Ronald and Nancy Hendrikson
Photographs by Jonah Volk
Early History of the Property
Titus Street and Samuel Hughes of New Haven, Connecticut first owned this property which was part of the Connecticut Western Reserve. In 1835 the land was purchased by Hiram Abif Pease, an early Oberlin historical figure. (1)
Hiram A. Pease was the brother of Oberlin's first
white pioneer, Peter Pindar Pease. He was two years younger than his
brother having been born in 1797 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Mr.
Pease was a wagon maker and for years a deacon in First Church. He
was active in the work of the Underground Railroad and a staunch
friend and supporter of people of color, both before and after their
liberation. The Pease family owned other property in the county.
Oberlin College is the owner of portraits painted by Alanzo Pease of
his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hiram A. Pease. (2)
Hiram Pease was fond of the Evans families, (brothers Henry and Wilson and sister Delilah) . Wilson operated an undertaking establishment in addition to his carpentry and cabinet work. Hiram A. Pease pre-arranged his funeral with Wilson. He engaged Wilson as undertaker and six black men as pallbearers. He was very specific as to what he wanted at his funeral. Hiram A. Pease died in 1889 at the age of 92. (3)
Hiram A. Pease sold one acre of the property to his son Hiram A. Pease; Jr. in 1851. He sold his son an additional 10 acres in 1861. The property stayed in the Pease family until 1862 when it was sold to Hosea Wilder (4) . It was then sold to Henry Evans in 1863. (4B) See attached chain of title. Both Henry and Wilson as well as John Copeland, Sr. were considered outstanding black political figures of their time. In 1852 John Copeland, Sr. was named with John Watson to head the Lorain County fugitive slave assistance network(5a) . In 1860 Henry Evans was named town sexton. (5)
Henry and Wilson were the brothers of Delilah Evans Copeland and she was one of Oberlin's early black settlers. (Black is used as a historical description only as the Evans and Copelands were of mixed race and very light in color.) She preceded her brothers arrival in Oberlin by many years and the history of her trip from North Carolina was retold in the Oberlin Weekly News in 1888 and 1894.
Henry immediately sold the property to his sister Delilah in 1863 (6). However, there is indication in the 1860 census that the family had either been renting, or living on the property when Hiram Pease owned it, but did not purchase it until 1863. However, it is not coincidental that the timing of their purchase of the farm owned by the Pease family was soon after the sad and horrible death of their beloved oldest son John A. Copeland, Jr. who was hung with John Brown for his participation on the raid at Harpers Ferry.
Delilah arrived in Oberlin with her husband John A. Copeland Sr., (sometimes cited as John C. Copeland) in 1843. Delilah was free born in 1809 and lived 30 miles outside of Hillsboro, North Carolina. (7) Her family traces their ancestry to General Nathaniel Greene of Revolutionary War fame. (8) Delilah married John Copeland on August 15, 1831, and they settled in Raleigh, North Carolina, where John was a carpenter who worked for seven years to help build the North Carolina Statehouse in Raleigh.
John was born near Raleigh in 1801. He was born a slave but at the age of seven was made free by the will of his deceased master who was also his father. (9) Because of the persecution they experienced as free blacks they decided to move out of North Carolina. In 1843, John Copeland, Allen Jones and John Lane left North Carolina with their families determined to seek a new home in the North. (10)
In an article in the Oberlin Weekly News dated August 19, 1881, marking the Copeland's 50th wedding anniversary, John retells the story of how they arrived in Oberlin. Traveling with teams they crossed the Ohio River at Cincinnati and by the advice of abolitionist friends started for New Richmond, Indiana. When within five miles of the town they were hailed by a farmer named Tibbets, a friend of blacks, and invited to stop and rest. It being near the end of the week, they remained, and by invitation attended an abolition meeting in New Richmond. Having been informed by the slaveholders of the South that the abolitionists in the North were accustomed to capturing black men and selling them into slavery, they were somewhat reluctant about entering the room where the meeting was held, but after much urging went in and took a seat near the door, where they could escape if danger was present. They listened to the speakers and were pleased with what they heard. They were greatly relieved to learn that the stories told them by the North Carolina slaveholders were untrue.
At this meeting they became acquainted with Amos Dresser, a graduate of Oberlin College, class on 1839, who advised them to locate in Oberlin, where the slaveholders would not kidnap their children as was the habit of doing along the Ohio River communities. With written directions from Mr. Dresser as to the route to be traveled, the three men, John A. Copeland, Allen Jones and John Lane started on horseback for Oberlin, leaving their families safe in New Richmond. As an illustration of the feeling of the surrounding communities in regard to Oberlin at that time in history, (maybe still today) John Copeland related that when they were within twenty miles of Oberlin they stopped at a tannery to inquire the way, and were told with "oaths" that there was no such place that it had "sunk." John Copeland replied that he "would go on and look into the chasm." (11)
They arrived at their destination on Sunday and were much surprised as they passed up the street to see two young men one white and the other black, walking together. They were greeted by some citizens who wanted to know why they were traveling on Sunday. They answered that they were seeking a home for themselves and their families. Dr. Dascomb of the College took charge of one and the other citizens of the other two. They soon decided to make Oberlin their home. John Copeland and John Lane returned to New Richmond for the three families. Allen Jones sending word that he "had found paradise and was going to stay." (12) No doubt Delilah's early experience in Oberlin lead her to recommend it to her brothers Henry and Wilson Evans who came to Oberlin in 1854.
John Copeland became active in the slave liberation movement in Oberlin. He was a member with John Mercer Langston in an all black state wide network dedicated to underground railroad activity. At the 1852 Ohio State Black Convention of which John Mercer Langston was President, they openly discussed their fugitive assistance network and took measures to strengthen it. To "promote union and render our action beneficial," they authorized creation of central committees on a county level. For Lorain County Langston named John Copeland, Sr. and John Watson. (13)
Some believe that this organization was part of or evolved into a secret black military organization that by 1858 was known as the Liberators. (14) The Liberators stockpiled arms, drilled, and reportedly helped to maintain an escape route stretching from Syracuse in the east to Detroit in the northwest and reaching deep into the South, where black Ohioans prepared slaves for flight. This was an exclusively black and secret organization. (15) Later in continuance of his quest for freedom for slaves John A. Copeland, Sr. in 1862 at the age of 52 would sign on as a cook for J.G.W. Cowles of Oberlin, chaplain of the 55th Ohio Volunteers in the Civil War. (16)
The Copelands reared eight children, among whom two daughters were teachers, Mary Jane and Laura, two sons were carpenters, Frederick and Henry, their son William was a teacher who later became a lawyer in Little Rock Arkansas, and who was assassinated while on duty as a police officer. Their most famous son was their eldest, John A. Copeland, Jr. (16a) They also raised two adopted children that they brought with them on their journey to Oberlin. A daughter, named Catharine Ann, and a son, Reuben Turner whom they found orphaned while traveling through Tennessee in 1843.
In 1854-55 John Copeland, Jr. was a student in the preparatory department at Oberlin College. He became an active member of the Oberlin Anti-Slavery Society. (17) He often attended meetings at the Liberty School where night meetings were held as a forum for fugitive slaves to tell their stories.
He was greatly moved by these stories, as well as knowing that his father was born a slave, and the persecution the family experienced in North Carolina. He was one of the participants in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue of kidnapped runaway slave John Price. John Copeland, Jr. had been in the small group that had overpowered the guards at the back door of Wadsworth Hotel in Wellington where Price was being held. He was the second person through the door to rescue John Price from the loft. According to one story he also had accompanied Price to Canada. (19) He was indicted by the grand jury for his role in the rescue but he refused to surrender and was never prosecuted for his part. (20).
John A. Copeland Jr., was related to another famous Oberlinian, Lewis Sheridan Leary both of whom would die for their participation in the upcoming raid on Harpers Ferry, in 1859. Henry and Wilson Evans had married sisters, Henreitta and Sara Leary whose brother was Lewis Sheridan Leary. (20)a. After hearing John Brown, Jr. both Lewis Leary and John Copeland, Jr. declared their readiness "to die if need be" with John Brown as their leader. (21)
Three Oberlin Blacks were among the eighteen men who accompanied John Brown into Harpers Ferry on the night of Sunday, October 16, 1859. The three were John Copeland, Jr., Lewis Sheridan Leary, and Shields Green, a runaway slave form South Carolina. They severed telegraph wires to the east and the west and captured three main targets, the armory, the arsenal, and the rifle works. By noon the village was in a state of siege when federal troops under the command of Robert E. Lee arrived from Washington. Copeland and Leary were in the rifle works when it was attacked by Lee's troops. Leary was mortally wounded and suffered a great deal until he died the next day. Copeland, who was wounded and captured, was almost lynched, but a local minister interceded and saved him. Green was captured with John Brown in the engine house. (22).
Brown, Copeland, and Green, and two others who had been captured were charged with treason, tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged. (23) Two days before his trial, John Copeland Jr., was questioned by two federal marshals who tried to trump up a confession in Copeland's name implicating Oberlinians Charles Langston and Ralph Plumb. The news of the alleged charges reached Oberlin and were vehemently refuted by Langston and Plumb. For a time John Copeland's reputation for integrity was in question, (24). However, two unlikely witnesses, the judge and the special prosecutor in the Harpers Ferry trial vouched for Copelands dignity, honesty, intelligence and bravery. The Special Prosecutor wrote "Copeland was the cleverest of all prisoners... and behaved much better than any of them. If I had the power and could have concluded to pardon any man among them he was the man I would have picked out." (25)
While awaiting execution Copeland wrote a number of letters to his family and friends in Oberlin. The text of his December 10, 1859 letter to his brother Henry [as well as a Dec. 16 letter to his family] is attached. (26) Surely this letter was one of the reasons that Henry chose to carry on the family fight for the freedom of slaves. In January of 1863 before black northern recruitment was officially sanctioned, Henry signed up to serve as a lieutenant with the black First Kansas Volunteers. (27) John A. Copeland, Jr., was hanged on December 16, 1859. There was a commemoration service in Cleveland to remember him as he was hanged. As he was about to leave his cell to go the hangman's gallows, Copeland declared, "If I am dying for Freedom, I could not die for a better cause-- I had rather die than be a Slave! (28)
Even before his execution his parents had asked permission to recover his body. The governor of Virginia finally agreed to their request but with the proviso that the body be recovered by a white person. By state law, free blacks were not allowed into Virginia. (29) The Copelands prevailed upon Professor James Monroe to make the trip to Winchester, Virginia. Under the circumstances Monroe was leery of identifying himself as being from Oberlin as he registered at the hotel as "James Monroe, Russia" (30) (for Russia Township). Alerted to his arrival, students had broken into the dissecting rooms at the Winchester Medical College the night before and removed Copeland's body. When Professor Monroe visited the school all he found was Shields Green's body. The students refused to return Copeland's body and their teachers were fearful of a showdown. The leader of the students said "this nigger that you are trying to get don't belong to the Faculty. He isn't theirs to give away. They had no right to promise him to you. He belongs to us students... Me and my chums dug him up." (31). A member of the faculty implored Monroe to forget his mission because soon the whole country would be in a state of turmoil. Monroe had to return to Oberlin without John Copeland Jr.'s body on Christmas Eve, 1859. (32). On Christmas Day, there was a funeral service in First Church for both John Copeland, Jr., and Shields Green, and the following year a monument was erected in a corner of Westwood Cemetery. The monument stayed in that location until 1972. (33.) The monument was moved to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park on E. Vine St. where it stands today almost directly across from the home of John Copeland's uncle Wilson Bruce Evans. When Delilah and John Sr., died they were buried in Westwood cemetery as were many of the other Copeland children, the last being their youngest daughter, Mary Jane who died in 1922. (The graves are located almost directly across from the farm) .
The Coming End Of An Era
Over the years the Copeland's added on to the house. One of the biggest events at the house was the 50th wedding anniversary of John Sr. and Delilah. It was written up in the paper as well as being attended by College President Fairchild who spoke on their behalf. Both John and Delilah passed away here at home. Delilah passed away first in 1888 "being loved and respected by all who knew her". (35) John A. Copeland Sr., died in 1894. He was well thought of and remembered by Oberlinians as a historic figure (35).
After the death of her father, Mary Jane Copeland lived on in the house with her brother Frederick. (36A) She died as a result of a fall from a ladder while she was picking pears. (37) An orchard ladder was (and still is) in the barn when we purchased the property. The last member of the family to own the house was John and Delilah's granddaughter Lottie Copeland who sold the house in 1925. She received the house after some legal proceedings from the estate of Mary Jane Copeland (38). A photograph of Lottie is included-the original was loaned to me by Dorothy Inborden Miller, granddaughter of Wilson Bruce Evans, from the family album. A note of interest-- I noticed that the 1925 court document contained a Notary Seal from New Richmond Indiana, the town that John and Delilah first stopped in on their way to Oberlin in 1843. Through the phone book I found Lottie Copeland Beatty's grandson, Paul who was still living there when I last spoke with him in 1986.
The Copelands owned this property for over 62 years. They were brave, kind people, who suffered greatly and gave so very much to this community. Not only was their son John Copeland, Jr., hung at Harpers Ferry, and they were denied the right to bring their son's mutilated body home for burial, but one of their other sons, William, who followed a more conventional path by becoming a teacher, lawyer and police officer, was assassinated in the 1890's in Little Rock Arkansas while on duty as a black law enforcement officer.
We purchased the property in 1986. We have continued to vigilantly but privately make sure that the area is protected. However, with the proposed development of part of the farm the property has been under siege from flooding because of the potential development. We ask the community to step forward, now that the property in jeopardy has been annexed into the Oberlin city limits for the development. Turn the millennium and protect Oberlin's most historic farm. The original Hiram Pease homestead is still in tact, next door at the horse farm (Chan's property), as well as the Copeland's home. We believe the entire farm should be protected and kept intact for future generations to appreciate. We hope the community feels the same way and will step forward to see that it does. For our part, we will do whatever is necessary to see that this home remains a historic property in the hands of an appropriate organization or foundation.
CHAIN OF TITLE OF HIRAM A. PEASE PROPERTY,
INCLUDING 46785 WEST HAMILTON ST.
1835 TITUS STREET, SAMUEL HUGHES AND PHILOMENA HUGHES OF NEW HAVEN,
CONN. FOR $75.00 TO HIRAM A. PEASE (WEST PART OF LOT 104 CONTAINING
59 52/100 ACRES AND VILLAGE LOT #25 CONTAINING 3.5 ACRES). BOOK G PG. 550.
1856 HIRAM A. PEASE, SR. TO HIRAM A. PEASE, JR. 1 ACRE, BOOK 9 PG. 424
1861 HIRAM A. PEASE, SR. 10 ACRES TO HIRAM A. PEASE, JR., $360. BOOK
16, PG. 299.
1862 HOSEA WILDER FROM HIRAM A. PEASE, JR., 11 ACRES $900, BOOK 16, PG. 400.
1863 HENRY EVANS FROM HOSEA WILDER, 11 ACRES, $1050, BOOK 18, PG. 429.
1863 DELILAH E. COPELAND, FROM HENRY EVANS, 11 ACRES, $1050 BOOK 21, PG. 12.
1925 LOTTIE COPELAND BEATTY (GRANDDAUGHTER OF DELILAH AND JOHN C. COPELAND SR.), WAS GIVEN TITLE BY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS AFTER MARY JANE COPELAND (UNMARRIED CHILD OF DELILAH AND JOHN) DIED WITHOUT A WILL, FROM A FALL ON THE PROPERTY IN 1922. BOOK 216 PG. 249.
1925 T.J. RICE FROM LOTTIE COPELAND BEATTY, BOOK 216 PG. 250.
PROPERTY LEAVES COPELAND FAMILY HAS VARIOUS OWNERS UNTIL:
1945 PURCHASED BY LEROY AND ORA LOUNSBROUGH, (APPROX. 6 ACRES)
1986 PURCHASED BY RONALD G. AND NANCY E. HENDRIKSON
1. Lorain County Deed, VOL. G. pg. 550.
2. Fairchild, James H. Oberlin: The Colony and the College 1833-1883,
Oberlin: E.J. Goodrich, 1883 pg. 302.
3. Bigglestone, William E. They Stopped in Oberlin: Black Residents and Vistors of the Nineteenth Century. Scottsdale, Arizona: Innovation Group Inc., 1981. pg. 71.
4. Lorain County Deed Book 16 pg. 400.
4b. Lorain County Deed Book 18 pg. 429.
5a. Cheek, William F., and Aimee Lee Cheek. John Mercer Langston and the Fight for Black Freedom. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984. pg. 351.
5. Ibid., pg. 285.
6. Lorain County Deeds, Book 21 pg. 12.
7. Ibid., No. 3. pg. 50.
8. Brandt, Nathan H. The Town That Started The Civil War: Syracuse University Press, 1990. pg. 118.
9. Ibid., No. 3. pg. 50 also, Oberlin Weekly News, Aug. 19, 1881 pg. 5.
l0. Ibid. , No. 8.
11. Ibid. , No. 9.
13. Ibid No. 5a., pg. 351.
15. Ibid., pg. 352.
16. Ibid., pg. 356
16a. The Oberlin News, Jan. 11, 1894 pg. 5.
17. Ibid., No. 5a, pg. 356.
20a. Ibid. , No. 8 pg. 78.
21. Ibid., pg. 243.
22. Ibid., No. 5a. pg. 357.
23. Ibid., No. 8. pg. 243.
25. Ibid., No. 5a. pg. 357.
26. OBERLIN COMMUNITY HISTORY, Allan Patterson, Editor, 1981
27. Ibid., No 5a pg. 356.
28. Ibid., No. 8. pg. 243.
29. Ibid., pg. 244.
31. Ibid., pg. 245.
34. Lorain County Deed Vol. No. 21 pg. 12.
35. "Oberlin Weekly News" Nov. 29, 1888, pg. 3.
36. Ibid., No. 16a.
36a. Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio, Cleveland American Atlas Company. 1896.
37. Ibid., No. 3, pg. 52.
38. Lorain County Deeds, Vol. 216 pg. 249.