Delphia Olive Youst

Tom and Delphia Youst Phelan

History by grandson Paul Wight

Delphia Olive Youst was born May 19th, 1872 in Shinnstown, West Virginia.  She made her way west in a prairie schooner with her parents, Guilford Youst and Virginia (Cunningham-Shinn) Youst.  In the late 1880’s she attended school in Elizabethtown, N.M.  Here she excelled in calligraphy and planned to make a career of it, that is, until she met her red headed cowboy, Eugene Thomas Phelan.

Delphi’s brothers, Albert, Claude and George decided to go to Montana where they could homestead land.  The brothers noted that Tom Phelan (Eugene Thomas Phelan) had his own wagon and approached him suggesting that he and Delphi get married a year earlier than they had planned.  In this way, they could join the brothers on the trip to Montana as a family.

I remember my mother Marcella Wight saying that a priest was not available to marry them. Delphia was just 18 years of age when they were preparing for marriage and probably completely unaware of the Quaker requirement to declare their intention to marry that they brought with them in 1677 Once Delphia identified herself as a Quaker there was a problem. Simplify put a priest may look at the unyielding requirements of both religions and if there is a conflict, he cannot perform a marriage. This may be an oversimplification. Tom and Delphi were getting married a year earlier than they had planned, so they could join Delphia brothers on the trip to Montana as a family. The priest was probably unable to complete the prenuptial research and instruction in the time available and made himself unavailable.

Delphia certainly simplified the problem by converting to Catholicism after she was married living the rest of her life as a practicing Catholic. Her mother Virginia Victoria Youst demonstrated a great respect for her son-in-law when she listened to his evaluation of playing cards and is burial in a catholic cemetery. This suggests that she may have converted to Catholicism. Someday two baptism certificates and one marriage certificate may be found in the bottom of a trunk somewhere.


Some history of what happened in New Mexico causing the move to Montana: Lucien E. Maxwell married the daughter of Carlos Beaubien in 1844. Subsequently, he and Kit Carson accompanied John C. Fremont on his western expedition. In 1849, Maxwell settled in New Mexico and amassed 1.7 million acres of land. In 1870 he sold this land to the Maxwell Grant Land Company. In 1873, Frank Springer arrived in New Mexico and was responsible for the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1888 that upheld the title to Maxwell Grant Land Company. This decision forced settlers to abandon land to which they could not show clear legal title. Lawless chaos ensued. The economic outlook for young people was bleak.

They left New Mexico by wagon train and settled on four adjacent sections of land near Red Lodge, Montana. In 1891, Delphi returned by train to New Mexico for the birth of their first child, Eugene Frances, on October 7. Her husband followed on horseback a few months later. What a ride! They returned to Montana where Marcella Olive (Belle) was born November 5, 1893, and Daniel Mathew was born on August 17, 1895.

Toiling the soil and enduring the cold of winter was not for Tom Phelan or George Youst who eventually went to work for the railroad. Tom and Delphi came south to Needles, California where he worked in his brother’s butcher shop (James Crysanthus Phelan). Here (in Needles), Mabel Genevive was born on January 14, 1898 and died on January 28, 1898. Virginia Josephine was born March 1, 1899, and Claude Ellis, June 5, 1901. They moved to Williams, Arizona for a few years where Tom Phelan ran a butcher shop. A few years later, they moved to Flagstaff, then to Prescott and back to Flagstaff in 1910.

Delphia Olive Youst

was born on May 19th, 1872 in Shinnston, WV to Gilbert Elehue and Virginia Victoria (Cunningham) Youst.  She married Eugene Thomas Phelan on June 22nd, 1890 and had the following children:

Eugene Francis Phelan (1891 – 1976)*
Daniel Mathew Phelan (1895 – 1962)*
Mabel Genevive Phelan (1898 – 1898)*

Josephine Virginia (1899 – )

Claude Ellis Phelan (1901 – 1993)*

Delphia died on February 8th, 1959 and is buried in the Calvary Cemetary in Flagstaff, Az.

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