BIOGRAPHY OF JOSIAH COWAN YORK, SR.,
Submitted by Diane Stark Sanfilippo
June 20, 2007
JOSIAH COWAN YORK, SR.
And His Family
Updated by Diane Stark Sanfilippo
20 Jun 2007
After years of meticulous and intensive research by several of his descendants, we now think we have found just about all there is to know about Josiah Cowan York Sr., born 15 Oct 1799, Washington County, Tennessee, the third son of William York, a Revolutionary soldier, and an unknown mother.
William was a farmer and served with the N.C. Militia during the Revolutionary War. It is probable that Josiah’s name came from a local politician, since this is the only reference that found for this name. There are no records referring to his mother, and even a guess at her name would probably be incorrect, so she remains ‘Unknown’.
The first we find Josiah in any records is in the Tennessee Land Records 10 Mar 1816, when his father, William, assigns his land to still minor, Josiah. The purpose of this transaction is probably William’s effort to rid him of any land in order to apply for a government pension for his service in the Revolutionary War. However, since land was often the ‘pay’ for military service, and perhaps for the ‘adventure’, at the age of 18, Josiah joined the 1st Regiment Tennessee Mounted Gunmen, commanded by Col. R. H. Dyer, to fight the Seminole Indians in Florida. He enlisted at Camp Blount, assigned to Capt. R. G. Dunlap’s company, served from 1 Feb 1818 to 30 Jun 1818, and was home in time to plant the crops. For his service, Josiah received a ‘land warrant’; however, it was a very long time before he actually owned the land promised. It is probably during this period that Josiah developed a lifelong hatred of any Indian.
On 10 Nov 1823, in the courthouse in Roane County, Tennessee, with his father, William conspicuously absent, Josiah took out bond to marry Sarah Blake, daughter of Thomas Early Blake and Elizabeth Owen Blake. Josiah and Thomas Blake signed the marriage bond. It is thought that William was, at this time, in Hall County, Georgia, where he again, with an attorney, applied for his pension, which, finally awarded, he remarried just days later.
Sarah’s family was not from Maryland as previously thought, the Blake family originated in Isle of Wight, Virginia when the first emigrant, Thomas Blake (1644 – 1707) migrated from probably England. The family settled first in Fairfield County, South Carolina before her father, Thomas (1776 – 1855) migrated to North Carolina, then Tennessee. Thomas’ mother Leah Phaneul Ann ‘Fanny’ Hornsby (1743 – 1779) was born in Jamestown, James County, Virginia, and the firstborn generation of Americans. Sarah and five siblings grew up in a broken home after their father took a second wife and their mother left to live with family in Kentucky. Elizabeth Owen Blake (1776 – 1833) was from a family of Quakers who were among those who founded and settled in Wrightsboro, McDuffie County, Georgia, although Elizabeth married Thomas, probably in North Carolina before the move to Georgia. Her father, Ephraim (1738 – 1785), was firstborn generation American since his father, John (1715 – 1780) was born in Wales. Mary Cooper Owen (1741 – 1785), Elizabeth’s mother came from a family that also originated in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, although the name of the first emigrant is unknown, but probably William Cooper who died 1762 in Southampton County, Virginia. Supposedly, late in life, in order to legitimize his eleven youngest children by his second wife, Thomas joined the Mormon Church, which, at that time, believed in bigamous marriages. I have not seen any proof of this confirmation; however, since there were Mormons in both families, Owen and Blake, I believe this information is possibly correct. It should be noted that Sarah’s brother, Dr. Larkin Hornsby Blake (1807 – 1870) was the grandfather of Mary Betty Blake (1879 – 1944), wife of famed Western comedian, William Penn Adair ‘Will’ Rogers (1879 – 1935).
It was only a few years after Josiah’s marriage, most of William’s family, along with sons-in-law James and William Philpot, their father, Richard, and Sarah’s brother, Thomas, migrated to Carroll County, Georgia, Indian land surveyed in 1826. The reasons why this area was chosen is a mystery since Josiah’s father, William, was not awarded land in this lottery, however the choice of area was possibly dictated by their affiliation with the notorious Pony Club. Carroll County, which shared a border with Alabama, made an ideal field of operation for this notorious gang of thieves, slave traders, and claim jumpers, although it is not very likely that the York men were involved in most of these pursuits. More than likely, hatred for the Indians drove their participation, and from the information found, this is the extent of their involvement. Verified in a court case of the Cherokee seeking reimbursement of their losses from the government, and in an article written about the death of one of the Indians by the ‘sheriff’ and the ‘Philpots’, there is no doubt as to Josiah’s participation, even as magistrate, i.e. sheriff, of the new county. One only has to understand the harshness of life on the frontier, the fear of night raids by the Indians, and the enmity existing in days shortly after the signing of the treaties. Much blame is assigned to both Indian and white man. There is a great deal available to read about this ‘gang’ in multiple documents, and more details by the Cherokee in their newspaper the ‘Phoenix’. Later, Josiah, as magistrate, participated in the removal of the Cherokee to Alabama for the beginning of their march along the Trail of Tears. I doubt that he was sad to see them go.
Regardless of their reasons for migrating, the names of William, Josiah, Thomas, and Allen York, along with William, James, and Richard Philpot are among the men chosen for the first juries for Carroll County, and all men are found again on the 1830 census.
Josiah and Sarah began their family even before they migrated to Georgia with their firstborn, Elizabeth Ann ‘Betsy’ born 23 May 1724 in McMinn County, Tennessee, followed 22 Nov 1827 by Frances. Delilah ‘Lida’ was the first child born in Georgia, followed by a fourth daughter, Ailey. Their first son, William Thomas ‘Tom Bill’, named after both of their fathers, was born before June 1830 as the newborn male appears in the 1830 Carroll County census, along with the still living William and his wife, Nancy Pitman. According to William’s service records, he died not long afterwards on 30 Jun 1830.
According to the 1837 Paulding County state census, Allen and Josiah are the only York men left in the area while Allen married Elizabeth Smallwood 30 Jun 1833, and disappeared from Georgia records. Now, Josiah is the only adult York male living in the area, which consists of Carroll, Haralson, and Paulding Counties, Georgia. Therefore, without a doubt, Josiah and Sarah are the parents of any further York offspring.
Josiah settled in the area of Paulding County, on the border of the Creek and Cherokee nations, now known as Yorkville, named after the family, where he served as Justice of the Peace in 1838, 1843, 1848, and 1876. Also appointed as postmaster for Yorkville 23 Feb 1879, Josiah, after a long battle with the government moved to Van Wert in neighboring Polk County, Georgia. In Yorkville, Sarah gave birth to six additional children; Larkin, Jasper, Mary, Josiah Jr., Abraham ‘Hud’, and Sarah Virginia, born in 1848. It is conjectured that Abraham ‘Hud’ York and his 2nd wife, Emma Louise Wozencraft donated the land for Yorkville Methodist Church, Baptist Church, and the school, however since all existed prior to ‘Hud’s marriage, the donor was Josiah. It appears that education was very important to Josiah and Sarah since all of their children are literate.
The oldest daughter, Elizabeth (1824 – 1899) married Andrew Jackson Hobbs (1818 – 1880) 11 June 1844, followed by Ailey’s (1828 – unk) marriage to Rev. William Wesley Simpson (1819 – unk), first pastor of the new Yorkville Methodist Church, and later a successful merchant in Van Wert.
Frances (1827 – 1867) was the next to leave the family when she married Capt. John C Crabb CSA (1826 – 1862) on 2 Jun 1850, then Delilah (1827 – unk) married William A. Hobbs CSA (1827 – 1895) after 1850. Then, one at a time, the boys began to marry and have families; first, the oldest William Thomas married Mary E. ‘Matilda’ Mason 27 Sep 1852 in Henry County, Georgia, while his younger brother, Lt. Larkin Blake (1834 – 1903) married Matilda’s younger sister, Elizabeth A. ‘Betsy’ Mason 17 Jan 1856 in Paulding County. Sgt. Jasper Newton (1837 – 1867) married Juliet T. Flanegan (1843 – 1925), and little sister, Mary (1839 – 1893), married James Bolton Dean C.S.A. (1834 – 1881) 10 Oct 1854 Polk County, Georgia.
This left only Josiah Jr. (1841 – 1922), Abraham Huddleston ‘Hud’ (1843 – 1925), and the baby of the family, Sarah Virginia (1848 – unk.), but with grandchildren filling the old family home in Yorkville, the family was growing, and apparently prosperous, but then came war, and all was about to change drastically.
Josiah’s five sons; Capt. William Thomas ‘Tom Bill’, Larkin Blake, Jasper Newton, Josiah Cowan, Jr., and Abraham Huddleston ‘Hud’, all joined the 1st Georgia Calvary under General Wheeler. His son’s-in-law Capt. John C. Crabb, William A. Hobbs, and James Bolton Dean also joined the Confederate Army. Not content just to send five sons to fight the Yankees, Josiah Sr. joined Co. K., Floyd Legion, Georgia State Guards. However, his age was beginning to show, and he was unable to make all, save two, musters.
The war years were difficult for all Southerners, and the war hit home soon in the York family when Frances’ husband, Capt. John C. Crabb was mortally wounded during the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and died two days later, leaving Frances a widow with five young sons. It was not long before Josiah Jr., who was in Co. D. Georgia Volunteer Infantry (Floyd’s Legion), was wounded in the eye at Gettysburg, and returned to Georgia on furlough. After recovery, instead of returning to his unit in the Army of Northern Virginia, he joined his brothers in Co. A., 1st Georgia Calvary for the rest of the war. Larkin Blake returned home ill, and joined the State Guard with his father, becoming a Lt., and then the second family fatality occurred when Capt. William Thomas ‘Tom Bill’ was mortally wounded during the Battle of Bald Hill, dying in his younger brother Josiah Jr.’s arms, leaving Matilda a widow with four young children.
If the war years were difficult, the years following was disastrous with the South in ruins, burned, stripped of consumables, horses, and other implements necessary for supporting a family. Josiah, in his grief and anger, swore that he had not supported the Confederacy in a claim to the Federal Government in order to be paid for the horses stolen by Sherman’s Army, and amazingly, he got away with it! The old man who offered five sons, three sons-in-law, and even himself to the Confederacy was still head of the family and in charge. Jasper Newton returned home ill of T.B., and died somewhere in Florida where his wife, Juliet, took him in hopes of a cure. On 8 Dec 1867 in Henry County, Josiah Jr. married the younger sister of both Matilda and Betsy, Lucinda Virginia ‘Lucie’ Mason and bought a store in nearby Rockmart. About 1867, ‘baby’ brother, Abraham Huddleston ‘Hud’ married Laura Virginia B. Wozencraft (1842 – 1873), and only Sarah Virginia remained in the family home. However, tragedy soon visited the York family again on 22 Sept 1867, when Frances, widow of Capt. John C. Crabb, died, leaving their fives sons orphans. However, the York family, proud but poor, were not about to shirk their duty to family, so the two youngest boys, Jesse Oliver ‘Joel’ (1858 – 1923), and John Bartow (1861 – 1922) moved in with their grandparents, Josiah and Sarah. Matilda Mason York, widow of Capt. William Thomas ‘Tom Bill’ took in Brambus ‘Barney’ Crabb, and the 2 oldest boys, Judson (1841 – 1906) and Calaway (1853 – 1929) went to live in the Simpson household with their Aunt Ailey, Uncle William, and six cousins – later seven.
Less than 10 years later in 1873, Laura, the young wife of Abraham Huddleston died leaving one son, William Thomas ‘Tom Bill’ named after his ‘hero’ uncle. However, Emma Louise (1852 – 1934), Laura’s younger sister who managed the household during her sister’s illness, married ‘Hud’ after the prerequisite 1 year of mourning.
Josiah, who continued to pursue the award of his land for his service during the Seminole Indian War, was finally award 130 acres in nearby Van Wert, where he, Sarah, and Sarah Virginia relocated while ‘Hud’ remained with his growing family on the farm in Yorkville. They were not to enjoy the new home for long as Sarah died in 1878, and the old warrior succumbed just a year later and now lies beside his beloved Sarah, on the land he donated to the Methodist church in Yorkville. Whether history deems him a soldier, an Indian fighter, a horse thief, magistrate, father, grandfather, you can rest assured the blood of this daring, yet gallant and proud, old man will continue through his five sons and their many descendants.
Family of Josiah Cowan York (15 Oct 1799 – 1879) and
Sarah Blake York (1806 – 1878)
1. Elizabeth Ann ‘Betsy’ 23 May 1824 30 Mar 1899
Married Andrew Jackson Hobbs – 10 children
2. Delilah ‘Lida’ Abt 1827 Unknown
Married William A. Hobbs C.S.A. – no known children
3. Frances 22 Nov 1827 27 Sep 1867
Married Capt. John C. Crabb C.S.A. – 5 sons
4. Ailey (or Alcey) Abt 1828 Unknown
Married Rev. William Wesley Simpson – 8 children
5. Capt. William Thomas C.S.A. Abt 1830 3 Aug 1864
Married Mary E. ‘Matilda’ Mason – 5 children
6. Lt. Larkin Blake C.S.A. Jun 1834 22 Nov 1903
Married 1. Elizabeth A. ‘Betsy’ Mason – 12 children
Married 2. Nancy L. Winn (Williams) – no children
7. Sgt. Jasper Newton C.S.A. 5 Jan 1837 Abt 1867
Married Juliet T. Flanegan - 3 children
8. Mary 2 Mar 1839 13 Dec 1893
Married James Bolton Dean C.S.A. – 9 children
9. Josiah Cowan Jr. ‘Joe’ C.S.A. 4 Mar 1841 8 Sep 1922
Married Lucinda Virginia ‘Lucie’ Mason – 11 children
10. Abraham Huddleston ‘Hud’ C.S.A. 1 Jan 1843 19 Aug 1925
Married 1. Laura Virginia B. Wozencraft – 1 child
Married 2. Emma Louise Wozencraft – 8 children
This research is a combined effort of several descendants of William York, Rev. soldier and Josiah Cowan York, Sr. Working with my cousins, and serving as the ‘hub’ of an on-line team, I have been privy to be chosen to update the history of this remarkable family. It is with much work on their part and much ‘discussion’ of whether one record or another is part of this family’s legacy, and the discovery of two additional daughters of Josiah and finding new cousins has been a wonderful experience. I highly recommend ‘teaming up’ with other members of the family and working together – much more is accomplished, and working out whether to recommend a ‘possibility’ vs. a ‘probability’ with all deciding together takes the responsibility off of one person. All facts have documentation and since the resources are so very numerous I have left them out of this history for the sake of brevity. Although we cannot ‘prove’ some of the children of Josiah Cowan York, there is little doubt since there was only ONE York family in the vicinity, the children’s names, and the presence of the Crabb children in the York households. If we could not find documentation, we left it Unknown for the sake of correctness. If anyone reading this knows of a document, fact, or person left out, please let me know and I will be more than happy to amend this history. In addition, we would like very much to hear from other descendants, particularly of those not represented. There are several graves of infants buried with Josiah and Sarah – if anyone knows whom these infants belong to, we would welcome your input.YORK Infant No Dates 1-hour; YORK, Edward No Dates 4-years *possibly son of William Thomas York and Rebecca Williams - son of A. H. York and Laura Virginia Wozencraft York - YORK, Ezma Maude No Dates 1-year - YORK, Paul Acton No Dates 6-weeks
I wish to thank the following who contributed to this effort:
Rev. Leroy and Annette Spinks, she is a descendant of Sgt. Jasper Newton York and they photographed every York record pertaining to our family in North Carolina – truly a daunting task, and invaluable to our research.
Carter Campbell, descendant of Capt. William Thomas York
William L. Lester, descendant of Elizabeth York and William Allen Philpot
Carolyn Miracle, descendant of Lt. Larkin Blake York
Paula S. Schmidt, descendant of Abraham Huddleston York, descendant of Abraham Huddleston York
Kathye Upham and Larry J. Crabb, descendants of Frances York
Scott Jackson, Historian of the First Calvary Organization, special friend responsible for the 1st Cav. Markers on the graves of Capt. William Thomas, Josiah Cowan Jr., and Abraham Huddleston York.
If I have left anyone out, I apologize.[an error occurred while processing this directive]
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