January 3, 2001
Definitive Proof for Yanceyville's Name
To the Editor:
I doubt if many Caswell County residents stay awake worrying about the mystery, but historians just can't stand unanswered questions. So I am glad to be able to settle a controversy once and for all, and we all can sleep better.
For whom was Yanceyville named? About sixty years ago in Editor Erwin D. Stephens' countywide contest, I won a subscription to The Caswell Messenger largely because I answered that the county seat was named for the older brother of Bartlett Yancey. I seem to remember that Katherine Kerr Kendall believed the same. As the bicentennial of the county's creation approached, Johnny Gunn, M.Q. Plumblee, and I persuaded my friend and colleague William S. Powell, to write When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County. Professor Powell discussed the question on page 341 and, ever the historian, added “Until the discovery of incontrovertible contemporary evidence, which has so far eluded those who have searched for it, the question remains unanswered.”
Well, recently while researching another subject, I came across serendipitously (a word I learned after leaving Cobb Memorial School) the following announcement on Page 2 of the May 24, 1832, issue of The Roanoke Advocate, published in Halifax, North Carolina.
“The citizens of Caswell County have resolved in public meeting, that the village in which their Court House is situated shall hereafter be called YANCEY, as a testimony of respect to the memory of BARTLETT YANCEY, their late distinguished fellow citizen.”
There is “incontrovertible contemporary evidence,” and it eludes us no longer.
P. S. Because my answer sixty years ago was wrong, I obviously did not deserve that free subscription to the Messenger. But don't you think I deserve one now?
Houston G. Jones
Davis Research Historian