Most people who know me now have never seen me without a beard except in old photographs. That includes wife Dianne and kids Becca and Amos. I guess mom remembers me back in the day, and younger brother Richard might. He has a beard, too, by the way.
At various periods over the years I've let the beard get somewhat long, but nothing like Mr. James Copeland of Morgan County before he died in 1888. I recently stumbled across his story in a couple of places on the web; two brief, similar newspaper accounts are below. I've reproduced them as found; I do not know if errors were in the originals or the transcriptions. But we get the drift. Read these items and then I'll discuss what I've discovered so far about Mr. Copeland.
James Copeland, a well-to-do farmer, died at Flint, Morgan County, Alabama at the age of 88. When the south seceded on 1861, Copeland took an oath that he would never shave again until the southern confederacy established it’s independence. He kept his oath, and his beard, at the time of his death, was nearly seven feet in length.
Marion County Patriot no. 25, 22 June 1888, p. 2
July 5 1888
KEPT HIS OATH
JAMES COPELAND a well to do farmer died in Flint Morgan County, June 17 at the age of 88. When the south seceded on 1864 COPELAND took an oath that he would never shave again untill the southern confederacy established it’s independence. He kept his oath and his beard at the time of his death was nearly seven feet in length. [Crossville Chronicle]
Just as we have to do with media today, some skepticism is the best way to approach many stories in old newspapers. Mr. Copeland was apparently a real resident of Morgan County, however.
Although he was born in South Carolina in 1800, Copeland and wife Margaret were living in Tennessee according to the 1850 U.S. Census. By 1860 they had moved to Morgan County, Alabama. I also located him in the 1870 and 1880 federal censuses. Copeland is buried in the cemetery of the Forrest Chapel United Methodist Church in Hartselle. The Find-A-Grave site link below gives directions. One day I'll have to go by the cemetery and try to find his grave.
The Marion County Patriot was published in Georgia from 1886 until 1968. The Crossville Chronicle was published in Tennessee. The "Flint" named in Copeland's obituaries is presumably now one of the Flint neighborhoods in Decatur.
Source: Both photos from Find-A-Grave