Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Buckeye in Orlando

by David Parmer

Bill Copeland – An Ohio Buckeye
No one in Orlando ever called Bill by his given name of William and this little story will not be a trend- setter. Bill Copeland was born in 1867 in Ohio at Loudonville, a small town near Columbus. In 1888, Bill and his bride, the former Minnie Slyh, were married in Columbus, Ohio. Early in his working career, he worked in saw mills in the Columbus area and developed his skills in manipulating logs against whirling steel blades. Bill’s grandson, Earl "Junior" Copeland of Akron, tells us that Bill worked in a “hickory mill’ in Ohio but when the mill closed in 1906 as the result of a lack of hickory trees, he packed up his family and moved to West Virginia to a new job in a hickory mill at Burnsville. Junior’s father, Earl Copeland was then eight years of age.

In 1906, Burnsville was a boom town and was the home of several timber related businesses. Orlando native John Feeney conducted a furniture factory. D. H. Gowing Company operated a large veneering mill near the mouth of Oil Creek. The Jane Lew Lumber Company operated a planing mill on Oil Creek near the mouth of Dumpling Run. The Burnsville Boom and Lumber Company floated logs from the upper Little Kanawha to its Burnsville sawmill and for rail shipment, the Burnsville Handle and Dimension Company made specialty wood products, including hickory spokes for automobiles, handles and baseball bats and the Burnsville Wagon Company with about twenty employees not only manufactured substantial and much in demand farm wagons, but also turned out hickory spokes for the Ford Motor Company for the new-fangled automobil. The Pioneer Pole and Boom Company was another Burnsville-based timber-related company. With many timber-related companies constantly seeking labor, the skills of Bill Copeland had no trouble finding employment.

Left: Gowing Veneer Company: 1) first building in flood, 2) workers posing on logs, 3)second building, rebuilt after fire, 4) detail from photo #3.
Right: Wooden spokes in Model T wheels.

A Shoe Leather Commuter
Bill and Minnie Copeland settled with their young family in the railroad town of Orlando, four miles east of Burnsville. Living in Orlando and working in Burnsville before the day of the automobile was no problem for the laborer of the early 1900’s. The four mile trip to Burnsville simply added about an hour each way to the work day which usually started at 7 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m. Today this extra burden seems unreasonable but during that day and age it was of little consequence. We are not sure how long Bill continued his daily walk to his job in Burnsville but by the early 1920’s most of the timber-related companies had either ceased business operations or had moved to more timber-rich areas.

Children of Bill and Minnie
The children of Bill and Minnie Copeland were born in Ohio, but they found their spouses in Orlando. The oldest, Laura, married Oscar L. “Dock” Henline and resided the rest of her life in Orlando, dying there in 1966 at age 77. When she was young, her first fancy for a boy in uniform was Dock’s cousin, Frank Henline, but she eventually married Dock who was also a World War I doughboy.

Dock and Laura had no children on their own but they adopted a son, Jimmie.

Left: Oscar "Dock" Henline in uniform and Laura Copeland
Right: Semantha (Skinner) Henline, Doc's aunt, and Minnie Copeland, Laura's mother.

Lester, the oldest boy, was born in 1892. He married Nora Oldaker, daughter of Sylvester and Annie Oldaker. Lester worked for the Atlantic Foundry in Akron and died in Ohio around 1980.

Earl, the third child of Bill and Minnie Copeland, married Lena Godfrey, daughter of Tom and Bridget Godfrey of Orlando. When he was a young man, Earl laid track for log trains on timber operations in central West Virginia. Later Earl and his family moved to the Akron where he died in 1964.

Left: Earl and Lena (Godfrey) Copeland.
Right : Lena's younet siblings Edward and Nellie Godfrey, and children Junior and Frank Copeland with Earl Copeland's auto. Thanks to Pat Reckart for the photo.
The youngest Copeland son Everett, a house painter, died in Ohio around 1961.

A Grievous Injury
Bill’s grandson, Junior Copeland, recalls that while working at the hickory mill in Burnsville, his grandfather suffered a grievous injury when his right hand was nearly severed by a whirling saw blade. Fortunately, in the early part of the 1900’s, Burnsville enjoyed the services of excellent doctors in Dr. John W. Kidd, Dr. L. L. McKinney, Dr. J. R. Hughart and Dr. W. F. Leech, the latter of whom operated a large hospital which was located on the lot adjacent to the future M. P. Church, South which would be built around 1913. Recalling the family tradition about his grandfather’s injury, Junior advises that there was some debate about whether to go ahead and remove the hand entirely. However, his grandfather told the doctors to sew it up and if it didn’t work they could go back and take the hand off. Fortunately, the repair job worked as far as the re-attaching went, although there was permanent nerve damage with a lack of feeling in the hand and the hand was somewhat drawn. Otherwise, the re-attached hand lasted Bill a lifetime.

The End of the Sawdust Era
Just as a shortage of trees brought an end to the woodworking industry in Ohio and brought Bill to West Virginia, the same shortage of trees came a little later in West Virginia and brought an end of Bill’s employment in Burnsville. Thereafter, Bill worked in timber cutting, house painting and carpentry and also for a time with the Hope Gas Company, none of which proved to be steady work.

Leaving Orlando
By the early 1920’s Bill was earning a living in Orlando painting houses and doing carpentry work. In his Buzzardtown News columns in the early 1920’s Uncle Zeke frequently mentioned for whom Bill was painting which no doubt led to additional work for him. Bill’s grandson, Junior Copeland also recalls that, at some point, his grandfather worked for the railroad, or perhaps with a timber company, loading logs on railcars for shipment. Although Bill was approaching 60 years of age in 1925, his working years were not yet done and to get steady work, which he could not find in Orlando, Bill and Minnie moved to the Marion County village of Grant Town. Bill’s grandson Junior does not believe that his grandfather worked in the coal mines at that place although in 1925 coal mining at Grant Town employed hundreds of miners.

A Long Wagon Trip Captures a Fancy
Junior Copeland recalls when he was a young boy, perhaps eight or nine years of age, he and his father Earl Copeland visited Hoy Skinner, a native of Orlando and son of Alexander and Anzina (Clark) Skinner, who had moved to a farm at the Mogadore, Ohio around the late 1920’s. The Hoy Skinner farm in Ohio is now beneath the waters of the present Mogadore Reservoir. Junior places a great deal of significance to the visit with his father’s Orlando acquaintance because the Skinner family moved to Ohio in a horse drawn wagon with a cow tethered to the rear. Needless to say, such an extraordinary feat captured the fancy of young Junior.

Right: Akron, Columbus and Mogadore, Ohio and Grant Town and Orlando WV.

Back in the Buckeye State
As did many native residents of Orlando, Buckeye Bill Copeland returned to Ohio for his senior years. The final decades of his life were spent in the Columbus area where he worked digging graves in the historic Union Cemetery. Bill died in 1945 at age 78. His wife Minnie lived to be 103 and died in Akron in 1974. They both were interred in the Union Cemetery in Columbus.

No comments:

Post a Comment