idaho. Father had bought about 300 acres of land three miles from Blackfoot and we boys (there were five of us then) helped clear the land of sage brush.

I attended school one year at Provo, Utah and learned to play the Piccolo. While living in the Groveland ward I was Ward Organist at one time, and Superintendent of the Sunday School. Also did quite a little other church work until we moved away. My one wish was to go on a mission but somehow I couldn't seem to make it.

On 6 January 1904 l married Mary (Mamie) Keeler, daughter of Daniel F. Keeler and Charlotte Hemmingway who lived at Riverside, Idaho. 1 built a brick house just across the canal from father's place where we lived a few years. In the year 1905 I spent the summer in bed with typhoid fever which changed my whole life.

When I got well I had a chance to do some construction on the road and have been in this line of work ever since. The work was such that I had to be away from my family most of the time as I was never in one place very long. We moved from Groveland to Riverside where we lived for a few years. The family now consisting of three girls and one boy Thelma, Charlotte, Verla and Jack.

Later we moved to Idaho Falls where I built a new brick house, doing all the work myself at night time. Mamie was not well for many years so we finally sold the place and Mamie and the children moved to Salt Lake City where she could get better care, but she did not get better and after a lingering illness, passed away 6 August 1940.

I have worked in many different places and many different countries. Was working in the Panama Canal Zone at one time, which is indeed a beautiful place, yet it is one of the most uncivilized and barbarous places that one can imagine.
In 1942 when mother died I was in the Bahama Islands. There are twenty islands in this group, part of them being uninhabited. The Island of New Providence is near the Florida Coast and its capital is Nassau, which is a popular American resort. There are many Negroes here. The ants crawl all over everything, and sandflies are bad and the unsanitary conditions are unbelievable. Yet the beauty of this place cannot be expressed in words.

It was quite thrilling to sit out on the porch of one of the beautiful hotels there among the waving palm trees and have wonderful meals served with the natives singing their songs-of course, you paid them a six-pence. I had dinner on two occasions with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor who were there at that time.

In the Aleutian Islands you do not see the sun for months at a time on account of the fog and there isn't any sign of life-no flowers, no trees, only moss. At this present time (1948) I'm working at Fairbanks, Alaska, which is on top of the world, and here the sun hardly disappears at all in the summer, and in winter only shows itself for a very short time each day. Here you see the Northern Lights almost as bright as a rainbow. On the 20th of October last year it was twelve degrees below zero and there were six inches of snow. There is no wind here when it. snows, it just drops down from the sky.

For forty years I have lived and worked with the roughest and toughest kind of men on earth, but I have always tried to live up to the teachings of my father and mother and have received nothing but praise for my work, and am still giving my best to it-my work has been my life. My only regret is that I have not given my family what a father could give them if he could always be with them.

At this time (1948) Thelma is working in Los Angeles, California. Charlotte is married to Sylvan Korth and they have four children and live on a farm at Garland, Utah. Verla and Jack are working in San Francisco, California - Jack was in the Service in World War II.

[Orval died 31 March 1954]

Orval Yancey standing by the house he built in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Picture taken around 1929.

Mary Jane Keeler Yancey

 Birth: Jan. 3, 1885 Snyderville Summit County Utah, USA
Death: Aug. 6, 1940 Salt Lake City Salt Lake County Utah, USA

Mary (Mamie) Keeler spent most of her life moving from house to house as her father's, then her husband's fortunes changed. The house she was born in is long gone. In fact, the entire town of Snyderville, Utah is gone. It survives only as a place name with strip malls and subdivisions atop it.

By 1888, her family had moved to Logan, Utah where her younger brother Arthur was born. By 1893 the family had moved to Riverside (presently Thomas), Idaho. At this time her father and older brother John Benjamin were living in Anaconda, Montana while she, her mother, sisters and brother Arthur stayed in Riverside.

Mamie met and married Orval Yancey from nearby Groveland. He built their first house in Groveland. It still stands. Some time after 1910 they moved to her parents house in Riverside. Her mother died in 1911 while they were living there. During this time her father continued to live in Montana. Of her eleven siblings, six had died and the remainder had married and moved away. Mamie and Orval moved to Idaho Falls, Idaho after 1914.

Her fortunes seemed to turn at this point. She was very excited as Orval had completed construction on a new house by 1929 in Idaho Falls. This was her second home there. But by 1932 this house was sold and she moved again, this time to Salt Lake City, Utah. Mamie's health, always poor, was beginning to noticeably fail by this point. Her poor health was no doubt exacerbated by her knowledge that her husband had married another wife bigamously as early as November of that year.

She died in Salt Lake City, only twenty miles from where she had been born. It is unfortunate that her return to this area was not a homecoming. She is buried far from family or friends in a forgotten corner of the cemetery.

Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park
Salt Lake City Salt Lake County Utah, USA
Plot: Ferndale Section, Lot 302

Orval Yancey

Orval Yancey

Orval and Mary on the porch of their first home in Groveland, Idaho. Mary is holding her first daughter, Thelma Idetta.


Mary and her sisters on the last day of school in 1894 at Riverside School.

Orval, Jack, Verla, Charlotte, Mary  (Thelma taking the photo)


 Charlotte May Yancey Korth & her husband Sylvan Korth


Verla (left) and Charlotte (right)

about 1951



Jack Yancey