JAMES P. COPELAND. It has been said in criticism of the modern newspaper that its editorial beliefs are frequently controlled from the business office, or at least dictated by the exigencies of the business situation. In this connection also the identity of the editor himself is becoming more and more obscure as the number of the pages and the size of the news headlines grow larger together. An exponent of the older school of journalism, and what many of us prefer to regard as the truer school, may be found at Marion, Illinois, in the person of James P. Copeland, who for many years was actively identified with the journalistic profession of Williamson county. He entered the profession when the "art preservative" and the "Fourth Estate" went hand in hand, when, in fact, the editor had to know all about the printer's craft as well as to be able to wield a facile pen. The pioneer in the publication of a permanent Republican newspaper, he applied his energies, and his courage, too, at times, to the crystallization of Republican sentiment into a party organization which won victories and became a stable factor in support of both state and national organizations of the party. Having served his party well and grown old in a calling which demands the best and most constant efforts of the human brain, he seized upon an opportunity to retire, and is spending his time now in the quieter, if less remunerative occupation of floriculture and gardening.
Mr. Copeland was born in Vienna, Illinois, September 24, 1845, the son of Judge Samuel Copeland, whose father, John Copeland, came to Illinois during the territorial days and settled in Johnson county, soon thereafter moving into Massac county, where he died on the Copeland farm there. He was born in Virginia on September 30, 1775, and when he came to Illinois from Tennessee, where he had spent some years, he brought his slaves with him. He was married in Sumner county, Tennessee, to Sarah Short, of Kentucky, and migrated to Illinois in 1816, settling near Vienna. Mr. Copeland taught in the first schoolhouse ever erected in Vienna, it was a crude log affair, and in various ways his life in that community was an active one up to his last days. He was the nominee of the slave-holding party as delegate to the constitutional convention for his district at one time, and he was always prominent in local politics. He passed away on January 2, 1853, his wife having preceded him on June 24, 1849. They were the parents of nine children: James, who was once a member of the Illinois General Assembly; Sarah, who died as the wife of John Cooper; John, who was a farmer in Pulaski county; Joshua, who also engaged in farming and left a family in Massac county when he died; Isaac; Jane, who married J. B. Maybury; Alfred; Louisa, who married W. J. Simpson; and Samuel.
Judge Samuel Copeland was a mere child when he accompanied his father from Tennessee to Southern Illinois. He received such education as the neighborhood in which he was reared afforded, and he spent the earlier years of his young manhood on the farm, entering from that work into active political pursuits. He was chosen frequently by the Democratic party as an officer of Johnson county, holding variously the offices of sheriff, clerk and county judge, passing away while holding the latter named office. He was a Union man, and abandoned his old party in 1861 to embrace the principles of Republicanism, and died in that faith. His wife, whose maiden name was Sarah Allen, died at the age of forty-three years. Their children were: Allen, who left a son, now in business in Cedar Vale, Kansas, at his death; Perry, who died in Massac county, Illinois, leaving a family there; Mary, who became the wife of Alex McLain and died at Vienna, Illinois; Prances, who died unmarried; Samuel, who died in Massac county; Richard, a resident of Johnson county; James P., of Marion Illinois; DeWitt C., of Barlow, Kentucky; and two others who died in infancy, Harriet and J. M. In later years Judge Copeland contracted a second marriage, taking for his wife Mrs. Lucinda Fisher, the two children of their union being Alonzo, of Missouri, and Louisa, the wife of one Mr. Pierce, of Baxter Springs, Kansas.
In 1859 James P. Copeland began work in the office of the Johnson County Enquirer, the first paper printed in the county, with J. D. Moody as editor. He held this position until the following year, when he left Vienna to accept a place on the Union Democrat at Anna, Illinois, and he remained there until the beginning of the Civil war. When troops were called for he enlisted in Company E, Sixtieth Illinois Regiment of Infantry, mustered into the United States service at Anna, Illinois. The regiment reported for duty at Cairo and was soon ordered to Island No. 10, where it was attached to General Pope’s command.
After Island No. 10 and New Madrid were taken, General Pope with his division was ordered to report to General Grant at Shiloh for duty. In the siege of Corinth, Pope commanded the left wing of the army, defeating the Rebels at Farmington, Mississippi, before Corinth. When Corinth was taken a division of the army was made and the Sixtieth Illinois was assigned to the Army of the Ohio, in General Palmer's command, and this division went to Tuscumbia, Alabama, thence to Nashville, Tennessee. There it participated in the rout of the enemy in an effort made to capture the capital city, which at that time was held by General Negley's command.
In November, 1862, after the battle of Perryville, Kentucky, General Rosencrans succeeded General Buel in command of the Ohio and another organization was made and known as the Army of the Cumberland. In this command the regiment was attached to the Fourth Corps and after the battle of Stone River was sent to the right wing and held that position during the Tullahoma, Chickamauga and Chattanooga campaign. At Chattanooga the army was again reorganized and the regiment and brigade with which it served were First Brigade, Second Division, Fourteenth Army Corps, and in that command served until the close of the war.
After the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge and the march to relieve Burnside at Knoxville, Tennessee, the regiment went into camp January 2, 1864, at Rossville, Georgia. In February, it re-enlisted and was sent home for thirty days' rest and for recruiting purposes. Before starting home it was engaged in the first battle of Buzzard Roost, Georgia, February 26, 1864. In May, 1864, the second day, the command moved out on the Atlanta campaign. On the Dalton road the Sixtieth Illinois was in advance and met the outpost of the enemy at Ringgold, Georgia, pressing them back over Taylor's Ridge toward Tunnel Hill. Here the real service of the campaign began and the Sixtieth Illinois in that campaign saw service at Buzzard Roost, Resaca, Ezra Church or Burnt Hickory, Kenesaw Mountain, Marietta, Peachtree Creek, Jonesboro, and many other less important actions.
In all these engagements Mr. Copeland did his full part. Enlisting as a private, he was promoted to non-commissioned offices until June, 1863, when he was commissioned lieutenant, and held that rank when discharged at Atlanta, Georgia, September 23, 1864. He was captured once, but was soon back in line, and was wounded at the battle of Dallas, Georgia, May 30, 1864.
With his return to civilian life, his thoughts recurred to the profession whose progress had been interrupted by the outbreak of the war, and Mr. Copeland resumed journalistic efforts in his home town, and eventually became the editor and publisher of the Johnson County Journal, which stands out as his first independent venture. Then, casting about for a location in which to establish a Republican paper, he chose Marion, in Williamson county. Previous efforts had been made to lodge a Republican paper there, but all had failed, excepting as campaign papers, so the outlook was not encouraging when Mr. Copeland launched the Marian Monitor. It thrived, however, in spite of these adverse conditions, and became the first journal of its political faith to successfully assault this citadel of Democracy. Editor Copeland took no middle ground. He nailed the flag to the mast, assumed an attitude of defiance to the opponents of Republican doctrines, and his first editorial announcement carved out a course in keeping with the policies and intentions of the editor that left nothing to be inferred.
The Monitor was established in 1874 and in 1887 it was merged in another publication, and The Leader was given birth. E. E. Mitchell, John H. Duncan, W. H. Boles and W. C. G. Rhea were prominent factors on the paper for one year, after which Mr. Copeland became editor and owner. He conducted the paper until 1901. with the exception of a period of four years when he was postmaster of Marion, between 1881 and 1885. In 1901 Mr. Copeland sold the plant to 0. J. Page, the present owner and publisher. He was loath, however, to abandon the quill, and presently the Record, another Republican weekly, appeared. One year later it too was taken over by Mr. Page, since which time Mr. Copeland has been engaged in the cultivation of plants and flowers within the city on a plot of ground which he acquired when it was a part of the country outside the present city of Marion, but which he has platted and improved in keeping with the existing phase of suburban development. There he conducts what is known as the Marion Greenhouses, and does a thriving business as a dealer in plants, bulbs, seeds, cut flowers, and as a producer of much of his marketable stock.
Mr. Copeland has been twice married. His first marriage occurred on January 15, 1865, at Vienna, Illinois, when Miss Louisa Washburn became his bride. She was a daughter of one of the Washburn families of Kentucky of historic name, but the exact branch is not known. Mrs. Copeland died on February 22, 1896. She was the mother of three children: Benjamin P., connected with the Standard Oil and Ink Company at Memphis, Tennessee, and his present home is New Orleans. Louisiana; Addie, the wife of J. M. Strike, chief operating engineer of the Kansas Gas and Electric Company, of Wichita, Kansas; and Ida, born in March, 1867, and died in August. 1872. Mrs. Copeland was a woman of many virtues, and was from her childhood an active and earnest worker in the Methodist Episcopal church. Her mother was a Dean, numbered among the pioneer settlers of Illinois, and she was thrice married, her last husband being Colonel John G. Hardy, lieutenant colonel of the One Hundred and Twentieth Illinois Volunteers. He died at Memphis, Tennessee, February 28, 1864. The heroic mother was a splendid representative of the most perfect type of womanhood, and she passed away one month after the death of her husband.
Mrs. Copeland was born in Metropolis, Illinois, September 4, 1847. There she remained until after the death of her father. Her mother married her last husband and located in Vienna, Illinois, when the Civil war began. Five of the family enlisted in the Federal army. The mother, three daughters and a baby boy remained at home, where they too had the battles of life to contend with. Fortunate for Mrs. Copeland she was blessed with a kind spirit and a responsive heart to the calls of the needy. She never turned the hungry from her door without bread nor failed to administer to the distressed when she could be charitable and energetic. She overcame many difficulties. With an abiding faith in the Christian religion she was ever hopeful. When death entered the home and called for the little daughter, she mourned not as those who have no hope. At last, when the shadows of the evening of life were gathering around her, she calmly looked her husband in the face and said in the light of the other shore "I am better now," and the spirit returned to the God who gave it.
In October, 1896, Mr. Copeland married Mrs. Minnie Lilley Brooks. She is the daughter of Boston Lilley, of Union county, Illinois, a successful farmer of that district and for twelve years a teacher in the public schools. He was born in Union county, Illinois, September 24, 1854. The Lilley family have been residents of Kentucky for many generations back. The mother of Boston Lilley was Nancy Worley Reed. The Worleys were prominent southerners. Her brother, Willis Worley, was a member of the state legislature of Tennessee. Mrs. Copeland’s ancestry is of the French Huguenot, Scotch-Irish and Dutch nationalities. Boston Lilley was educated in the public schools of Union county, and he was one of the first to attend the Southern Illinois Normal University at Carbondale. He was particularly successful as an exponent of the pedagogic art during his twelve years' experience in that branch of work. He died December 6, 1886, while a teacher, as well as being an active farmer, and was still a young man when he passed away. He was a kind and genial gentleman, beloved by all who knew him, and his loss was poignantly felt by a large circle of friends and acquaintances. The mother of Mrs. Minnie Lilley Copeland was Hannah North, of Jackson county, Illinois, whose parents were natives of Pennsylvania and Tennessee. The Norths were a prominent English family, and in this country many of the family were teachers of note. The mother of Hannah North was Sarah Hutchinson, of Tennessee. Mrs. Copeland was born April 22, 1873, in Union county. She was married May 4, 1900, to Mr. William L. Brooks, of Union county, Illinois, and has one son by her first marriage: Raymond Harrison Brooks, born February 4, 1891. He is a member of the Copeland household. He is a student and teacher, as was his mother, she having taught seven years before she assumed the duties of home and family. Mrs. Copeland was candidate for county superintendent of schools of Williamson county in 1898, and made a splendid run for the office, failing to win at the primaries by a very small majority. Mrs. Copeland is a member of the firm conducting the Marion Greenhouses, having been actively engaged in the work for the past eleven years. The greenhouses were established in 1901. She is a faithful member of the Methodist church, and has taught a class of young women in Sunday school for the past seventeen years. She is also active in temperance work, and is a hearty supporter of votes for women.
Mr. Copeland is an Odd Fellow, a Pythian Knight, and, like his wife, is a member of the First Methodist Episcopal church of Marion, and is a member of the board of trustees of that organization.
Mr. and Mrs. Copeland have one living son. John Wallace, born December 16. 1902; their first child, Emory Allen Whittier, born September 17, 1897, having died on January 29, 1899.
Extracted from A History of Southern Illinois, 1912, Volume 3, pages 1589-1593