James Erwin Yeatman (1818–1901) was an influential figure in nineteenth century St. Louis who remains unfamiliar to many. His fingerprints are found throughout the cultural and compassionate life of his adopted city.

James Erwin Yeatman was born 27 August 1818 in Bedford County, Tennessee, the child of Thomas Yeatman (1787–1833) and Jane Patton Erwin (1798–1877). His early years were spent in Nashville, Tennessee, before moving to St. Louis in 1842 as a commission merchant for Yeatman, Robinson & Company.

As a founder and eventual president of the Merchant’s National Bank, Yeatman was at the table for the establishment and governance of many key community organizations.

    • Bellefontaine Cemetery
    • Mercantile Library
    • Missouri Botanical Garden
    • Missouri Institution for the Education of the Blind
    • Pacific Railroad
    • St. Louis Eye and Ear Infirmary
    • St. Louis Medical College (St. Louis University)
    • St. Louis Provident Association
    • Washington University

He is noted for the creation of the Western Sanitary Commission along with William Greenleaf Elliot. Its purpose was care for sick and wounded soldiers during the Civil War.

Yeatman’s two marriages were all too brief and full of sorrow. His wives died at young ages, and only four of his eight children lived to adulthood. In Maryland in 1838, he married Angelica Charlotte Thompson (1819–1849). Their six children were:

    • James Erwin Yeatman Jr. (1839–1856)
    • James A. Yeatman (1840–1886)
    • Angelica Charlotte Yeatman (1842–1929). In 1862, she married Alfred Carr (1831–1908). Their six children were Peyton T. Carr, James Yeatman Carr, Alfred C. Carr, James Yeatman Carr II, and Lucien D. Carr.
    • Jane Bell Yeatman (1844–1845)
    • Charles H. Yeatman (1846–1871)
    • Peyton T. Yeatman (—bur 1851)

In 1851, Yeatman married Cynthia Ann Pope (1826–1854). Two sons were born to them.

    • Nathaniel Pope Yeatman (1850–1851)
    • Nathaniel Pope Yeatman (1853–1906). In 1877, he married Margaret Crosby Webster (1851–1948). Their children were Sara Mays Yeatman and Penelope Allen Yeatman.
James Yeatman
James E. Yeatman
Photo from the collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis
Used with permission

Dr. Samuel J. Niccolls of the Second Presbyterian Church gave Yeatman’s funeral sermon. It captured the spirit and contribution of the man. “The special mission of his life was in his philanthropic labors. The road to fortune and to public position was open to him, but he declined to enter it. He accumulated no fortune. He was not ambitious for high places. He did not care to control the material forces of a growing city, or to lead its commercial enterprises. He did better . . . a life spent in the service of humanity.”

(Sources: The Mercantile Library; St. Louis Post-Dispatch; St. Louis Globe-Democrat; The Republic; The Tennessean; Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society; “125 years of caring: a history of Family and Children’s Services of Greater St. Louis,” Mary Kimbrough; and St. Louis Magazine.)

Written by Kathleen E Buescher Milligan
July 2022
© 2022, St. Louis Genealogical Society

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Last Modified: 12-Nov-2022 16:26