JOSIAH COPLEY was born September 20, 1803, at Shippensburg, Cumberland Co., Pa., and died March 2, 1885, at Pittsburgh. This distinguished editor and writer came to Kittanning, Armstrong County, shortly after attaining his majority, and lived in the county the greater part of the time thereafter until 1860. The first independent venture of his well-rounded career, crowded with service of the highest order to his fellow men, was the founding of the Gazette at Kittanning, and he continued his connection with newspaper work up to three months before his death. His influence and labors for the elevation of mankind, exercised widely through the medium of the press, were the source of broadening and advancement along so many lines that they have been recognized as of enduring value. The region in which he passed his early manhood and middle age is proud to have the honor of counting him among its initial forces for progress. The Appleby Manor Memorial Presbyterian Church there was erected by his daughter, Mrs. Thaw, as a memorial to her parents.
Of English extraction on the paternal side, and of Scotch-Irish Presbyterian stock in the maternal line, he came of a race noted for moral strength and mental vigor, as well as the physical hardihood which gave them courage to face life in a new country and cope with its trials. Thus he inherited qualities of a high order, which the severe material conditions of his early life served only to strengthen. It is a notable fact that from his tenderest years he seems to have been totally imbued with the Christian principle that " all things work together for good to them that love God." All his experiences were turned to account in the development of his higher nature, and the superior mental and moral tendencies for which he became noted were characteristic of him from youth.
William Copley, grandfather of Josiah Copley, was a manufacturer of woolen goods in Leeds, England, a member of the Established Church, and a man whose advanced ideas brought him into strong sympathy with the Colonies in the Revolutionary struggle. His four sons all came to this country while young men, the eldest two, John and Samuel (the latter the father of Josiah Copley), arriving in 1792, and the latter was in business in Massachusetts for a time, thence coming to Pittsburgh, Pa.. There he purchased some property in what is now the heart of the city, but soon sold it, expecting to return to England. He changed his plans, however, entering into partnership with his brother John, for the manufacture of textile fabrics at Shippensberg, in the Cumberland Valley. Shortly after the birth of his son Josiah, he moved to Blairsville, Indiana County, Pa. where he again engaged in woolen manufacturing, but the commercial depression consequent upon the troubles then existing between this country and England proved disastrous to his interests and the venture came to grief. He took his failure so seriously that it really hastened his death, which occurred in 1813.
Jane (Sibbet) Copley was a sister of Samuel Sibbet, who was associated with Robert Emmet in the Irish uprising. He was obliged to leave Ireland because of his decided political convictions, his pronounced sentiments causing a price of fifty guineas to be put upon his head. He was connected with the Freemasons, and his friends helping him out of the country on his way to America he arrived secretly at Baltimore in the early part of 1800. A few months later his devoted wife, Alice (Lowry), having disposed of their personal effects, crossed the ocean with her family, then consisting of three children, James, Robert and Thomas, also landing at Baltimore. Having heard of the Scotch-Irish settlement in the Cumberland Valley, in Pennsylvania, they proceeded to the head of the Big Spring, where they were welcomed by numerous Presbyterian friends. In this country four more children were born to them, Samuel, Margaret, Lowry, and Hugh Montgomery.
John, James and Robert Sibbet, and Mrs. Gourley, Mrs. McCann and Mrs. Jane Copley, brothers and sisters of Samuel Sibbet, the Irish patriot, also came to this country about the close of the century. Mrs. Copley was a typical representative of such stock, noted for independence and ardent patriotism. She was possessed of a strong religious nature, and it is to her teachings and examples that much of the pure Christian Sentiment of her son Josiah may be traced. Though she died while he was a boy, he wrote of her: "She was a woman of strong and original cast of mind; gentle, but firm; sensitive, yet patient. She was one of the pleasantest and most impressive readers I ever knew; and much of what may be called the keys of knowledge, the first germs of thought, I gained from hearing her read, especially the Scriptures. She read poetry admirably, and no one I ever knew surpassed her in reading or reciting poetry and ballads, or in singing Scotch ballads, with which her memory was well stored." In the same memoir he continues, referring to the period of his father�s failure and death: "These were days of trial and sorrow, while we all worked diligently and felt the necessity of doing so. . . . It was a time of stern necessity, yet the
memory of it is sweet; for there was more light than darkness, more joy than sorrow; and it was doing this trying period, more than any other, that my sainted mother was made perfect through suffering."
In the spring of 1818, when in his fifteenth year, he was apprenticed to Mr. James McCahan, of Indiana, Pa., printer and publisher of a weekly sheet called the American, being bound to serve until he reached his majority--a period of six and a half years. Though his actual schooling had been meager and gained under the restriction of local facilities, he had become a good speller and a good reader, and had shown indications of a literary turn of mind. The opportunity was just what he wanted.
The boy lived with the family of his employer, and was evidently well treated, for he pictures Mrs. McCahan as a woman of amiable disposition and kindly qualities, and says (" A Memoir of Early Life") that while he remained a member of the family he enjoyed all the domestic and social privileges of a son. But his master was a shrewd business man, and combined his various interests to their mutual advantage. He held the contract for carrying the mails over the several local routes. At that time there was only one post office between Kittanning and Indiana and only a weekly mail, which was carried on horseback. Even in 1820 people living several miles above Red Bank received at least part of their mail from the Kittanning office. Mr. McCahan�s three apprentices were bound to give half their time for three years to the carrying of the mails, thus enabling their master to fill his contract and also to get most of his papers distributed at the same time. This part of his work was for a time a great trial to Josiah Copley. The first year the boy covered the route from Indiana to Butler, by way of Kittanning, and on the return trip, rode from Butler to Freeport (which then consisted of but ten or twelve log houses), thence back to Kittanning, and from there by way of Peter Thomas mills on Plum Creek home--a three days journey in all. The mail and papers were carried in open saddlebags. It was not his duties, but the fact that he had to set out early Sunday morning, and relinquish all the Sabbath observances that disturbed the boy�s sense of right. But he had been trained to keep the Lord�s Day, and keep it he did. When he was in school the Bible had been the principal "reader," and the familiarity with the passages there acquired, supplemented by home teaching, was to the end of his life a cause for gratitude. At the end of a year he changed from a ride of three days every week to one of six days every other week, from Monday morning until Saturday evening, and the privilege of Sabbath worship had never seemed more precious than after a year of enforced absence. His new route took him through Greensburg, Freeport, Kittanning, south of where the town of Clarion is now located, Butler county at Lawrenceburg (now Parker City), Butler, and thence to Kittanning and home. On these trips he had his regular stopping places, and while he was sometimes thrown into rough and undesirable company he also made many friends among the good people he met, his association with whom he always looked back to with pleasure. News was not as plentiful then as now, or as easily disseminated, and the arrival of the mail and papers was an event which would have made him welcome in any case. But his faithfulness and reliability, mainly sincerity and quick intelligence, won him the friendly regard of all he met and their hospitality had a personal element which went far toward mitigating the discomforts and disagreeable experiences. The country was wild at that time, with little advantages for travel in the way of good roads, bridges, etc., and in the winter and spring especially the storms and high water made it positively dangerous. In winter he often traveled through unbroken snow, and no inclemency of weather was ever considered sufficient excuse for not setting out. He had to rise early and often worked late, but he never allowed anything except the most extraordinary obstacles to interfere with the performance of his task--such was the rigorous idea of duty which had been instilled by his early teaching. The habits of deep thought and close observation which so characterized his after years were no doubt fostered in these long, lonely days spent on horseback through a sparsely settled region. The warmth and friendliness of those with whom he spent his evenings, too, must have been doubly appreciated after a lonely day in the saddle. There were many blessings, indeed, which he recalled in connection with these youthful experiences.
In 1825, shortly after the completion of his apprenticeship, Mr. Copley went into business in Kittanning in partnership with John Croll, under the firm name of Copley, Croll & Co., founding the Kittanning Gazette, with which Mr. Copley was connected for over eight years in all. The undertaking was suggested by two or three prominent citizens of Kittanning, among them Mr. Philip Mechling and Judge Buffington, and the paper being the second in the town the young editors had the benefit which rivalry brings in such enterprises. The first number was issued Aug. 17, 1825, and on April 12, 1831, it was merged with the Colombian and published as the Gazette and Colombian, by John Croll & Co., Mr. Croll�s partner being Simon Torney. Meantime, in 1829, Mr. Copley had withdrawn, and on Nov. 6, 1832, he again became the editor and publisher, for the estate of Simon Torney, continuing thus until 1838. The name Colombian was dropped before 1836. The paper became the Democratic Press in 1841, later the Kittanning Free Press and in 1864 the Union Free Press. While known as the Gazette and Colombian it was the organ of the Democratic-Republican party in this county and afterward a Whig paper, upon a dissolution of the Whig party becoming a Republican paper. It was never an antimasonic paper, though for a year or two--while known as the Gazette--it acted in harmony with the antimasonic organization.
James Thompson, who became chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, lived in Kittanning for several years prior to 1830. He was a printer, and took Mr. Copley�s place in the office of the Gazette while the latter was in Philadelphia for his wedding. He afterward assisted in printing Bennett�s Lectures on Theology, and read law in the office of Thomas Blair, working at his trade three hours a day to pay for his board. During a part, if not all, the period of his clerkship he boarded with Mr. Copley. He was admitted to the bar in this county and began practice here.
Mr. Copley�s success as a publisher of the Gazette from the beginning sealed his ambition to find his life work in literary labor. Much of his best work was of a religious order, for he always directed his studies and thoughts in such channels, but his work along secular lines was equally in demand, and he gained particular prominence in his connection with the Pittsburgh Gazette. He was connected with the Gazette at three different periods as co-editor, this association beginning in 1838, when he gave up his work on the Kittanning Gazette and removed to Pittsburgh. He worked with the late Robert M. Riddle, father-in-law of Col. Thomas A. Scott, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. But his health failing two years later, he removed to Appleby Manor in Armstrong county, near Kittanning, and hoping to benefit in a change of occupation undertook the management of a farm. He also owned a brick manufacturing plant, and began the manufacture of firebrick in 1846, continuing it for about twelve years, until 1858, after which until the Civil War it was carried on by his sons. It was then taken over by his brother, William Copley, who conducted the business until his death, after which it went to his son, William S. Copley. The plant was located in Manorville, on land belonging to Miss Eliza Sibbet between the railroad and the hill, on the south side of the street, extending past the railroad station to Water Street. Fifteen hands were employed at first, less help being required after the introduction of modern machinery, though the capacity, three thousand bricks a day, was not reduced.
While conducting his place at Appleby Manor Mr. Copley acquired a scientific as well as a practical acquaintance with horticulture and agriculture. He was particularly interested in fine fruits, apples, peaches, pears, and cherries, etc., raising the best in his immediate vicinity and became well informed on the various processes of budding, grafting, hybridizing and soil improvement. He set out his fine orchard soon after moving there, bringing his stock from Philadelphia by canal and stage in 1840, and his example set the pace for his neighbors, many of whom were encouraged to make similar ventures and profited by his experience and advice. He is still quoted in the neighborhood. He gave away a great deal of budded stock to neighbors, and was on the friendliest terms with all the residents of the locality.
In this period, however, Mr. Copley did not give up his chosen work, by any means, and during the twenty years of his residence there wrote for various newspapers and issued a number of pamphlets, some of a political nature and some dealing with the advancement of civilization and progress generally. It was during this time that he published his first collection of religious articles in book form, under the title "Thoughts for Favored Hours," his choice of a motto for that book being characteristic--"While I was musing the fire burned." In 1850 he again became a member of the editorial staff of the Pittsburgh Gazette, being associated as such with D. N. White until 1852, when ill health again made it necessary for him to retire.
The first Republican convention held in Armstrong County (held at the courthouse in Kittanning, Sept.30, 1855, to form the party) was organized by electing Dr. David Alter, of Freeport, president; John Craig, of Franklin township, and Alexander Henry, of Kittanning, vice presidents; and Dr. S.A. Marshall, secretary, and by appointing Josiah Copley, Rev. William Galbraith, Rev. William Smith, Hugh Reed, and John Burford a committee to prepare business and report resolutions. They reported the following:
Whereas, A crisis has arrived in the history of the country which has made the question of slavery paramount to all other issues in politics, a crisis forced upon us in the first place by the abrogation of the Missouri Compromise, followed, as it has been, by a series of outrages upon the people of Kansas territory, unparalleled in our history,
1. That the people of the Free States owe it to their brethren in Kansas to stand by them and aid them by every means in their power, against the border ruffians Achison and Stringfellow, organized for the avowed purpose of forcing slavery upon them against their will.
2. That if the people of the Free States expect to do anything effective, they must stick together. The people of the South do so in favor of slavery; we must do so in opposition to it.
3. That to this end we give the right hand of fellowship to every man, of whatever party, who affiliates with us in this great struggle.
4. That we cordially adopt the platform of the late Republican convention, at Pittsburgh, as our declaration of sentiments.
5. That we deem it inexpedient at present to put in nomination candidates for the Legislature and for several county offices to be chosen at the ensuing election, because it is the opinion of many friends of liberty that the gentleman put in nomination by the American party agree with us in sentiment on the great question of slavery, but in order that there may be no doubt on that question,
6. That a committee of three be appointed to correspond with such of them, and draw from them a full and explicit declaration of their sentiments, and that such correspondence be published.
7. That in taking this course we do not wish to be understood as approving of the organization or of the peculiar principles of the American or Know-Nothing party.
All these resolutions were received and adopted. The following minority report of the committee was read, and, after some spirited discussion, was rejected.
Resolved, That this meeting proceed to nominate a Republican ticket for this county, independent of the Democratic and American parties, and that they approve of the nomination made by the state convention for canal commissioner.
The president of the convention appointed Dr. S.A. Marshall, James E. Brown and Josiah Copley a committee to correspond with the candidates of the American party. That committee presented each of these candidates with a copy of the foregoing fifth and sixth resolutions, with pointed questions as to whether they were hostile to the further encroachment of slavery, in favor of the repeal of the fugitive slave law and the restoration of the Missouri compromise, to which the committee received satisfactory answers from various nominees. Thus all antislavery elements became consolidated in the Republican party.
In 1860, Mr. Copley moved with his family to Pittsburgh and renewed his connection with the Gazette.
With a clear brain and strong mind, Mr. Copley united remarkable facility of expression in his writings, though he was rather slow of speech. He had a wonderful command of language and composed pure English, rarely, if ever, correcting a sentence--an acquirement of the trained newspaper man which has inestimable value to the busy writer.
Before the war Mr. Copley was a conservative abolitionist and during its progress he supported the Union cause by pen and action. He was ever afterward a Republican. Four of his sons were in the army, two falling on the battlefield. So his sympathies with the families of soldiers were close, and he manifested them in practical ways whenever possible, being active in organizing societies and raising aid for the widows and orphans of soldiers, as well as for the families of those still at the front.
A comment made by one who knew him well, in a character sketch which appeared in the Presbyterian Banner shortly after his death, said: "While far removed from the position of a radical, yet he could not be termed a conservative. New ideas and new theories had a charm for him." In this he showed one of the most practical features of his character. Though gifted with foresight and capable of planning for the future, he did not plan so far ahead of the present needs and aims of his fellow creatures that he could be considered an impractical dreamer. He kept abreast of the foremost thought of the day, and his readers could always feel they were carried with him.
As he had been a hearty advocate of the Union cause during the Civil War period, so he had been of every movement for the general good before, and continued to take a lively interest in everything that affected the well-being of his home locality, county and State. Religious works and movements always received first consideration, and it was as a religious writer and worker that he attained widest reputation. He took pleasure in encouraging and aiding in affairs of importance to such of his fellows as were working toward the betterment of mankind in any direction. He could estimate the practical worth of most projects with the vision given to those whose ideas keep them ahead of their generation, and was quick to enter into the spirit of progressive activities. The temperance cause was one which always had his attention and support.
In religious connection he was a Presbyterian, uniting with the church in early life. He became very well known as a writer for various denominational publications, the Presbyterian Banner, United Presbyterian, and other periodicals, counting him among their most esteemed contributors. A number of the articles originally so issued were collected by him into the volume he published in 1877, "Gatherings in Beulah." The title of this book, and numerous references in all the products of his pen, would make it seem that after the Bible Bunyan�s "Pilgrim�s Progress" was the book he most loved and read. All the articles in this book except the last, "A Memoir of Early Life," are of a religious character, and show not only the deep study and serious thought of the philosopher, teacher and advisor, but a forceful and analytical mind, alive to the daily needs of his fellow creatures in the round of their regular duties in life. Though he wrote on a wide range of subjects his speculations were mostly of a religious nature, and he found his deepest inspirations in the Scriptures, of which he continued to be a profound student until the end of his days. The revised version of the Bible enlisted his eager interest, and indeed the idea had been with him for some time, as his article on "Scriptural Revision, " which appears in the volume "Gathered Sheaves," clearly sets forth. This was written before the revised version appeared, and gives a history of the English Bible and of the work of translation under different hands.
"Gathered Sheaves, " published by his daughter, Mrs. Thaw, in 1886, contains sixty-nine articles, with an introduction by Rev. Dr. S.H. Kellog, and a biographical sketch written by Mrs. Thaw of her father. Most of these first appeared in the Presbyterian Banner and other periodicals, and deal with religious subjects, but among them appears his "Recollections of Boyhood, " which began with his first school year, 1810, and carry the reader back to the days when "spare the rod and spoil the child" was the literally accepted maxim of the instructor, and a teacher�s literary qualifications were no more important than his muscular acquirements. The impressions such events as the comet of 1811, the earthquake which shook a large portion of the Mississippi valley, the War of 1812-15 and contemporaneous Napoleonic wars, particularly the burning of Moscow during its occupation by the French in the War of 1812, made upon his childish mind are set down graphically and with all the whimsical charm of which he showed himself so capable, and possess a lasting value. Other articles in the book are somewhat singular for speculation and investigation into primeval and ancient history. So late as Christmas, 1884, when in his eighty-second year, he published in the United Presbyterian a paper entitled "A Crippled Translation" (this is included in "Gathered Sheaves"), in which he expressed his belief that the 71st and 73rd Psalms were revelations of both the resurrection of the body and the consciousness of the everlasting existence of the soul.
He was never bigoted, recognizing the several evangelical denominations as simply other divisions of one grand army. He presented his views on the subjects he chose in such a way as to interest all the reading community, and those competent to judge regarded his style as distinctly classical. Among the many writes for the general press few gained so high a reputation for dignified and conscientious work as Mr. Copley. The true nobility of his nature shone through every expression of his views, but it was those most closely associated with him who could best appreciate his character at its real value. He held their respect, love and admiration to a degree enjoyed by few, and ties formed in his early life endured through the years. Though he had the confidence of his convictions in upholding the right or standing up for a good cause, he was modest in the estimate of his own worth, and generous in his praise and appreciation of others. Self-made in the most creditable sense of the word, he had acquired his high intellectual attainments by the most persistent and diligent study, and his material success was the reward of untiring industry and devotion.
Earlier, while at Kittanning, he was interested in the extension of the Pa. canal to Lake Erie by means of the Allegheny river and French Creek instead of the Beaver and Shenango route afterward adopted, and at a meeting held Jan. 16, 1828, in Kittanning, to advocate that route, he was one of the committee of correspondents appointed, its other members being Samuel Houston, Thomas Hamilton, Frederick Rohrer and James E. Brown.
Mr. Copley�s accounts of the commercial traffic between the upper country and Pittsburgh, carried on chiefly by canoes and keelboats, are intensely interesting. Large number of rafts of sawed lumber were sent down the river in those days, and it was common to see them occupied by emigrants bound westward, taking advantage of the opportunity to save themselves many miles of wearisome travel. All these incidents of the primitive days he has preserved in his inimitable way, and his vivid recollection of the striking features of those times, set down with the skill of description he knew how to employ, makes them delightful reading.
Appleby Manor was included in Manor township, a petition for the organization of which was presented to the proper court in June, 1849, and the first township election was held in March, 1850, when Josiah Copley was elected one of the overseers of the poor. At the same election, his brother William was chosen justice of the peace.
In 1826 Mr. Copley married, his bride being Mrs. Margaret Chadwick Haas, widow of a young physician of Philadelphia who sacrificed his life in attendance on the victims of the Cholera epidemic in that city in 1824. She was the step-daughter of his uncle, John Sibbet, at whose home in Philadelphia Mr. Copley met her, while in that city to buy materials for printing the Gazette, which he had just started. The marriage took place in Philadelphia, and the young people journeyed thence in a private conveyance to Huntingdon, and from there by stage to Kittanning. The wedded life of Mr. and Mrs. Copley extended over a period of almost fifty-nine years, Mrs. Copley surviving her husband.
In the early days of Appleby Manor--a beautiful region which was one of the reservations made by the William Penn heirs--country churches were few and far between. It was due to the untiring efforts of Josiah Copley and Hamlet Totten, of Rural Village, that a plain but commodious frame church building was erected on land provided by John Christy, on a part of his own farm. Previously they had maintained prayer meetings in the little log schoolhouse, later securing the services of Levi M. Graves, a graduate of the Western Theological Seminary. At that church Mary Sibbet Copley, who later became the wife of William Thaw, of Pittsburgh, daughter of Josiah and Margaret Copley, was baptized in 1843. In recognition of the enduring work of her parents Mrs. Thaw replaced this building in 1892 with a brick church, English architecture, as a memorial. When this new church, known as Appleby Manor Memorial Presbyterian Church, was destroyed by lightening in 1907, Mrs. Thaw rebuilt it, without cost to the congregation and the sweet-toned bell, presented by her son, Henry Kendall Thaw, for the first Memorial building, broken at the time of the fire, was recast and replaced.
Beautiful for situation, it stands on the original site, partly surrounded with its peaceful God�s acre, as a memorial to those whose memories are still cherished by the men and women of today who knew and honored them before they left those parts at the beginning of the Civil War.
Mrs. Copley was, in every sense of the word, a help meet to her husband, and her cheerful disposition and courage, in the midst of trials incident to the care of a large family, and the great change from her life in Philadelphia to that of the wife of a pioneer editor of a weekly newspaper in western Pennsylvania, was a very considerable factor in making a success of Josiah Copley�s life of literary activity.
She became one of a group of interesting women, the names of whose husbands are in this history, and when Mr. and Mrs. Copley moved with seven children to Appleby Manor, she was the adviser and comforter in the troubles and perplexities of many in that rural community. Mr. Copley writes soon after their golden wedding thus: "Together we have journeyed through much of sorrow and joy for over fifty years, and are together yet."
During the dark days of the Civil War, when three sons were in different divisions of the army, one having enlisted from a school in Illinois, in Col. (afterward Gen.) Ulysses S. Grant�s 21st Illinois Regiment, the brave spirit and religious faith of these two patriotic parents was tested to the utmost, but their faith in an overruling Providence never wavered. Mrs. Copley survived her husband two years, dying at the age of eighty-six, at the home of her son-in-law, William Thaw, retaining her remarkable health and faculties to the end, when, after three days illness, she slept away so peacefully that the daughter, at her bedside, scarce knew when the gentle breathing ceased.
Nine children were born to this couple, six sons and three daughters, of whom six were living at the time of Mr. Copley�s death. Four of the sons served in the Civil War, two giving up their lives in that struggle. John Sibbet Copley fell at the battle of South Mountain, Sept. 14, 1862, while serving as a member of Company A, 9th Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserves. The next son, Albert Copley, of the 78th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, was wounded by an exploded shell at the battle of Stone River, Tenn., and captured. He and his fellow prisoners were put on board a train and carried southward nearly to the border of Florida. There they were turned back, to be taken to Richmond, because some Union forces had in the meantime come near to that part of the Gulf States.
Although Albert Copley was not mortally wounded, 1,200 miles of continuous traveling was more than he was able to bear. When the returning train got as far as Knoxville, Tenn., he was taken of and put into a hospital. There he wrote his father a short letter, giving the above facts, and spoke hopefully of his recovery. But very soon afterward came another letter, from someone else, informing his father of his death, but giving no particulars. The father wrote to his captain and to General Negley, then in command of the division, but though both sent kind replies, they could give no information concerning him after his capture, and he sleeps in an unknown grave.
A third son, Josiah Copley, Jr., was taken prisoner at Chickamagua in 1863 and held for seventeen months, suffering untold hardships at Libby prison, and Castle Thunder (Richmond), Danville, and Andersonville. A fourth son, Henry Weldon Copley, although under age, enlisted in a Pennsylvania regiment so near the close of the war that it was not called into active service.
In this connection we quote at length from the article "Call Ye This Chance" ("Gathered Sheaves"). During the Civil War, as many people will remember, a band of generous men and women maintained what was known as The Pittsburgh Subsistence Committee, for the purpose of giving a good meal to every soldier which passed through Pittsburgh, no matter what hour of the day or night. A few weeks after Albert�s death, I learned that a regiment in transit from West to East would be at the City Hall about midnight. I lived in Allegheny City at the time, and had no active part in that good work; still I felt that I must go over that night to see the boys.
When I entered the hall I found them around the long tables to the number of ten or twelve hundred, all highly pleased, as if they enjoyed their bountiful warm supper. I stood near the entrance and looked on till they were through and had begun to gather into groups. Then I walked down among them, but spoke to no one until I notices a good-looking man standing alone. I went to him and entered into conversation. He told me he was a member of an Ohio regiment, giving its number, and that he belonged to what was known as the Army of the Cumberland. �Did you ever meet any of the men of the 78th Pennsylvania?� I asked. �Yes, � he replied; � we lay for sometime alongside of that regiment, and I got acquainted with a good many of the boys.� �Did you know a man named Albert Copley?� He started at the question, and exclaimed, �Albert Copley? Why, I was lying beside him in the hospital when he died.� He then told me that he was captured at the same time--that they traveled all that round in the same car--that he dressed Albert�s wounds daily as well as he could--that before reaching Knoxville he himself took sick--that both were put in the same hospital, and occupied couches side by side. He said Albert was in a fair way of recovery until erysipelas set in, which soon terminated in death. He spoke of his resignation, cheerfulness, and hopefulness, and of his gratitude to his nurse, who had been very kind to him. I inquired of him if he knew anything of his grave; but he did not, for he was to sick to attend his funeral. He told me that Albert gave that nurse what little he had in return for his unwearying kindness...
"Now what shall we say to all this? If you ask why I went over at all at that unseasonable hour, I can not tell you. And when I got there, was it chance that led me to the only man among ten or twelve hundred who was able to give me the information for which I so earnestly yearned? They who please may think so and say so; but I feel that it would be wicked in me to do either. Dear reader, you have my simple story--interpret it as may seem best to yourself."
Mr. Copley�s nobility and high example were an inspiration to others, and his ready sympathy made him beloved as well as esteemed. Mr. H.H. Wray, now publisher of the Advance of Leechburg, Armstrong county, attributes his first hopes of becoming a successful newspaper worker to the encouragement and aid he received from Mr. Copley, whose kindliness and interest were a great help in his early struggles. It was Mr. Copley who gave him his first quarter for some trifling service rendered, and he declares no amount that he has received since has ever impressed him as being so large. There are many other successful citizens here and elsewhere today who have reason to feel grateful to Mr. Copley for words of cheer spoken at the right time, and material assistance where it was necessary,
Mr. Copley�s busy life was extended over fourscore years. The end came March 4, 1885. He had been confined to the house since November, and never left the sick room after the 31st of December. But though he suffered in those last weeks, intensely at times, he never showed any weariness of spirit. His confidence and hope cheered all who visited him. The next world to him was as real as this, and his habitual contemplation on the life to come had so accustomed him to the idea that he regarded the change, to use his own words, simply as "going from one room to another." Peacefully he sank to rest in the evening of March 2, 1885. Like Enoch, he "walked with God, and he was not, for God took him."
Source: Pages 301-324 Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers, & Co. 1914
Transcribed September 1998 by Donna Sheaffer for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)
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