It's 1946. A movie world premier. A dog named Damn Yank. The last remaining town still part of the Confederacy. A vote to decide whether to re-join the Union after 85 years. Where does this take place? Virginia? Alabama?
Nope. A small hamlet in Western New York. Town Line, to be precise, located on the border of Alden and Lancaster. Also where I lived for all but the first year of my life prior to college.
(Even today the Town Line Volunteer Fire Dept. patch says "Last of the Rebels".) Photo Source.
Thursday I was able to attend a presentation in my home town on the secession of Town Line from the Union in 1861. A random fact that I never knew about. Reasons why they seceded are varied, Wikipedia writes "an article in The Buffalo News from 1945 cites discontent with President Lincoln, treatment of Confederate soldiers at a POW camp in Elmira, dissatisfaction of German immigrants with being subject to conscription or war, the interest of self rule or perhaps an incident by some runaway slaves at a local underground railroad stop."
No one really knows why, although the POW camp was actually not yet created in 1861, so that can be ruled out. I am a fan of the theory that slave hunters had started looking into the Underground Railroad stops in Town Line a bit too closely, so by seceding they could continue to help slaves escape more easily. The vote was 85 to 40, a pretty decent margin.
5 men from Town Line actually went to fight for the Confederacy, as did 20 for the North. After the war, the town either forgot or just ignored the fact that they had left the Union, until a newspaper article came out in 1945 amidst the renewed patriotism of WWII. The first vote to re-join the Union in 1945 failed, but a second vote on 26 January 1946, led by Cesar Ramaro, passed -. Those against it? One woman felt it shouldn't be unanimous, so she asked the ladies auxiliary members to vote "no" (she also owned the dog "Damn Yank".)
According the the lecture, the hamlet had a difficult time finding a Confederate flag to raise for the few minutes of the vote, as one had never actually been hung in the town.
I think this is a fantastic story and one that deserves to be more well know. Who would have guessed that the last Confederate stronghold would be the only town north of the Mason-Dixon line to have seceded? And that is my hometown.
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