This section presents the information I have on the ancestors and other relatives of Paul Wayne Copeland of Marshall County, Kentucky. An index of all persons included in this section can be found here.
Paul, born 1931 in Marshall County, Kentucky, was the son of David Washington Copeland and Helen Pearl Jones. When he was only seven, his father died, leaving a young wife and five boys. Paul remembered the remaining family members picking a neighbor's truck crops to earn enough to buy food. Helen made a dollar and the boys made fifty cents for a day's work.
When the Korean War began, Paul was too young to enlist, but he lied about his age and was accepted into the Army Combat Engineers as a bulldozer operator. In what must have been one of the most hair-raising engineering operations of the war, his bulldozer was parachuted onto a mountain top and he used it to cut a road down the steep mountainside while Marines fought around him to protect him.
After the war, Paul returned to Marshall County and made his living as a heavy equipment operator. He was known as one of the best bulldozer operators in the area. He married and he and his wife had two daughters. He worked to earn enough to buy a farm not too far from where his ancestors had owned land (see map) and he built his own home for the family.
Although Paul had little formal schooling himself, he urged his daughters to pursue education and both of them attended college, one earning a Doctorate degree. After a hard working life, Paul led a comfortable retirement, putting his mechanical skills to work at building and repairing farm equipment and trying to teach farm ways to his city-bred son-in-law. He died in 2004 and is buried in Dunn Cemetery near Benton, Kentucky.
We can trace much of Paul's ancestry back over 200 years to Kentucky, North Carolina, and other states. His family tree is shown below.
Below are short histories of some of the people in Paul's family trees. Clicking on a Blue name in the histories or a name in any chart will take you to that person's Individual Info Page where you will find more information about that person. To return to this page, click the Copeland tab at the top of any page (or use your browser's Back button). For help with moving around in the web site, click the Help tab at the top of any page.
The name "Copeland" is said to be of Northern English/Scottish origin. It is thought to be associated with place-names (for example, The Borough of Copeland in western Cumbria, England). It may derive from the ancient "kaupland", meaning "bought land" and indicating that the place was purchased at some time instead of having been inherited.
Paul Copeland and most of his ancestors lived in the Jackson Purchase region of Kentucky, the far western part of the state that is bounded by the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee Rivers. Although this area was technically part of Kentucky when the state was founded in 1792, it was not opened for white settlement until 1818 when a commission led by Andrew Jackson purchased it from the Chickasaws. The region grew quickly during the 19th Century and county lines frequently changed, making it a bit hard to follow a person's movement. This map summarizes the evolution of county boundaries in the Purchase area.
Paul's ancestor Absalom Copeland was born about 1770, probably in North Carolina. Absalom is said to have spent some time in South Carolina and his wife is thought to have been Sarah Jones who was born there about 1764. Sometime around 1800, Absalom migrated to Tennessee. He was living there when his son Nicholas Copeland was born about 1809. By 1820, Absalom had moved again, this time to the Jackson Purchase area of Kentucky (see sidebar). He began acquiring farmland in what is now southern Marshall and Graves Counties -- eventually, he owned more than 1700 acres (see map). Absalom was a Primitive Baptist minister and was the founding pastor of several churches including Trace Creek Church in Graves County, which is still active. He was Trace Creek's pastor from its founding in 1825 until his death in 1839. Sarah lived until after 1850. Absalom and Sarah had several children and numerous descendants. This chart shows the ones I know: Descendants of Absalom Copeland.
Absalom's son Nicholas Copeland was born around 1809 in Tennessee. He was still a boy when his family moved to Kentucky. As he grew, he doubtless took on larger and larger roles on the family farm and by the time he was in his late teens, he was prepared to operate his own farm. He was about 19 when he married Sarah "Sallie" Rilley, a 24-year-old Kentucky girl. From then on, Nicholas worked at farming except for a time around 1860 when he worked as a carpenter. Nicholas and Sallie spent more than 50 years together and had at least six children, four of whom lived to be adults. When they were in their 70's, they moved to the town of Benton, Kentucky and probably retired (although Nicholas still gave his occupation in 1880 as "farmer"). It is said that Sallie died in 1881 and Nicholas, in 1884.
(photograph by TVA, c 1938)
Birmingham, Kentucky was a town on the bank of the Tennessee River in Marshall County. It was founded in 1853 and quickly became a shipping center for Marshall County. During the second half of the 1800's, Birmingham grew quickly, and at some points, it was larger than Benton, the county seat. But starting around 1890, Birmingham began a long decline fueled by race troubles, devastating floods, and the railroad company's decision to build its line through Benton. By 1930, the town's population had fallen from more than 2000 to under 400. The final blows fell in 1937 when there was a terrible flood and 1938 when TVA announced plans to construct Kentucky Dam and inundate the town. The last residents moved out around 1943. Today, the only thing left of Birmingham above water is the old town cemetery, now an island. It is said that when the water is low, you can see the foundations of Birmingham's buildings in Kentucky Lake.
David Washington Copeland, the son of William Tandy and Barbara Gregory Copeland, was born in October 1897 in Marshall County, Kentucky. He grew up as a farm boy. In 1910, his family was living on the farm of David's brother-in-law, Jeptha Brazzell, near Birmingham, Kentucky. Around 1918, he was working for a farmer near Blytheville, Arkansas, but by 1920, he was back with his family on the Brazzell farm. Two years later, when David was 25, he married 17-year-old Helen Pearl Jones, daughter of Charlie Lee Jones and Vernessa Shoulders (see "The Jones Family") and by 1930, they had rented a farm on the Gilbertsville-Birmingham road. They had six sons born during the '30s, five of whom grew to be adults. Their fourth son, Paul Wayne Copeland was born 27 February 1931.
In the late 1930's, TVA began construction of the Kentucky Dam at Gilbertsville and families like David's that lived along the Tennessee River were forced to relocate. They moved first to the area of Tatumsville, Marshall County, then to the Benton area. Their Benton house used water from a cistern and this led to the entire family developing Typhoid in 1938. David and the youngest son, Howard Lee, did not recover. Helen was faced with raising five boys under the age of 13. For a time, she supported the family as a seamstress in a WPA factory. She and the boys also worked harvesting farm crops; she earned a dollar a day and each of the boys made fifty cents. She refused charity, insisting on making her own way and was able to keep the family together. All five boys grew up to have families of their own. In her later years, she lived alone, teaching her seamstress skills to her granddaughter Lisa. She lived in Benton the rest of her life, dying there in 1985.
The Gregorys and Dunns
The name "Dunn" is widely held to be Irish in origin, derived from the Gaelic name "O'Duinn". Paul Copeland's Dunn ancestors came to Kentucky from North Carolina in the early 1800's. The earliest members of this line I have found were William Dunn and his wife Olive. They appear to have been living in the Carolinas about 1778 when their son Pharoah was born. Beyond that, I haven't been able to find anything about them. A chart showing their descendants that I know about is here: Descendants of William and Olive Dunn.
Pharoah Dunn's daughter Martha Ann was born about 1804, probably before her family left North Carolina for Kentucky. When she was 21, she married Peter R. Gregory, a farmer born around 1803 in Virginia. In 1833-37, Peter and Martha purchased farm property adjacent to Pharoah Dunn in Marshall County (see map) and it appears that they lived there the rest of their lives.
Peter and Martha had at least twelve children. Their last children were twin boys, one of whom was Paul Copeland's ancestor, William Martin Gregory. The twins were born in January, 1850. Martha died about that same time, and it's possible that she died in childbirth. Peter farmed in Marshall County into his 70's, dying in 1876 at the age of 73.
Peter and Martha Gregory's son William Martin Gregory was born in 1850 in Marshall County. He grew up on his parent's farm and spent his life as a farmer in Marshall County. In 1873, he married 17-year-old Martha G. Surratt, daughter of William P. Surratt and Elizabeth H. Frizzell. Martha was a Marshall County native, growing up on her parent's farm near Birmingham. William and Martha settled near Birmingham where they raised six children, the oldest of whom was Barbara E. Gregory (see "The Copelands"). Martha lived until 1934. William lived to be 86, dying in 1936 near Gilbertsville, Marshall County.
The Jones Family
Paul Copeland's mother's family descended from John Jones and his wife Fannie. John was born about 1816 in Kentucky. Fannie, whose birth name may also have been Jones, came from North Carolina where she was born around 1819. John and Fanny married sometime around the 1830's and, by 1850, were farming in McCracken County, Kentucky. The 1850 census shows six young people living with them and I assume those were John and Fannie's children. John seems to have died between 1850 and '60 and the 1860 census shows Fannie as the head of the family. At that time, she was living in Calloway County, Kentucky. The last record I have of her is from 1870 when she was living near Wadesboro in Calloway County. She is said to have died in the 1870's. John and Fannie had numerous descendants. What I know about them is summarized in this chart: Descendants of John and Fannie Jones.
James and Martha Jones' oldest son, Charlie Lee Jones, was Paul Copeland's grandfather. Charlie Lee was born in 1871, probably in Marshall or Calloway County, Kentucky. When he was 21, he married Nancy Ellen Mathis and they settled on a farm in Marshall County. Charlie Lee and Nancy had three children between 1894 and 1900, the year that Nancy died. In June 1900, Charlie Lee married Vernessa Ola Shoulders, a 17-year-old from Tennessee (see "The Shoulders and Gregory Families"). Charlie Lee and Vernessa lived in McCracken and Marshall Counties and had six children, the oldest of whom was Paul Copeland's mother, Helen Pearl Jones. Both Charlie Lee and Vernessa lived into their 80's, Charlie Lee dying in 1954 and Vernessa in 1968. Both are buried in Union Ridge Cemetery in Aurora.
The Shoulders and Gregory Families
Most researchers agree that the name "Shoulders" is English in origin. Some believe that the most obvious derivation is correct -- that the name refers to someone with broad shoulders. Others think it derives from an Old English word that refers to a shovel or to someone who shovels.
Whatever the family's origins, by the early 1800's, most of Vernessa Shoulders' ancestors were living in the Nashville, Tennessee area in Smith County. The most distant ancestors I've found on this line are Pitts Gregory and his wife Patsy who lived in Smith County during the first half of the 19th century. Pitts was born about 1795 in Tennessee, possibly to Jeremiah and Barbara Rawls Gregory. Patsy was born about 1810, also in Tennessee. (Some believe that Patsy was a Shoulders and might have been related to her son-in-law James Shoulders. This would not be too surprising, since the Shoulders and Gregory families intermarried quite often in the Smith County area. In fact, it is said that Patsy's mother was a Gregory.) What I know about the descendants of Pitts and Patsy is summarized in this chart: Descendants of Pitts and Patsy Gregory.
Jesse Parker Shoulders was the youngest child of James and Martha Gregory Shoulders. He was born about 1861 and was raised on his parents' farm in Smith County. In 1884, he married Mary Frances Hewitt, 18-year-old daughter of Milton Hewitt and Mary Mathis (see "The Hewitts") and they settled in Smith County. Sometime between 1890 and '96, they moved to Livingston County, Kentucky. Then, between 1906 and 1910, they moved to Dallas County, Texas where they lived the rest of their lives. Jesse died there in 1920, and Mary Frances died in 1930. Jesse and Mary had five children that I know of. The oldest was Paul's grandmother, Vernessa O. Shoulders, born when the family was living in Tennessee (see "The Jones Family").
The Hewitt name probably comes from the British Isles and might derive from "Huet", a diminutive of Hugh, or "Hewett", which relates to chopping or hewing wood. The earliest of Paul Copeland's Hewitt ancestors I've found are William Hewitt and his wife Quintina "Tina" Robinson. William was born about 1816 in Virginia and Tina was born about that same year in Tennessee. My assumption is that William moved to Tennessee and married Tina sometime before their daughter Nancy was born there in 1837. By 1850, they were living in Smith County and as far as I can tell, they lived there the rest of their lives. They had at least ten children including Paul Copeland's great-great-grandfather, Milton.