Saturday, September 3, 2011

Don't Truncate Your Ancestor's Story

George C. Yount and Yountville, CA
If all you did was read the plaque, you would think George C. Yount was "the true embodiment of all the finest qualities of an advancing civilization" blending with the existing primitive culture." But who is George C Yount. Was he really flawless in his relationships with family and friends? What role did his family play?

George C. Yount
He is given credit for the establishment of Napa County, founded Yountville and Rutherford California with a 11,887 acre land grant for Rancho Caymus in 1836. The California Historical Society Quarterly, 1923, reported that Yount was "a representative American pioneer, soldier, hunter, trapper, overlander, and frontiersman, who became the first settler and agriculturist in Napa Valley, and in his later days a venerable patriarch... 

Did He Forget?
Sounds fabulous...that is until you research the Yount Family Papers, 1830-1945. The history books, plaques and data don't mention that he "wilfully [sic] deserted and absented himself" from his wife Eliza, and son Robert, and daughters Francis and Elizabeth Yount.[1] He left wife, and children at home in Missouri while crossing the country and establishing Napa.  

Early Divorces
George Calvert Yount married Eliza Wilds in 1818 in Howard CO MO. After fathering the children he left Missouri around 1826, deserting his family. In 1830, Eliza was granted a divorce. Copies of the papers are held at the Berkley Bancroft Library.

California Landmark
Inscription. George Calvert Yount (1794-1865) was the first United States citizen to be ceded a Spanish land grant in Napa Valley (1836). Skilled hunter, frontiersman, craftsman and farmer, he was the true embodiment of all the finest qualities of an advancing civilization blending with the existing primitive culture. Friend to all, this kindly host of Caymus Rancho, encouraged sturdy American pioneers to establish ranches in this area, which was well populated before the Gold Rush.

Plaque placed by the California State Park Commission in cooperation with George C. Yount Parlor No.322, Native Daughters of the Golden West, Colonel Nelson Holderman Parlor No.316, Native Sons of the Golden West, and the Yountville Cemetery Association, October 18, 1959.

That's Not the End of the Story
As genealogists we often end the story too early.  Eliza remarried. George C. Yount sent for his grown children.  His daughters (and son in law) joined him in California, but his son never forgave him for deserting the family.  Of course by this time, many years had passed, but any historian of this family would be remiss if they failed to tale this episode of the story. George too remarried. 

For More Information 
George C. Yount and his chronicles of the West comprising extracts from his "Memoirs" and from the Orange Clark "Narrative." Edited by Charles L. Camp. Published 1966 by Old West Pub. Co. in Denver. 

[1] Final Divorce Decree Chancery vs George Yount


  1. Excellent reminder, Kathleen. I really like this story. It is so true, and happened so often, in many variations... THANKS for sharing! ;-)

  2. I was researching George C. Yount for a local history column I write for the Cape Girardeau newspaper (Yount came to the area with his parents, served from here in the War of 1812, and left about 1816). I found the divorce case in a divorce court case notice in the Howard Co. newspaper. Yes, indeed, many Yount researchers ignore or do not locate this information! Thanks, Kathleen!

    1. Bill, Thanks for your comment. I found quite a bit of information on him in Napa/Helena CA area where he resided. Fascinating history.