Filson Family Farm

Filson Family Farm

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