In October of 1852 Sarah Y Yantis rode into Olympia with her father B.F. Yantis and 7 brothers and sisters in their covered wagon. They left from Saline County, Missouri where B.F. had been a superior court judge. Sadly B.F.s wife died during the difficult journey to Olympia. B.F. and family homesteaded on Bush Prairie, ran an early stage line to Cowlitz Landing, and was a legislator, among other things.
To add confusion to our early family history A.S. Yantis, B.F.s brother, arrived in Olympia about the same time. He also had a daughter named Sarah who in turn had her own daughter named Sarah. They settled in the Skookumchuck Valley near Bucoda.
Sarah Y married 28 year old Abram Benton Moses on April 11, 1855 at 20 years of age. This was during the Indian War of 1855/1856. AB Moses, a militia volunteer and former Thurston County Sheriff, was shot and killed on October 31, 1855 during surprise attack on his patrol near Bonney Lake. It was for this killing that Leschi was arrested, tried, convicted, and hanged. To this day this trial and conviction are controversial from many points of view.
The widow Sarah Y Moses subsequently married George C Blankenship on May 22, 1857. George C our great grandfather arrived in Olympia, a single man, in July of 1853. He also served in the militia and followed AB Moses steps to become the Thurston County Sheriff in the late 1850s. It is said that while he held Yelm Jim in custody that he had this gentle man babysit for his first son with Sarah, our great uncle, George E Blankenship.
George E was followed by Frank Y Blankenship (died at 6), and then Robert L Blankenship our grandfather. George E was a newspaper reporter and book author. His wife Georgianna also was a book author (Tillicum Tales later republished as Early History of Thurston County) and suffragist as well.
Robert L married Elizabeth Savage to carry on our family. Robert L had three children, Betty (had son Bobby), Robert (died at 9), and Nathaniel (our dad). Robert L and Ed Winstanly formed “Winstanly & Blankenship” a partnership that continued through two generations and around 90 years. It ran the Smokeshop that was located on Capitol Way between 4th and 5th (now Olympia Federal Savings). Robert L also was an early Commodore of the Olympia Yacht Club.
This is the first of a continuing newsletter series that will help you become acquainted with some of the families whose names you see in our local history, neighborhoods, and street signs. Their intentional brevity will hopefully pique your curiosity and consequent research. We welcome contributions from our members and friends. For additional links to the members of the Yantis and Blankenship families, as well as other Olympia area families, check out the Names section of the website.
Photos of George C and Sarah Y Blankenship provided by Ralph Blankenship, photos of Robert Blankenship and Georgiana by special arrangement with Washington State Historical Society.