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Easter 1865 came in a season of conflict for York County, America


Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train followed this route on the Northern Central Railway through York County, Pa. It stopped in New Freedom to pick up Pennsylvania Gov. Andrew Curtin and in York, Pa.’s station. Lincoln’s death brought mourning to Easter in York County and throughout America and the world. Also of interest: Lincoln’s funeral train in York, Pa.: ‘He was crucified for us’.

Easter 1865 in York County seemed like Good Friday.

For Christians, Easter is a day of joy, an observation of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That death came on Friday, when Jesus was crucified. That’s the somber day  – Good Friday.

The day before that Easter – Saturday, April 15 – word had reached York that the man who led the Union to triumph over the South and a bloody end to the institution of slavery, was dead. Abraham Lincoln was slain.


The York rail station where Lincoln’s funeral train stopped in 1865.

That set off a season of conflict for York County, as elsewhere, on those long April days 150 years ago. The joy of Easter and the sorrow of Lincoln’s death, side by side. A sermon at a community service by the Rev. Henry E. Niles tells about a mourning nation weeping at this shedding of blood. But that service ended with an Easter theme – a hymn of doxology or praise to God for his blessings.

Tears flowed from that Saturday when York learned of  Lincoln’s death to well past the moment that his funeral train stopped in York on Friday, April 21.

Three descriptions of that conflicted moment at Easter 1865, lightly edited and excerpted from the book “East of Gettysburg” appear below. Note the ending with a reflection of hope even in crisis, an Easter theme then – and today – by soldier and pastor Abraham Rudisill:


“Within the memory of the writer of this,” York Gazette owner David Small reported, “York has never experienced a day of such universal gloom… .”

If that Saturday, April 15, had been bright, it would have taken on a melancholy hue. But the day was cloudy. Rain fell. The news of Lincoln’s death took on an even more terrible tone. The gloom was profound. The gloom was irrepressible.

Those were the tearful thoughts of David Small, the newspaperman and longtime Lincoln opponent. But as in so many other times of public crisis, Small had work to do as chief burgess.

He issued a proclamation that suspended business in York after noon. Bells should toll from 1-2 p.m.

Flags should fly at half staff or draped in morning.

The people of York had already responded. Flags appeared draped in windows throughout the borough.


On Sunday, congregations worshipped in the midst of the black of mourning instead of Easter palms and lilies.  Clergymen remembered the president’s death in prayers on this “Black Easter.”

The Rev. John H.C. Dosh, pastor of the Methodist Church in York, conducted a well-attended Sunday night service. The minister’s solemn sermon brought many tears.

“The town wore a sad and solemn aspect,” The True Democrat reported, “the bells in all our churches were tolled, and everyone felt as though a great and terrible calamity had befallen the country.”


Word of the attack on Lincoln reached York County’s pastor/artillerist Abraham Rudisill’s  Union Army camp  in Virginia the day before Easter.

The president was alive, but the vice president was dead, he learned.

“Oh, I wept for joy and thankfulness that our President was not assassinated – not dead,” he wrote in his diary.

Two days later, he corrected himself, “Our Chief is indeed dead.”

He then wrote a passage from his Bible, Psalm 46:

“Be still and know that I am God.”


trainThe Harrisburg train station served as the next stop north of York County for Lincoln’s funeral train in 1865.


Also of interest:
This post also served as the Easter editorial in the York Sunday News. Past Easter editorials: Easter stories of sacrifice & selflessness and Easter in York County, 1919: Sadness, joy, hope