Location: Pall Mall, Tenn.
Acreage: 400 acres.
Activities: History, hiking, picnicking, sight-seeing.
The Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park was established in the 1970s to page homage to Tennessee’s World War I hero, who earned the Medal of Honor after capturing more than 130 German soldiers in a single battle. The park contains York’s home, grist mill, general store and other historic structures.
Born Dec. 13, 1887, Alvin Cullum York became one of the most celebrated soldiers in American history due to his heroic actions in World War I.
York, who spent his entire life in the tiny village of Pall Mall, located in the Valley of the Three Forks of the Wolf River north of Jamestown, was something of a ruffian as a young man. But in 1914 he was converted and joined the church.
In 1917, York was drafted into World War I. He initially claimed conscientious objector status, due to religious reasons. However, he later consented and left Pall Mall for basic training.
York caught a train on the Oneida & Western Railroad, traveling from Jamestown through what is today the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area to Oneida, where he caught a Cincinnati-Southern train to Georgia for basic training.
In October 1918, York was among a group of 17 soldiers assigned to infiltrate German lines and silence a machine gun position. York and the soldiers with him captured more than 130 German prisoners. York was promoted to sergeant, awarded the Medal of Honor, and returned home a national hero.
Sgt. York married Gracie Williams in 1919, after his return to the United States. The Rotary Club of Nashville offered to raise the money to buy them a home, and York accepted — insisting that the home be located in Pall Mall.
The Rotary Club purchased a 400-acre farm, which contained some of the best farmland in the Wolf River valley and also included land that York’s great-grandfather, Conrad Pile, had accumulated after settling in the Wolf River Valley around 1800.
In 1925, York opened a general store across the street from his two-story home. In 1943, he purchased a grist mill on the banks the Wolf River just downstream from his farm.
After York’s death, Gracie sold the York Mill to the state for $10,000. Ownership of the mill was transferred to the TN Dept. of Conservation in 1967, and made a part of nearby Pickett State Park.
Gracie sold most of the farm to the state for $180,000, retaining the rights to her home and a small plot of land until her death in 1984.
In 1973, the York farm and mill were added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The York farm was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
Today, the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park consists of much of the original York farm, including York’s 2.5-story home, the York Mill, the Wolf River Post Office and general store, the Wolf River Methodist Church where York’s conversion took place, the Wolf River Cemetery next door to the church, where York and his family are buried, and the York Bible Institute, which York built in the 1940s.
A living history lesson
In addition to the historic structures included in the Sgt. York Historic Park, there are picnic facilities, and replica war trenches similar to those that were in use during World War I.
Guided tours are offered daily. The 45-minute tour focuses on the York home. There are also paid driving tours offered every Saturday and Sunday.
The mill is open for self-guided tours from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.