Obituary for John C. Copeland,

The Oberlin News, Jan. 11, 1894


A Historic Character Passes Away - In the death of John C. Copeland, which occurred at his home about a mile southwest of town December 29, 1893, one of the most prominent representatives of Oberlin's pioneer colored citizens disappeared from our midst.

Mr. Copeland was born near Raleigh, North Carolina, in the year 1808, and was therefore over eighty-five years of age. In 1843, he removed with his family to Oberlin, the reputation of whose inhabitants as friends of the colored man no doubt having reached that distant state. Allen Jones and his family members of which still reside here, John Lane, the blacksmith who died not many years ago, and an adopted daughter of the Copelands, now the widow of Andrew Smith, recently deceased, were in the same party. They came over the mountains and all of the long distance with three wagons drawn by horses, and arrived in Oberlin June 3d of the year mentioned. He worked as a carpenter, and in the earlier years of his residence here was a preacher of the Methodist denomination. For half a century he lived a quiet, peaceable citizen. His name became historic on account of the fact that one of his sons, John Copeland, was executed with John Brown at Harper's Ferry for participating in the great raid in Virginia, thus becoming a prominent actor in this stirring event which immediately preceded the War of the Rebellion. Mr. Copeland was anxious to have the remains of his unfortunate son brought to Ohio, and in his behalf Professor James Monroe went to Harper's Ferry, but the authorities refused to give up the body. Another son was assassinated while on duty as a policeman at Little Rock, Arkansas.

There were eight children in the family, four of whom with the mother are dead. The four remaining are Henry, of Leavenworth, Kansas, Mrs. Laura C. Avitt, of Princeton, Indiana, and Miss Mary and Frederick Copeland, residents of Oberlin.

For a number of years Mr. Copeland had lived a quiet life and his existence was scarcely known to many citizens. For a time he was entirely blind, but by an operation his sight was restored.

The funeral services were conducted by Rev. H. M. Tenney and remarks were made by Ex-President Fairchild and Professor Monroe, who had known Mr. Copeland during the half century of his residence in Oberlin.



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