Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hamlet of Town Line "Heads South" in 1861

Politics at Town-Line
Buffalo Daily Courier February 12, 1861
   Town-Line, a place about 20 miles out on the railroad, and comprising of one dwelling house and two woodsheds, has perpetuated a very large goad considering its (Town Lines) size.  We have received a paper, in which is published to the world, Town Line’s Ordinance of Secession. Not only has town-line “secseshed” and “disuned,"  she has organized a home Government and appointed ministers to foreign countries, Joseph Myer of Buffalo, being named as minister to China. 

Nearby Hamlet Left Union in Civil War Days
Few residents recall a time when Town Line NY voted allegiance
 to South's Stars & Bars

Buffalo Courier Express Feb. 21 1937 & Sept. 3 1933
Abe Lincoln
   Broadway begins at Lafayette Square, which has a history as old as the city, but is set apart as a memorial to men who died fighting for the Union cause during the Civil War. The Square is also hallowed because one night, the Great Emancipator himself walked alone in the little park that was there when he stopped in Buffalo on his way to the White House. Lincoln won by a scant majority in Buffalo and Erie County in the election which made him President.  But the reception Buffalonians gave him must have assured him of their support in the policies he was to pursue in the coming four years.  Walking alone in the little park, Lincoln could not have known that fourteen miles out Broadway from Lafayette Square was the tiny Hamlet of Town Line, who had a majority of residents who opposed him, his policies and the rest of the United States loyal to the Union.
  Sympathized with Confederacy - Town Line had so many Southern sympathizers that it took action unparalleled in the United States north of the Mason-Dixon Line at the beginning of the Civil War.  Town Line, by a majority vote of it's citizens, seceded from the Union. Almost 500 miles away from the nearest Confederate State, the obscure settlement was an isolated but loyal patch of the Confederate States of America.  While the rest of Erie County sent thousands into battle for the Union, it is believed at least five men from Town Line went South and fought for the Bonnie Blue Flag of the Confederacy.  In the files of an old Lancaster newspaper is the angry account of the meeting of "copperheads" who drew up the articles of secession and signed them.
Jeffferson Davis
  Why Town Line left the Union is a mystery. It's residents at that time were sons and daughters of pioneers who came from Vermont or Germany. Such ancestry would almost guarantee an abhorrence of slavery, but Town Line then was a Democratic stronghold. There was little economic reason for such sympathy, for Town Line residents were either farmers or woodsmen. The community was by no means in accord on the political questions of the day. More than a score of men enlisted in the Union Army. At the first call of volunteers after the fall of Fort Sumter, Town Line sent it's quota of men for the Army of the Potomac. But at least five men left their homes and farms and it was generally supposed that they went south, and if they got through Union Lines, joined the Army of Virginia.  
 Majority for Secession - Feelings about the war ran high in the Hamlet. They came to a head in the late part of 1861. In a stormy embittered meeting the community's 125 voters one night, after a stormy session, voted 85 to 40 for secession and cheered Jefferson Davis. Town Line, fourteen miles from Lafayette Square, became a part of the Confederacy.
  The community's action came despite a tradition of a united North. George Huber said "Lancaster was the center of a "copperhead" community, although it was loyal, but Town Line, just east of here, was a bit of Southern rebellion in the midst of what everybody thought was a united North." He said, "We people of the village were a bit embarrassed when Town Line seceded from the Union by a vote of it's citizens. "But communication wasn't what it is now, and few of the Yankees held it against Town Line -- mostly for the reason that other communities in Western New York hadn't heard about it."
At upper left Henry Urshel, village blacksmith shows desk where the articles of secession were drawn up. 
Two reconstructed Confederates of Erie County Leland Kidder left, and Charles F. King who were born in 
Town Line when with the Confederacy.
Click on Map to Enlarge 
(Courtesy of Alden Historical Society)
   "When war was declared, Lancaster seethed with the news," he continued, "and many were the nights we stayed up as late as 12 o'clock to talk things out. The first war meeting was held on the evening of April 23d at the American Hotel and was addressed by Dr. Hunt and Almon Clapp from Buffalo. I was twelve years old at the time, but I remember the stern faces of the elders and the storm of passionate and angry discussion. Soon the town split into two factions, it was a very tense situation. George Bruce held court on the steps of the building where he and his son were closing up the affairs of the Merchants Bank and was the center of a group of rabid Southern sympathizers and avowed democrats. He made no pretense of concealing his sympathy for the South.
Confederate Battle Flags
   Thurston Carpenter, an argumentative invalid sitting in his wheel chair at his store on the opposite side of the road, was a red-hot Republican, and the leader of the other faction. Bruce and Carpenter clashed daily. These men formed, as it were, two hostile camps, between which occasionally there would be a parley, but more often a bitter verbal war.  As you went out of an evening for a walk after dinner--and everybody walked after dinner in those days--you could see the partisans of both groups dividing on the street as naturally as oil and water divide.  And often the excitement ran so high that if a man in either group had made the slightest sign, neighbors would have been at each others throats and fists would have taken the place of words."
Stars & Bars National Flag 1861
  The meeting in the schoolhouse made Town Line officially a rebel community, and as much an enemy of the Union as though it had been buried deep in Alabama. But the group of seceders got little comfort in expressing their views. There were banners and bugles of high courage in their action, but the outraged feelings of the Unionists in Town Line and the surrounding country had telling effect. There was frequent talk of lynching the "copperheads" and arrests for sedition. When news of casualties in the war came back to the community, there was open talk of reprisals.  In 1864 the county's quota of men was short by 292. The draft which followed asked five men from Alden and eight from Lancaster. Town Line to show it's loyalty, sent seven of the expected thirteen.  By this time the seceders had grown quiet.  They were afraid to meet together. The scorn shown by their townsmen had broken down their morale.
Old School house, now a Blacksmith shop, where Town Line
voted for the Stars and Bars of the South
  In August of 1864 there came a rumor that the Confederates had built up a big Army in Canada and were planning an invasion of the North. The rumor was given such credence that the war department built up old Fort Niagara. The fear among persons close to the Canadian line was intense.  The pent up feeling of the Unionist in and around Town Line threatened to break out in violence against the Southern sympathizers. Before it broke there was a slow but substantial exodus of the seceders from Town Line to Canada.  A few stayed but with the retreat of the majority of the secessionists the flame of anger ebbed. Town Line again lapsed back into it's placid existence and became so placid that it almost has forgotten the unique place it holds in the annals of the War Between the States.

   Secession Still Stands in Hamlet of Town Line
Southern Villages May Have Returned But Nearby Community is Still in Confederacy
Courier Express July 6 1945
Spvsr. John H. Cooke
   Dade County Georgia and Vicksburg Mississippi have renounced their 85 year old allegiance to the Confederacy and returned to the Union, but what about Town Line, the hamlet 14 miles out Broadway from Buffalo?  Legally, Town Line is still part of the Confederate States of America, probably the only spot that is. In 1861 the tiny community, half in the Town of Alden and half in the Town of Lancaster... seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States. There is no record of it ever having returned....
  "It's about time we did something about it" Supervisor John H. Cooke of Alden said yesterday. "Both Supervisor Joseph F. Schaefer of Lancaster and I have decided we should take steps immediately to bring Town Line Back to the Union. If Georgia and Mississippi feel the war is over, so do we in Lancaster, Alden and Town Line."  "We intend to have a formal ceremony, probably in the blacksmith shop and on the desk which with the articles of secession were signed.  We will come back to the United States very soon." Supervisor Cooke, a lawyer, says that as far as he knows Town Line is still legally outside the Union, because the action of 1861 has not been rescinded by the Town Line voters.

Buffalo Evening News October 2 1945
Georgians Advise Town Line To Give U. S. Another Try
Atlanta, Oct 2 (U.P.) -- The people of Georgia believe there's a place for every American in these United States--and that goes for the folks in Town Line, N.Y.  The Georgians couldn't hold back comment, when they learned Town Line, which seceded from the Union in 1861 to join the Confederacy, was considering voting itself back into the Union. The consensus was expressed by Gen. T.W. Dowling of  Valdosta Georgia, 97 year old Confederate veteran. He said: "We been rather pleased with the results since we rejoined the Union. Town Line ought to give the United States another try."...Another "authority," Judge A.L. Townsend of Trenton Georgia also believed "Town Line ought to give the United States a good second chance."
Courier Express October 7 1945
Truman Takes Hand To Bring Town Line Back Into U.S. Fold
Barbecuing of Fatted Calf His Suggestion For Peace Vehicle;
 Residents Plan to Take Advice
  True to it's word, Town Line will abide by President Truman's decision, though suggestion would be a more suitable word for it, for the Chief Executive left the decision  up to the Town Liners. He had been petitioned by the Hamlets Reconstruction Committee to arbitrate fractional differences and decide whether or not Town Line should rejoin the Union after being a Confederate stronghold for 84 years.  It was only a short time ago that Town Liners decided by a vote of 29 - 1 to remain the last shrine of the Confederacy. But there was enough show of Union sentiment to effect a compromise: The entire matter would be put to President Truman for a decision.  Mr. Truman's diplomatic reply, dated at the White House October 2nd is as follows: 
Dear Mr. Feeley: 
Harry Truman - The Buck Stops Here
  "There are few controversies that are not susceptible to a peace time resolution if examined in an atmosphere of tranquility and calm rather than strife and turmoil. I would suggest the possibility of roast veal as a vehicle of peace.
  Why don't you run down the fattest calf in Erie County, barbecue it and serve it with fixin's in the old blacksmith shop where the ruckus started? Who can tell? The dissidents might decide to resume citizenship."  
Very Sincerely Yours,      Harry Truman
    Receipt of the Presidents letter had the effect of a small atomic bomb on the feuding Town Liners. A special session of the Reconstruction Committee hastily was called and this resolution drawn up in response:  "For four score and four years, we the people of Town Line have enjoyed the blessings of  simple life which can only come to those who live without fear and envy of their fellow men.  We have been fraternally bound with a secret that has withstood the faster tempo and blandishments of large cities.  "Now we have been divested of that secret. We stand alone against a great nation which in a world of strife is looking towards us to make it a solid and united front.
  "We have read President Truman's letter and will follow his advice, but it is with extreme regret that proceedings will be started which may abandon the principles of our fathers.  After the blessings of the barbecued calf descends upon us, we shall deliberate."
  So the hunt is on for the fattest calf in Erie County which will be barbecued at a previously scheduled mass meeting to be held in the old blacksmith shop on Saturday October 27th.

Courier Express October 28 1945
Hamlet Minus Country, That's Town Line Now
  Town Line, out Broadway a few miles, last night became a hamlet without a country when residents adopted a resolution suspending it's ordinance of secession of 1861. Another resolution putting the question of rejoining the United States up to a resolution next July, and a third asking Gov. Thomas E. Dewey for "protection" in the meantime, also were approved. Truman Square, named for the president, also was officially proclaimed at Broadway and Town Line Rd.
   In repealing the 1861 ordinance of secession, the citizens voted to keep it inoperative, "as to such time as Town Liners or their heirs are next convened to determine their status as citizens of the United States."
During the period of suspension, the Town Liners  agreed to "restrict ourselves and our children against all manner of hostilities or overt acts contrary to Federal and state laws."
  Last nights veal barbeque was suggested by President Truman in a reply to a Town Line request for intervention in the secession matter. The eating took place in the Firemen's Hall. The old Blacksmith shop was found too small to accommodate the crowd of several hundred persons. Chairman Alvin Weber of the Town Line Reconstruction Committee, presided...

Buffalo Evening News January 23 1946
Movie Premier will Escort Town Line Back into Union
Mrs. Louis Falconer of Town Line
Formally of Vicksburg Virginia 
arrives with her Spaniel to vote.
 Wearing gaudy badges reading "Last Stand of The Confederacy" 1861-1946 residents of Town Line went about their business on the eve of their towns vote tomorrow on whether to return to the Union.  Town Lines sagging old blacksmith shop where the original secession papers were supposed to have been signed in 1861, was being decorated today and a Confederate flag was obtained to wave over the ancient structure. Oddly enough the celebration and voting coincided with the announcement that the premiere showing of 20th Century-Fox Production, "Col. Effingham's Raid" would take place in the Fire House.
  Movie Stars Cesar Romero and Martha Stewart will make personal appearances, and Charles Coburn star of "Col. Effingham's Raid" will broadcast an appeal from Georgia for Town Line to re-join it's neighbors in "recognizing the Union." A luncheon will precede the motion picture and ballots will be cast sometime during the afternoon.
Cesar Romero and Martha Stewart announcing the
vote for Town Line to return to the
United Staes or not.

Courier Express January 25 1946  "The Rebels Last Stand"
Unreconstructed Rebels Lose In Town Line Vote
Old Glory Replaces Stars and Bars as Tiny Community Votes 90-23 to Re-join Union 
  It's all over but the shouting in Town Line. The stubborn little Erie County Hamlet, to the joy of many and sorrow of a few, yesterday renounced it's distinction of being the last stronghold of the Confederacy. By a vote of 90-23, Town Line's citizens decided to re-join the Union after 85 years of separation.  Since 3:21 pm when Cesar Romero, visiting movie star, raised his arm triumphantly, announcing "a glorious victory for the Union" Town Line became a part of the United States after it's strange interlude. The deed was undone on the spot where it originated, the old Blacksmith shop in Truman Square...
Line Forms at Historic Blacksmith Shop for Barbecue Lunch Before Vote to Re-Join Union
Stars and Bars Lowered
Voting in Front of Blacksmith Shop. Desk in center 
was used in 1861 to sign the Articles of Secession.
Photo Courtesy of Alden Historical Society
   With solemn ceremonies the Stars and Bars of the lost cause were lowered from the flag pole beside the old blacksmith shop. Then the sun broke through dark clouds as Old Glory was being fastened to the flag pole ropes, and a great shout went up as the banner was raised. The ballot followed the first public showing in Town Line's fire hall of the film (Col. Effingham's Raid) exemplifying the spirit of unity to which all citizens of the village were admitted free by Twentieth Century-Fox film Corp., as it's contribution to the cause of unity.  
   During the intermission, Webster read letters and telegrams from Governor Thomas E. Dewey and several Congressmen. Typical was this message from Rep. John Sparkman of Alabama: 
  "As one reconstructed rebel to another, let me say that I find much comfort in the fact that you good people so far up in Yankee land have held out during the years. However, I suppose we grow soft as we grow older." 
Edmond F. Cooke
   "I find, therefore, no resentment but indeed a feeling of pride in the assurance that public opinion there indicates a likely vote of returning to the Union. Congratulations upon the tenacity displayed by you people but at the same time best wishes for a safe and harmonious return to the flag of us all."
Former Rep. Edmond F. Cooke of Alden wired from Syracuse:
"The great shield of the Republic glistens today with a new lustre as Town Line resumes her place with the rest of Columbia's sons and daughters. The longest rebellion in history has come to a peaceful end with singing and feasting. Congratulations, but don't do it again!"

The Stars and Bars are Lowered Outside the The Blacksmith Shop

Original Desk Where Articles of Secession Were Signed
Located at the Alden Historical Society
For more information on this event contact or visit the Alden Historical Society (click here)
Editors Note:  I have had comments about the Stars & Bars flag that is referenced throughout this story as not being the one depicted in the photo's. A part of the story which I didn't include, and now seeing I probably should have, is that the Town residents of the day in hastily assembling the decor could not physically come up with an official national Flag of the Confederacy (stars & bars) in fact they did try to find out and get it right but couldn't come up with it.  The Southern Cross or St. Andrews Cross flag as some call it was readily available and thus used in the ceremony. (Remember, there was no internet in those days for a quick history lesson) And you also have to remember there were at least six different designs for the Confederate National flag and the latter versions did include the cross in their design.

Credit: Photos of Edmond and John Cooke provided courtesy of Jeff Cooke. Thank you.

Original Stars & Bars Flag 
1861 other S & B Flags
 had 9, 11 and 13 Stars

2nd Confederate National Flag
3rd Confederate National Flag
"Blood Stained Banner"


son of south said...

The flag is The St. Andrew's Cross. The Stars and Bars had 7 stars in a circle with a red/white/red field. You can google it.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm kind of late, but the last official flag of the Confederacy was the "Blood Stained Banner," not the Stars and Bars.

Jerry M Malloy said...

Anonymous, Thank You for your comment, I have since added the "Blood Stained Banner" to the end of story.

Anonymous said...

Ever heard of the Boggstown, Indiana Resolves? They are certainly north of the Mason/Dixon Line and haven't yet rejoined the Union.

Jerry M Malloy said...

No, I haven't. Would like to learn more. Could you explain briefly or provide a web link that I could add to this blog? Thank you for your comment.

townSquareEnergy said...

New Hampshire Energy
I really like your blog, keep it up!

Emilyd said...

Did you copy/paste these articles or did you summarize? I'm doing a paper on this subject and I'm having a hard time finding sources

Jerry M Malloy said...

I combined the main story from two articles from different years which offered different commentary on same subject matter. The shorter stories, I believe, were word for word except some may have been excerpts from the complete article in the interest of brevity of the whole story. The sources are as listed at the beginning of each section, i.e. Buffalo evening News, Courier Express etc. then the date.