My third great-grandparents, James Russell Coplen and Sarah Ann Elizabeth Eady, are another family mystery that has the other side of my mom’s family searching high and low. They are the great-grandparents of her dad. Like the Butler/Webb family they have descendants all over the country digging for even the tiniest bit of information.
According to the grave marker James Russell was born on 14 Feb 1822 and Sarah was born on 31 Jan 1829. It is unknown who his parents were but she is thought to be the daughter of Alexander Eady and Rebecca Boocher Walton. The census reports that I have seen have him being born in Georgia. By 1843 he was living in Evans, Harris County, Georgia.
James and Sarah obtained a marriage license on 2 Dec 1844 and married on 5 Dec 1844 in Macon County Alabama. These dates came from Alabama, Marriages, 1816-1957, index, FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/search/records/index#count=20&query=%20batch_number%3AM59333-1&offset=2180. I went through several Alabama marriage books at our local genealogy library and was not able to find James or Sarah. I keep this entry on my tree with a note that it has not been proven to my satisfaction. The 1900 census states they were married 45 years. That would indicate they were married in 1855. At least five children had been born to them by then so that must have been an error.
Another researcher has said she found him on the 1850 census but no one in my circle has been able to find it and no one knows where he was living at the time. We do know that his oldest child, Demetrius Colvin, was born in Alabama on 4 Jun 1847. The next time James is mentioned is in the 1855 Macon County Alabama Slave Census on Page 3. According to this they were living in Macon County, Alabama. The 1860 census also has them in Macon County.
The 1880 and 1910 census has their son Thomas Henry Dawson Coplen being born in Alabama. He was born on 3 Jul 1863.
I was also able to find the J.L. Pollard’s Company of Russell County Reserves muster roll dated 5 Sep 1864 from Opelika, Lee County, Alabama. This has Demotius Copelan, J R Copeland and Alexander Eady.
By 14 Sep 1867 the Coplens were in Union Parish, Louisiana living in the Shiloh area. He was an appraiser for the succession of Elijah Tabor, who was also my 3rd great-grandfather. This was found in Union Parish Succession Book F, pages 598-603.
He was also mentioned in the 1870 account book of Dr. John R. Clark. This was included in Dr. Clark’s succession. Union Parish Succession Book G, pages 212-267. His balance was $24.69.
The family was listed on the 1870 and 1880 census living in Union Parish.
By 1900 they were in Sabine Parish, Louisiana. His son Thomas Henry Dawson Coplen was on the same page. This census also told us that Sarah had given birth to 10 children and 5 were living at the time. That would mean there were 3 children that never appeared on a census report. The other 7 children were:
Demetrius Colvin – my 2nd great-grandfather
Mary Ann “Molly”
Thomas Henry Dawson
James Russell Coplen died on 9 Nov 1904 and was buried at Shiloh in the Shiloh Baptist Church Cemetery beside Sarah who died on 11 May 1903.
This is the point where I have to explain to those who are not aware of the Coplen/Copeland/Copelin/and several more spellings debate. It seems that this family all spelled their name in whatever way they wanted. You will find brothers within this family who spell their name differently.
While researching James Russell Coplen I found many other researchers looking for the same information. Many of them thought he was the brother of George G. Copeland who lived in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana. I found that George Gibson Copeland wasn’t born until 1860. However, his father, George E. Copeland was born in 1828 in Georgia. He was married to Matilda Ann Gibson. There is no information on George’s ancestors either. I then contacted an elderly cousin who confirmed that Demetrius had an uncle who lived in Claiborne Parish. Unfortunately, she did not know his name. At that point I decided to take the long way around.
While growing up in Union Parish there was a family of Copelands who seemed to always be around. The parents were Jesse James Copeland and Lillie Ruth Booles. They had 15 children which is why you couldn’t help but know most of them. Union Parish is not that big. Some of the brothers were friends with my uncle. I was told that these Copeland’s were related to us but no one seemed to know how. I decided to see what I could find about them. As it turns out Jesse James is the son of John Sellers Copeland who is the grandson of George E. Copeland. While I can’t find any proof that James Russell and George E. are brothers, I do believe they are.
Another lady on the internet posted that her grandmother, Martha Edna Coplen Hill, told her that Jack Copeland (descendant of George Gibson Copeland) told her that George and James Russell got into trouble murdering slaves and had to leave the county (Georgia). They swam every river between Georgia and Louisiana! Also they crossed the Mississippi River at Lake Providence, Louisiana. While this story may bear some truth, it doesn’t seem that all of it can be accurate. James Russell spent around 20 years in Alabama before coming to Louisiana. And what about their wives and families? Did they swim the rivers also? On the other hand, I have learned to not be surprised by anything I find.
That is all I have on my Copeland family. Except to point out a piece of inaccurate information that gets on my last nerve. My great-grandmother was Bella Elizabeth Coplen Fomby. That was her name. It is NOT Lizzie Neel Bella. Someone posted that on the LDS site many, many years ago and it spread like a wildfire, but her name was Bella Elizabeth. She only went by Bella. Grandma Bella was married to Wilson Lumpkin Fomby. Sometime before 1930 they stopped living together but as far as anyone in our family knows they never divorced. She did not believe in divorce and that was during the depression when there was not enough money for such things. When Lump died in 1952 she had him buried at Shiloh. She bought a double marker and was buried next to him in 1968. She said he was her husband and that was the right thing to do.