Biography - Lawrence Copland

LAWRENCE W. COPLAND, general merchant, livery stable and hotel keeper of Metropolis, Massac County, is a son of Joshua S. Copland, who came from Tennessee with his father when four years old. The grandfather was a slave-holder in Tennessee, and when he came to Illinois brought his slaves with him and gave them their liberty in this State. The slaves, however, had no desire to leave him, and all remained with him while he lived. Grandfather Copland settled in Johnson County at an early day, long before the admission of the State into the Union. This settlement was made in a wilderness, and was one of the earliest settlements in southern Illinois. He came in a flatboat, and made his start in this new country in 1808. The condition of things at that time can be readily imagined; all the woods were filled with Indians and all kinds of wild animals, and there were no white men for miles around.
Joshua S. Copland, the father of our subject, was reared in this wilderness, assisting as soon as able to clear the land and bring it under cultivation. When he grew up he became engaged to some extent in merchandising, although his principal business was that of farming. He settled where he now lives, in what is now Massac County, having secured there some unimproved land, which he purchased, and which at the time had half an acre cleared. At the time when he commenced life for himself he had a cash capital of $5. He was married to Elizabeth Axley, whose people were also early settlers in this part of Illinois. She died in October, 1856. Mr. Copland was married the second time, to Caroline E. Evers, of Graves County, Ky. By his first marriage he had ten children, namely: Robert Van Buren, deceased; Mary J., wife of Thomas Parker, of Vienna, Ill.; James Franklin, who died in 1862; Samuel L., who enlisted in Company K, Twenty-ninth Illinois Infantry, served through the war, and was accidentally killed by the explosion of the steamboat "Cumberland" in 1868; John S., who enlisted in the same company on the same day with his brother, Samuel L., was discharged after the battle of Corinth, and died four days after reaching home; Simeon J., who died in 1862; Lawrence W.; Melissa, who died in 1868; and Joshua and William Riley, both deceased. By the second marriage he had the following children: David, deceased; Lizzie, wife of Thomas Stark, a farmer living near the old place; Mattie and Maggie, twins, the former the wife of James Clark, of Fresno, Cal., and the latter the widow of James McNana, who died at New Grand Chain, Pulaski County, Ill.; Charles M.; Allie, at home; and Sallie, the wife of Jesse Hawkins.
Lawrence W. Copland was born on the home farm in Massac County February 18, 1847. He was reared to hard work on the farm and received his education in the common schools, but he has learned more by actual experience and contact with the world than he learned in school. Being a bright boy, the life of the farm was to him somewhat irksome, and when quite young he yearned for a different kind of life. He had a natural desire for and inclination to trade and barter, and was always on the lookout for some chance to make a little money in this way. In 1863, when but sixteen years old, he wanted to enlist in the army, but met with the decided opposition of his parents. Determined to go anyway, he ran away from home and entered the army, but his father followed him and compelled him to return home. In the spring of 1864 he made another attempt to join the Union forces, and enlisted in Company K, One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Illinois Infantry, at Memphis, Tenn. He was a good soldier, saw considerable service, and remained in the army until the expiration of his term, returning home in the spring of 1865. He then enlisted in Company F, Seventh Illinois Cavalry, and was in the service until December, 1865, being mustered out at Nashville, Tenn. During this term of service he was taken quite sick with the measles, but refused to go to the hospital, and so was taken there under guard. At length he returned home and went to farming, renting a place of his father and keeping bachelor's hall, raising a crop of cotton and of corn during the season of 1866.
This kind of life not being satisfactory, our subject was married in the spring of 1867 to Laura J. Hitchcock, a native of Massac County, but whose parents were from Portsmouth, Ohio, and are now both dead. He raised a crop in each of the years 1867 and 1868, the last of which he sold in the field. Farming being still, as in his youth, very monotonous to him, he determined to enter the business of trading, and he exchanged an old blind mare for a flatboat, and a mule for a stock of goods, put the goods on the boat, and after straightening up his affairs he found that he had left $37.50 in cash. With this money he bought more goods and started out as a merchant. He was well adapted to this business, worked hard, traded, saved and accumulated some means. In 1872 he moved his wife to shore, she having been with him during the time spent on the boat, helping him in all sorts of ways. Taking in two partners, he loaded the boat with crockery and pottery, and went down the river. At New Madrid the boat sank to the bottom. They cut off the cabin and fished out the goods, raised the hull, repaired the leak, loaded the goods back on the boat and continued on the trip down the Mississippi. Upon reaching the mouth of the St. Francis River, they traded off the boat and cargo for property near Evansville, Ind., taking obligations for the difference between the value of the boat and for cargo and the property.
Mr. Copland at length returned home, having owned during the time of his absence fourteen different boats. He then bought another flatboat and stock of goods, but in the fall of 1872 sold out and went to Kansas, remained there a month and, thinking he would like that country, returned to Illinois for his family. On his way to the new State he had reached Cairo, when the river froze over. His father not approving of the move, overtook him at Cairo and persuaded him to return home, and he moved into the house in which he was born. In the spring of 1873 he bought another boat and another stock of goods, moved his family to Joppa, Ill., and again started down the Mississippi. He sold out his boat and goods, and returned to Joppa, bought a house and lot, and engaged in general merchandising at that point. He commenced in a small way, but as his business increased he had to build an addition to his store, and he continued to add to it until he had a large establishment, made of rough lumber, with a low ceiling. He secured the establishment of a postoffice at Joppa, and was himself the postmaster. He also owned there several shingle machines, and engaged extensively in the buying and manufacture of shingles, for some time buying on an average thirty thousand per day, and manufacturing about thirty-five thousand per day. A portion of the time he had on hand as many as nineteen hundred thousand shingles. These he sold by the boat-load. He also engaged in various other enterprises, buying a steam-threshing outfit, steam sawmills, etc. At one time he employed eleven clerks, and did all of the business in his part of the country. In 1888 he removed to Metropolis, and bought the property where he is now located.
Mr. Copland has added to the hotel and other buildings and now has a valuable property. He owns considerable in the First National Bank of Metropolis, has been a very successful business man and has accumulated a competence. He has owned steamboats and now has a pilot's license. Mr. and Mrs. Copland have eight children, viz: Belle, wife of John Shipman, a painter and paper hanger of Metropolis; John L., a partner with his father in the livery business; Samuel, who works in the store; Estella, Ernest, Augustus, Tony and Hilda, all at home. Politically Mr. Copland is a Republican, and fraternally he is a Mason and an Odd Fellow. He is also a member of Tom Smith Post No. 345, G. A. R.

Extracted 16 Dec 2016 by Norma Hass from 1893 Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, pages 533-535.

Templates in Time