The creation of this unit was the vision of Richard Watson York. Educator, Professor, Military leader. All of these words describes one of Wake County's unknown individuals. He started an academy in northern Wake County, organized a pre-Civil War unit, and took them through four years of bloody war. His story is that of a man who was admired by those who met him for his intelligence and his dedication to principles which he believed in. The unit he organized in 1861 from his friends and neighbors was like any other unit from across the South, but it was very special to those whose fathers and sons were in its ranks. The story of the Cedar Fork Rifles begins with the opening chapters dedicated to its founder Richard Watts York, and his life begins in Randolph County and with the powerful influence of his father.
Brantly York was born in 1805. He was an ambitious young man who was deeply moved by his religious convictions. He became a charismatic and highly successful minister, preaching throughout central North Carolina. It is said that his motto was, "If there is no way, make one." But the pious preacher was best known as an educator and professor. In 1831, York had started teaching school and by 1838 would found Union Institute which evolved into Trinity College and ended up as Duke University. "It is probable that Brantley York organized more schools than any other man in America." In addition, York filled the void in textbooks for his students and wrote several English readers like York's Grammar and York's High School Grammar. Rev. York was aggressive in his quest for intellectual and spiritual growth in others and this crusade took a toll on him, causing exhaustion at times and eventually caused him to go blind. The Professor did somehow, find time between lectures and sermons to have a large family.
His first marriage took place on January 31, 1828 to Miss Fannie Sherwood. This bore him one son, but after six years both wife and infant were dead. York remarried, Mary Wells Lineburry and fathered 13 children. Richard Watts was the first boy of the family born on September 30, 1839 at the couples home in Randolph County.  The young life of Richard was one of constant change. Moving from place to place, a heavy emphasis on education, and a father who was contstantly away doing his good deeds for others. But the young York was constantly in ill health and this would plague him for the rest of his days. But by age 17, he had completed his collegiate course work with high honors. At age of 20, Richard was involved in the Masonic order belonging to a lodge in Chatham County, the George Washington Lodge No. 174, and was married to Louisa Farrar Foushee,in 1857,who gave birth to a daughter Tuilla L. two years later. In 1860 York was becoming a man known of his own efforts. He either founded a new school, the Cedar Fork Academy, which opened up in western Wake County.
The school had derived it's name from the church which stood near by and in turn the church, organized on April 22, 1805, was named for the creek which ran nearby. The Cedar Fork Baptist Church had owned the land on which the school was built. It seems the building for the academy was started in 1859. "By request of Brother H. Weatherspoon the church granted leave to the trustees of the Cedar Fork Academy to build an academy on her land."
York was an an informed and educated man. He monitored the changing political and sectional atmosphere. It was a time when tempers were flaring in the North and South creating a dangerous mixture, ready to explode at a moments notice. He was a whig and opposed seccession but realized that events were approaching a climax. In the wake of John Brown's failed raid in Virginia in October of 1859, York decided something had to be done.