Sanctuary began as a simple crossroads, an abandoned farm that became known as a stop on the Underground Railroad. That all changed with the coming of the Civil War, which led to a major Union force encamping there for much of the conflict. A tent city grew up around the camp as former slaves and refugees crowded into the area, and by war’s end the first permanent buildings had been erected.

Though the immediate postwar years were a boomtown, such that it had a stone courthouse and the county seat by 1870, Sanctuary suffered tremendously after the end of Reconstruction and into the Jim Crow era, as it was known for being friendly and accepting for all races, colors, and creeds. From a post World War I low of less than 500 people, Sanctuary nevertheless saw its fortunes rebound during the New Deal and the immediate postwar era, with a massive influx of new settlers and residents looking for opportunities denied them elsewhere.

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