Filson Family Farm

Filson Family Farm

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Great Great Grandfather Taylor Silvers Filson and Amanda Hunter (Filson/Hunter lineage)

Taylor Silvers Filson (1824 - 1916)
Family photo, source Grace Filson
My great-great-grandfather Taylor Silvers Filson was born in rural Stark County, Ohio on February 22, 1842 to John Thomas Filson (1806 -1885) and Elizabeth Carey Filson . He was their fourth child, following behind Thomas Carey Filson, John Wesley Filson and Mary Jane Filson.  His father, John Thomas, was a farmer in Ohio and used the name Thomas all his life. As a child Taylor was raised on a farm in Columbiana County, Ohio before moving to Marshall County, Indiana. His mother Elizabeth died before Taylor turned 3, and his father then married Rebecca (Bennington) Mitchell. Thomas and Rebecca had 6 more children making a total of 10.

Taylor being a patriotic man signed up for the Civil War at the age of 19 and served as a private in Company F, 55th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (more on his Civil War experience later). As a young man Taylor stood 5' 91/2", had a light complexion, blue eyes and light hair, as was described on his Civil War records. He could not write as a young man, made evident by his signature, which was made with an "X", but he did learn to read and write in adulthood.

Taylor Silvers Filson Civil War Pension records
from the National Archives in Washington DC
In 1854 his older sister, Mary Jane, married a neighbor boy named Israel B. Alderfer and moved to Marshall County, Indiana. This event encouraged Taylor to move to Indiana and purchase land from the Alderfer family, which would come to be the Filson Family Farm I have written about in previous posts. The two farms were adjacent to one another and are still owned by the Filson and Alderfer families today.

After his Civil War service was completed in 1865 and the war had come to a close, Taylor moved to Marshall County, Indiana permanently.  As with many pioneers, Taylor was a lumber man before he was a farmer. He would cut timber on his land and haul it to sawmill in Inwood, Indiana, which was called Piersonville at the time. Taylor could also travel to the small town of Bourbon, Indiana to do much of his business and a little further to Plymouth if he needed to conduct legal matters, etc…Bremen, Indiana was also nearby and a town that was accessible to him.

1872 Map of Inwood, Indiana, Courtesy Marshall County Historical Society

Plymouth Indiana Postcard, Courtesy Indiana Historical Society

Bremen, Indiana, Courtesy Indiana Historical Society
He cleared the land on his farm of the timber, mainly oak and walnut, and built a log cabin and dug a well filling it with water from the ground or the nearby Yellow Creek. Eventually, as his family grew he expanded to a small house, and then the small house grew to a two story home, with a barn, a corn crib, a chicken coup and an outhouse. He raised work horses and milk cattle and sold lumber to the lumber yard. Cash was not used much in those days; he would use the lumber, crops and farm products such as milk and eggs to barter for what he needed. He would exchange labor with his neighbors as there was always endless farm work to perform. When the land was cleared of all the trees and the swampy land drained into the creek, it was turned into some of the most fertile farmland in the Midwest. A garden was maintained to grow vegetables for the family and hunting for birds and local wildlife would put food on the table. They would have grown an orchard and vines of berries, which still grow on the land today.

Filson Farm, Marshall County Indiana, late 1800s
Taylor and other family members standing in front of the farm
Taylor's wife, Amanda Hunter, was born in Warren, Marion County, Indiana in 1846 to Edmund Hunter (1808 - 1880) and Sobrina Temple Hunter (1808 - 1861). When Amanda was 14 her mother died and the family moved to Green Township in Marshall County, Indiana and that is where she lived when she met and married Taylor.

Marriage Record of Taylor Filson and Amanda Hunter 1867

They married in 1867 and one year later had their first son William L., their first daughter Sarah Elizabeth in 1870 and in 1872 bore my greatgrandfather, John Thomas, followed by their last child, Anna Ruth in 1874. In 1888, sadly Amanda died leaving four children from the ages of 14 to 20 years old. She is buried at Mt Pleasant Cemetery, which is down the long dirt road from the Filson Family Farm.

Amanda Hunter Filson Obituary, The Republican Newspaper, November 16, 1888
After Amanda's death, Taylor was in need of a wife. In 1890 he married Zonettie D. (Caldwell) Mathewson, a widow living in Inwood. They were married in Alexandria, South Dakota, where her mother lived at the time. Zonettie was 40 and Taylor was 48, she brought with her two sons, Archibald Mathewson, age 5 and Clarence Winget age 15, from two previous marriages. They moved to the Filson farm to live with John Thomas (age 18) and Anna Ruth (age 16).

My other Great-Great-Grandfather was named Christian Manuwal. Taylor and Christian met in Stark County, Ohio and both moved to Marshall County, Indiana and became lifelong friends. They each had a son and daughter, of which married the other's son and daughter. They attended the same church, shared grandchildren, and were both delegates for the Republican Party. They also both served in the Civil War but had very different experiences.

By 1910 Taylor had turned over the family farm to his son John Thomas and he, Zonettie and her two sons, moved to Plymouth, Indiana, where he lived next door to Christian and Elizabeth (Zimmerman) Manuwal on Simon Street.
1910 United States Census
Taylor and Zonettie were married for 20 years before Zonettie decided living with him was too difficult and moved to Fort Wayne to live with her son. They never filed for divorce and Zonettie claimed Taylor's Civil War pension after his death. In the pension records she said of the situation; “I led a very unpleasant life during those years. He [Taylor] was intemperate and very mean and many times treated me with violence. He made no effort to render me proper support as he was amply able to do so. I suffered … of indignities and cruelty, until I could bear no more and in August 1910 we separated.”

Zonettie Caldwell Filson Affidavit contained in Taylor Filson's Pension Records at the National Archives in Washington DC
Zonettie had 5 children in all, from two prior marriages, but only the two survived. She and Taylor had no children. She died in 1929 in Fort Wayne, but was returned and buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Plymouth, Indiana. Her obituary in The Daily Pilot, Plymouth, on April 15, 1929 reads;

“Mrs. Zonettie D Filson 78 years old, died at the St. Joseph's Hospital at Fort Wayne at 5 o'clock Sunday evening after an illness of four months. She was a former resident of Plymouth but for several years has lived with her son Clarence Winget of Fort Wayne. Besides Clarence, she is survived by a son, Archie Madison [Mathewson] of Long Beach, California, two sisters, Mrs Elizabeth Bristol of Chicago and Mrs. J. B. Camerer of Toho, Iowa; and two brothers, S. A. Caldwell of Bronson, Kansas and W. A. Caldwell of Alexander, Ill., also survive. Funeral services will be held at the Bunnel mortuary at 3 o'clock Wednesday afternoon with burial in Oak Hill cemetery.”

Notice there is no mention of Taylor.
Tombstone of Zonettie Filson Oak Hill Cemetery, Plymouth, Indiana

When Taylor grew ill in 1915, he moved back to the Filson farm and was cared for by his son John Thomas, John's wife Catherine (Manuwal) and their children, Robert, Russell and Cosa.

In a letter written by Cosa Filson (Heckaman) to a cousin inquiring about the family and the family history, Cosa replies: (Note: I believe this is a granddaughter of Taylor’s brother Thomas Carey Filson)
Cosa Filson
Plymouth, Ind.,August 12, 1916

Dear faraway cousin, I received the letter that you had written to Grandfather Filson, but am sorry to tell you that he has passed away from this world into a far more happier world than this, at 2pm on Wednesday, August 30, 1916, at age 74 years, six months, and eight days.

He has needed the care of a little child for nearly 9 months. He came to stay with us on August 1, 1915 where he remained until his departed to the other world. He was here for 13 months. During the time he was here, he was converted to Jesus Christ and has been truly manifested through his beautiful and patient life since that experience came to his heart on the first day of February, 1916. This date of his new birth into the kingdom of God was also the date of his Christian baptism and his reception into the Methodist Episcopal Church of Inwood. His praise for the goodness of God in the salvation of his soul, continued without a break until the father's summons to eternity. He was one of the most patient person's to care for that ever I saw. For the last three months off and on, he would not have his right mind. He would be talking about one subject and the first thing we knew, he would be talking about something else.

You were asking in your letter about Aunt Mary Alderfer. She died December 15, 1904. She had two children, William and Lizzie, and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

You also asked about Uncle John's people. Well, Uncle John himself died about five years ago and the family, at least the last track we had of them, they were in different parts of Ohio.I am sure if grandfather would be a living and had his right mind, he would be glad to trace it back and I am sure he could.

Grandfather's father's name was John Thomas [1806 - 1885]. I thought perhaps that might give you a little better view of it. Taylor Filson is my grandfather. I am the daughter of his son, [John] Thomas. My father cannot realize whose daughter or granddaughter that you are.

I have heard Taylor Filson, (that is my grandfather), speak of you and Fern Filson. Do you know who she is?

My name is Cosa Filson and I am 17 years old. I am in the third year of Inwood High School. Inwood is about 7 miles east of Plymouth. I am the oldest child of [John] Thomas. I have two brothers, one 13 years [Russell] and the other 5 years [Robert]. My youngest brother [Robert] had three of his fingers on his right hand partly taken off. William Alderfer, that is, Aunt Mary Alderfer’s first boy, said that if he remembers right, your folks lived in Plymouth when you were a little girl.

Say, would you please tell me who your father is and who your father's father is? I would really greatly appreciate to tell you about the family history of the Filson's if I could and would more than be glad if you would write and tell me who your father and grandfather is. I'm sorry I didn't know where you folks were before, for I surely would have written and told you how poorly Taylor Filson was. His daughter said that they had lost track of all of his relatives nearly.

Will be pleased to hear from you. Your faraway cousin,
Cosa E Filson,
Plymouth, Indiana
Rural Route 3, Box 22
Source: Compiled Genealogy of the Filson family by Marjorie Barber Coffin,
located at The Marshall County Historical Society, Plymouth, Indiana

Upon Taylor’s death his obituary reads:

Plymouth Democrat, Sept 07, 1916
Mr. John Thomas Filson was the father of two families of children. Taylor Silvers, the subject of this obituary, was the fourth and youngest of the first family. He was born at Fostoria, Senaca County, Ohio (1) on the 22nd day of February 1842.

Elizabeth Carey Filson was his mother, dying during his youth. Soon the second companion of their father's love became the foster mother of his family and two half brothers and four half-sisters became members of the household. But as the sands of time added the years to eternity's duration, the father, the foster mother, one sister, Mary Alderfer, two brothers, Thomas C. And John, and the four half sisters, Elizabeth, Sarah, Nancy and Ruth all passed from this mortal sphere.

Taylor Filson was a patriotic citizen and seeing the great need of his service in the Civil War (1861-1865), he heeded his country's call to the colors and served in Company F, 55th Ohio Volunteer Infantry for a period of more than three years and nine months. He bore the scars of battle until his dying day.

Mr. Filson being honorably discharged from the country's service came to Center Township, Marshall County, Indiana, to make his future home. On the 26th day of February 1867, Miss Amanda Hunter became his bride. They founded their domestic habitation on a farm one mile north of the little town of Inwood. Two sons, William L and John Thomas and two daughters Sarah Ellen and Anna R. Were given to this union. The mother of this family died on the 4th day of November, 1888. During the unity of this family their residence was always in this one location, and even for nine years after the companion of his young manhood had gone to another world Mr. Filson made the old homestead his abiding place. He then lived in Plymouth, Marshall County, for 19 years, having been married to Zonettie Mathewson June 22, 1890.

Age has been creeping upon him and in his declining days he went to the home of his son, Thomas in sight of the birth place of his family of children, where he remained until his days were numbered. Great affliction of body has been his portion for many months.

He died on Wednesday afternoon, August 30th, 1916, at the ripe old age of 74 years, 6 months and 8 days.Those near and dear who mourn his departure are his wife, his entire family of children, two half brothers Simeon, of Fostoria and Simon, of Findlay, Ohio and his five grandchildren Mrs. Pearl Greer, Carl Rentschler, Cosie, Russell and Robert Filson.

Taylor S Filson Obituary Plymouth Democrat, Sept 07, 1916
When Taylor passed away the family laid him to rest next to his first wife Amanda Hunter, the mother of his children, at Old Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Bourbon Township. The cemetery lies back on the Mt. Pleasant Church of the Brethren (formerly Yellow River Church of the Brethren). I find it interesting even though Zonettie and Taylor were separated for 6 years and they never filed for divorce, the family still acknowledged her as his wife in his obituary. Possibly to appease her, because they knew they would need her help to settle his estate. His estate was settled by Zonettie, who was the sole benefactor. She inherited $676, which was a current value of about $12,000.00.

Grave of Amanda Hunter Filson and Taylor Silvers Filson,
Old Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Bourbon Township, Marshall County, Indiana

Saturday, February 22, 2014

More on Great Grandma Catherine and Great Grandpa John (Filson/Manuwal lineage)

I received a wonderful surprise this week, a brown envelope from my mother containing three photos which I want to share with my family members. The most important being a picture of our great grandparents from circa 1890s. 

This is a picture of Catherine Lavinia Manuwal Filson and John Thomas Filson both in their twenties.I was fascinated to search the picture to see which family members inherited their looks. I see my Grandfather Russell in John Thomas and my Great Uncle Robert in Catherine.
The second photo is of Catherine as she sits in her living room of her Inwood,Indiana home surrounded by the African violets and flowers she loved. This is my fondest memory of her. I also remember admiring the lace on her door.

The third picture is of my Uncle Marvin, Aunt Cosa and Uncle Bob. Cosa and Bob being Catherine and John's children, Marvin Heckamen being Cosa's husband.

I cherish these photos and look forward to more envelopes in the mail.

I have written about this family members in a prior blog post, if you would like to read 
it, you can go here and here.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Martin Van Buren Coplen and Sarah Severns Coplen (Coplen/Copeland lineage)

Martin Van Buren Copeland (Coplen) was born on November 17, 1836 in Coshocton County, Ohio, to James Copeland and Betsy Horton Copeland. Martin was named after President Martin Van Buren, as Martin Van Buren was just elected as the 8th President of the United States in the same year of Martin’s birth. Additionally, his father James was an avid Democratic Party supporter.

Martin Van Buren Copeland (Coplen) late 1800s
Filson Family Private Photo Collection
Martin or “Van” as many called him, was raised on an Ohio farm along with ten brothers and sisters. His family and the Severns family were lifelong friends, and soon Martin fell in love with Sarah E. Severns, who lived down the road. In 1858 at the age of 22, Martin married Sarah, age 21. Sarah was born in 1837 and was the daughter of William Severns and Hannah Treadway Severns.

Coshocton County, Ohio Marriage Records 1858, Family Search.Org
By 1860 many other Coplen family members from Coshocton County, Ohio relocated to Fulton County, Indiana, along with other families such as the Meredith and Severns families.

If you recall from my previous writings, Martin’s Uncle Asa Coplen moved to Fulton County, Indiana in 1840 and established the little town of Bloomingsburg, Indiana. Today the tiny town is known as Talma, Indiana. During this time, many of the Coplen family members modified their name from Copeland to Coplen. It was not uncommon for a regional accent to modify the sound of a name and because many pronounced Copeland as Coplen, the family members started to use the phonetic spelling.

In 1858 Martin and Sarah gave birth to their first son, Wilson. In 1860, they packed up the wagon and took the thirteen-day journey across the Ohio Valley and into the timberland of Indiana.

When the Civil War began in 1861, many men in Fulton County volunteered. Martin was not asked to serve, so he was able to stay home. In 1863 he registered under the guidelines of the mandatory draft, but once again, was never called upon.

Over time, Martin purchased 370 acres of land from his Uncle Asa among others, and began to clear the lumber and cultivate profitable farmland. The dense forest was covered with tall timber of beech, walnut, oak and ash trees. The first thing they did was build a small cabin for temporary shelter until they were able to build a larger house. They would employ neighborhood men for 50 cents a day to help construction the house along with a barn and other utility buildings.

New Castle Township, Fulton County, Indiana 1880s
1883 A.L. Kingman Combination Atlas Map of Fulton County, Indiana
Wild game of deer, turkey and squirrel was plentiful and kept them full. They would plant the spring crops and buy from the neighbors what they needed until the next season.

Martin became a prominent farmer and cattleman. In 1867 he and Sarah gave birth to Elmer, my great grandfather. He was to be their last child, but in 1879 they adopted the daughter of a friend, Rosa A. Emmons, who was 14 years old at the time. Sarah was happy to have a female to help around the house and Rosa soon became a member of the family.

In 1873 Martin donated a section of land to build the Bloomingsburg Disciple Church. The church was located a quarter-mile out of town, across the Tippecanoe River, next to a bridge he helped build. It was a rectangular building with a high belfry and a large iron bell which would ring throughout the town. It was white with four large glass windows on each side. The interior walls were papered and surrounded rows of unvarnished pews with slate backing. Three isles divided the room into two columns of seating and there were two wood stoves, one on each side of the congregation. In the front of the church stood the pulpit which held a large Bible ready for the Sunday Sermon. To the left of the pulpit were seats for the choir and a beautiful Reed Organ. To the right of the pulpit, seats for the elders which Martin was one of. The large churchyard was surrounded with hitching posts to place the horses during church service. Since then, the name of the church has changed, and the building has suffered some damage from tornadoes. Today, the Talma Grace Bible Church stands on this piece of land. Up to the 1960’s, the church baptized their members in the Tippecanoe River across the road.

Bloomingsburg Disciple Church, 1880s,
Fulton County Historical Society Photo Collection
Martin was an honest and resourceful man, evident by the ventures he took in his lifetime.Besides running a farm and raising cattle, he was the owner of a saw mill and grist mill. He was also the County Commissioner for the Third District from 1885 to 1887, running on the Democratic ticket.

The Rochester Indiana Newspaper dated Wednesday, December 7, 1887 wrote that during his term as Commissioner, he ”…proved himself to be a careful, painstaking and safe man for the responsible position which he held. A dollar never went out of the county treasury by direction of the Board to Commissioners without Mr. Coplen being fully advised as to the benefit of the expenditure and this degree of carefulness and strict fidelity to the taxpayer’s interest was exercised at all times, even though at times he knew a faithful discharge of his duty would make him no friends. Every man who had business with the Board of Commissioners while Mr. Coplen was president will always honor him for his unswerving advocacy of the best interest of the county and the people, and his record is one to which the party that placed him in office can point with pride."

During his term, Martin and the Democratic management of the county added ventilation and heating to the County Asylum, built iron or substantial wood bridges over the rivers and small streams at every point travel demanded, and added an iron fence and a stone walkway around the courthouse. The county was out of debt and had a considerable fund of money on hand towards building a new jail and improving drainage. The article continued, "Mr. Coplen discharged his duties to the satisfaction of his constituents and is duly credited as being an honorable official."

Growing older, in 1892 Martin purchased a sawmill from Otis B. Holman and a year later, a gristmill from Dr. Newton J. Clymer on 7 acres of land between the Tippecanoe River and Talma.   The grist mill was a three story structure painted red with white trim. It was built high to sit on wooden pilings over the mill race. The water from a dam upstream would rush by the mill and turn the wheel to grind the wheat into flour. Elevators would then carry the flour up the floors above to be sifted and stored. Martin could be seen late in the day in his white overalls, white from the dust of the flour. He turned the mill into a successful venture, shipping flour as far as Liverpool, England. He sold the mill in 1900, and it was still in operation until heavy winds blew off the top in 1908.

Bloomingsburg Saw Mill as seen before purchased by Martin.
1883 A.L. Kingman Combination Atlas Map of Fulton County, Indiana

Bloomingsburg Grist Mill 1880s
Fulton County Folks, Volume 2, Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historical Society
Martin is mentioned in the Pictorial Story of America, by Elia W Peattie, Published 1896, the author writes:

Martin Van Buren Copeland [Coplen] farmer and miller of Bloomingsburg belongs to the class of representative American citizens who promote the public welfare while advancing individual prosperity…”

Martin died January 3, 1916 of a stroke, leaving behind a wife and two grown sons. A year earlier Martin and Sarah decided to sell the Talma farm and move to Argos, Indiana to live with their son Wilson and his wife Ellen Burkett Coplen. Upon Martin’s death it was of the utmost importance to Sarah that all of her husband’s debts be paid to keep their family’s reputation for honesty intact.

Sarah could not read or write, as was evident by the mark she made on Martin’s death records.  Martin left enough land in Marshall County to help Sarah live the rest of her life in a comfortable manner. She was the woman by the side of my Great Grandma Frances, to bring my Grandma Grace into this world, along with her other siblings. She loved basket weaving, having won first place in a fair and was a very religious woman. 
Sarah Severns Coplen late 1800s
Filson Family Private Photo Collection
Both Martin and Sarah were laid to rest in Reichter Cemetery in Fulton County, Indiana.

Filson Family Private Photo Collection

(1) There are two Sarah Severns Coplens' that resided in Fulton County during the 1800s. The other was the wife of Isaac Coplen and should not be confused with this Sarah.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Talma, Indiana (Coplen Lineage)

Looking for my ancestors in rural America has its challenges. The biggest one is looking for communities that do not exist anymore. I have previously written about Inwood, Indiana, the town of five generations of the Filson family and the beginnings of Talma, Indiana aka Bloomingsburg. It is the little town of Talma which three generations of my Coplen family have lived, which I continue to write about today. My curiosity wants to know what the town was like in the early 1900s when my grandmother was a child. Though it was never a big town, according to Kingman 1898 Atlas, it consisted of two general stores, one drugstore, a meat market, a hotel, two doctors, a wagon-maker, a shoemaker, a blacksmith, a harness maker, a sawmill and a gristmill. It also had an “International Order of Odd Fellows Lodge,” a grange hall officially referred to as “The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry,” a church of 80 members, and a two story school house which was built in 1903. The railroad wanted to come through Bloomingsburg but the community fought against it and this, along with fires and tornadoes, contributed to the demise of Talma.

International Order of Odd Fellows, Talma Indiana
Collection of Fulton County Historical Society
A few years back while attending a wedding in Indiana, I had a wonderful two-day trip to Plymouth with my two brothers to hunt down our genealogical heritage. We started out at the Fulton County Historical Society outside of Rochester Indiana. This is a wonderful historical society with a very impressive museum and I look forward to visiting again. We searched through records for pictures of our grandmother and her life in the early 1900s, in the town of Talma in New Castle Township, Indiana. We found bits and pieces, but not a lot, until my brother approached me with a silly grin on his face, a grin I have seen before, softly holding in the palm of his hand a little homemade 2x4 remembrance book from the year 1915. It consisted of three cut construction paper pages tied together with a small red ribbon. On the front was an oval frame encasing a photograph of the ruins of a burnt down school and inside were the names of the fourth and fifth graders of Talma School. And there was the name of our grandmother – Grace Coplen, HE FOUND HER. A few moments later my other brother found a school picture of Grace in the fifth grade and another school picture. They were both hooked! I could see in their eyes— the excitement of discovery intrinsic to unraveling the history of their ancestors.

Three page Remembrance Book of the class of Talma School, 1914-1915
Collection of Fulton County Historical Society

Class Picture Talma School, 1912
Grace Coplen, 1st row, 3rd from the left
Collection of Fulton County Historical Society
Grandma’s school was built in 1903 and sadly destroyed the night before Thanksgiving 1915 by a fire. They rebuilt the school in 1917 but in the interim, classes were held in Hatfield’s Store and Chapman’s Hardware, along with the church and I.O.O.F. lodge hall. Grandma Grace continued attending school in Talma until 1920 when her family moved to Inwood. Sadly for the school, it was completely destroyed in 1974 by a tornado that I previously wrote about.

Talma, Indiana School 1903-1915
before fire of 1915
Collection of Fulton County Historical Society
Grace and the other children rode to school in a hackney carriage that would go around and pickup them up. In the winter the wheels were changed out for sleds. The older boys would only go to school when there was no need for them at their farms.

Fulton County Folks, Volume 2, Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historical Society

While at the Fulton County Historical Society, I found two wonderful documents; The first, Fulton County Folks, Volume 1 & 2, edited by Shirley Willard and complied by The Fulton County Historical Society. It is a compilation of the History of Fulton County, Indiana and the pioneers that built it. It is a wonderful book and well worth owning for anyone doing genealogy in that area.

The second being a five page typed manuscript by Cleo Hatfield Teeter Nye, a woman I later realized was my grandmother’s fourth grade teacher. Her father, Loring Hatfield, owned the general store in Talma.

Collection of Fulton County Historical Society
The document is entitled “Incidents of the Early Days That Stand Out in My Mind.” Cleo was born in 1893 and passed in 1983. She was 22 when she was a teacher to my grandmother. Even though this document was not written by my family member, it is a great resource to get insight into the community in which they lived. I was thrill when I got back to California and I was able to share the document with a direct decent of someone that worked in that same general store.

Cleo talks about many things in her document (see above). Among them she mentions our cousin:

“12. Chancey Coplen reading the sports news from her dad’s Chicago paper”

“22. Going to Sunday School across the river in a white dress, high shoes, bracelet, parasol, penny tied in a hankie, Leghorn hat, …” This is the same church my Coplen family attended.

“36. [Chancey]Coplen’s carrying the mail each day – leaving for Rochester at 8:00 and back by 3:00…Their faithful horse Barney made the trip every week day for many years”

I was curious about her first comment “Gum Burning in Talma street after McKinley’s second election.” I have never heard of gum burning. A little research leads me to understand this was actually a reference to burning of logs which had a lot of sap (gum). They were burnt to celebrate The 4th of July, elections, etc… These logs lite the night, along with fireworks, speeches and a parade were the order of the day.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Great Grandpa Elmer Coplen and Frances Rodabaugh Coplen (Coplen lineage)

My Great Grandfather Elmer R. Coplen was born to Martin VanBuren Coplen and Sarah Severns Coplen on November 13th, 1867. He lived on a farm built by his father on the west side of the Tippecanoe River across from Talma, Indiana (aka Bloomingsburg). As a child he attended Talma School until the 8th grade.

Fulton County Historical Society Quarterly No 24
Elmer had an older brother named Wilson and an adopted sister named Rosa Emmons. Wilson married Nancy Ellen Burkett and Rosa went on to marry Benjamin Meredith. Elmer was a farmer like his father but soon learned the skill of carpentry and it became his main occupation. His family remembers him as a very loving man and a dedicated husband and father.

Elmer Coplen about 1910
Filson Family collection
My Great Grandmother Frances A. Rodabaugh was born to Adam Rodabaugh and Frances A. Hynes on November 8, 1872. The day began in celebration of her arrival but quickly turned tragic as her mother passed away from complications of the birth. As her father Adam, already had five other children, Frances was sent to be raised by her grandparents, John Hynes Sr. and Nancy Coble Hynes, with guardianship being held by her uncle, John Hynes Jr.

Frances A Rodabaugh about 1885
Filson Family collection
She grew up on her Grandfather's farm a short distance from her family’s, in Clinton Township, Cass County, Indiana, which was a small community outside of Logansport. She was a devoutly religious woman and went to church often. While attending church convention for young adults, she met and fell in love with Elmer. They married in Cass County on April 16, 1891, when Frances was 18 and Elmer was 23. They had a family of seven children that I wrote about in my previous post.

Elmer Coplen and Frances Rodabaugh Coplen Marriage Photo 1891
Filson Family collection
They raised their family in Talma until about 1920 when they sold their farm and moved to another one southwest of Inwood. They then joined the Inwood Methodist Church and this is where my Grandmother Grace and Grandfather Russell met.
1922 map Inwood Indiana, Hostorical Mapworks
My grandmother spoke fondly of her parents; you could tell her household was one filled with love. She would talk about her father coming home and kissing his wife in front of everyone and not being shy about it. He was also very happy to help her around the house. But despite their happiness, their lives were not without tragedy.  As I have written about in the past, in 1898, they laid to rest their four year old son, John Martin Coplen.. In her writings, my grandmother Grace recalls one night God spoke to her and said she needed to go be with her mother. Her mother had grown sick with pneumonia and passed away a few minutes after Grace said her goodbyes. Great Grandma Frances was 51 when she died and Elmer, who was recovering from gallbladder surgery at the time, was left with his two youngest daughters to raise, Fern at the age of 15 and Frances at the age of 11.This was an unbearable loss for Elmer, Grace and her siblings but an event that made the family rally around Elmer to care for him his whole life. They laid their mother to rest in Richter cemetery, along with four year old John and where Elmer would someday join them. After Frances died, Elmer would sell his Inwood farm and move to Elkhart, Indiana to live with his son, Floyd. During the depression he would work as a baler in a junkyard and was happy to have work. He would then move in with his daughter Frances, also in Elkhat and in 1949, he would move to the Filson family farm by Inwood, Indiana to be taken care of by my Grandmother Grace. After a six month illness he passed away in 1950. His funeral was held at the Christian Church in Talma, the same church he was born into 83 years earlier.

The Coplen family -  Fern, Frances, Floyd, Elmer, Grace, Earl and Blanch about 1960
Filson Family collection






Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Grandmother's siblings (Coplen lineage)

Writing a family history about people you’ve never met can be challenging. I don’t want to do a disservice to them, so I use only facts from documents in hopes that a distant relative will step forward to help me learn more about the ancestors I never knew. This is my hope for my Coplen lineage. I remember my grandmother Grace speaking fondly of her brothers and sisters, but they were always too far away for me to get to know them. Now, I have photos of them and have become curious about who they were.

My Grandmother Grace was born to Elmer R. Coplen (1867-1950) and Frances A. Rodabaugh, who met at a church convention and married in 1891. They had a family of seven and raised them all on a farm in Talma, Indiana. The farm is situated in Newcastle Township west of the Tippacanoe River. For a short time between 1893 and 1896, they moved to Logansport, Indiana to take care of Frances' ailing father.

1907 Map of Bloomingsburg, Indiana (AKA Talma, Indiana)
Recently I was visiting my aunt and I was thrilled to have the chance to see an old Coplen family bible that belonged to Elmer and Frances. It is a very thick bible with fragile pages, and a brown and burgundy leather cover with the inscription “Elmer Coplen” on the bottom. In the center of the book are four pages that list the family’s marriages, births and deaths. Before the implementation of vital records in the late 1800s, family bibles were considered a legal document. If a family needed to provide proof of a birth, marriage or death, they would take their bible to a clerk of the court as proof of the event.

Family Bible of Elmer Coplen
Here in this 1908 photo you can see Elmer and Frances dressed in their finest with their children Earl (back), Floyd (left), my Grandmother Grace seated upon the lap of her mother, and Blanch (right).

Earl Lowell (1892-1962) married Florence R. VanLue and was a successful pig farmer, raising many champion pigs.

Blanche O. (1899-1979) married Joseph J. Grass and lived on a farm next to her family farm in Talma. On that same farm today, you can still see a barn built by Martin Van Buren Coplen who is Elmer’s father.

Floyd F. (1902-1991) married Mary R. Collura. He was a carpenter and a railroad inspector. They lived in Elkhart, Indiana.

My grandmother Grace Geneiver (1905-2003) married Russell Filson and lived near Inwood, Indiana.

Fern P. (1909-2010) married Harry Thorp, who she divorced, and married Max C. Achberger. After Max died, she was a companion of Mendel Bunner of Springport, Indiana. She was a hairdresser and lived to see 100.

The youngest was Frances Magdalen (1913–1991) who married Ellsworth Phelps.

Elmer Coplen, Bud Phelps, Blanch Grass, Mary Coplen, Floyd Coplen, Florence Coplen, Frances Phelps, Russell Filson, Grace Filson, Fern Achberger and Max Achberger. At a family reunion in 1958.
John Martin Coplen (1894-1898) was the second child of Elmer and Frances. At the young age of four he died of membranous croup. At the time his mother Frances was four months pregnant.

As I write about my linage, it is these young souls that intrigue me most. This blog may be the only writing of their entire existence. There are no school records, no class photos. He didn't live to have military or marriage records, and no children to carry on his name. All that remains is a birth, an obituary and this photo of his grave lying for eternity with his parents.

I can envision the day he learned to walk, the day he got his first tooth, the way he would make his mom smile when he pronounced a word wrong. He dutifully followed his big brother Earl and dad out to the barn yard and climbed upon the horse cart to sit next to them. I am sure Earl would hold onto him so he would not fall off as they went out into the fields to work. Some days he would stay with his mom to feed the chickens and help pull weeds out in the garden. Then one day a cough would develop, a fever would flare and a few days later he passed, leaving behind his family full of pain. They would live the rest of their lives knowing the world had just lost a special someone.

I first learned of John's short life through the 1900 census. This census asked each female of childbearing years how many children she has given birth to and how many are still living. The US Government was in the mist of trying to help with the infant mortality problem. I envision Frances sitting across from the census worker and her heart sinking when asked such a heavy question. I wonder if it gave her peace that John’s life was on record, even in this indirect way.

1900 Census Newcastle Township, Indiana (detail)
When I looked closer at this one page of the 1900 census, which is a time capsule of the Coplen family and all their neighbors, I was surprised to see on this one page, the 13 women on it, had suffered the loss of 8 children. I can imagine when John Martin Coplen died, the neighborhood women rallied around the Coplen family to comfort them, for they all knew how the loss of a child felt.

1900 census Newcastle Township, Indiana

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tiny Bloomimgsburg aka Talma, Indiana (Coplen lineage)

My grandmother Grace Coplen Filson was born in 1905 to Elmer R. Coplen and Frances A. Rodabough in the little country town of Talma, Indiana. Situated on the Tippecanoe River, Talma is in Newcastle Township, Fulton County, Indiana. It is so small you would be hard pressed to find documentation of the population.

Talma was originally named Bloomingsburg by my third great granduncle, Asa Coplen. When Asa was asked why he named the area Bloomingsburg, he replied, "Because it is the most bloom-ingest place I’ve ever seen."

Asa was born to Richard Copeland and Euphamine Henderson in Coshocton, Ohio in 1805 and traveled to Fulton County, Indiana in 1840. Many other Coplen family members followed him, including my 2nd great grandfather Martin Van Buren Coplen. Asa bought land from the federal government for $1.25 an acre and soon had four farms. He married Lucretia Abbott in 1830 and they had a family of seven children.

He surveyed the land and by 1854 he was selling lots. The 1854 map of Bloomingsburg below shows the lots southwest of the original town. Make note of the Grist Mill next to the river, which would one day be owned by my 2nd great grandfather Martin Van Buren Coplen.

In 1858 Asa grew restless, sold three farms and headed west. But financial misfortune came upon him and his family, he grew tired of the windy country and he lost his beloved wife Lucretia in 1859 and laid her to rest in Kansas. Before she died she made Asa promise to return to Indiana with the children. He kept his promise and by 1860 he had returned to his farm in Bloomingsburg. In 1869, he married Minerva Jane Fisher and had two additional daughters. 1

Asa and Mirerva Coplen 1875  4

When the civil war came along he was eager to offer his service but was told he was too old. He proudly sent his three sons Lyman, James and Chauncey off to war. Fortunantly all returned.

In 1888 Asa and Minerva moved to Joliet, IL where they lived until 1896 when he was laid to rest at the age of 91.

Uncle Asa, as many people called him, was an honest man and a good friend. He was always willing to help someone who was down on their luck and his motto was The Golden Rule. He was very active with Fulton County Democratic party.

In 1896 the United States Post Office wanted to rename the tiny town of Bloomingsburg, claiming the name was too long. They ran a contest in the local paper and the winner was William R. Kubley. Kubley was a resident of Talma at the time and had a reputation as a puzzle wizard and avid contestant. His obituary states in one year he won 12 cars, also that he found the word Talma in a crossword puzzle. 3

In 1976 a historical marker was placed in Talma honoring both Asa and William for their roles in the naming of Bloomimgsburg and Talma.  2

THE HISTORICAL MARKER DATABASE photo taken by By Alice Mathews, July 12, 2011 5


1) Fulton County  Historical Society, Talma The Blooming Burg, Shirley Willard, Fulton Co Folks,Vol. 2

2) Roch Sen oct 4 1976

3) News-Sentinel, Friday, February 5, 1954

4) Fulton County Historical Society Collection