York County’s own Civil War – Part I
York County experienced a civil war within the Civil War.
That came, in part, because the county is a border county in a border state. A lot of complex political factors swirled then – and persist today.
Nowhere was that battle within county borders more apparent than in churches.
Here’s an example of how from “East of Gettysburg,” based largely on information from George Sheets’ “Children of the Circuit Riders.”)
Sheets’ book primarily looks at York’s largest Methodist Church, known as Asbury United Methodist today. (it’s a good read, btw.) The church either had its share of Unionists, or else preferred Copperheads – the Peace Democrats – to hold their tongues:
In the fall of 1861, members of York’s Methodist Episcopal Church found themselves with a vacant pulpit.
The Rev. David Shoaf had discovered a community fractured by the politics behind the war when he rode into York shortly after the bombardment of Fort Sumter.
The outspoken Shoaf, at the helm of the York area’s leading Methodist congregation, did not bring peace.
He was a Union man, he said, one who respected the Stars and Stripes.
“But, I think the South should be left alone,” he went on, “to do what the people want to do.”
Later, he stated his position even more strongly.
“I am against war of any kind,” he said, “and I am at a loss to know how any man professing to be a Christian could engage in such a murderous act.”
York residents perplexed the preacher, too.
“The people of York are so exceedingly ignorant,” he said, “they couldn’t tell right from wrong if the two were labeled.”
After the preacher asserted that Confederate President Jefferson Davis should be considered as much in power as Abraham Lincoln, people in the congregation voted against him. They withheld their weekly offering.
The Rev. Shoaf got the message. After several comings and going and pulpit pronouncements, he left the community in late summer.
He would not be missed.
“History proves that the deepest and most desperate revolutions are brooded on by those who made professions of love of country, but who loved the enemies of their country more,” someone from the church wrote a York newspaper. “Hence, the man, that sympathizes with Jefferson Davis’ rebellion, is morally just as much a rebel as the chief of this ‘sum of all villainies.’ ”