Brethren Elder John Kline and the referendum on secession

Posted on May 23, 2011 by


I’ve focused on Page and Loudoun counties, while Ron Baumgarten, over at “All Not So Quiet on the Potomac” focused on Fairfax, and Encyclopedia Virginia gave some attention to Augusta and Berkeley counties. The Library of Virginia, in its blog, Union or Secession, also covered the referendum, but on a broader scale. All-in-all, it’s been a nice round of coverage, focused on more than just how numbers looked on paper.

And, just one more before the day closes out on the 150th anniversary of the referendum on secession in Virginia… and again from the Shenandoah Valley.

Perhaps one of the most peculiar voting scenarios in Rockingham County comes from Mt. Crawford. With the vote of 258 to 1, the town endorsed the vote for secession. It was clearly enough to be considered a slam dunk. Yet, some still weren’t satisfied.

The story of the one odd vote has two tales behind it.

In the first version (courtesy of Life Under Four Flags in the North River Basin of Virginia, by C.E. May, pp. 383-384), on the day of the vote, and supposedly sometime before noon, Brethren Elder John Kline rode in and cast his ballot. As he rode away, questions immediately rose in regard to Kline’s standing against slavery and secession. When the suspense proved too much, the ballot box was opened and the one opposed vote found inside. Determined to keep his jurisdiction solidly secesh, Colonel Peter Roller, having been a staunch supporter for disunion, and a judge in the Mt. Crawford precinct, wanted to do something about it. The angry Roller, along with his sons and a few other men, quickly mounted in an effort to catch Kline, and persuade him to change his vote. Having taken the Valley Stage Road and overtaken Kline at the Carpenter farm, the posse drew their pistols and ordered Kline to return and make the change. Kline, feeling that his life was more important than a lone vote, returned, changed his ballot and rode away again without being made a martyr.

Another version of the episode, as described in the May 24 edition of the Rockingham Register, may have watered-down the controversy surrounding the event. According to that version, it was John Harrison, an election judge, who changed Kline’s vote to reflect unanimity in the community.

Inevitably, Kline, a man of the cloth, would not survive the war. More can be read about the Brethren elder, here.