Sunday, February 19, 2012

“...drowned in the waters of the Big Walnut”

The gravestone for Eleazer Copeland (d. 1834), featured here yesterday, is interesting in its own right. Mix in the circumstances of Copeland’s death, and you have quite a story.

In researching Copeland’s daughter Eunice, I discovered this 1880 description of Copeland’s death:

Dr. Eleazar Copeland was a man who, upon his advent into the township, began to use all his energy and resources for the promotion of its best interest, and was connected with nearly all the pioneer industries. He was drowned in the waters of the Big Walnut, under the following circumstances: He was part owner of a saw-mill situated on that stream, and, during a continuance of low water, there had accumulated a great many logs about the mill. A sudden and heavy rain having raised the water in the creek, the logs were floated off, and began going down stream in the current. His wife, noticing this fact, suggested that her husband, who was an excellent swimmer, should enter the water and tray and save them. The doctor leaped in for the purpose of gaining the other side, but when about in the middle, he was seized with cramps, and after a vain effort to reach the bank, sank under the turbulent waters, and was drowned. This occurred on Wednesday, and although people gathered from every direction to search for his body, it was not found until the following Sunday, and then under circumstances which were very peculiar. It was understood throughout the section that a thorough search was to be made on that day, and a great crowd had gathered for that purpose. John Roberts and his brother-in-law, Mr. Smith, had left the main party, who were exploring near where he went under, and began to search farther down stream, on the west bank. Having sat down nearly opposite the mouth of Spruce Run to take a rest, John Roberts’ attention was attracted by the hum of flies, and watching them closely, he saw them go in and out of a small hole which had been made by one of the search party in a sand-bar. He went down to the spot, and, after scraping away the sand, he discovered the body, face downward, completely covered with sand and driftwood. [1]

In the 1950s, the City of Columbus built a dam on Big Walnut Creek, creating Hoover Reservoir and supplying water to Columbus residents. Copeland Cemetery lies on the east bank of the reservoir.

Where is the site of the mill of which Copeland was part owner? Could it be under the waters of Hoover Reservoir?

Copeland Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio

[1] An excerpt from History of Delaware County and Ohio by William Henry Perrin and O.L. Baskin & Co. (1880)


  1. How wonderful that you could find such details about someone who died so very long ago. Fascinating post!

  2. I'd been waiting for the conclusion to the story! Fascinating is right.

  3. What a tragic and gripping story you've uncovered. I also enjoyed your interpretation of the symbolism on Eleazer's stone in yesterday's post. Neat work!


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