A Small Town in NY seceded from the Union in 1861

Even in the 21st century, there are individuals who want to have their state or a portion of their state secede from the United States. You would think that was only in 1860s (with the Civil War that divided the nation) but you may be in a state that is thinking that way today.

In recent years there has been such talk in Texas, and Alaska and even California. Some states like Florida are only suggesting their one state should be divided into two separate states.

Back in 1860, we do think of states breaking away from the Union to form the Confederate states (mostly southern states). However, you might have had ancestors who actually voted to secede their town from the Federal Union in 1861.

In the state of New York, close to the city of Buffalo and near the Canadian border is the town of Town Line. The male population of this small farming town voted when the southern states seceded that they would join the Confederacy. Only males voted in late 1861 and the vote was 80 in favor and 45 against seceding from the Union and joining the Confederacy. Yet, none of the young men of Town Line joined the Confederate Army but 20 did join the Union Army.

The background of many of the residents there in 1861 was that of German heritage and they did not own slaves. Even more amazing most of the male population voted for Abraham Lincoln in 1860 to be President. With the end of the Civil War in 1865, the former Confederate states rejoined the Union. However, Town Line in NY was not a state and didn’t think to rejoin the Union.

That situation continued for decades until late 1945 was the historical event brought to everyone’s attention. The town did have a vote to rejoin but the measure failed. U.S. President Truman sent a message to Town Line that they should vote again and correct the situation.

So on January 24, 1946, the adult population voted 90 in favor and 23 against to not belong to the Confederacy and to rejoin the Union, taking an oath of allegiance. They had flown a Confederate flag over town hall all this time and now lowered it. The only place that still had the Confederate flag patch was on the uniforms of the town fire department.

It would be 2011 when the town changed its official seal and the fire department uniform to remove the Confederate symbol. Only business keeping the rebel spirit is Blair’s Hardware store that has the sign “The Last Rebel Business Still Taking a Stand”. Today the population in Town Line is 2,367.

Check the list of names on the vintage Town Line map or go to census records for 1860 or state 1865 for Erie County, NY. See if there is a connection.

Photos: Town Line Symbol; Town Line Map; and Town Line Plaque

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

State of NY Archives

Blue and Gray Ancestors

Union Soldiers Buried

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