“St. Louisans were no strangers to slavery. Missouri had entered the Union as a slave state amid great controversy in 1821. Slavery lay at the heart of the bloody border wars between Missouri and Kansas in the 1850’s, where men “went at each others’ throats like bloodhounds, ” according to Dr. Anderson. Because of the city’s location, St. Louis was center for the domestic slave trade with connections to Natchez and New Orleans. Many “negro dealers” operated in the city, including Bernard Lynch, whose slave pen was located within walking distance – six blocks- of Central’s location at Eighth and Locust.”
“Churches were reluctantly drawn into the controversy. By 1861, all major denominations had divided over the issue.”
Central members were divided as well. Several prominent supporter of the Union cause. O.D. Filley, for example, elected mayor of St. Louis in 1858, headed the Committee of Safety during the war. Edward Bates spent most of the war years in Washington, serving as Lincoln’s Attorney General. Mrs. A.F. Shapleigh was active in the Western Sanitary Commission which established hospitals for wounded soldiers and supported other charitable organizations, including the Freedman’s Relief Society.
Andrew Park, on the other hand, was identified as a Southern sympathizer and assessed by the military for the cost of caring for war refugees pouring into St. Louis. The very first member of Central, John Wimer, was also a Southern symphathizer. Wimer had served two terms as mayor and was director of the Pacific Railroad. In the spring of 1862m he was arrested for disloyalty and held in the Gratiot Street Military Prison. He escaped while being transferred to the Alton Penitentiary, joined the Confederates and was killed in action in 1863 at the age of 52.
“The war is wrong and I shall not pray for it.”
Following the Union defeat at Bull Run, President Lincoln called for a day of fasting. He asked citizens to ‘confess their sins before God, to implore his blessing, and to pray for their country and success of its arms.’ In preparation for that day, the Old School ministers met to discuss a combined prayer service for all their churches. As recalled by one of those present, ‘The question came up, Shall we keep the national fast, and in the usual way?’ To this [Dr. Anderson} replied, in substance, ‘Yes,let us keep the fast, but not such a fast as Lincoln calls for.’ It was asked, in what respect? Anderson replied, “Mr. Lincoln asks us to pray for the success of the Federal arms and I am not going to do it. The war is wrong, and I shall not pray for it.’
As the acknowledged leader within the St. Louis Presbytery, Anderson and like-minded colleagues succeeded in tabling all pro-Union motions through 1863. These motions sought to declare the rebellion a sin and urged the churches to actively support the Federal government. When it was discovered that Anderson’s son had joined the Confederate army, Anderson came under increasing attack in the newspapers. He was arrested and tried for disloyalty in military court in the summer of 1863.”
Excerpted from”Stones of Remembrance,” Marilyn McCarthy, 1994