News / USA

Northern Town Celebrates Status as Last Confederate Holdout

Town Line, New York marks the 150th anniversary of its secession from US

The people of Town Line, New York dressed up recently to mark the 150th anniversary of the town's secession from the United States.
The people of Town Line, New York dressed up recently to mark the 150th anniversary of the town's secession from the United States.

Multimedia

Audio

The firefighters in Town Line are one sign of the New York hamlet's unusual history. Sporting a Confederate flag on their uniforms, they're known as the “Last of the Rebels."

That’s because this town near the Canadian border seceded from the United States at the start of the Civil War in 1861. One hundred and fifty years later, the town is still trying to figure out why.

The only church hall in town was filled past capacity recently for a party marking the 150th anniversary of this northern town's decision to side with the South during the Civil War. Cannons sit in the parking lot. Ladies are in elaborate dresses while gentlemen swelter in woolen soldiers’ uniforms.

Brandon Adkins, who has strapped on an authentic battle sword, likes to tell people he’s a natural-born Confederate from upstate New York.

“One guy, he was calling me a Yankee. And I says, ‘Excuse me, I’m from Town Line, I’m a Confederate. We were Confederates for the longest time.’ He said, ‘If that’s true, I’ll kiss your rear end in front of everybody to see.’ He looked it up and I guess he believes me now that we were the last of the rebels.”

Town resident Brandon Adkins describes himself as a natural-born Confederate from upstate New York.
Town resident Brandon Adkins describes himself as a natural-born Confederate from upstate New York.

Many in Town Line, like history teacher Ray Ball, also find it hard to believe. “I was very surprised when I first heard it 10 years ago. I thought, ‘No way. Come on.'”

As the story goes, townspeople gathered at the local schoolhouse just after war broke out and voted 80-45 to secede from the Union. Shortly after, according to Ball, five local men headed south and joined the Confederate Army.

“The country was literally coming apart at the seams," he says, "and the seams tore much farther north than most people realize.”

But locals are still unsure why Town Line, just minutes from Canada, took such a dramatic step. Ball points out that residents supported Abraham Lincoln for president just the year before. Most were German immigrants without connections to the American south.  

“They had nothing to do with slavery here," Ball says. "So it had to be something beyond that, why they voted the way they did.”

Karen Muchow, who runs the local historical society, has researched the story for years without finding the answer. But, she says, after the Civil War ended, Town Line’s secession from the Union was conveniently forgotten.

“I think it was embarrassment, on some parts, that it happened," says Muchow. "There are no records that we know of. There could be in someone’s attic. Or were, and (were) destroyed. So there’s no names. Which may have been on purpose.”

Life went on. Residents paid federal taxes and opened a U.S. Post Office. Then, in 1946, right after World War II, a local newspaper unearthed the story.

This 1945 letter from President Harry Truman encouraged Town Line residents to rejoin the union.
This 1945 letter from President Harry Truman encouraged Town Line residents to rejoin the union.

Word spread around the country. Telegrams flooded in, hounding the town “rejoin” the Union. Even President Harry Truman wrote an open letter, urging residents to roast veal as a peace offering. Bowing to pressure, the town scheduled a vote.

Back at the 150th anniversary celebration, the crowd watched grainy film footage of long-dead relatives dropping ballots into a box and then lowering the town’s rebel flag, which had flown, on and off, for 85 years.

As an act of unity, an Abraham Lincoln impersonator leads the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance while facing both U.S. and Confederate flags in the front of the church - a salute to Town Line's self-proclaimed status as the “the last holdout of the Confederacy.”

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs