Arkansas In The Civil WarThe Yell Family…Who Were They?

Moses Yell was the father, grandfather of the Arkansas Yell family. His parents were Pierce Yell and Anna Hoag and his grandparents were John and Abigail Yell.

In 1776, Moses and his wife, Molly, lived in Salisbury, Massachusetts. He was a mariner and farmer. During the Revolutionary War it is believed that he was a Tory (loyal to Great Britain). It is also believed that is the reason he deserted his wife and disappeared for a while, in 1776. When Moses reappeared he was living in Jefferson County, Maryland, where he soon became loyal to the colonies. He then served in the war with Talbot County, Maryland, militia.

After arriving in Maryland, Moses married Sarah Works. There has not been found to date any records of his divorce from his first wife, Molly. Sarah gave Moses his first two children, Piercy and Mary. Piercy, born in 1781, was the father of our subject, James Yell.

In 1786, the Yell family moved to Rockingham County North Carolina. Sarah did not live long after they arrived at the new home. After her death Moses married his third wife, Jane Curry. Moses and Jane had five children Anna, Sally, Archibald, Alexander and Nancy.

The Yells had moved to Bedford County, Tennessee, by 1811. It was here that the Yell family made some important political connections. They lived within 50 miles of both Andrew Jackason and James Polk. Archibald Yell served in three wars under leadership of “Old Hickory,” Andrew Jackson. In the War of 1812 he was promoted to the rank of Captain at the age of 18 and became known as the “boy officer” in Jackson’s Army.

Archibald became a Mason, in Tennessee, when the Shelbyville Lodge was chareted in 1823 under dispensation granted by Jackson, who was at the time the Grand Master of Freemasonry, in Tennessee. Archibald was interested in politics and became a member of the Tennessee state legislature. He was a lawyer and had a practice with another close friend, William Gilchrist. Archibald today is known as :the father of Freemasonry in Arkansas. His friend William Gilchrist was the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas.

Knowing that he would not go much further in politics in Tennessee, living so close to such greats as Jackson and Polk and others, he accepted an appointment from Jackson, then the nations president, as the Federal District Judge of the Territorial Superior Court in Arkansas. He made his home in Fayetteville, in Washington County. He made this move in 1831. He became the second governor of Arkansas in 1840 And served until 1844 when he resigned to accept the nomination as United States Senator.

In 1846, while the war with Mexico was being fought, Yell resigned his position as Senator, and as a Colonel took command of a regiment of Arkansas volunteers and led them to the Mexican battlefields. He was killed at the Battle of Buena Vista.

After Archibald moved to Arkansas he induced his sister, Sally, and brother, Alexander, to move to his adopted state. James Yell and his brother, Thomas, also moved to Arkansas with the encouragement of their Uncle Archibald.

(Part 3 will be published on the Arkansas Toothpick on November 30, 2014.)