Discovering History Through Research
The Sergeant York Discovery Expedition
The Sergeant York Historic Trail and Monument
The idea for the Sergeant York Historic Trail came from a desire to allow visitors to the area a chance to "follow the footsteps" of the brave men who fought for freedom. The actual location where York earned the Medal of Honor had never been accurately documented and, with the passage of time, had been lost. With years of research in the American and German archives complete, The Sergeant York Discovery Expedition was formed to locate and mark the "York Spot" so that it would never again be lost in time. The trail and monument are designed to preserve the York legacy in the Argonne and honor all those who sacrificed for the cause of freedom in the "Great War"
After the discovery of the "York Spot" as it has been nicknamed, SYDE turned their efforts toward the creation of the York Trail. This was no easy task because, in France, nothing of this nature happens quickly. Even with SYDE's discovery of the .45 caliber ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) shells marking the spot where York fought off the bayonet attack, it took nearly two years of planning and preparation before visitors would take thier first steps into history on the Sgt. York Historic Trail.
It would take the help and coordination of the Boy Scouts, Volunteers, Military Liaisons, Political Leaders, Government Officials, and people willing to donate funds and time to make this dream a reality.
The first step after getting the go-ahead to build the trail was, of course, to decide where it would go exactly. There were private landowners to deal with, communal land rights, road issues, and forest managers, not to mention the numerous natural obsticales to negotiate.
In all, 54 curbstones were put in place and 350 meters of trail were widened.
Over 30 tons of gravel goes a long way and with the trail nearly complete, Mayor of Chatel Chehery Alain Rickal, arranged for the remaining pile to be moved to the monument site. Once delivered a local resident of Chatel volunteered to spread the gravel with his very agile little tractor. What would have taken many hours to do by hand, was finished in no time.
Stephen Corey, Will Thrippleton, Colin Strout, all the Gerbers: John, Nate, Roger, Kristy, Petra, and Jeremiah, Kory and Beth O'Keefe stand at the York Monument and on the completed road.
Rebbie Mastriano takes on the arduous task of pulling weeds along the trail, (above), the first order of business to prepare for the gravel delivery.
The SGT. York Trail
Josiah stands in the new drainage area.
The crew worked first to clear the fallen leaves from the trail and then mark the line for widening.
After the new road surface was complete, the scouts began to haul up the new gravel in teams of three, one pulling and two pushing. By days end, the team took more than 40 loads of gravel to its new home on the trail.
View looking down from the road.
SYDE volunteers cut nearly 400 meters of trail by hand along a sloped section of the forest.
One final touch was to replace the 90th anniversary signs with new "Curcuit du Sergeant Alvin York" signs at the entrance points to Chatel Chehery.
The Monument site.
The SYDE team and Mayor Alain Rickal show off the new signage (left above)
Pictured below are team photos with most of, but unfortunately not all, of the members who helped.
Names of everyone who helps are listed at the end of this section.
Lance Milsted and his son Luke (above) repair and replace trail barrier logs in preparation for the coming gravel.
Meetings with the Mayor of Châtel Chéhéry - Roland Destenay, Mayor of Fléville - Damien Georges and a French Government official Senator Warsman to discuss the trail route.
As the dual-wheeled dump trailer brought the gravel to the drop zone in 30 minute increments, the pile grew ever larger until it eventually blocked the entrance to the trail.
While one team was hauling and spreading gravel, other team members selected pre-approved logs to create the border along both sides of the trail.
Many hands made light work and the completed Eagle Scout Project made a fantastic improvement.
Just days before the York Trail was to open, Kory O'Keefe and his Father-in-Law, LJ Hauss, Mother-in-Law, Margie Hauss and his wife Beth, finished the hard work of stabilizing the forest staircase.
Left to right, Kory O'Keefe, Josiah and Doug Mastriano, co-founders of the Sergeant York Discovery Expedition (SYDE) stand at sign one at the beginning of the trail.
- - Trail Improvements - -
John Gerber ~ Eagle Scout Project ~ July 2010
On the weekend of July 31st John Gerber and his team of supports headed out to the Argonne with the goal of improving 100 meters of the York trail by adding gravel and wood barriers. The work is part of a series of Eagle Scout projects slated to continue improvements of the York Trail. The unique partnership between SYDE and the Boy Scouts gives young men the opportunity to attain the rank of Eagle Scout while at the same time contribute to the preservation of this important piece of American History. John Gerber not only attained his goal to complete his Eagle Scout Project but was also able to improve another portion of the trail though a surprise donation. A section of drainpipe on the road where the York trail crosses the same stream Corporal York crossed some 90+ years ago had been in need of repairs. Thanks to a last minute donation, the old section of clay pipe was removed and replaced with a modern corrugated drainpipe. John and his team jumped in without hesitation to complete the pipe replacement thereby adding a significant and lasting improvement that visitors will enjoy for years to come.
SYDE and all the visitors to the York Trail wish to thank John and his team of supporters for a job very well done!
The following picture are a small selection of the weekend activities.
"The Golden Moment"
~ Work continued the next day ~
Before moving the gravel, one wheel-barrow at a time up the hill, the new drainage pipe had to be buried and the road repaired. Much of the original rock was saved and replaced before new gravel was added to complete the road surface.
Nate and his father Steve (in the red shirts) proudly stand at sign 5 with the Brown family and Kory O'Keefe. Sign 5 marks the far end of the York trail. From here on the trail begins to look back to the start.
In early October 2008 an Information sign was placed at the west end of the main street in Châtel Chéhéry. This sign marks the starting point of the Sgt. York Historic Trail giving visitors an overall map view and information about the 9 points of interest along the trail in English, French and German. The back of the sign shows a diagram of the York Spot and highlights of the significant artifacts found there.
Final look of the trail from the stairs at sign 6.
One more piece of this project was to add small pamphlet boxes to the sign at the start of the trail. The pamphlets are in French, German and English and give more information for visitors to take with them.
David, Barbra and Nathaniel Barber, Fabien Bon, Lars and Hunter Braun Troop 4, Rodolphe Brichot, Chris, Declan, and Shane Colbert, Nick, Jenna, and Elena Gallardo, Adam, Brian and Scott Jostt, Doug, Rebbeca and Josiah Mastriano, Lance and Luke Milsted, Jeffrey, Jonathan, Michael and Shauna Moffett, Grace, Kathryn, Cameron and Paul Noble Troop 324 (Stuttgart), Kory O’Keefe, Jeff and Pete Perkins, Denise and Michael Rayl Troop 4.
The Sergeant York Discovery Expedition is accepting donations to help improve the
SGT. York Historic Trail and Monument.
Click HERE to learn more.
Entry point to loop at sign 4.
The new road surface and drainpipe after a long days work.
The section of road over the old drainpipe before work began.
Flower seeds were planted in anticipation of next spring to help beautify the border of the monument area,
The artesian well (above left) has always be a trouble spot along the trail during the rainy months. The team managed to place 6 new curbstones (above right) to improve drainage.
John and his team take a look at the section marked for improvement before starting the difficult job of bringing nearly 5 cubic meters of gravel to the designated area. As you can see, the vegetation grows quickly in the Argonne and the trail is barely visible between signs 4 and 5. (left)
Team members moved the gravel one wheel barrow at a time from the pile to the trail eventually covering nearly 300 meters of trail 4 feet wide and 4 inches deep. Each load would cover only about 3 feet of trail. If you do the math, this makes for somewhere around 300 loads with each one traveling a greater distance from the pile. A monumental task.
Fathers, sons, and moms all worked hard to border the trail over a three day weekend to ensure that no visitor would accidentally stray from the trail and get lost in the Argonne forest.
View looking up to the road.
Doug Mastriano organizes the first of several Boy Scout trips to build the trail.
In 2008 a new Mayor of Châtel Chéhéry, Mayor Alain Rickal (seated left above), was elected and the meetings continued.
With the trail route chosen, a site for the monuments needed to be selected. Because the actual York Spot stood on private land, a suitable location just above the spot was chosen for its flatter terrain and elevated view.
View looking down from the road.
Before the weekend was over, Josiah spent a little time with MSG Tom Mills and Sean Patrick who had come down from AFN Benelux in Belgium to cover the story of the Boy Scouts continuing improvement of the York Trail.
And now the fruits of our labor.
Here are some awesome before and after looks at the trail.
The completed Project!
In addition, grading was required to reach solid rock on which to mount the monument foundations.
Malcome Steele checking the monument stone still in the shipping crate.
In addition to the Monument stone, SYDE recognized the fact that certain areas of the trail needed proper markings to ensure visitors did not take a wrong turn and get lost in the forest. Much of the terrain in and around the York Spot can look the same, especially in the spring and summer when the leaves are in full bloom. Despite the many trips into the Argonne west of Châtel Chéhéry, even the SYDE team had been know to get a bit turned around.
Initially, stone markers were put in with the intention of being carved or painted with the letters, "YORK TRAIL", along with directional arrows. Several of these stones were put in place the summer of 2007 as word of the trail had already begun to spread and visitors started to come in hopes of being one of the first to walk the York Trail.
Near the midpoint on the trail, visitors will enter the Monument Park and can view the monuments while overlooking the exact location where Corporal Avlin C.York fought off the famous bayonet attack and earned the Medal of Honor.
After all the signs were placed along the trail route, the next step was to "connect the dots" and border the trail with natural timber from the forest. All the wood used was first designated as "trail wood" by the local forest manager.
The photo on the right shows the Weider Family Park Memorial stone honoring all 17 Americans engaged in the actions on 8 OCT 1918. This was made possible through the generous gifts of the Weider Family and was added just prior to the opening of the trail on 4 OCT 2008.
Several improvements have been made since the trail opened in October 2008. Drainage was added to the normally muddy section near sign 5 and the other was the addition of permanent signs, pictured below, describing the significant points in the battle on 8 OCT 1918.
Meanwhile at the monument site, team members take on the weeds.
The new drain began to work just minutes after it was in place. A heavy section of the old drain is used to shore-up the mouth of the new pipe.
Mayor of Châtel Chéhéry, Alain Rickal, supervises the sign distribution with several Boy Scouts
Signs were placed in the ground by members of the Boy Scouts of America and their families during a camping trip to the Argonne. Nate Eggert was approved to use the building of the trail for his Eagle Scout project
Meanwhile, as the prep-work in the forest continued, the monument stone was designed and ordered. The York Monument Tablet is a polished lava stone produced locally in France. SYDE had it produced using the same stone and process used to make other monuments in the area such as the information tablet on the American Monument in Montfaucon, France. The tablet is a very hard white lava-stone fired after the design is applied to seal the picture and print under a clear enamel glaze protecting the surface from the elements.
Late in the day, the final load of gravel was wheeled to the base of the steps leading up the slope to sign 6. An amazing achievement; 300 or more individual trips, hauling literally tons of gravel, to provide a most excellent new surface for all future visitors to enjoy. Pictured below is what we called "The Golden Moment"
Newly placed stepping stepping stones between signs 4 and 5, normally the muddiest portion of the York Trail.(left) John and his sister Petra on the newly surfaced trail.(right)
The SYDE team invites you to visit the trail whenever you are in the area to experience the beauty and quiet of the Argonne and reflect on the men and women who sacrificed then and now for the freedom we enjoy today.
Drew Burns ~ Eagle Scout Project ~ March 2011
The York trail continues to improve as another Eagle Scout candidate completes his project. On the weekend of March 26, 2011, Drew Burns and his team headed out to the Argonne with the goal widening a portion of the trail and placing curbstones alone one side to prevent erosion. The work is part of a series of Eagle Scout projects slated to continue improving the York Trail. The unique partnership between SYDE and the Boy Scouts gives young men the opportunity to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, while at the same time, contribute to the preservation of this important piece of American History. With the help of many scouts and parents, Drew attained his goal to complete his Eagle Scout Project. In all, 54 curbstones each weighing between 50 and 80 pounds, were moved from nearby Romagne and placed along the trail. In addition, about 350 meters of the trail were made 2 feet wider to provide a more comfortable walk to the monuments. Drew and his team made a lasting improvement that visitors will enjoy for years to come.
SYDE and all the visitors to the York Trail wish to thank Drew and his team of supporters for a job very well done! The following pictures are a small selection of the weekend activities.
A proud crew of scouts display their handy-work.
Later, in July of 2008, wooden directional signs produced through generosity of the Grandpre Developpement Department were delivered to Châtel Chéhéry by Richard Steffan.
Next curbstones were hauled in and carefully put in place on the high side of the trail.
Discovering History Through Research
Although it might seem terrible from a layman's point of view, the forest manger had identified several trees with deep cracks in their trunks and insisted they be taken out for the safety of the site and visitors.
Doug Mastriano puts some grit into it. Two words come to mind...Sore Back.
View looking up to the road.
On yet another work trip to the Argonne, the signs were loaded into the town tractor, driven by Forest Manager, Frederick Chopin, for distribution along the trail. Nine signs in all mark the points of interest along the loop trail.
The day began with the assignment of duties as the workers assembled at the York Monument.
Josiah Mastriano (left) awaits the next load of gravel as it makes its way up the narrow logging roads of the Argonne.
Drew Burns hauling tools for the work on the trail.
When the work was complete, everyone enjoyed a "test walk" along the newly created trail.
Erosion is always an enemy of trails like this and over time it can turn a beautiful park into a washed out meadow. In addition to the gravel spread throughout the monument area, team members dug a drainage channel around the uphill edge of the park and placed yet more curb stones to divert the water flow away from the memorial stones.
Artesian well area near sign 5.
Troop 4 Scouts
Drew Burns, Briton Rott, John Peters, Zach Harrison, Will Glazier, Nathaniel Barber, Josh Groom,
Michael Rayl, Jose Tavarez Jr., Alex Vickers, Liam Dougherty, Conner Dougherty
Parents and Family
Jessica Burns and younger son Dakota Burns, Mike Wigton, Dave Barber, Chris Rayl, Denise Rayl,
Jose Tavarez, Mike Vickers, Sean Madden
Josiah Mastriano ~ Eagle Scout Project ~ May 2011
The York trail continues to improve as another Eagle Scout candidate completes his project. On the weekend of May 20 - 22, 2011, Josiah Mastriano and his team headed out to the Argonne with the following goal:
- Clear existing weeds from the trail and monument area.
- Cover the trail between signs 4 and 5 with heavy gravel.
- Improve drainage at the artesian well (spring) near sign 5.
- Replace, repair or reposition and secure trail border logs.
The work is part of a series of Eagle Scout projects aimed to continue improving the York Trail. The unique partnership between SYDE and the Boy Scouts gives young men the opportunity to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, while at the same time, contribute to the preservation of this important piece of American History. With the help of many scouts and parents including Doug Mastriano Josiah's father (co-founder of SYDE and leader of the efforts to locate the York spot), Josiah attained his goal to complete his Eagle Scout Project. In all, 37 tons of gravel were used to cover some of the wettest parts of the trail, curbstones weighing between 50 and 80 pounds were used to improve drainage and weeds were pulled in massive quantities. Beyond the initial goal, the team also had enough gravel left to cover about 75% of the monument area and place more curbstones around the parameter which will help fight erosion problems. Josiah and his team made a lasting improvement that visitors will enjoy for years to come.
SYDE and all the visitors to the York Trail wish to thank Josiah and his team of supporters for a job very well done! The following pictures are a small selection of the weekend activities.