Biography - Joshua Copland

JOSHUA S. COPLAND. Among the honored early settlers of Massac County no one is more entitled to a place in its history than he of whom we write. He deserves also special credit from the fact that starting out in life a poor boy, with only $5 as his stock in trade, he has surmounted all the great difficulties in his pathway, being energetic and industrious, and not easily discouraged. Beginning the pursuit of agriculture on a most humble scale, he has risen step by step until he now owns a valuable farm of four hundred acres, which is one of the best in the county. At one time he was the possessor of over one thousand acres, but sold off a portion, as it was much more than he needed or desired. His farm is located on section 31, township 14, range 3, and upon the place are good and substantial buildings, with a commodious two-story house, pleasantly located on a slight elevation of ground.
John Copland, our subject's father, was born in Virginia, September 30, 1775, and lived in his native State until arriving at man's estate. Then he removed to Tennessee, where he engaged in farming, and married Miss Sarah Short, who was born on Christmas Day, 1778, and was reared to womanhood in Tennessee. In the fall of 1816, before Illinois had been admitted to the sisterhood of States, Mr. Copland emigrated to Johnson County with his family. The journey was made in wagons, and with him came six colored slaves, a man and wife, with their four children, which were his property.
Mr. Copland believed Illinois would be a slave State and having been brought up in old Virginia, he was deeply imbued with the belief that slavery was perfectly right. Consequently, after becoming a resident of Illinois, he was one of the most active advocates of slavery in the State. He was nominated to the Constitutional Convention, but was defeated by a few votes. On his arrival in the State, he located on Government land in the midst of the wilderness. At that time there were no schools, churches, or even mills, in this portion of the country, and indeed only now and then, at long distances apart, could be found the humble cabins of farmers. In order to grind their corn, they used the old stump method, the end of a log being burned out to make a sort of mortar, using a pestle on a springpole to pound out the meal by hand. The Indians were still very numerous in this portion of the State, not having yet departed for their Western reservation. Wolves, panthers and bears, as well as deer, turkeys and small game, roamed the country at will, adding to its desolation and wildness.
Mr. Copland, Sr., was in favor of education and helped to build one of the first log schoolhouses in the neighborhood, which was carried on under the subscription plan and for some time was taught by him. He improved the farm where he had originally located, making that his place of residence until the fall of 1833, when he removed to a farm three miles southwest of where Vienna now stands. After some years he sold the place to a Mr. Plummer, of Ohio, and with that money purchased some land near the river, in what is now Massac County, a tract consisting of eighty acres, which had been partially improved, but by long neglect everything had run down almost to its primeval condition. He replaced the small shanty with a well-built hewed-log house, which was substantial and comfortable. He brought the farm under good cultivation and there resided until called to his eternal home, January 2, 1853. His devoted wife and companion had died four years previously, on June 24. The old homestead has since been sold outside of the family, but the graves of the father and mother are in a quiet nook on the farm, and to that peaceful spot the memory of their descendants often fondly returns.
Our subject is the only surviving member of a family of ten children, the record of whom is as follows: James, a prominent man, and at one time a member of the Legislature; Sarah, who was the wife of John L. Cooper, also deceased; Samuel, who was a farmer in Johnson County and a prominent man, having been Sheriff for twelve years, Clerk of the Circuit Court, and at the time of his death, Probate Judge; William, who died in Louisiana, while on a trip down the Mississippi River; John, who followed agricultural pursuits in Pulaski County; Joshua, our subject, the next in order of birth; Isaac, who was a farmer of this county; Jane, the wife of J. B. Maybry, who is also deceased; Alfred, who was a well-known farmer of this county; and Louisa, the wife of William J. Simpson, both deceased.
Our subject was born in Sumner County, Tenn., on the 27th of November, 1812. His boyhood was passed on his father's farm, where from early years he was accustomed to work with energy; as it was his nature to be industrious. As his father owned slaves he was not required to work, but nevertheless he often went into the field and worked along with them. He was only four years old when his parents came to the Territory of Illinois, therefore he is now the oldest living settler in the county, and of the large family which gathered around the family hearthstone he is the only remaining one. His opportunities for an education were extremely limited, as the country was new and the demand for schools not great, on account of the few settlers in this locality. He studied in an old subscription log schoolhouse, but as he was naturally very intelligent, he made up for the lack of early opportunities later in life, and secured a fair practical knowledge which has served him in good stead.
When reaching his majority Mr. Copland was united in marriage with Elizabeth Axley, whose parents were among the early settlers of the country, her grandfather having landed with a few hardy pioneers in Illinois in 1810, having made the trip on a flatboat. Mrs. Copland died in October, 1855, and in the following year our subject was again married, Miss Caroline D. Evers becoming his wife on June 26. The lady was born in Graves County, Ky., and came to Massac County about 1856.
Soon after his first marriage, Mr. Copland located on the farm where he has since resided, first purchasing a tract of forty acres, which had upon it an inferior log house, 16x16. There they commenced housekeeping, and reared their family of eleven children, giving them as good advantages as were possible in those early days. With the exception of a son and daughter, the children have long since been called to their final rest. Those deceased are James Franklin, Robert Van Buren, Samuel, John S., Simeon, Melissa, William R., Joshua Allen and Isaac W. Mary Jane is the wife of Mr. Parker and is now living in Vienna, while her brother Lawrence resides in Metropolis.
For a great many years, Mr. Copland has been identified with the Methodist Episcopal Church, to which his wife also belongs. Fraternally, he is a Royal Arch Mason, and in regard to politics, favors the Democracy. He is a friend to education, and is held in the highest regard by the many friends he has gathered around him during the long years he has passed in this community. By his present wife, Mr. Copland became the father of eight children, of whom the record is as follows: David L., deceased; Louisa E., wife of Thomas Starks, living in this county; Ella Josephine, now Mrs. William Douglass, of this county; Mattie Lenora, widow of J. W. McNana; Maggie, twin sister of the former, wife of William Clark, of Fresno County, Cal.; Charles McPherson, who is now at home; Cynthia Allen, Mrs. James Milton Barnett; and Sallie Short, wife of Jesse Hawkins, a well-known farmer of this county.

Extracted 16 Dec 2016 by Norma Hass from 1893 Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, pages 353-355.

Templates in Time