FRANK S. YANTIS. Many men are able to trace the beginning of their mature achievements in life to a boyish enthusiasm. The overwhelming desire of Frank S. Yantis, who is now vice president and general manager of the Colorado, Kansas & Oklahoma Railway at Scott City, was to become a telegraph operator. He mastered the telegraph alphabet before he was in his teens. His home life had been one of rigid discipline and his studies had been directed rather to the cultural than to those things which had a vital part in a practical world of affairs. He had the impatience for these things of the hearty, robust growing boy. It was exceedingly distasteful when he was compelled to play the organ for the Sunday school in church. While he was kept in an attitude of "at attention" during the progress of the Shakespeare readings in his home his mind wandered out over more pleasant fields. The hours of the day were strictly divided and many of them were set aside for him as study periods, and he was kept at his books with little intermission.
Rebelling against these conditions, Frank S. Yantis at the age of thirteen made his first real trial of life and ran away from home. His father soon found him and brought him back. He endured it a year long, and again ran away. This time he was gone six months, and when intercepted by his father was working as an operator with the Baltimore & Ohio Railway. His father then threatened to place the young man in the Kentucky Military institute at Farmdale. Before that threat could be carried out the youth again made his escape and he was not recaptured.
On his third departure from parental influence Frank Yantis made his way to Little Rock, Arkansas. There he secured employment as an operator on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railway. After a few months he was given a station and served as an agent for a year or more. To recount all the experiences of Frank S. Yantis would make a book. In 1890 he found favor with the captain of a steamship, and was a sort of servant to the master of the vessel during the voyage to Rio de Janeiro, South America. He returned to New Orleans on the vessel without having seen any of the South American country. After a couple of weeks with the Western Union Telegraph Company he went to the far west at San Francisco, and was again able to influence the captain of an ocean vessel, who took him to Sidney, Australia. This ship went by way of Hawaii, and after a couple of weeks at Sidney he returned on the same boat to San Francisco.
The next point at which we find the venturous boy in his career was Marshall, Texas. He was running as a freight brakeman on the Texas & Pacific Railway. While working as a boy at Little Rock he had become an admirer of Col. S. W. Fordyce, who was then at the beginning of his career as a railroad builder and capitalist. At St. Louis Mr. Yantis looked up his old friend and soon entered with heart and soul into the various Fordyce enterprises. Since then with few interruptions Mr. Yantis has been identified with the Fordyce interests. Colonel Fordyce, it may not he necessary to explain, is one of the Pierce-Fordyce Oil Association of Texas, and for many years was a builder of short lines and branches of railways in various states. Mr. Yantis has been connected with these interests for many years.
His first commission with Colonel Fordyce was as part of the force of men building the Paragould Southeastern, a branch line of the Cotton Belt System. Mr. Yantis began his railway operations in Arkansas in 1887, and from that state extended his railroad building to all the points where the Fordyce interests were identified.
In August, 1912, he same to Kansas to take charge of the Colorado, Kansas & Oklahoma property, to which the Fordyce interests had advanced construction money. A large part of the property had been washed out by the heavy rains, and Mr. Yantis was sent out to investigate and do whatever he saw fit with the property. After the investigation he determined to put it in operating condition, and he has continued with the railroad ever since, with home and headquarters at Scott City. Whether here or elsewhere, Mr. Yantis has exerted a stimulating influence in every community, and it has been his ambition whether as a railroad man or as a citizen to promote that ideal of welfare which has been described as making two blades of grass grow where only one grew before.
Frank S. Yantis was born in Lancaster, Kentucky, March 27, 1872. His parents were both teachers, and did much of their work at Lancaster, where they were born and reared. His father was William A. Yantis, who acquired a college education at Center College in Danville, Kentucky. His wife, whose maiden name was Mary Love Daniel, completed her training in Daughters College at Harrodsburg, Kentucky. They were married at the beginning of the Civil war. William A. Yantis became a Union soldier and was a lieutenant in Colonel Woodford's Cavalry, serving throughout the war. He was in the battles of Perryville and Richmond, Kentucky, and many other engagements. He entered the service as a private and rose to official rank. His body was twice scarred by rebel bullets. However, when the struggle ended he let its record and much of its memory die out. Following the war he engaged in the drug business and continued it until 1880, when he accepted the presidency of Franklin Institute. He remained at the head of that educational institution for seven years, and his wife was also a member of the faculty. On leaving the institute he moved to Arkansas, opened a stock of goods at Paragould and remained in business until overtaken by blindness. He died at Paragould, Arkansas, June 1, 1915, at the age of eighty-seven. Though he had his limitations, he was a man of admirable character in many ways, and Frank S. Yantis, despite the conditions from which he ran away as a boy, has a high appreciation of his father and what he stood for. He was a man of much reserve, difficult to approach, and, notwithstanding, possessed a host of friends. He took much interest in church work, and was a member of the Masonic Lodge. William A. Yantis was a son of James Harvey Yantis, who came from Virginia and was the first sheriff of Garrard County, Kentucky. His wife was named Harriet, and they were farmers during their active career. They had a large household of twelve children, nine of whom are still living and remain in Garrard County, Kentucky. William A. Yantis and wife had four daughters and one son. The son was the second in age. The daughters are: Mrs. Maggie L. Salter, of Paragould, Arkansas; Mrs. Abbie Morgan, who died at Paragould; Mrs. John A. Morgan, wife of the manager of the Chamber of Commerce at Houston, Texas; and Mrs. John G. Meiser, whose husband is president of the National Bank of Commerce at Paragould.
Frank S. Yantis was reared under democratic influence. All his people were of that political persuasion, and when he was asked by his father in public why he was a republican, he replied "because you made me leave home and taught me to think for myself." Mr. Yantis has always been active in politics. He has lobbied in the legislatures of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Texas, and knows or has known the men of prominence in the official life of many commonwealths, and particularly those who have had the control of the destiny of the railroads within their state boundaries. Mr. Yantis speaks of his meeting with Gen. Powell Clayton, the republican king of Arkansas, as one of the controlling influences of his life, and the lesson which the general taught him in civility was lasting and of great value. In 1916 Mr. Yantis was nominated in the primaries of Scott County for representative to the Kansas Legislature. He cast his first presidential vote for William McKinley in 1896, and has attended state republican conventions in Arkansas, Texas, Missouri and Kansas. He knew many prominent men of Missouri, including Col. Bill Phelps of Carthage. On the walls of Mr. Yantis' office at Scott City hang the photographs of Colonel Phelps, of Colonel Fordyce, his old employer and best friend, of Senator Bailey of Texas, of Gen. John H. Reagan of Texas, and of many other celebrities.
On March 5, 1897, at Paragould, Arkansas, Mr. Yantis married Miss Ora McDonald. She is a daughter of William J. and Harriet (Spain) McDonald. The City of Paragonld, Arkansas, was built on the McDonald farm. William J. McDonald was one of the pioneers of Crowley's Ridge. Mr. and Mrs. Yantis have three children: Frank S., Jr., William A. and Fordyce McDonald. The son Frank is now a student at the Soledan High School in St. Louis. Mr. Yantis is a prominent Mason, having attained the thirty-second degree of Scottish Rite, and belongs to the various bodies of the order at Little Rock. He is also a member of the Mystic Shrine and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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