Filson Family Farm

Filson Family Farm

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.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Secret Gift by Ted Gup - A Book Review

When writing a family history, I am curious to learn how a major historical event affected my family members. One such event is the Great Depression of the 1930s. But I have no great stories, except that my grandmother raised chickens and sold eggs. Besides that fact, all of my ancestors who lived through that period are gone and no oral or written histories remain. So in lieu of my own family stories about The Great Depression, I will suggest a book to my readers in the event you are interested in the period and so inclined for a good read.

The book is A Secret Gift by Ted Gup. His non-fiction book is derived from letters he inherited from his Grandfather, Sam Stone. During the Depression, a week before Christmas of 1933, his grandfather took on the alias name of “B. Verdot” and proceeded to place an ad in The Canton Repository. He wanted to give 150 people from Canton, Ohio $5.00 each. In today’s dollar that is about $90.00. The only request was they had to write to him via a box number and request the money. The letters were later passed on to the author of the book, along with the follow up thank you notes that B. Verdot received. Using genealogical resources, Ted Gup researched the stories of the letter writers and contacted their family members to learn why they so desperately needed that $5.00 in 1933 and what became of them. Many of the writers had passed away and many of the family members never knew of the suffering their ancestors endured and in many cases, crying upon reading the letter that was written by a loved one now long gone.

Sam Stone

The book is a wonderful example of how an author can take on the challenge of turning his family history into a literary work that will bring you to tears and engage the reader to really care about these families. I envision the stories of all the families in Canton, Ohio paralleling those of my own family members who were one state to the west in Indiana. This was a time in history many had the same story and they all endured the hardships together. They were very proud people and wanted no one to feel sorry for them. The book is made up of many small stories but it revolves around Sam Stone and what brought him to make such a generous gift without letting anyone know. I was enthralled through the whole book and only dream of being able to write my own family history so beautifully.

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The tornado that took my history away (Coplen/Severns lineage)

"The forecast for Wednesday April 3, 1974 was for showers on the East coast and for thunderstorms across the Midwest. In the heavens, a storm of an overwhelming magnitude was forming. Children went to school, people went to work and lives went on as normal until the second worst storm of the 1900's struck. Tornadoes broke across the heartland with such an intensity and frequency never seen before in the United States. Homes and schools destroyed. Loved ones lost..... 315 people who lost their lives in this storm and to the over 5,000 people who were injured."  - Scott Koerner.  1

I remember the day vividly. I was anxiously staring out of the Filson family farm window, watching a massive tornado cut across the Indiana cornfields. I didn't know at the time where the tornado had come from or where it was going. I was just glad it was passing the farm instead of heading towards it. What I didn't realize at the time was the significance the event would have on my genealogical research today. It wasn't until recently I realized the tornado was heading for my ancestral town. In a few minutes the tiny town of Talma, Indiana would be hit. Talma lies in New Castle Township in Fulton County, Indiana. This is the birthplace of my grandmother Grace Coplen and my great grandfather Elmer Coplen, and the home of my great grandfather Martin Van Buren Coplen.
The tornado that hit Talma was known as the “Monticello, Indiana Tornado”. Along with Talma, the nearby community of Rochester, Indiana was also devastated. The News Sentinel Newspaper of Thursday April 4, 1974 stated, “17 people were killed in the Rochester area, and law enforcement officers said the town of Talma was virtually wiped out.”
The F4 Tornado path as it passes Talma and Inwood, Indiana  2

I don’t remember Grandma Grace ever mentioning Talma to me. Most likely I never asked. I was too busy as a teenager to even care of such things. By the 1930s all my immediate family had left Talma and it was just another piece of land.
Talma school after the 1974 tornado  3
Arial photograph of the tornado destruction of Talma  3
Over the next few posting I will be writing about Talma, Indiana and the little community that is all but gone, but alive with my family’s history.

To read more about the “Super Outbreak” check out Wikipedia or the website for The National Weather Service. They have a page of photos published in the Rochester Sentinel of the destruction that hit Talma and Rochester in Fulton County.

Scott Koerner has put together an amazing site dedicated to the April 1974 event. He has a whole page of links that will lead you to videos of that day.

For a recap of the day, checkout this video about the weather from Accuweather

1) Scott Koerner
3) The Rochester Sentinel, April 4, 1974, via The National Weather Service

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Finding your history in Postcards

1908 Postcard -  Birdseye View of North Center Street in Plymouth Indiana  1

Historical postcards are a rich source for visualizing your ancestors in a historical time. During the early 1900s, postcards featured pictures of city views, court house, public buildings and business. Many counties have recreated and published a historical time capsule of these images. The Marshall County Historical Society has available The Plymouth Post Card Book which has 100 vintage postcards from Plymouth, Indiana.

If you have an interest in Culver, Indiana, check out the genealogical website for Lake Maxinkuckee. It has some wonderful local postcards of Culver.

To find postcards from all over the United States, visit America as it Was: A Tour of the US in Vintage Postcards. There you will find multiple links to additional resources, such as the Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society which has over 3000 images online.

Another great place to look for historical images is on Flickr. There you will find collections such as The Pie Shop’s Collection which has a wonderful photo sets from Indiana and other locations. My favorite is the A & W Root Beer restaurant in South Bend, Indiana. They also have a postcard of the old Plymouth Holiday Inn, which you are familiar with if you grew up in Plymouth, Indiana.

Also, check out Shook Photos where you can find postcards of Indiana Railroad Disasters and Indiana Tornado Disasters.

One of my favorites is the Flickr site for Hoosier Recollections'. You will see old postcards of Indiana Schools, Indiana Theatres & Opera Houses. I especially love the way the curator of the site provides detailed views of the postcards. He also cross-referenced the postcards with 1905 Sanborn Insurance maps to verify the exact location of the scene depicted on the postcard. So don’t just look at the picture, make sure to read the description under the picture for great historical content. They also have a set of postcards just for Marshall County and some wonderful Indiana Rural Scenes.

Do not forget to check out the Indiana Historical Society postcard collection, the site states:

“Indianapolis resident Jay Small collected real photo and printed postcards. The images depict locations across Indiana, individuals, interurban and railway stations, bandstands, celebrations, and examples of advertising. Featured here are views and street scenes in towns and cities. The images date from circa 1907 to the 1920s.”

But the ultimate surprise would be to find one of these postcards was actually written by your family member and has somehow made its way to the Internet. I am still looking for that treasure.

Note: To view any of these sites just click on the blue highlighted word above and your browser will take you there.

 1) Filson family Private collection