DR. CORNELIUS F. YEAGER, who for so many years has been prominently identified with the development and prosperity of Mineral Wells, and who is also one of the foremost physicians of Palo Pinto county, has been a prominent resident of this section of the state from the pioneer days of the early seventies until the present. Being a man of keen observation and interested in all the events which transpired during his earlier career in Parker and Palo Pinto counties, he has long been known as an authority on the pioneer times, and his reminiscences and stories of adventure have often appeared in the public press for the entertainment and instruction of many readers. Early local history of many parts of our country will often be found thus carried in the memories of the old-timers, and too often, unfortunately, it never obtains permanent record in writing so that succeeding generations may know what their ancestors endured in the founding and building up of a great country. Even in a country still so nearly removed for pioneer days as is the case with North and West Texas, the progress of civilization has been so rapid that races of old times are being obliterated and the past is almost impossible of realization. Therefore it is fortunate that in a work of this province the life history of one of the leading old-timers may find place, one who has thus seen and experienced what went before in order that the present might be possible.
A native of Washington county, east Tennessee, where he was born in 1848, Dr. Yeager has membership with a family which has claimed many distinguished people throughout its various branches and generations. His parents were Cornelius F. and Selina (Hoss) Yeager, both natives of east Tennessee, and the father a farmer. The parents came to Texas in the latter seventies, some years after the doctor himself had settled there. Their first home was in Alvarado, where they mother died, and then the rest of the family moved to Parker county, and still alter the father came to Mineral Wells, where he died in 1884. The Yeagers have quite a noted ancestry, especially where it branches off into the Garr (originally Gaar) family, of German origin, the descendants of which are numerous and many of them prominent, particularly in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The Garr family genealogy, which was published in 1890, shows many well known people in different parts of the United States, the family being a prolific one. The Garr family crest was received as a reward of merit from the Emperor Charles V, in 1519. The connection of the Yeagers with the Garr family comes through Dr. Yeager’s great-grandfather, Cornelius Yeager, whose wife, Elizabeth Fisher, was the daughter of Stephen and Magdalen (Garr) Fisher. On the maternal side of the family, also there are many prominent people, represented mainly in east Tennessee; namely, the Hosses and the Boones, descendants of the illustrious family of Daniel Boone, originating and many of them yet living in Washington county. Mrs. Selina (Hoss) Yeager was first cousin of the father of Rev. E. E. Hoss, D. D., a distinguished divine, who was made a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church South, in 1902, and who resides in Dallas, Texas. The importance of ancestry cannot be ignored in the history of any man now living, and coming of such antecedents an honorable career and worth and capability have been natural accompaniments of Dr. Yeager.
The principal part of his early education was obtained at Science Hill College, Johnson City, Tennessee, and he pursued his medical studies at Johnson City with Dr. Seehorn, a former well known physician of that place, as his preceptor. While a young man he was licensed to practice, and in 1870, when a young and ambitious fellow of twenty-two, he came out to Parker county, Texas. Parker county, although it had been organized for fifteen years, was then still on the frontier, without railroad communications, still exposed to Indian raids, and generally unsettled and new. Veal’s Station was the point he selected to begin his practice, a place which at that time was beginning to grow to some importance as a trading and outfitting point, but which in later years declined on account of the building of the Texas & Pacific railroad and the consequent transfer of commercial activity to other centers.
Also in 1870, this section of the state was in the midst of Indian troubles. It may be a matter of surprise to many that at such a late year the Indians were a constant menace to the permanent welfare and prosperity and even the lives of Texans, and within a region not a hundred miles west of the present metropolitan city of Fort Worth. But in fact the history of Texas must record that such was the case up to the year 1875, and Texas was the last of the great states of the Union to be rid of the hostility and constant dread of the native tribes, who had, indeed, assaulted the bulwarks of advancing civilization from the earliest times. At the time of Dr. Yeager’s arrival the Comanches, Kiowas, Wacos and other tribes were in the habit of breaking away form their reservations, and in bands too powerful for the individual settler to cope with, and yet so small as to render escape easy, they would, about the time of every full moon, swoop down upon the inspecting rancher and in the bright moonlight round up his horses or cattle and make off with them before effective pursuit could be organized. And of course wherever there was resistance the white settler often lost his life at the hands of the red villains, so that the entire frontier was in a state of unrest and fear. Parker and Palo Pinto counties were about the center of these raids, whose general extent, however, was from the Red river southwesterly almost to the Rio Grande, and the depredations were kept up till as late as 1874, when the national government sent sufficient troops here to drive the marauding bands back to the Indian nation. But in the meantime the settlers themselves and families and their property, and in some localities were organized into quasi-military companies, which were very effective in this direction.
It was in such times and in such a country that Dr. Yeager’s early practice was begun, and he had perhaps more than his due quota of dangerous experiences. Consequently, his practice, mostly in the country and extending thirty or forty miles west and northwest of Veal’s Station, as far as Jacksboro, in Jack county, entailed long drives, over a rough, wild and unsettled region, and these trips were fraught with many dangers and exciting incidents, and more than once he had gun fights with the natives. His stories of adventures in those days are interesting in the extreme, and some of them have been published in the local press as a real connection to the history of North and West Texas. His career of professional activity has thus covered both the pioneer and the modern period of this section of the state, and he has practically grown up and kept pace with the country.
Veal’s Station remained his home and the center of his work for nearly three years, during which time he was in partnership with Dr. M. L. Woods, a prominent old-time physician of that city. In 1880 he again went out toward the frontier, locating this time at Mineral Wells in Palo Pinto county, and this has been the scene of his broad and useful endeavors ever since. In the year 1880 Mineral Wells was all hope and little actuality, the visible evidences of its prosperity being a few tents and board shacks inhabited by persons who had come to test the value of the recently discovered medical waters. The therapeutically value of these waters had already been recognized by Dr. Yeager, and he was not slow to see the future of the embryo town and take advantage of its opportunities by establishing himself as one of its first citizens. The wisdom of this move has since been proved by the growth of Mineral Wells to a town of over three thousand, among whom are many wealthy citizens, and as a health resort it ranks among the foremost of the state. During the season visitors from all parts of the Union frequent the city, as many as fifty thousand being a number recorded during one season of those who sought the medical waters and other advantages. In the important work of upbuilding which has thus taken place Dr. Yeager has been foremost, and his public-spirited activity has been manifest in various directions. He has built, among other structures, the two-story brick and stone Yeager block at the corner of Mesquite and College streets. He is also president of the Lithia Wells Company, which owns one of the leading mineral wells of the vicinity. His professional work extends to a general medical and surgical practice, and this, in connection with his business interests, makes him indeed a busy man. Since coming to Texas he has supplemented his already broad professional experience by study at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Baltimore, one of the recognized first grade medical schools of the country, and he was graduated from that institution with the class of 1884. The firm of which he is at present a member is Yeager, Beeler & Yeager, consisting of himself, Dr. B. R. Beeler, and his son, Dr. Robert L. Yeager, who is also a physician of prominence in this section of the state, being a graduate of Vanderbilt University and of the medical department of the University of Texas, and is also the proprietor of the Yeager Drug and Book Company in the Yeager block. Dr. Yeager is a member of the Palo Pinto County and the Texas State medical societies.
Dr. Yeager was first married at Veal’s Station in 1871, to Miss Sue L. Akard, of Johnson City, Tennessee. She is now deceased, having been the mother of four children, three of whom are still living: Dr. Robert L. Yeager, Ben Yeager and Miss Ada Yeager. Dr. Yeager’s present wife was Miss Eddie Austin, and they are the parents of six children: Edward, Marguerite, Abraham, Mary, Cornelius and a little daughter as yet unnamed. Dr. Yeager’s sister, Mrs. Fannie Tyle [Kyle], also makes her home in Mineral Wells.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, pp. 374-377.