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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs