May 232017
 

In a previous post I explored whether my great great-grandfather, Jacob P. Yuncker (1837-1905), served in the Civil War. Apparently he was drafted in August 1863, but I could find no record of him actually serving. I concluded he was probably granted an exemption to care for his sick wife Rosa. Or perhaps he had already left the area either coincidentally or to avoid the controversial draft. I have since discovered more of his story.

An 1855 plat map of Erie County, New York shows the house where Jacob’s parents lived, and no doubt where Jacob and his siblings grew up.1  It is a nondescript community half way between Lancaster and Alden, just east of Buffalo, New York. The map indicates it is “Town Line” post office and it does straddle the boundary of both Lancaster and Alden townships.

Town Line was a community of German immigrants started about 1844. Jacob’s parents Hubert and Barbe Yuncker immigrated to America in June 1847 from the predominately German region of Alsace, France. Records indicate they settled near Alden, New York. The map proves it was in Alden Township, not Alden proper, and specifically in the community of Town Line.  See “H Yunker,” center.

Map

Town Line, Erie County, New York, 1855

It turns out Town Line is infamous for being the only northern city to secede from the Union. By a two-to-one vote, in a school house across the street from the Yunckers in 1861 the residents voted to secede. Amazingly, the town did not vote to rejoin the United States until 85 years later in 1946. An elaborate ceremony was held and even President Truman knew of the occasion.

The secession of Town Line had no practical or legal effect, nor was it recognized by the Confederacy. There were threats of lynching and arrests from neighboring townspeople, but apparently no violence in Town Line. As for the draft, some men from Town Line did serve in the Union Army. There were perhaps five men who went south to join the Confederate Army. Still others took refuge in Canada, just across the river from Buffalo.

“Copperheads” as they were called, were Democrats who lived in a northern state and who opposed the Civil War and the draft. It is unknown whether Jacob Yuncker voted to secede in 1861. Later in life he was very active in community organization and politics. He ran as a Democrat and served several times as township supervisor, in two different Michigan townships. He also served as highway commissioner and school director. Although, he once described himself as an independent.

The Germans at Town Line may not have been Copperheads. After all, a major reason they left Germany was to avoid mandatory conscription in the Prussian Army. They may have been against the war for moral and religious reasons, rather than supporting the Confederate ideology.

Jacob continued to work in Alden Township and perhaps Town Line itself, at least from September 1862 to June 1863. He was probably with his wife when she died there in May 1864. He therefore probably did not flee to Canada. I could find no record of him in Confederate Army rosters. Even though he was drafted, the secessionists in Town Line must have had some influence, and he apparently never joined the army.

Jacob’s younger brother George Yuncker did serve in the Civil War. He volunteered first with the Twenty-first New York Infantry, from March 1862 to May 1863. He later re-enlisted in the Fourth Heavy Artillery, from January 1864 to September 1865. So were the Yunckers a family split between Unionists and Secessionists? The mystery still remains, but with more clarity. The Yuncker family was at the center of a historic rift during a tumultuous time.

Footnotes
  1. Geil, Samuel, Robert Pearsall Smith, and Matthews & Co Gillette. “Map of Erie County, New York: from actual surveys.” Philadelphia: Gilette Matthews & Co, Publishers, 1855. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/item/2012593658/ : downloaded May 21, 2017).

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