Most Viewed Stories
Passing of James York marks end of an era
The recent death of James “Jim” York brings to a close the story of a pioneering family who homesteaded land in the Bard Valley beginning in the early 1900s. York Road is named for the family.
Jim's paternal and maternal grandparents, James Irvin and Mary Augusta “Molly” York and Thomas Michael and Annie Storm Killian respectively, both homesteaded land in the Bard Valley.
Thomas' parents moved to the United States in the mid-19th Century from Ireland. They were married after meeting in the United States, and eventually settled in California, where Thomas was born.
Thomas later married Annie Storm, the daughter of Danish immigrants. He was a school teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep School in San Francisco. They moved to Los Angeles where Thomas was involved in the real estate market.
Their daughter, Clara Margaret Killian was born in Los Angeles. In 1910, they moved to the Bard Valley after Thomas won a 40-acre homestead in a lottery drawing.
“Life was difficult,” said Kathleen Miller Shulthise, James' niece. “They irrigated their land from the Colorado River... they built the irrigation ditches around each of their fields. Their survival depended on the water. These were hardy people – making their living from the land. They were survivors. ”
When he was about 13 years old, James Irvin York moved west to be with his brothers. His future wife, Molly Roberts, also moved west to join her family, who were pioneers of San Bernardino County.
James Irvin received a land patent from the federal government for 40 acres in the Bard Valley in 1914.
On Dec. 26, 1916, his son James A. married Clara Margaret Killian, whom he had met in the Bard area. They would have four children together – Barbara, Ruth, Jim and Cecelia.
“My grandparents, James A. and Clara Margaret, began their married life by renting land to farm on the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation,” Shulthise said.
They farmed alfalfa, flax and other crops. Eventually, they began growing citrus trees. They sold the citrus and their crops directly to the public.
“My Aunt Barbara was the first white baby born on the reservation,” Shulthise said. “The Indian ladies were so interested in seeing her that Grandma put her in a hammock in a tree – so they could come and see the ‘white baby.'”
James A. and Clara later “donated the land, from their 40 acres, for the Bard School and the Bard Community Center,” Shulthise said. “Grandpa also had a Gas Station at the front of the farm.”
Jim was born in Los Angeles on July 11, 1920. “Grandma went to L.A. because it was too hot in the Bard Valley,” Shulthise explained.
As he was growing up, Jim “had to work hard on the farm,” Shulthise continued. “Uncle Jim worked in the fields and was responsible for selling the crops and citrus to the public.”
During the Great Depression, “grandpa went to Los Angeles and San Jose to find work and later was a supervisor for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in Bard Valley,” Shulthise said. “Grandma went to work in a Jewelry store in Yuma.”
Jim attended The Bard School, and later Yuma Union High School. After graduation, he attended San Jose State University in California. When World War II began, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served in the South Pacific on the USS Mob-jack, a motor torpedo boat active in the Pacific Theater from 1943 to 1946.
After the war, Jim did not return to farming, but was instead involved in business endeavours throughout the country.
“The farming in our family came to an end when my grandfather died,” Shulthise said.
Jim later earned his teaching certificate at Arizona State University and then an MBA. In 1957, he moved his family to Payson to take a teaching position at the high school there. He retired from teaching in 1983.
He leaves behind four children, 13 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews, including Shulthise. There are a few relatives still living in the Yuma area to this day.