So it is possible to research from 8 am to 9 pm Tuesday through Friday at the Family History Library. I didn’t manage that any of the days for a variety of reasons (including Red Wings hockey) but I did manage a marathon session from 8 am to 7:30 pm on Day #3 of my Salt Lake City Trip… all focused on my father’s families in Bradley County, Arkansas.

In many ways I’m at a bit of a brick wall with my father’s lines. I have a potential slave owning family (or more accurately, allied families) but no clear cut line to trace. So, my goal was really to look hard at whatever records I could get my hands on in the hopes that along the way a story might emerge. What that translates too is that I went through the majority of the available rolls of microfilm in the FHL from the county—court records, deed books (lots of deed books), tax indexes, tax books. And I have to confess microfilm makes me vaguely motion sick. But it was worth it.

I didn’t come out that day with a new set of names but it did give me solid supporting documents about where my families were, their living situations, and their relationships. For example, the deed books included land transactions, but you could also find contracts ranging from the purchase of “a certain Roan mare colt,” to (in the earliest books) the sale of 8 slaves from son to mother for $1. It’s breath-taking and troubling at the same time.

Finding real documents implying the relative wealth of my 2nd Great Grandfather Sandy York (born in slavery) was fascinating. He was making deals for that roan mare in 1871 and buying land out right by 1885.


And when going through the earliest records whenever I found anything indicating a slave transaction I copied the related documents. I’m still sifting through those and transcribing in the hope that the information will help someone in their research even it if it isn’t me. These include slaves held by the Ganaway, Ederington, Hampton, Newton, McCammon, and Williamson families so far.

But my find of the day has to be the deed of gift for an undescribed tract of land belonging to the Pagan family to Trustees Monroe Wilfong (the 1st father-in-law of Sandy’s son, my Great Grandfather Phillip Henry York), Andy Wilfong (a relative by marriage), and Mars Ingraham to establish an African Methodist Church—given the families’ early involvement and staunch support I would guess this was a tract meant to house Mt. Olive Church.



Happy hunting!


My great grandfather Philip Henry was born around October of 1870, the third child of Sandy and Agnes York. I believe Philip was born in Arkansas and I know the family was in Bradley County by 1871 when Sandy sold $62.50 worth of cotton to E. B. Turner. But I have yet to find the household in the 1870 Census. By the 1880 Census Philip was 11 and listed as working on his father’s farm.

York-Wilfong Marriage License, 1894On Christmas Day 1894 Philip married his first wife Mary H. Wilfong (the daughter of Monroe and Ellen Wilfong) and in fairly rapid succession they had 4 children: Calvin in the following September, Sandy Napoleon in November of 1896, Aunt Rachel in April of 1898, and Frederick Philip in August of 1899. The family is enumerated in the 1900 Census and Philip is listed as renting land and farming as well as being able to read and write (unlike his parents). He is counted immediately following his father’s household and before his younger brother Edward. I’ve also found a note indicating in 1905 Philip had paid his poll tax to be eligible for voting.

York-Philips Marriage License, 1903While I have been unable to find a death certificate or notice, family stories indicate that Mary died young and in December of 1903 Philip married, Mattie C. Philips (the daughter of Shade and Camelia (Howell) Philips). Mattie added five children to the line: Preston Garett, Ossie B., Mary, Walter, and Mamie. When the family was enumerated in the 1910 Census Philip owned (with a mortgage) and worked his farm with the added labor of Calvin and Sandy Napoleon.

York-Wheeler Marriage  License, 1913Again, family stories indicate that Mattie died young and in October of 1913 Philip married his third wife (and my Great-Grandmother) Sallie Wheeler, the daughter of Moses and Candes (Thompson) Wheeler.  Unlike his other wives, Sally brought a small parcel of children born out of wedlock with her into the family—Ressie and Willie B. Wheeler and James Avery. The couple then added Anna, Arverse, Herman Lee, Oscar Shelly, Ernest Philip and finally my Grandmother, Elnora in 1926.

By the 1920 Census the large family was farming on rented land with a few of the older sons working the home farm. This was also after the death of Philip’s father and his mother and older brother, Albert, were also counted in the household. The 1930 Census offered a surprise in the form of a previously unmentioned sibling credited to Philip and Sallie, a daughter named Katheline born in 1928. This is probably actually Katherine York, their granddaughter and the daughter of Mamie York and Willie B. Hampton.

Less than a year later, in March of 1931, Philip died and the following November Sallie followed, leaving the younger children scattered among older siblings and cousins. Grandma remembered time spent in the household of Uncle Sandy and his wife though in 1940 she is listed (as a cousin) in the household of her half-sister Ossie B. and James Rogers.

There’s so many important bits and pieces I’m missing in this family… death dates, information on how the children were parceled out after Sallie’s death, the location of the York families in 1870, just to name a few. Dad’s family is full of roadblocks I’ve yet to skirt but I’ll keep working on it.

Happy hunting,



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