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Hon. James Yarbrough. Forty-five fleeting years have wrought wondrous changes in the conditions prevailing in Oklahoma, for in that time the primitive pioneer becomes the modern citizen and the warring natives become peaceful and law-abiding. When the present popular mayor of Durant went out to work in the fields in the morning as a boy, in company with his father and brothers in old Pinola County, in the Chickasaw Nation, it was no uncommon sight to find a lifeless form lying beside the road, the victim of a drunken enemy. The Yarbrough Farm lay on the road to Preston Bend, Texas, headquarters for cheap whiskey, and a rendezvous for gamblers and bad men in general, so that trouble was the order of the day, even among those who loved peace and quiet. Today all is changed. The mayor steps out into a peaceful city, and walks in unbroken security to his office in the city hall. And where in his boyhood he followed the oxen behind the plow in the cultivation of the unbroken soil, today the giant tractor turns multiple furrows with untiring precision. James Yarbrough has lived through the greatest period of growth the district will probably know. He is a native of Texas by birth, but by marriage and adoption is claimed by Oklahoma. He was born in Panola County, Texas, on July 29, 1861, and he was ten years old when he came with his parents to Panola County in the Chickasaw Nation. Since that time he has been a loyal Oklahoman, and the staunch friend of the Indian, as was his father before him. Indeed, Mr. Yarbrough says that his father’s house was a favorite haunt of the Indians of the Chickasaw Nation, and that a great friendship existed between the elder Yarbrough and many of the Indians. Mr. Yarbrough bears an especial regard for them and is quoted as saying: “When I see an old Indian woman wandering aimlessly through the streets with a following of youngsters, or seated somewhere with a look of dejection upon her face, my heart goes out to her with sympathy.”
James Yarbrough was the first white child born in Sumpter County, Alabama. His birth occurred on February 28, 1818. He married Elizabeth Smalley, who was born in Tennessee in 1824, and who came of a family that furnished a great number of ministers to the cause of religion. The Yarbroughs moved to Panola County, Texas, after they married, and later moved to Johnston County, Texas. The children born to them were: Harvey; James, who died in infancy; George, who lives in Oregon; John, who married Belle Colbert, a sister of Clarence Colbert; Mollie Elizabeth, and James of this review.
The Yarbrough family is English in its origin, and the American founder came from England to America in young manhood and settled in the Choctaw District in Alabama, in about 1812. He was the grandsire of the subject. His family was reared on the shores of the Tombigbee River, and James died in what was known as Coffey Bend on the Red River in the Chickasaw Nation in 1875. His widow survived him until 1896.
James Yarbrough had his early education in the common schools of Johnson County, Texas, in the schools of the old Chickasaw Nation, and in the schools of Sherman, Texas. He was early trained to the business of fanning and has followed successfully in the steps of his father in that respect. He came into some property from his father, and to that he has added a considerable, so that he is a man of independent fortune today. He has lived in Durant for twenty-two years, and gives much of his time to the superintending of his various farms. He is well known for his skill in the breeding of blooded livestock, and his accomplishments along the lines of thoroughbred poultry are indeed varied. At one time Mr. Yarbrough ran a sales stable in Durant, where he disposed of much of the products of his lands, but he discontinued that phase of his business some years ago. He was for some years vice president of the old Choctaw-Chickasaw National Bank.
In the days of the Choctaw Nation Mr. Yarbrough was never a candidate for office, but since statehood he has been quite active in a political way. He was chairman of the board of county commissioners during one term, and in 1914 he ran for the office of sheriff of Bryan County, but was defeated. In 1915 he was nominated on the democratic ticket for the office of mayor and was elected for a term of two years. He entered upon his official duties on March 21, 1915, and his service thus far has reflected only credit upon him. He has always been a staunch and loyal democrat. He is a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Knights of Pythias and the Woodmen of the World.
In 1893 Mr. Yarbrough was married to Miss Annie Bouton, of Caddo. She is a daughter of Mrs. Mat Bouton, now the wife of Christine Bates of Durant. Mrs. Yarbrough is the granddaughter of Rev. Israel Folsom, who was a son of Nathaniel Folsom and a brother of the grandfather of Mrs. Grover Cleveland. Nathaniel Folsom was a white man, born in North Carolina, and his father came from Massachusetts.
To Mr. and Mrs. Yarbrough six children have been born. La Vere, aged eighteen, is a student in the Southeastern Normal in Durant; Julian, aged sixteen; Nowita, twelve, and Ingram, aged nine, are attending the public schools of Durant; Madeline is five years old and Edmund is now thirteen months old.