Sgt. York

July 19, 2012 - No Comments

by Jim Barnes



The following is a report by our correspondent, Matt Gillespie:

With the electricity off in West Virginia and no freezer, gasoline or water, just to mention a few items, I decided to take the family to a place with all the afore mentioned amenities; Pall Mall, Tennessee, the home of World War I Medal of Honor recipient, Sgt. Alvin C. York.


We spent the night in Kentucky, crossing over the border, into Tennessee, early the next morning. The park ranger at the York home was both knowledgeable and helpful. He answered the many questions I had and gave us a tour of the home the Tennessee Rotary had built for their hometown hero. We toured the farm, saw the “Sgt. York” anti-aircraft piece then went to the general store, owned by Sgt. York, just across the road from the family home. In the store we saw a short film about York’s life and purchased some appropriate souvenirs. The young lady in the general store was friendly and helpful as well. The home is very much the way it was when York and his beloved wife Gracie lived in it. The thing that stands out to me the most is; while the house had seven bedrooms, Alvin and Gracie slept in an open area and one end of the living room. The tour guide old us it had once had a curtain, but in my view there was little privacy for the married couple.


We toured the mill operated by Sgt. York then drove the Wolf River Loop, viewing the church where York attended, the outcropping of rocks where he’d hunt and pray, the family graveyard and the Bible School he’d constructed. As it turned out, the sight of Alvin York’s birth in presently on private property and attempts to mark the sight with a sign have been frustrated by the land owner.


We also drove to Jamestown and saw the York Institute. York spent much of his energy, after the war, seeing that youth from the isolated areas of Tennessee received a quality education. The construction of the York institute was part of York’s educational goal. The institute moved to a modern facility in 1980, but is still meeting it’s original goals serving over 800 youth from the area.


York’s Bible School did not meet with the same success. York spent all his profits from the 1941 Academy Award winning movie, “Sgt. York,” starring Gary Cooper, on constructing the Bible School. It is a quality stone construction with archways on the front porch, but now stands abandoned.


This outing to Pall Mall TN is one I highly recommend to anyone, but especially to history and World War I buffs. I also recommend reading John Perry’s book, “Sgt. York, His Life Legend & Legacy.” Perry does a great job describing the life of Alvin York as well as the honorable man he was.

Matt Gillespie




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