York Town Square

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York County’s own Civil War – Part III

Confederates take down flag

Lewis Miller captured the Confederates entering York in late-June 1863 and then taking down the flag hanging in the town’s square. Even before the rebels stepped onto York County soil in those days before the Battle of Gettysburg, York County was divided on whether President Abraham Lincoln should prosecute the war or honor a separate peace with the South. Churches provided a local battleground.

York County’s civil war amid the Civil War pitted neighbor against neighbor.
One family might support Abraham Lincoln’s war policies. The next-door neighbor might support Peace Democrats who viewed the war as an affront to states rights as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Fighting in churches represented a skirmish within the larger county battle… .

York’s German Reformed congregation, for one, reportedly was buffeted by the war and other cultural changes.
Benjamin Griffin, in his 1984 history of what then was called Trinity United Church of Christ wrote that no record existed of where the pastor’s political sympathies rested during the Civil War. (Zion UCC also is a successor to York’s original German Reformed congregation.)
J.O. Miller, the church’s pastor during the war, hailed from Virginia and married a Virginia girl.
A document from a Trinity church newsletter discovered recently at the York County Heritage Trust’s archives suggests the war rankled some. In fact, the town’s leading family reportedly left the church because of the feeling that the Rev. Miller sided with the South.
All of P.A. Small’s and Samuel Small’s families attended the German Reformed church prior to the war, according to the document. The pastor’s alleged lean to the South caused a split.
The Small family, after that, was associated with Presbyterian churches in town.
(If you can pick up Griffin’s “The Americanization of a Congregation” at a used book store, I’d recommend you do so. It tells the story of one of York County’s leading churches — and a German Reformed denomination with historic roots partially in county soil.)

Related posts: York County’s own Civil War, Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV.

Drawing courtesy of York County Heritage Trust