Tuesday, March 20, 2012


(Source: Bye Lines; Compiled by Jane & Clarence Bye. 1983; ancestors and descendants of Bye family of Crawford & Harrison Co., IN; Published by: Doris Leistner; dleistner@aol.com; Transcribed and reorganized by: Yates, Ronald E. 2012)

Robert Yates was, we now think, for reasons given in the previous chapter, the son of John Yates, a Revolutionary soldier from Virginia. We do not yet know who Robert's mother was.

Census records say Robert was born in Kentucky. This may be right, for Kentucky was in the process of becoming a state, separate from Virginia at the time of his birth. The first record we find of John Yates, who we think was Robert's father, being in Kentucky, was in Barren County, on the 1800 Census. Barren had been made a County May 10, 1799 and was named for the Barrens of Kentucky. It had been made from Green and Warren Counties, so a search of the 1790 Census records, or early tax records there, might show if he was there earlier and if, indeed, Robert was born in KY rather than in Virginia as so many people were who remembered being raised in Kentucky and supposed they had also been born there.

Robert was probably the oldest of his family of four boys and one girl. His being named Robert might indicate that was the name of his grandfather, as it was the custom at that time to honor a man's father by naming his first son after him rather than after himself. The second son was often named after the wife's father, and the man did not name a son after himself until the third one, unless he carried the same name as one of his son’s grandfathers.

Robert was about twenty-six when he married Mary Ann Byers December 4, 1808, in Barren County, KY. She was the daughter of John Byers. There is more about her early life in the chapter on John Byers.

The Barren Co. KY. Census of 1810 shows Robert and Mary Ann had a son between the time they were married in l803 and 1810. This was, I think, Silas. Their first daughter, Sarah Elisabeth, our ancestress who ties us into this line, was born in Barren County September 26, 1812. Two more sons were born to them after Sarah Elizabeth, probably also in Barren Co., KY; John and Tolbert, in 1812 and 1813.

The Track Book in Crawford County Courthouse, English, IN, which records early land records for the area that became Crawford County lists two pieces of land assigned to Robert Yates on February 16, 18l6. These were for 80 acres each, one for E., and one for W., 1/2 SE Sec 10 T3S R 1W. Both of these tracks of land had first been assigned to Riggs Pennington and then reassigned to Robert Yates.

At that time, Southern Indiana was still a wild, mostly unsettled area. Harrison County, which took in what would later become Crawford County, had only 1, 050 white males over 21, with a total population of the are of 6, 975, so most of those living there were women & children, in the days when families of ten, twelve, or more children were not uncommon.

Only six years before, in 1810, there had still been scattered herds of buffalo roaming in southern Indiana. In 1812, 24 people had been killed by Indians only 30 to 40 miles north of Louisville, KY. But others besides Robert evidently had hopes for the area, for in 1813 the Capital of Indiana Territory had been moved from Vincennes, in the far western part of the Territory, to Corydon, where it was more centrally located and accessible to more people.

An old trace road crossed the Ohio River at Louisville, KY known as the Clarksville and Vincennes trace. It is said that two-thirds of those who settled west of Louisville moved along this route, so Robert probably brought Mary Ann and his young children down the narrow, often only tree blazed route, between tall virgin timbers that shut out the sun. His aging parents may have come with them, and Mary Ann, perhaps pregnant again, unless Robert was a considerate man who had waited on her to give birth to their latest, child so she could carry the nursing baby on one arm while dragging a toddler with her other hand, had probably welcomed her mother-in-laws help on the long, exhausting trip with Silas, who probably though himself quite a man at six, Sarah Elizabeth, going on four, John, also about four, and Tolbert, not yet two. The baby Mary Ann may have carried could have been Ellen, sometimes called Nellie.

Bear, deer, wild turkey, squirrels, and rabbits, were abundant along the trace, so meat was no problem for Robert and other men in the party to shoot with their muzzle loading rifles for their wives to cook in iron kettles, swung over bond fires that were kept burning all night to ward off wild animals.

Did Robert have the foresight to see what Indiana was going to become, and want to have a part in that development, rather than just remaining a farmer in Kentucky? He must have made his move soon after buying his land, probably in time to put in a patch of corn between the stumps of the trees he chopped down to build a cabin, and for Mary Ann to get in her patch of "garden truck".


Know all men by these presents that we, Robt. Yates and John Boyd are held and firmly bound unto his Excellency Christopher Greenup, Esq., Govr of State of Kentucky and his successors in the sum of fifty pounds current money which payment will and truly to be made and we bind ourselves and our Heirs firmly by these presents sealed and dated this 18th day of April 1808.

The condition of this obligation is such that if there be no lawful cause to prevent a Marriage intended between the above bound Robert Yates and Mary Ann Byers for which a service has pfmd then this obligation to be void else to remain in full force. Robert Yates (signed) John Boyd (signed)

I, W. Samuel Terry, IV, attest that the above is a true and accurate copy of a marriage bond on Record in Barren County, Kentucky. Given under my hand this 16th day of July 1985. My Commission Expires June 2, 1987.

But Robert did not spend all his time in the corn field or building their cabin. He could have done that in Kentucky. Here, he circulated among his neighbors, getting to know them, and, more important, letting them know him, and that he was available for any of the appointed jobs he knew would be coming up. When the County was organized, he was commissioned by Governor Jennings as one of the first County Commissioners, a job he held for many years.

Aug 1, 1818, he served on the grand jury of a murder trial in Mount Sterling. There is no record of just how the men were selected for the jury, but it certainly wasn't by burying himself in a corn field. In addition to his farming and commissioner duties, Robert had a mill. I do not know just where his mill was, but it may have been on Little Blue River, where mills of all kinds lined the banks a few miles apart, to be accessible to the farmers who wanted corn ground into cornmeal, wheat into flour, or, later, logs split into rough lumber for flooring, doors, and such on their log cabins.

There were 306 households listed on the 1820 Census of Crawford County, with three of them being Robert, his father, John Yates, and his brother, James, who had been married in Crawford County the year before.

This 1820 Census shows Robert Yates with 2 males under 10, and 1 10-16, also 1 16-26, who may have been his brother, Benjamin, living with him. The one 10-16 would have been, we think, Silas, and the other two John and Tolbert. Robert and Mary Ann also had three females under 10 shown on the Census that year. These would have been Sarah Elizabeth; the one I think may have been Ellen, and another girl born before 1820.

Robert was still at his commissioner duties in 1822 when he and the other commissioners for the county accepted a new brick building 39 feet Iong, 33 feet wide, and two stories high used as the new County Seat building at Fredonia. The laws of Indiana said the water had to be good wherever a County Seat was located, and that at Mount Sterling, where it had been, was proven bad.

Of course then, as now, politics played a big part in decisions such as this. No one was just giving the county a large new brick building without expecting to get something out of it for themselves. In this case, the man who gave the building owned a large track of land at Fredonia, which he hoped to subdivide and sell as lots in the new town he hoped would spring up around the new county seat. In his History of Crawford County, Hays Pleasant says—

"When the court house was ready, tradition has it that the citizens of Fredonia went to Mount Sterling and removed the records, carrying them home in meal sacks. The few people who lived near Mount Sterling hated to see the records go. In fact, the county seat has been moved in most cases by force." Robert was still a Commissioner in 182^, and perhaps for longer. Roads were being built in Crawford County during the 1820’s, and to again quote Hays Pleasant—

"Another historic old road ran from near Sulphur Well to English, Union Chapel, Grantsburg and Paoli. This road ran from Rome to Paoli by Robert Yates' farm. Robert Yates, being one of the county commissioners must have used his influence for the road. Yet when the state about eighty years later built State Road 22 and State Road 16 these roads followed the old surveys fairly well: Paoli to English, Grantsburg, and Sulphur, then to Leavenworth and Tell City."

Robert and Mary Ann had two more daughters in the 1820's, Cassa, born in 1821, and Rachel in 1823. But their family soon began growing smaller as the children began marrying and leaving home. Sarah Elizabeth, our ancestress, was the first to go, when she married Samuel W. Bell August 21, 1828, when her baby sister, Rachel, was only five years old. Silas W. soon followed his sister, marrying into the same family, Samuel's much younger sister, Lavina Bell, September 10, 1829; Sarah Elizabeth lacked a month being sixteen, years old when she married Samuel, who was twenty-five or six. Her brother, Silas, was nineteen or twenty when he married Lavina, who was also sixteen, as Sarah Elizabeth was.

On the 1830 Census, Robert Yates had one son, 5-10, and two 15-20, which would have been John, and Tolbert for the older boys, and perhaps a, grandson or nephew for the younger one, for I have found no son born to them that late.

The girls shown on that Census are also very confusing. One, 15-20, may have been the daughter I have guessed as Nellie or Ellen, while the 3 at 10-15 just don't fit in anywhere. Evidently the Census taker meant them for Cassa who was nine, and Rachel, 7, and, again, the other one may have been a grandchild. With no more information than these early Census records gave, it is almost impossible to make an accurate record from them.

During the next ten years, at least two more of Robert and Mary Ann's children married. September 5th 1833, Tolbert married Jane McCraney when he was almost twenty, and Cassa, their next to youngest child, married John (Squire) Martin September 7, 1837, before she was sixteen.

The 1840 Census of Crawford County shows only two at home with Robert and Mary Ann, a male 20-30 and a female 15-20. The male is evidently John, for he was still at home with his parents on the 1850 Census when everyone in the family was named for the first time. The age bracket of 15-20 for the female fits Rachel, their youngest child, and, as she didn't marry James A. Hughes until April 12, 1847, when she was almost twenty-four years old, she was probably still at home in 1840.

So what happened to the others who have been on the earlier Census records? The one I am guessing was the Ellen sometimes called Nellie on the Benjamin Yates land settlement included in the previous chapter, didn't marry Harrison Pittman until July 9, 1848 so she may not have belonged in Robert's family after all.

All of the Yates in Crawford County remained in Union Township, including the known children of Robert. Perhaps their ties with Union Chapel Christian Church, where several of them are buried in the clean, peaceful little cemetery behind the little white church, may at least partially have accounted for their remaining there, for they probably all attended the church as children. An old church record from Union Chapel might be of a great help in straightening out the Yates family, but I have not found one.

On the 1850 Census, Robert was a farmer, 68, with 100 acres of land. He was born in KY. His wife, Maryann, 64, was born in S.C. and son John, 38, was born in KY. They were number 34 on the Census Record.

Number 35 which usually denotes living next door, shows Tolbert, wife, Jane, 7 children, with oldest daughter named Maryann. Number 36 was James A. Hughes and Rachel, while Eli and Silas, 21 and 22 were living at No. 37. Eli and Silas were both named in Benjamin Yates land settlement in 1865. Because William Yates, who we know was a son of James Yates, Robert's brother, from his death certificate, was living next door to Eli and Silas at Number 38, I believe they may have been his brothers and also sons of James.

A little way on down the road (or across the field) at Number 44, was Robert's brother, James, wife and 3 children still at home, which gives us the George mentioned in the settlement. Four doors away from James, at Number 48 was Benjamin Yates, Robert's and James' youngest brother, whose land division in 1865 in the only concrete piece of evidence we have found as to the make up of the family.

For years, the 1850 Census record of Benjamin has been misread, with all of us supposing that the Sarah Yates, 30 and Daniel Yates, 28, named in it were Benjamin's children, which we now know was not true. They were the children of his brother, John, and Sarah Swift, 80, who was also living there, was their grandmother, mother-in-law of John Yates. So Benjamin Yates was still living up to his youngest son's job of taking care of the old and homeless in his family.

Silas and Sarah Elizabeth, the two of Robert's children to marry first, into the Bell family, did not live as close to their parents as the rest of the children, but were in Union County (Township). Samuel W. Bell and Elizabeth were at Number 17 with nine children in 1850, and had yet another daughter later on that year. They named a daughter Mary Ann and a son Robert. Silas was living at Number 90 with his wife Lovina and nine children in 1850, with also a Mary Ann and Robert. Such a repetition of family names make straightening out a family very difficult sometimes.

Robert is buried in the Union Chapel, sometimes called Yates Cemetery a few miles south of English, IN. Jewell Sears, the “Crawford County Librarian” and herself a Yates descendant, sent me how to find his grave and I went right to it. I will include her directions for anyone else who may want to look on his grave himself.

Ninth Row from West
6th Entry
Jane Yates b. 1-29-1813 d. 2-25-1907
Tolbert Yates b. 11-13-1813 d. 3-14-1891
Catherine Yates Bennett d. 9-15-1863 (dt of James Yates)
Mary A. Byers Yates d. 12-5-71 (71 age; 79 yr, 10 mos, 2 days)
Robert Yates d. 9-30- I853 about 70 yrs
John W. Yates no dates [b. 7-31-1835 d. 11-14-1862]

There is also an Albert Yates, b. 13 Feb 1846 d. 20 Jul 1851; I do not know whose baby he was. [Son of Tolbert/Talbert]. There are no doubt other Yates buried there, women who we have not as yet identified, and also some in the many unmarked graves.

So we know Mary Ann outlived her husband by eighteen years. A deed signed by her and her son John shows they sold the final acreage of Robert Yates' land after his death. With so many children close by, Mary Ann may have lived from one to the other, as devoted grandmother's often did in those days, staying wherever she was needed.

When Robert's first two children married in 1828 and 29, he still had a large family at home to feed and support. The idea of keeping his children near him and Mary Ann for their old age probably had not occurred to them at that time. But when Tolbert married in 1833, for some reason Robert did not want this son to move to the other side of the township as Sarah Elizabeth and Silas had done. Perhaps

Tolbert had been a weakly lad or for some other reason was a favorite son. Two years after he and Jane were married, November 24, 1835, Robert and Mary Ann deeded him for $1.00 and "the love and affection we have for the said Tolbert Yates”, a piece of land next door to them. The deed gives the borders land but not the acreage of land in it. The 1850 Census shows Tolbert owning 500 acres of land but I have found no record of Robert acquiring more than his original 160 acres, so he must have gotten the rest of it elsewhere.
There is no record of Robert giving or selling any land to John Martin when he and Cassa were married in 1837, but as the I850 Census shows him owning 800 acres; he probably didn’t need any of his father-in-law’s small holdings.

But, on February 28th, 1848 less than a year after Rachel married James A. Hughes, Robert and Mary Ann sold him 561/2 acres for $2.00. The 1850 Census shows him owning acres, so he too acquired additional land.

On January 14, 1851, they sold, for $200 to their "son" John Yates, the only one of their children to be identified, that land not already assigned to Tolbert Yates and James A. Hughes so it appears Robert had divided his farm into thirds. Since Robert had disposed of his land before he died September 30, 1853, there is no division of land showing his heirs to help us. There may be a probate record somewhere in the English Courthouse, but as they are mostly unindexed, it is impossible to find what might be just a small slip of paper in the ceiling high metal boxes that have carefully kept hidden 150 years of Crawford County records.

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