Yoakum, Franklin Laughlin (1819–1891)

By: L. W. Kemp

Revised by: Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 22, 2019

Franklin Laughlin Yoakum, physician, college president, educator, minister, botanist, and editor, son of George and Mary Ann (Maddy) Yoakum, was born on November 14, 1819, in Yoakum's Valley, Claiborne County, Tennessee. He and his two brothers, Madison and Henderson Yoakum, moved to Texas in 1845. F. L. Yoakum settled in Limestone County to practice medicine but soon became a teacher at Tehuacana College. He became a minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and in 1855 moved to Cherokee County to become the first president of Larissa College. He also taught astronomy classes there. He served as president until the school closed in 1866. Yoakum then devoted his time mainly to medicine until he retired. He was also a noted botanist and collected various botanical specimens along with shells and rocks. In Palestine, Texas, he reportedly established the journal Texas Farmer and Orchardist in 1874; it was published through 1881. The 1880 census recorded that Yoakum lived in Palestine and worked as an editor.

With Samuel B. Buckley and Quintius Cincinnatus Smith, he founded the Academy of Science of Texas in October 1880. With the reorganization of the Academy of Science of Texas and its relocation from Austin to Palestine in 1882, Buckley became president, and Yoakum was named secretary. After Buckley’s death in 1883, Yoakum became president of the academy, and in 1886 he moved the academy’s associated museum, which included much of Yoakum’s private collection of specimens, from Palestine to Tyler. In an article in Texas Farm and Ranch in 1886, the objectives of the Academy of Science of Texas were listed as the "mutual improvement of its members," the collection of specimens, and the promotion of a scientific interest among the people. Yoakum was a frequent contributor to Texas Farm and Ranch, and in 1889 he wrote an article titled “The Academy of Science of Tyler” for the journal. This was the last known published mention of the academy.

Yoakum first married Elizabeth Wright, with whom he had seven children, and after her death he married Mrs. Narcissus (Teague) Key. Yoakum died in Shreveport, Louisiana, on November 21, 1891, and is buried in Myrtle Cemetery there.

David S. Evans and Donald W. Olson, "Early Astronomy in Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 93 (April 1990). S. W. Geiser, Horticulture and Horticulturists in Early Texas (Dallas: University Press, 1945). S. W. Geiser, "Men of Science in Texas, 1820–1880," Field and Laboratory 26–27 (July-October 1958, October 1959).

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Time Periods:
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

L. W. Kemp Revised by Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell, “Yoakum, Franklin Laughlin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/yoakum-franklin-laughlin.

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April 22, 2019

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