On January 7, 1860 a letter was written to Governor John W. Ellis, written by the members of a public meeting organized by Richard York. York called men of the Cedar Fork community to meet at the academy to discuss the possibility of "forming a volunteer company." The men arrived at the schoolhouse and filled the classroom. The meeting was then called to order. York called a local militia commander, Colonel H. Weatherspoon to chair the meeting and Sidney Scott to act as secretary. As he had seen his father preach on countless occasions, Professor York, began to orate for the assembled crowd. He explained to the men the purpose for their meeting by "reviewing the present agitation & impending crisis of affairs relative to the South," He was referring to the attack on the arsenal in Virginia three months earlier by John Brown. York closed the meeting by urging, "his fellow citizens to prepare for any emergency that may arise." The men assembled then stepped up and enrolled in York's company. Again York, the guiding spirit of the meeting, moved that a committee of five individuals be appointed to select a uniform and a name. The Wake Riflemen was the name chosen and the officers then elected. Colonel H. Weatherspoon was chosen as the Captain due to his skills as a militia officer. Colonel C. Lowe: First Lietenant: Malcus Page, Second Lieutenant: Professor York, Third Lieutenant: Dr. W.. Lowe, Fourth Lieutenant: Sidney Scott: Esquire Orderly Sergeant.
Lietenant York then moved that the new commissioned officers, "be instructed to go to Raleigh immediately, & call upon the Governor for the purpose [of] procuring the Long Range Rifle." This motion was adopted as well as one that specified that the proceedings of the meeting be sent to Governor Ellis and the North Carolina Standard and Raleigh Register newspapers for publication. This was the birth of the unit, which was to become the Cedar Fork Rifles.
War was on the horizon for York and North Carolina but it did not affect the daily life of those in the Cedar Fork Township. The next minutes of the Cedar Fork Church which mention the school is from May 1860. A report from the building committee to the Raleigh Association of churches saying that they had granted leave to the students of the Cedar Fork Academy to hold their examinations and exercises in the church. In that early spring, Rev. Brantly York came down to see his son and attend the graduation. The elder York preached the annual commencement sermon and Mr. John Pennington delivered the literary sermon to the students.
By December, the thunder was heard. South Carolina secceeded and the rest of the lower South followed in successive months. As the clouds of war began to thicken over the country York began to drill the young men of the school, marching the cadets to and fro, in columns and ranks across the open field next to the academy. The young female students watched in fasination, from the second story, at the strange drills. But on April 12, Southern forces fired on Ft. Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, and America changed instantly. The news exploded at the school like the shells themselves over the Federal garrison in Charleston and was followed by disturbing silence. York suspended literary studies and began drilling the boys in earnest for the now, unavoidable war. One student at the academy, W.H. Lyon was only eighteen when the war began. He wrote that he and "the entire personnel" were enlisted and lead by York. "Thus a fine school of splendid boys, bright, vigorous and active, in time of peace, was converted over night into an armed force ready to be drilled and drilled in the military maneuver." In a day or two the small corps of cadets had grown with men from the old Wake Riflemen and others coming in to join, causing the Academy to transform from school to barracks.
The women and young girls were also eager to support their husbands and sons in the best way they could. These wives, sisters, and mothers came together and organized a the Cedar Fork Serving Society. Mrs. York became the president followed by Mrs. Lizzie Weatherspoon, secretary, and Miss Fannie Lyon as Treasurer. Immediately and vigorously these women started the massive mission of outfitting the company. Sewing machines were indeed a luxury and none were to be had forcing the ladies to hand sew nearly 120 uniforms, haversacks, and tents! In addition, they made cloth blouses for the canteens and lent for bandages. Mrs. York and the other ladies decided that it was only fitting, after their tireless work, to present the company with a flag. The women of the society quickly raised forty dollars for the constructions and chose Miss Partridge of Raleigh to make it from one of Fannie's blue silk dresses.
On May 20th, North Carolina seceeded from the United States and joined the Southern Confederacy. Commissions for York and others were back dated to May 16th and the company was officially accepted into service. York was just twenty-two and the old Wake Riflemen On May 21st, York sends a letter to Col. Fisher, who is in Raleigh on business asking him to come and see the regiment.
Raleigh May 21 61
Dear Sir - I beg you to excuse me to your company for not going up to day. i have been absolutely & unavoidably detained here to day on official duties, which you know cannot be neglected & quite unable to get away. - I am obliged to go West tonight on the same matters I am called upon to present the names of Captains & Officers for Appointments. I believe no more short term Volunteers will be received - So the Governor says - until the State Troops are filled up. So your question would be as between myself & some other chief. I will come down on an engine Thursday as to be sure _______ you & the company. If you are yet determined send me your names of Officers by morning Trains to report for appointments as once or wait to see me. As you please.
This unit Captain York was trying to join was a special entity. Organized and bank rolled by the president of the North Carolina Railroad, Charles F. Fisher.