Written by Heather Dawn
She (Effie Copeland) was acquitted because of his history of abuse.
Thomas was not, by any account, a “nice” man. He was married at least 3 times, probably 4 and had something in the neighborhood of 21 children. Agnes, the youngest child says that she was always told she was his 21st child.
Thomas was a mean-tempered person and liked to beat his wives. His last wife, Effie Vines, got tired of it and when he threatened her yet again and told her he was going to kill her she grabbed his shotgun and blew his head off when he came through the kitchen door.
Those who were there say that they “had trouble finding anybody to bury him” because he was known to be such a complete jerk. No one liked him. The story has been told to me by Rosie Copeland Stanley, his oldest daughter and his other daughters, Versie and Agnes, confirmed this information.
One day Thomas and Effie got into a fight over money and Thomas’ love affairs with other women. Effie had spent two dollars on some canned milk and some yard goods to make the girls some dresses and Thomas got angry and started yelling at her about it. (And probably hitting her, as he was wont to do).
Effie countered his argument with one of her own, that if he could spend his money on his mistress (some say it was Liddie (Lydia) Vines, Effie’s own niece) then she could certainly spend money on the household. A nasty fight ensued, the last of many such violent arguments. Thomas said to Effie that he was tired of her arguing with him and that “the last time I told you I would just kill you” — so he went to go get his gun. Well, Effie had cleaned up the house earlier that day and when she was sweeping, she had encountered his gun in the corner and moved it. When Thomas went for the gun, it wasn’t there. He said something to the effect of “I don’t need the gun to kill you. I’ll just beat you to death.” He went out front to get a stick of firewood to beat her with and the kids, who were at home, all rushed to the door and blocked it to keep him out. He simply went around the house to the other door . They could see him through the windows, as he made his way to the kitchen door.
In the meanwhile, Effie grabbed the shotgun from where she’d stashed it and leveled it at the door. Her children rushed to her and tried to take the gun from her. They were screaming and crying. Versie (or someone) actually grabbed the barrel of the gun and tried to yank it down but Effie was grimly determined and she resisted their attempts to stop her. When Thomas walked through the door, she pulled the trigger, hitting him in the head.
The table had been set for dinner and Versie remembers that blood and brain-matter was scattered everywhere, all over the new set of dishes that someone had given to Effie. I think it was Aunt Mittie, Thomas’ sister who had given her the dishes. They ended up having to throw the entire set of dishes away. Rosie’s husband Ed said he couldn’t eat off of them and they took them out back and smashed them into bits and pieces on the chopping block. Years later, while visiting the old homes site, my father, E. Calvin Seymour, found a shard from the dishes half-buried in the dirt.
The sheriff’s department of Richland Parish came out from Rayville to investigate. They interviewed Effie and some others about what had happened. Versie and Rosie say that “they knew” what kind of man Thomas Copeland was and did not for an instant doubt Effie’s testimony. They ruled it self-defense and she was never charged or prosecuted. I’ve heard that they took Effie to Rayville and I’ve heard that they didn’t –that they just came out to the house. Records are not available because of the ubiquitous courthouse fire that destroyed all the records. Why am I not surprised!?
Aunt Versie says: “People hated him so much because of the way he treated his wife and family that they couldn’t hardly find enough people to dig his grave!!
Physical description: Thomas had black hair & black eyes. Short and heavyset.
(Editor’s Note: Per a photograph of Thomas Copeland, he was not really heavyset, but not thin either. He was mostly bald in this photograph and appeared to be standin g on the steps of a railroad car. He was wearing a white shirt and suspenders. Didn’t really *look* all that mean or dangerous! He looked rather pleasant, actually!)
“He claimed to be Black Dutch” per Agnes Copeland Seymour
“He had more Indian in him than Mama (Effie) did” per Aunt Rosie”