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James Warren York & Family

Courtesy of

When James W. York was born on November 29, 1839, in Exeter, New Hampshire, his father, Ezekial, was 25 and a farmer and musician.  His mother Nancy was 19.  James W.'s sister Mary Adelaide 'Addie' (1842–1916) was born in 1842 in Massachusetts when James W. was 3 years old. James W.'s brother Charles E (1844–1923) was born on September 1, 1844, in Augusta, Maine when James W. was 4 years old.  He lived in Biddeford, Maine, on June 13, 1860, with his parents and was listed as a mason.

May 18, 1861, JW joined the 1st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as a musician and shown as a deserter on the 1st of July. On Jun 12, 1861, he enlisted in the 4th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment Band.  He married Amanda J. Inness on May 14, 1863, in Biddeford, Maine when he was 23 years old by Pastor Charles Tenny of the 3rd Congregationalist Church.

On July 1, 1863, JW and his wife were living with his father on a farm in Biddeford, Maine.  JW was discharged from 8th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Military Band. (transferring from one militia to another was not easily done and showed as a desertion from the first unit. Unconfirmed information.) His wife, Amanda J, died on 14 Jun 1865 in Biddeford.

In 1867, he then married Josephine Swasey (1840–1916) and they had two children together:
Frank W York (b.29 Aug 1868 • Biddeford, ME), and; Charles Edwin York (b.2 Dec 1872, Clinton, MA).  While in Clinton, MA, JW was listed as an artist and printer and in 1873 re-organized the Clinton Brass Band as its leader. He first worked for the Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory during this time.

On Oct 1882, JW's father, Ezekial, died in Biddeford, ME and the family moved to Grand Rapids, MI.  In Grand Rapids, he found work as a musician in a theater pit.

James W. York first had an 1883 partnership with Cris (Crescenz) J Smith, calling the partnership 'York & Smith' selling musical products.

The 1884 Grand Rapids City Directory listed the music business as: 'York & Company'.
A partnership formed with Frank Holton, 'York & Holton', which lasted about a year and sold sheet music & musical goods in 1885.

In 1887, when eldest son, Frank W, was 21 and an engraver, he became a principal in the family's music company and its name became 'York & Son', which was shown as a music publisher and instrument dealer.

'York & Son' was listed in 1888 for the first time as a Band Instrument Manufacturer in the directory.

On 25 Apr 1894, JW's mother, Nancy died in Kittery, Maine.

In 1898, when son Charles Edwin who had been working at the family's company as a plater was married, he became a principal in the company and its name again changed to 'York & Sons'.

In 1913, a stock company was formed, with JW and his sons as corporate officers and stockholders.  From about this time, JW and his sons often summered in Grand Rapids and wintered in Florida.    


In 1916, JW was 74 years old and retired from band instrument manufacturing by selling the company.  This after a factory shut down and labor dispute as well as JW losing both his sister, Mary Adelaide and his wife, Josephine to illnesses that year. 


JW eventually remarried Blanch E., who was about 40 in 1920 and relocated to Los Angeles, CA.

He died on February 8, 1927, in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 87, and was buried in Glendale, California.

Charles E. York passed away of heart problems in 1944 near Grand Rapids, MI.

Frank W. passed away on October 17, 1947 in Grand Rapids, MI.


Courtesy of The Grand Rapids Public Library Archives, Grand Rapids, Michigan (Circa 1912)


James Warren York Circa. 1925  

Alfred J. Johnson  "Bill Johnson", "Pop Johnson"

courtesy of

Musician, Inventor, Foreman, & Superintendent Alfred J. Johnson:

Credited with the invention of the Air Flow design as well as both CSO York CC tuba designs

1882 born in Grand Rapids in March (census)

1898 finisher, York & Sons (dir)

1902 instrument maker, York & Sons (dir)

1903 horn maker, York & Sons (dir)

1905 musician (marriage form)

1910 musician for musical industry (census)

1911 musician (dir) 

1916 & 1919 Superintendent (dir)

1930 & 1940 Superintendent band factory (census)

1940 retired as Superintendent

1972 died December 23rd 

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