During the Civil War, Republicans called Democrats who opposed the war “Copperheads,” likening them to poisonous snakes. Many of these “Copperheads” could be found in Northern States like New Jersey, and in Hunterdon County.
These Hunterdon County residents who demonized the abolitionists and Abe Lincoln were on the wrong side of history. But they were right that going to war would be disastrous. The lives lost and damage done were enormous—almost beyond reckoning. But these hotheaded opponents of the Lincoln Administration could not see that the damage done by the institution of slavery was just as great as the losses suffered from war, just in a different way. What strikes me as most ironic is that most of these people considered themselves true Christians.
To write about the past, one must try to understand what people were thinking in the past. From my 21st century perspective, it is easy to understand the supporters of Lincoln and opponents of slavery. I grew up during the Civil Rights movement. But in the 1850s and 60s, things looked very different. A majority of Hunterdon County residents supported the old Democratic Party of Andrew Jackson, so they already were inclined to oppose anything that Republican Abraham Lincoln tried to do. For them, going to war was beyond the pale, especially if it was for the purpose of ending the secession.
Being a Democrat in the 1850s meant something quite different from today. Back then, Democrats considered government more of an evil than a blessing, not unlike today’s Tea Partiers. They did not approve of a government strong enough to force southern states to give up slavery, and the idea of going to war over it seemed to them insane.
I will soon publish an article describing the Democratic Club of Delaware Township that organized on July 4, 1863. It will give us more insight into the way these Democrats saw the role of government at the time. But today I have another way of looking at them, complements of a memoir written by a visitor from Massachusetts.
The Travails of Rev. Woodward
With the wonderful serendipity so often found when doing historical and genealogical research, someone who was researching a family I knew next to nothing about sent me a copy of a memoir written by her ancestor, Rev. John Moore Woodward, who was pastor of the Locktown Christian Church, starting in 1875.1 Here is how his story begins:
“As a result of the letter to Dr. Craig and my correspondence with E. M. Heath, the Church Clerk, I went to Locktown ‘on trial’ April 1, 1875. The official board accepted me, and I accepted the church, on the Sunday afternoon following my first sermon. . . . The Church requested my ordination at once so that I could administer the ordinances. Dr. Craig and Eld. Pitman were called as Elders, Dr. Craig preaching and delivering the charge April 25, 1875, Pitman to the people.”
On April 24, 1875, the minute book of the Locktown Christian Church read: “Resolved that we the members of Locktown Christian Church do hereby request the Ministers who may be present to morrow to Ordain to the work of the Ministry Bro John M. Woodward who has been elected Pastor of this Church Resolved that this resolution be entered in full on our church record.”
It appears that at first Rev. Woodward was welcomed. But as things turned out, Rev. Woodward would not be happy in Locktown, and his congregation would not be happy with him.
Woodward was a young man who, like most people from Massachusetts, strongly supported the Union side during the Civil War. Despite the fact that the war had been over for ten years, feelings still ran high, and in Locktown, they ran in a surprising direction. Woodward discovered that members of his congregation and residents of the village generally had been very much opposed to the war, and to Abraham Lincoln. He found that the place was “a hotbed of copperheadism.” The other church in Locktown, the Old School Baptist Church, was also inclined in that direction. Their pastor at the time was Elder Aaron B. Francis of Virginia, who had actually fought in the Confederate army, although he kept quiet about that.2
Woodward was also made uncomfortable by his female parishioners who enjoyed flirting with him. Married women would often come to visit him without their husbands. The reverend needed the protection of a wife.
He wrote in his memoir that the only good thing about the time spent in Locktown was that he met and married his wife there, one Lavina or Vina MaCauley. He met her “at supper the first evening at my boarding place. . . She had been there some time before I even heard of the place or she of me.” Judging by the 1870 census, that boarding house was probably owned by Deutilly Sutton, on the corner of Locktown-Sergeantsville Road and Locktown School Road, across from the Baptist Church.3
From Woodward’s Memoir:
Vina Macauley was born at Sandy Ridge, Hunterdon Co., N.J., March 15, 1854. She is the daughter of Robert and Nancy Macauley (nee West), the third of a family of six children, four girls and two boys. The sister next older died of tuburcuosis [sic] after raising a family, and another sister died in childhood. Her oldest brother died after an operation at the hospital soon after she reached him after a separation of forty years. The oldest sister resides at point Pleasant, Pa., and the youngest brother at Bartlett, Oregon.
Mother Macauley has lived with her granddaughter, Vina’s namesake, Vista Vina Twining (nee Reading), the only daughter of Charles and Lucinda Reading, who died some years ago. Their house [is] near Wrightstown, Pa, . . . . The family home was in Stockton, N. J. . . . Her father died there of tuberculosis while a young man in the midst of his family. He left a young widow with five children to rear and educate. A house and some means were left them, but those who settled the estate absorbed it all. No one who has not passed through such experiences can realize all it means. But she has lived to see them all happily married and with families of their own. Three of her children and two grandchildren have passed on before her. She has fifteen great-grandchildren.
The Wests are a long-lived, hardy race. Vina’s Grandmother West lived to be ninety. Her mother is nearing that age, and she yet cares for herself and does a great deal besides.4
The Wests came from England three generations ago. Vina has old English china brought from England by her grandmother West more than a hundred years ago by sail. Vina’s grandfather West was a Scotchman. He married in England, and from there they came to this country. As my grandmother Styles on my father’s side was Scotch, there is a strong strain of Scotch in our children. But the ruling strain is English with Vina and with me with full English descent on one side and half English on the other.
The Macauleys were of pure English Stock, as the name implies. Vina has a shaving mug that belonged to her father, and was his father’s before him. It has been pronounced by people from England to be older English china than that brought over by her grandmother West more than a hundred years ago. It is covered with figures and mottoes of the oldest English style.
Robert Macauley came from Philadelphia, Pa. His people were of that city and were English. So it is easily proved that Vina is English with the exception of her grandfather on her mother’s side, who was Scotch. No one has had the time or opportunity to trace out the Macauley record, and as the relatives of father Macauley were not personally known to the descendants as the Wests were, it is more difficult to follow them out. But Vina is a third generation American on her mother’s side as is easily proved, and doubtless is on her father’s side.
Apparently it was not an easy courtship, but it also was not a long one. Woodward wrote:
She [Vina] was one of a large bevy of attractive young women of about every type and description. The first and best young men persisted in coming to call on her and taking her out to ride. I had my work and I could not keep a rig. I could not object to her or to them, although I did very decidedly to myself, for I had nothing to found my objections on. And to complicate things with her and with others, married women persisted in coming to my room alone until their husbands followed them. Imagine a lonely boy preacher, with no experience with women and not much in the ministry or society, trying to carry forward his work with all these cross-purposes and envyings and jealousies settling around him! And this is no exceptional case. The majority, if not all, young preachers who have taken charges under similar circumstances have had like experiences. No young man should take a regular charge until he is protected from these things by a woman who has the right. He not only needs her help, but he needs the protection that no one but a wife can give even more.
John and Vina announced plans to marry in November, 1875, and John Woodward then left to visit his parents in Massachusetts, having been away for three years. He returned as soon as his family would permit, which was a good thing because in his absence, his neighbors were telling Vina that he would never come back. On his return, he found the engagement had engendered some controversy.
“Every mother and every mother’s son thought they knew better than the pastor which one of the young women of the charge he wanted for a wife. . . .
At this distance, it seems to me that every means open and underhand were used to break off the engagement. Some means were used with her, some with me. If there had been only a passing fancy on the part of either us, they would have succeeded. If every one had let us alone, it is very probable that we would have continued as we were to the end of the year. But the means they used hastened the end they sought to avert. I have never favored long engagements, however, and my own experience made me less favorable to them. Under all the circumstances, we saw only one course open to us, that was marriage as soon as Vina could reasonably get ready.
Some opposed it because I had chosen Vina instead of someone else; some because she had chosen me instead of someone else; some because I was to marry at all; and some because they were jealous of their wives for being in love with me. As to the last, if any of them were in love with me, I never suspected it altho Vina told me things that surprised me.
Rev. Woodward had lost the flattering attention of his female parishioners, and seems to have been held in low regard by many. Fortunately, he was supported by “staunch friends.”
We laid our plans openly to be married Sunday evening, Nov. 14, 1875, seven and one half months from the time we met. Perhaps we were a little too independent about the arrangements, as young people are apt to be at such times. And opposition in their families or outside only increases their independence, if they have any “spirit” or “grit” or “fire” in them. We had staunch friends enough to carry us safely through. Mary Naylor was true to Vina and was with her till we were left alone after the wedding. Mary Jane Carroll opened her house, the best in the village at the time, for the ceremony, and furnished the wedding supper or “breakfast.” The Grosses, a German family, were kind and most generous to the end. Many not so openly our friends opposed the course of the church officials in interfering with our personal affairs.
I wish Rev. Woodward had been more specific about this interference.
Mary Jane Carroll (usually spelled Carrell) was the wife of Locktown blacksmith Samuel Carrell, whose house was on the west side of Locktown-Sergeantsville Road, south of the intersection with Kingwood-Locktown Road, and has since burned down. They were both members of the Locktown Christian Church, and were buried in its cemetery. Mary Naylor might have been the wife of George Naylor, who worked as a laborer in 1880.
Augustus Gross (1831-1896) lived on Pavlica Road in 1873. I have not been able to identify his wife or children because he is not listed in the Delaware Twp. census records for 1870 or 1880.
As for those troublesome members of his church, the Trustees of the Locktown Christian Church in 1870-1880 were *David Bodine, Richard S. Conover, *Asa Corson, John T. Eick, Wesley Hawk, *Edward Hellier, *Peter Hoppock, Sylvester Lake, and William J. Walker [asterisk indicates who was buried in the cemetery next to the church]. Woodward also mentioned the church’s clerk, E. M. Heath. This was Edward Mason Heath, who was an officer in the Delaware Twp. Democratic Club of 1863.
Vina wore the ashes of roses poplin her mother had bought for her, with white kid gloves and slippers, her auburn curls encircling her face and neck. I have forgotten what I wore, I was so taken up with her, although I have been rather noted among friends as fastidious in dress. That was the third, and last great event for me on my first charge, my ordination, engagement and marriage. No other three events in a minister’s life can compare with them in influence and importance.
It was a dark and stormy night, and our opposers prophesied that we would have a dark and stormy life. But we have come through life and come out better than any I can recall who started with fairer weather and brighter prospects in the beginning than we had.
Yes, he actually wrote “it was a dark and stormy night.”
Looking for references to Rev. Woodward in the Hunterdon Democrat and Republican newspapers turned up surprisingly little. In the fall of 1875, he performed two marriages in Quakertown, but none in Locktown, which seems odd. Then on November 14, 1875, Rev. Summerbell5 officiated at the wedding of Rev. Woodward and Lavinia (Vina) Macauley of Locktown (daughter of Robert Macauley and Ann ‘Nancy’ West). This wedding was announced in the Hunterdon Co. Democrat, but not in the Hunterdon Republican, which is surprising given the politics involved.
After the wedding, Woodward continued to be unhappy at Locktown; he would have left the place had it not been for Vina. He suspected that there was more to the opposition to his marriage than just the jealousies of some of his female congregants. Woodward, being from Massachusetts, was a fervent supporter of the Union cause during the Civil War, and he soon discovered that Locktown was “a hotbed of copperheadism.” Despite the fact that the war had been over for ten years, feelings were still running high.
“I have always thought that the root of opposition to me was in the fact that I was from the north and west, and had their spirit and patriotism. Hunterdon Co. had voted not to furnish a man or dollar to help the Union army. Locktown was a hotbed of copperheadism, and it had been unsafe to side with the Union there. The leading Union man had been taken to an open grave back of the church, and had been warned by the gang of copperheads that he would be buried there if he did not keep silent.”
This is such a strong statement that it bears looking into. First of all, it is not true that “Hunterdon County did not furnish a man or a dollar to help the Union Army,”—far from it. Despite widespread unhappiness about going to war, Hunterdon did its duty and suffered casualties as much as any other northern county, as is well-documented in John W. Kuhl’s recent book, Hunterdon in the Civil War.
As for the incident in which a Union man was threatened behind the church, it was John Bellis (1828-1907), son of John H. Bellis and Elizabeth Roberson, whom Egbert T. Bush has described as “an ardent Republican, while his surroundings were quite as ardently something else.”6
“Things grew so warm that some of the ‘hot heads’ thought it would benefit the country if they could ‘scare a little sense into the head of that radical.’ So they actually dug a grave and let it ‘leak out’ who was to be the occupant. But John did not scare ‘worth a cent.’ And here the story ends abruptly, just as though subsequent events had not been altogether satisfactory. Anyhow, John never occupied the place so laboriously prepared for him and, of course, nobody ever meant that he should.”
It is clear from Woodward’s memoir that he was as vehement and intolerant in his views as his opponents were.
The day had not yet gone by when we called confederates by their right names, rebels and traitors, and looked upon copperheads as no better. The day had not come when the men in gray were put side-by-side with the boys in blue in public address and in print, and were sent to Washington to make our laws. I feared no one then and never have since, when I stood before the people with a message that I knew was right and that I could sustain. I called spades, and copperheads and traitors and rebels by the names their lives and deeds denoted.
No wonder he found himself unpopular. If he had been living in Hunterdon County during the war, he might have found himself in the situation of Joseph Kugler, a farmer in the neighborhood of Frenchtown who got into trouble over his opinions. The story is told in Clarence B. Fargo’s History of Frenchtown, 1933 (pp. 209-211), and was called to my attention by John W. Kuhl. Fargo wrote:
“Joseph Kugler was born in Hunterdon County in 1805 and spent most of his life here. Mr. Kugler was a farmer who had by thrift and industry accumulated quite considerable property; he was also an Elder in the Presbyterian Church. He never sought political preferment and was known as generous, charitable, and of a kind and meek disposition.”
He was the son of John Kugler Jr. (1776-1847) and Hannah Snyder (1779-1840). He married Sarah M. Backer on Aug. 25, 1827, and had seven children, one of whom died an infant.
One of the war measures so unpopular was identification of people with “questionable loyalty.” According to Fargo, Kugler’s political opponents would try to draw him into conversation, with the thought that he would somehow incriminate himself. Apparently they had to take matters into their own hands. An affidavit was submitted by one S. B. Hudnit and others who claimed that on August 8, 1862 Kugler had said that Lincoln had no right to call out 75,000 troops without first convening Congress, and that if the South had her just dues there would never have been a rebellion. They said his conversation tended to discourage enlistments.
On August 16, 1862, Kugler was arrested at his home in Frenchtown by Deputy Marshall Abraham Harris from Trenton. He was taken to the jail at Mount Holly for six days, and then transferred to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington DC. Due to the exertions of his son and the support of highly placed politicians from both sides, Mr. Kugler was released and returned to Frenchtown where he remained until his death on April 13, 1864.
It is surprising that this was taking place in such a strongly Democratic county. But it should have satisfied the feelings of Rev. Woodward, had he been present. Let us return to Woodward’s memoir concerning the mid 1870’s:
And so, taking their confederate politics and our marriage together, I was having rather an interesting time. But aside from the personal interest some of them had in us, the main root of our differences was in politics. The more I saw and heard of their attitude on the Civil War and the great questions that were involved in it, the more I was repelled. The war and all its issues were yet fresh in our minds and were yet questions of heated discussions on both sides, but more especially on the side of those who had been beaten to a standstill and their sympathizers. And the more they saw what a thorough going sympathizer of the Union cause I was, the more heated became their opposition. In later life I would have avoided questions that opened old sores as much as possible it is probable, although I do not see even now how any patriotic man could have discussed public questions of that day and not have come to an open break with them. For the leading church officials were also leading politicians and copperheads. But the day had passed when they dare base their opposition on political and unpatriotic grounds. . . .
There was one mighty influence that was doing more to shape my thoughts and ministry than the professors had at school, or any pastoral experiences had since. I did not see it then, but it was made plain to me many times in after life.
I was there near the great preachers and lecturers and reformers of that day, and under their immediate influence and words. I could see and hear Henry Ward Beecher, Talmadge Moody, John B. Gough, the great temperance lecturer the world has known as well as the biggest drawing speaker on themes of entertainment. They were all in their prime and at the height of their power, and it cost little to go to hear them. James G. Blaine, the greatest political orator of that or any other day, was crowding the greatest auditoriums. It was the day of the greatest preachers and orators this county ever knew. Wendel Philips was one of the last of them that I heard. As they were taken one by one by age or disease, none have risen to fill their places. All who heard them and were moved by their power are one in saying that the day of great orators is past. I went hungry to save the money to hear them. I sat under their influence by the hour, studied their methods and thought, and was thrilled by their power.
The Woodwards did not last long in Locktown after their wedding. By April 1876, they had left Locktown for good. In 1880 they were living at Duanesburgh, Schenectady Co., NY where Woodward was pastor of the Christian Church there. By that time they had two children, Lista Vina Woodward age 3 and Vida Evelyn age 1. There would be three more daughters born. By 1884, the family was living in Wisconsin, where they remained. Rev. Woodward died in 1936, and Vina Woodward died ten years later.
Perhaps in order to attract a minister more to their liking, shortly after Rev. Woodward left, a parsonage was built across the road, facing the church. Rev. Woodward was succeeded by Elder George Tenney from Warren County, who pastored until 1880 when Rev. Jacob Rodenbaugh took over. By that time, church membership had risen to 204 and the church property was valued at $4,000.
Postscript: The Locktown Debating Society, 1860
Locktown is an interesting microcosm of the social divisions being experienced during the war years. In January 1860, the “Locktown Debating Society” announced that its topic would be “Should Slavery be abolished in the United States?”7 Those arguing that it should be abolished were John Bellis, Francis Rittenhouse, Jonathan Hoppock and John O. Heath. Those arguing that it should not were Andrew B. Everitt, Peter F. Opdycke and Abraham R. Quick.
Notice of the debate was published in the Hunterdon Republican, Jan. 13, 1860, stating that the affirmative side won the debate. I do wonder, given that Locktown was so sympathetic to the South, who did the judging, and why were the pro-slavery people outnumbered. Perhaps they had four members but one dropped out. As was already mentioned, John Bellis was strongly in favor of abolishing slavery. John O. Heath was born abt 1831/32 to Moses Heath and Gertrude Opdyke of Kingwood Twp. He was served in the Union Army, and was a casualty, probably suffering from PTSD. He died unmarried on Dec. 31, 1883.
The other two members of the pro-abolition side may not have agreed with the premises they were defending. Francis Rittenhouse was one of the Trustees of the Locktown Christian Church. And Jonathan Hoppock was one of the officers of the Democratic Club of Delaware Twp. in 1863. Those arguing to keep slavery, Andrew B. Everitt, Peter F. Opdycke and Abraham R. Quick, are for the most part unknown to me.
Addendum, May 29, 2015: The photograph of Rev. Woodward as a young man was not included with the original post.
- For a history of the Locktown Christian Church, please see Historic Church For Sale . The Memoir is handwritten, and was given to Woodward’s daughters, and transcribed by one of his descendants. ↩
- I wrote about Elder Francis here Controversial Baptist Ministers. ↩
- 1870 ￼ Delaware twp., Dentilly 54 keeping house $1400/$1800, Mary A. 51 (1819), Amos 31 (1839) working on farm. Also aunt & uncle Thomas Roberson 70 (1800) retired $2000, and wife Mary 72. Thomas Roberson was the first cousin of Lavina Roberson, grandmother of Vina West. ↩
- Nancy Ann West (May 27, 1828 – abt Nov 1927) was the daughter of William West (abt 1788-1848) and Lavina Roberson (1792-1879). Her West grandparents were Thomas West and Rachel Hoagland. Her Roberson grandparents were John Roberson and Lavinia Thatcher. ↩
- This was probably Rev. Benjamin F. Summerbell who is mention in the history of the Locktown Christian Church. ↩
- Egbert T. Bush, “Kingwood Tavern, Substantial Relic of a Bygone Day,” Hunterdon Co. Democrat, April 23, 1931. ↩
- Thanks to Dennis Bertland for sharing this item with me. ↩
May 15, 2015 @ 1:13 pm
Another very interesting story Marfy.
May 17, 2015 @ 5:02 am
Truly fascinating to get a glimpse of that time period in a place my ancestors called home. Thanks for all your work. You are a treasure.
November 6, 2020 @ 6:34 am
Wonderful article. You are a gem that I just discovered! Than you.