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Poley Yancey, in the process of leading an ordinary life

Hannibal’s Robinson Cemetery is the presumed final resting place for Mary J. Doolin Yancey and members of her family. Photo of the cemetery taken in 2014 by Mary Lou Montgomery.


Poley Yancey was a jolly, good natured fellow, who worked hard all of his life in order to make a living.

First as a common laborer in Hannibal when he wasn’t much more than a boy, and later, as dairy farm worker while a young married man. He notedly put in a hard day’s physical work in exchange for wages to support his family.

In August 1899, he took for his wife Mary Doolin, the 15-year-old daughter of Smith Doolin, a recently departed Ralls County negro and former Ralls County slave, and Doolin’s wife, Mary J. Doolin.

Poley not only took Mary as his wife, but also provided a home for her three young siblings, listed in the census as Edith, Lovina B. and Charley Doolin.

They made their home on a piece of property in Mason Township, along what is now known as West Ely Road. The property did not have frontage to the main road, but instead was accessed via a private road alongside and to the west of property owned by F.W. Waller.

There, back in the woodland, Yancey and his family would live for some 15 years.

Land plat

The Palmyra Spectator of May 8, 1901, reports that William W. Robbins, son of William Robbins, a noted steamboat pilot and Marion County farmer, owned 163 acres of land in Miller Township.

The 20th Century Atlas Map for Marion County, Missouri, published in 1901, shows that W.W. Robbins had subdivided a portion of his land, fronting and extending to the south of what is now known as West Ely Road, into parcels numbered 1-5. By the time the 1913 atlas was drawn, that land had been divided into parcels numbered 1-11.

In 1913, those parcels were owned by:

  1. F.W. Waller

  2. F.W. Waller

  3. Polia Yancy

  4. W.W. Rollins

  5. W.W. Rollins

  6. Dr. J.P. Sparrow

  7. Dr. J.P. Sparrow

  8. Frank E. Briggs

  9. K.L. Laswell

  10. K.L. Laswell

  11. Frank E Briggs

A recent story in this author’s historical series, “Proud poultry farmer won premiums at county fairs,” describes section 1 and 2 of this land division, as owned at that time by F.W. Waller.

Lying directly to the south of the the Waller property was a small parcel, lot number 3, identified on the 1913 Marion County Atlas as the property of “Polia Yancy”.

Poley Yancey

So who was Napoleon (Poley) Yancy (Yancey)?

Identified by census records as a mulatto, he was born in 1874 in Missouri.

In 1894, he was working as a laborer and living at the northwest corner of Irwin and Carr streets in Hannibal, located in the Bowling Subdivision near the MK&T tracks.

Poley Yancey was married to Mary (Mollie) Doolin on Aug. 10, 1899, in New London, five months after the death of her 79-year-old father, Smith Doolin (born circa 1820 in Virginia.)

In 1910, Poley Yancey was working as a laborer on a dairy farm. (At that time, a dairy farm owned by T.T. Graves was adjacent to Poley’s property, to the south.) Yancey’s wife, Mary, worked as a servant for a private family.


In 1915, Poley and Mary Yancey left Hannibal, settling in Beatrice, Gage County, Nebraska.

In 1920, he was working as a truck driver for a coal yard. While they had no children of their own, that year their niece, 9-year-old Gladys Thomas, was living with them.

A decade later, Poley and Mary Yancey were operating an automobile cleaning service in Beatrice. The establishment was at first located at the rear of 518 Ella Street in Beatrice.

On Jan. 2, 1927, Poley advertised his business in the Beatrice Daily Sun:

“Poley Yancey is a good old man. He will fix your car as good as he can. He will wash them clean and polish them bright. He is for service day and night. Poley’s Car Laundry, 114 North Fourth street. Phone 606J.”

It was while he was engaged in this line of work that Poley Yancey’s life ended.

The Beatrice Daily Sun reported on Aug. 14, 1934:

“Napoleon Yancey, 55, colored, whose home was at 1800 Elk street, this city, expired suddenly last evening shortly after 7 o’clock just after he had finished lunch in company with Mrs. Yancey at his car washing plant in the alley between Fifth and Sixth streets.

“He collapsed while sitting in a chair and never regained consciousness.”

After a funeral service in Beatrice, his remains were reportedly returned to Hannibal, Mo., for burial.

Mary J. Doolin Yancey continued the operation of the car laundry after her husband’s death. She married Arthur D. (Dave) Thomas of Beatrice. She died June 29, 1974. Her remains were returned to Hannibal, and were buried at Robinson Memorial Cemetery. (Row 14)

Doolin siblings

Edith M. Doolin Anderson Jackson was born Sept. 8, 1898 (or 1893), the daughter of Smith and Mary Doolin. She was a member of Scott’s Chapel ME Church in Hannibal. She was married to Brunson Jackson Jan. 25, 1955 in Palmyra. He retired from General Motors in 1954. In 1957 he was employed as a janitor for the Hannibal Country Club, and in 1970 he retired as a janitor for the Hannibal Clinic. They lived at 2900 Spruce. Edith died March 16, 1984, and her funeral was conducted at Scott’s Chapel Church. Brunson died Dec. 5, 1993. They are buried at Grand View Burial Park.

Charles Doolin was born on Christmas Day, 1897 (or 1896), at New London. He served in the military during World War I. In 1920, he was living on Market Street in Hannibal, married to Lena Doolin. He was employed shoveling coal for the railroad. In 1942, he was living in Milwaukee, Wis., still married, and was working for Allis Chalmers. He died at Hannibal June 2, 1957. He was buried at Robinson Cemetery. His grave is marked with a military headstone. (Row 15)

Smith Doolin’s widow

When Smith Doolin’s widow, Mary Jane Hopkins Phillips, died in 1929 at the age of 74, her survivors were listed as follows:

Four daughters:

Mrs. Dorothy (William) Irvin, 2020 Spruce, Hannibal;

Mrs. Vivian Johnson, Hannibal;

Edith Anderson (Jackson), Hannibal; and

Mrs. Mary Yancey (Thomas) of Beatrice, Neb.;

Three sons:

Joseph Doolin, of Hannibal (Buried Robinson, Row 15);

Jacob Doolin of Hannibal (married to Bertie L. Green in 1907); and

Charles Doolin of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Buried Robinson, Row 15).

Three sisters:

Mrs. Amanda Jamieson, Hannibal;

Mrs. Dorcas Miller, Hannibal; and

Octavia Hawkins of Kansas City.

One brother:

C.A. Hopkins, a letter carrier of Hannibal, died 1938. (Buried Robinson, Row 18)

Mrs. Mary Jane Hopkins Phillips was buried at Robinson Cemetery.

Charlie Doolin, brother-in-law of Poley Yancey, is buried at Robinson Cemetery, with a military headstone. Several members of his family are buried nearby. Find a grave photo.

The location of the property subdivided by W.W. Robbins in 1901-1913. Located in Township 57, Range 5 West, Section 25. Poley Yancey resided in Section 3 in this tract from 1900-1915. Illustration by Mary Lou Montgomery. Based upon 1913 atlas of Marion County, Missouri.

Lena Doolin, living at 2020 Spruce, Hannibal, requested an upright marble headstone for her husband, Charlie Doolin, who served during World War I. Charles Doolin was younger brother to Mary J. Doolin, wife of Poley Yancey. The tombstone is at Robinson Cemetery.

Poley Yancey’s death was announced in the Aug. 14, 1934 edition of the Beatrice Daily Sun.

Poley Yancey announced that he had relocated his car was businesses. Beatrice Daily Sun, April 30, 1927.

Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” and “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’” 47 stories of the Market Street Wedge and on west to Lindell Avenue. Montgomery can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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