Archibald Yell

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Archibald Yell
Archibald Yell - 2er Gouverneur Arkansas.jpg
2nd Governor of Arkansas
In office
November 4, 1840 – April 29, 1844
Preceded by James Conway
Succeeded by Samuel Adams
as Acting Governor
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's at-large district
In office
December 14, 1836 – March 4, 1839
Preceded by District created
Succeeded by Edward Cross
In office
March 4, 1845 – July 1, 1846
Preceded by Edward Cross
Succeeded by Thomas Willoughby Newton
Personal details
Born (1797-08-09)August 9, 1797
Morristown, Tennessee
Died February 22, 1847(1847-02-22) (aged 49)
Buena Vista, Mexico
Political party Democratic
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1812–1815
Rank Union Army colonel rank insignia.png Colonel
Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Bvt. Brigadier General
Commands Regiment of Arkansas Mounted Volunteers

Creek War
War of 1812
1st Seminole War
Mexican-American War

Archibald Yell (August 9, 1797 – February 22, 1847) was an American attorney and politician in Arkansas. He was a member of the United States House of Representatives and second governor of Arkansas.


Yell was likely born in Morristown, Tennessee, although his gravestone lists North Carolina as his birthplace.[1] His family first settled in Jefferson County in the eastern part of the state, then moved to Rutherford in Middle Tennessee, and finally settled in Bedford County to the south.

As a youth, Yell participated in the Creek War, serving in 1813 and early 1814 under General Andrew Jackson, who became a special friend. In 1814 and 1815, during the War of 1812, he served with Jackson in Louisiana, including in the Battle of New Orleans. He was also active in freemasonry, and was the Tennessee grand master in 1830.[2]

Yell returned to Tennessee, and read law as a legal apprentice. He was admitted to the bar in Fayetteville, Tennessee. In 1818, he joined Jackson’s army during the First Seminole War in Florida.

Political career[edit]

Active in the Democratic Party, Yell moved to the Arkansas Territory in 1831 to head the federal land office in Little Rock. The federal government offered him the governorship of the Florida Territory the following year, but he declined.

He was a strong supporter and personal friend of President James K. Polk. Just prior to taking office in 1835, Polk sent Yell to Texas to advocate for its annexation to the union. In 1835, he was appointed by the James K. Polk administration as an Arkansas territorial judge. He is reported to have single-handedly retrieved a criminal from a local saloon and physically brought him to his court.

Yell was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1836, after Arkansas was admitted to the Union. He served one term, from 1836 to 1839.[3] While in Washington, he was a strong supporter of Texan statehood and favored a stronger military. Around this time that Yell formed the first Masonic lodge in Arkansas at Fayetteville.[2]

In 1840, Yell was elected governor of Arkansas. He focused on internal improvements, as infrastructure was needed to benefit planters and farmers. He also worked to better control banks and supported public education.

Yell resigned his post as governor to run again for Congress in 1844 at age 47, and won the seat. Yell is reported to have been the consummate campaigner. At one stop during the campaign, he is said to have won a shooting match, donated meat to the poor, and bought a jug of whiskey for the crowd.[4]

Soon after he took his seat in Congress, the Mexican-American War began. Yell returned to Arkansas and formed the Arkansas Regiment of Mounted Volunteers. Several of his men later achieved notability in Arkansas, including the future governor John Selden Roane, and future Confederate generals Albert Pike, Solon Borland, and James Fleming Fagan. His cavalry compiled a record of insubordination.[5] During the Mexican-American War, Yell was brevetted a Brigadier General of the United States Volunteers.[6]

Family life[edit]

Yell met Mary Scott in Bedford County, Tennessee, where they were neighbors. They married in 1821 after he had started to establish his law practice. She had one daughter, Mary, who was born January 5, 1823. Mary Scott Yell died from complications following their daughter's birth.

A few years later in 1828, Yell married Nancy Moore of Danville, Kentucky. They had four children before her death.

Yell later married Maria (McIlvaine) Ficklin, a widow. They had no children. Maria died October 15, 1838 in Arkansas, while Yell was serving in the US Congress.

Yell’s nephew James Yell became a Major General of the Arkansas state militia during the Civil War.


On February 22, 1847, Yell was killed in combat at the Battle of Buena Vista in Mexico at age 49. Yell was originally buried on the battlefield in Mexico. His body was removed and returned to Arkansas for burial at Waxhaws Cemetery in Fayetteville. When Evergreen Cemetery was established in the city, the Masons arranged for his body to be relocated and reinterred in the Masonic section of that cemetery.[5]


Yell County, Arkansas, and the town of Yellville, Arkansas were both named for Yell.[7][8]

During the American Civil War, a Confederate unit was formed in Helena, Arkansas, and became known as the “Yell Rifles”.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Donovan et al. 1995, p. 8.
  2. ^ a b Donovan et al. 1995, p. 9.
  3. ^ "Yell, Archibald, (1797-1847)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved August 10, 2012. 
  4. ^ Donovan et al. 1995, p. 11.
  5. ^ a b Donovan et al. 1995, p. 12.
  6. ^ "Arkansas Governor Archibald Yell". National Governors Association. Retrieved August 10, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Profile for Yell County, Arkansas, AR". ePodunk. Retrieved August 10, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Profile for Yellville, Arkansas, AR". ePodunk. Retrieved August 10, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Civil War Comes to Arkansas". The Historical Marker Database. Retrieved August 10, 2012. 


  • Donovan, Timothy P.; Gatewood Jr., Willard B.; Whayne, Jeannie M., eds. (1995) [1981]. The Governors of Arkansas (2nd ed.). Fayetteville, AR: The University of Arkansas Press. ISBN 1-55728-331-1. OCLC 31782171. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
District created
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's at-large congressional district

December 14, 1836 – March 4, 1839
Succeeded by
Edward Cross
Preceded by
Edward Cross
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's at-large congressional district

March 4, 1845 – July 1, 1846
Succeeded by
Thomas Willoughby Newton
Political offices
Preceded by
James Sevier Conway
Governor of Arkansas
Succeeded by
Samuel Adams
Acting Governor