Alvin York
Privacy Level: Open (White)

Alvin Cullum York (1887 - 1964)

Sgt. Alvin Cullum York
Born in Pall Mall, Fentress County, Tennessee, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 6 Jun 1919 (to 2 Sep 1964) in Fentress, Tennessee, United Statesmap
Died at age 76 in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, United Statesmap
Profile last modified | Created 20 Jul 2009 | Last significant change: 27 Mar 2023
18:19: Abby (Brown) Glann edited the Biography for Alvin Cullum York (1887-1964). (Categorization. ) [Thank Abby for this]
This page has been accessed 51,245 times.
Tennessee state flag
Alvin York is a part of Tennessee history.
Join: Tennessee Project
Discuss: tennessee


Notables Project
Alvin York is Notable.

Alvin Cullum York (1887-1964) ended the First World War as one of America's most famous soldiers, with fame and popular recognition assured following a remarkable act of courage and coolness in October 1918.

Alvin was born on 13 December 1887, the third of the eleven children of William York and Mary (Brooks) York. The family had a small farm in Pall Mall in Fentress County, Tennessee, where they lived in a one-room cabin. Alvin worked on the family farm from the age of 6. He attended school only for brief periods when he was not needed on the farm and was estimated to have obtained the equivalent of a 3rd-grade education by the time he became an adult.[1]

Growing up in poverty in Tennessee, young Alvin York became a crack marksman while hunting food for himself and his family. This skill was to be demonstrated with high effect during the war.

Despite his remarkable reputation for bravery and the win-at-all-costs attitude displayed during his wartime service, York was and remained a pacifist. Following a religious conversion in 1911 - he became lay deacon of a local pacifist sect - he declared himself a convinced pacifist.

Consequently, with the U.S. entry into World War I, York initially returned his draft papers-- before they were summarily re-sent to him by the draft board, at which stage he was drafted into 328th Regiment, 82nd Infantry. During training, however, he was convinced by his battalion commander, Gonzalo Edward Buxton - a fellow Bible student - that the Bible sanctioned active service.

Once in France, the semi-literate York earned lifetime fame for his part in an attack in the Argonne Forest against German machine gun positions on 8 October 1918. York, an acting Corporal, led 17 men in action against a German stronghold, the aim being to secure the position and return with German prisoners.

Initially successful without coming under fire, the small expedition took a number of prisoners before the Germans launched a heavy counterattack. With 11 of York's men guarding the captured prisoners (and with the other six killed) York resolved to proceed alone and tackle the German gunners ranged against them.

Having shot some 17 gunners via sniping, York was charged by seven German soldiers who realized that he was operating on his own. He killed them all with his pistol. With the aid of a German Major captured earlier York brought in a total of 132 German prisoners, a remarkable feat.

He was well rewarded, however, receiving lavish press coverage at home and the Congressional Medal of Honor, in addition to the French Croix de Guerre (and a fulsome citation from Supreme Allied Commander Ferdinand Foch).

York became a hero overnight. Yet despite the large throngs of crowds demanding speeches who gathered in New York City, Pall Mall, and every other stop York made, he was eager only to return home to his family, friends... and Gracie Williams. In full uniform, wearing the U.S. Medal of Honor, he and Gracie were married on June 7, 1919, by the Governor of the state.

Children of the marriage:
  1. William York (1920–1920) (No source for first name William. Find A Grave lists 2 infants who died in 1920, one in May at 2 days old, and one in June at 4 days old)
  2. Alvin Cullum York Jr (1921–1983)
  3. George Edward York (1923–2018)
  4. Woodrow Wilson York (1925–1998)
  5. Samuel Huston York (1928–1929) (died at 19 mnths old)
  6. Andrew Jackson York (1930-2022)
  7. Betsy Ross York Lowrey (1933–)
  8. Mary Alice York (1935–1994)
  9. Thomas Jefferson York (1938–1972) [Police officer, killed in the line of duty]
  10. Infant Girl York (1940–1940)

For the next 10 years, York was well honored. Yet he turned down the many offers to endorse products, star in motion pictures and so on-- though he did accept a few of the lighter deals, using the money to provide for his wife and growing family. A lovely home was given to York by the Nashville Rotary Club, with 400 acres of prime bottomland, and it served well for the many, many visitors who stopped by. Gracie always invited them to stay for a meal, and the conversations continued late into the night.

York also began the Alvin C. York Agricultural Institute. In 1929, York decided—after much pushing from friends—to publish his war diary, in an effort to raise more money for the failing Institute, and to build a school for the local mountain children. He was a compelling speaker and many flocked to hear him. But though many seemed interested, few gave monetarily, and in 1937 York gave the Institute to the state, which had more finances available. The Alvin C. York Agricultural Institute is still in operation today.

Eventually, the world began to turn to other heroes. And with tension appearing again in Europe, York found himself only aging, his past fading away. He decided to stay home, quietly farming, his aim being to minister to those who came to see him, not trying to go to them.

But the Lord, and a man from Hollywood named Jesse Lasky, had other plans. Lasky was determined to make the story of York into a movie, and by 1941 it became a reality. York advised in many areas, and Gary Cooper made a convincing copy of the humble, backwoods hero. Cooper gave up smoking on the set because York had such a strong objection to it. Though the movie was a great success (more so after World War II), and Cooper won two awards, York’s time for nation-wide recognition was over.

By the 1950’s, he had suffered several small strokes, but was still active in cattle breeding, farming, and so on. He was 13 years older than Gracie, but it didn’t stop them both from entertaining guests, telling & re-telling stories of their childhood & York’s war service, and occasionally consenting to be interviewed by a curious reporter. Speeches were given occasionally, especially on Memorial Day.

In 1954, York suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and spent the rest of his life paralyzed from the waist down. Until his death in 1964, York still talked to visitors as he was able and played with his grandchildren from his bed. On September 2, he went into the Veterans Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, unconscious, and died that same day.[2]

Alvin C. York was buried at Wolf River Cemetery in Pall Mall[3] amid hymn-playing, including "Onward Christian Soldiers" (his favorite), a 21-gun salute, and then "Taps" while the coffin was being lowered.

Heroes come, heroes go. The world exalts one for a time, then drops him for another. In all this, there is comfort in knowing what truly matters in life; the one who follows the Lord’s leading can be certain of his or her destination. Neither Gracie, nor those who had ever heard the tiniest bit about Sgt. York, had any doubt that York was in Heaven. York himself said shortly before he died that, "If I don’t go back home [to Pall Mall] today, I will go to Heaven. And that be the truth."


  • 1900 U.S. Census: Alvin York, born December 1887, age 12, lived in Fentress County, Tennessee, with his parents, William, born May 1863, age 37; and Mary E., born August 1865, age 34; and his siblings, Henry, born October 1882, age 17; Joseph, born March 1885, age 15; john S., born March 1891, age 9; Albert, born April 1893, age 7; Hattie, born January 1896, age 4; and George, born August 1898, age 1. William and Mary had been married 17 years, and had 7 children, all still living. All family members were born in Tennessee, as were their parents, except for Mary, whose father was born in Michigan. William's occupation was farmer, and Henry, Joseph, and Alvin were farm laborers. John and Albert attended school. The family could read and write, and spoke English. William owned his farm, free of a mortgage. [4]
  • 1910 U.S. Census: Alvin York, age 23, lived in Fentress County, Tennessee, with his parents, William, 46, and Mary, 43, and his siblings, Samuel, 19; Albert, 17; Hattie, 14; George, 11; James, 9; Lilly, 6; Robert, 4; and Lucy, 1 month. William and Mary had been married 28 years, and had 11 children, all still living. All family members were born in Tennessee, except Mary, whose father was born in Michigan. Family could read and write, and spoke English. Hattie, George, James, and Lilly attended school. William's occupation was farmer, and he was the employer. Alvin, Samuel, Albert, and George were farm laborers. William owned his farm, free of a mortgage. [5]
  • 1920 U.S. Census: Alvin C. York, 32, lived on a farm in Fentress County, Tennessee, with his wife Gracie, 20. Both could read and write. They were born in Tennessee, as were their parents. Alvin's occupation was farmer. [6]
  • 1930 U.S. Census: Alvin C. York, age 42, lived on State Highway 28, Fentress County, Tennessee, with his wife, Gracie M., 30, and their children, Alvin C. Jr., 9; George E.B., 6; and Woodrow W., 4. Also present was Alvin's mother, Mary, 63; and Alvie Hatfield, servant, 24. Alvin was 31, and Grace was 19, when they first married. Mother, Mary, was 18 when she first married. Alvin Jr. and George attended school. Alvin Sr., Gracie, Mary and Alvie could read and write. All household members were born in Tennessee, as were their parent except Mary's father, born in New York (in 1910, she said Michigan). Alvin's occupation was farmer, he was at work the day prior to the census, and we was a veteran of the World War.[7]
  • 1940 U.S. Census: Alvin C. York, Sr., age 52, lived in Pall Mall, Fentress County, Tennessee, with his wife, Grace L., 40, and their children, George E.B., 16; Woodrow W., 14; Andrew J., 10; Betsy R., 7; Mary A., 4; Thomas J., 2. Also in the home was Alvin's mother, Mary, 73; M. Kansas Williams, sister-in-law, 57; Mertie A. Rains, Cook, 25; and Dixie York, nephew, 22. All household members were born in Tennessee, and lived in this same place in 1935. He owned his home, a farm, valued at $1000. Alvin's had completed 3rd grade; Grace had completed 8th. Alvin's occupation was farm operator, employer, and he worked 20 hours the week of March 24-30, 1940. He worked 52 weeks in 1939 and earned $1575. He received additional income from a source other than wages. Grace's parents were also born in Tennessee, she was the wife of a veteran of war. She did not have a social security number. Her occupation was housewife. She was only married once, at age 20, and had 8 children. Mertie worked as a cook for a private family (the Yorks), and earned $100 in 1939. Dixie was a truck driver for a road construction crew, and earned $600 in 1939.[8]
  • 1950 U.S. Census: Alvin C. York, age 62, lived on a farm on State Highway 28, in Fentress County, Tennessee, with his wife, Gracie, 50, and their children, Woodrow, 24; Betsy R., 17; Mary A., 14; Thomas, 12; Andrew, 20. Also present were Andrew's wife, Helen, 18, and their daughter, Diana, born in December; Kansas William, sister-in-law, 68; and Lila Dishiman, maid, 16. All were born in Tennessee. Alvin was unable to work. Woodrow was divorced and worked as a farm helper. Betsy, Mary, and Andrew went to school. [9]


  1. Mastriano, Douglas V. Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne. University Press of Kentucky, 2014.
  2. "Tennessee Deaths, 1914-1966," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 25 August 2019), Alvin Cullon York, 2 Sep 1964; Death, Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee, United States, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville.
  3. Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 21 October 2020), memorial page for SGT Alvin York (13 Dec 1887–2 Sep 1964), Find A Grave: Memorial #1135, citing Wolf River Cemetery, Pall Mall, Fentress County, Tennessee, USA; Maintained by Find A Grave. Includes photos and a biography.
  4. "United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 5 August 2014), Tennessee > Fentress > ED 16 Civil Districts 7-8, 11 > image 21 of 29; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  5. "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 24 June 2017), Tennessee > Fentress > Civil District 2 > ED 18 > image 17 of 24; citing NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  6. "United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 13 September 2019), Tennessee > Fentress > Civil District 2 > ED 18 > image 11 of 30; citing NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  7. "United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 8 December 2015), Tennessee > Fentress > District 2 > ED 4 > image 2 of 34; citing NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002).
  8. "United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 11 January 2021), Alvin C York, Civil District 2, Fentress, Tennessee, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 25-4, sheet 10B, line 79, family 165, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 3891.

Sponsored Search

Sponsored Search by

DNA Connections
It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Alvin by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share some percentage of DNA with Alvin:

Have you taken a DNA test? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.

Sponsored by Ancestry ®

Family History Search.


Enter a grandparent's name. Just one grandparent can lead you to many discoveries.

Comments: 5

Leave a message for others who see this profile.
There are no comments yet.
Login to post a comment.

Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, Company G, 328th Infantry, 82d Division. Place and date: Near Chatel-Chehery, France, 8 October 1918. Entered service at: Pall Mall, Tenn. Born: 13 December 1887, Fentress County, Tenn. G.O. No.: 59, W.D., 1919. Citation: After his platoon had suffered heavy casualties and 3 other noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Corporal. York assumed command. Fearlessly leading 7 men, he charged with great daring a machinegun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machinegun nest was taken, together with 4 officers and 128 men and several guns.

posted by Kenneth Shelton
Hi there profile managers!

We plan on featuring Alvin in the Connection Finder alongside Julia Stimson, the Example Profile, on November 11th. Between now and then is a good time to take a look at the sources and biography to see if there are updates and improvements that need made, especially those that will bring it up to WikiTree Style Guide standards. We know it's short notice, so don't fret too much. Just do what you can. A Team member will check on the profile Tuesday and make changes as necessary.

Thanks! Abby

posted by Abby (Brown) Glann
Alvin York has been memorialized by the Swedish heavy metal band Sabaton in their song "82nd All the Way." See it on YouTube at
posted by Debi (McGee) Hoag

we had to rename the category World War I Heroes to World War I, Heroes

can you please add the comma to the line in his profile?

Also, you can add the category for his unit

[[Category: 328th Regiment, United States Army, World War I]*#93

also the two military awards mentioned on the other note (from 2 years ago). for the medal of honor, you can add by

[[Category: Medal of Honor]]

or, to add to category and an image of the medal on his page, use

{{Medal |image = Mil_template_images-1.png |Medal = Medal of Honor }}

posted by Keith McDonald
You can add these categories:

Category: Croix de guerre 1914–1918

Category: Medal of Honor US military award

with this source:

posted by Philip Smith

Rejected matches › Alvin A York