Friday, January 29, 2016

Fighting in The Black Hawk War

Here, on May 14, 1832, the first engagement of the Black Hawk War took place. When 275 Illinois militiamen under Maj. Isaiah Stillman were put to flight by Black Hawk and his warriers. So thoroughly demoralized were the volunteers that a new army had to be called into the field. - Historical Marker at the site of Stillman's Defeat in Stillman Valley, Illinois

List of volunteers including Geo. Copperberger [should be Coppenbarger] as 3rd corporal,
Elisha Butler & Obediah Hooper as privates
My great, great, great grandfather, Peter Coppenbarger, was 14 years old in the spring of 1832. He was too young to fight, but he must have watched his older brother, George, and brothers-in-law, Elisha Butler and Obadiah Hooper, as they set off to defend their land. They were living in Macon County (soon to became De Witt County), Illinois.

The land ceded to the U.S. in the 1804 treaty
is shown in yellow (image from wikipedia)

The Battle of Stillman's Run, also known as Stillman's Defeat, was one of the first conflicts in what would become known as the Black Hawk War. Black Hawk was a member of the Sauk tribe who did not want to give up his homeland which had been signed away in the St Louis Treaty of 1804. In 1832, he returned to Illinois bringing women, children & warriors with him. A panic started among the white settlers and the governor called for mounted volunteers. Peter's family answered the call.

"Scion's of County's Best Families Fought in War Against Indians in '32",
Decatur Review; Decatur, Illinois, 11 Sep 1927, page 12, column 1; digital image, ( accessed 22 Aug 2014)

Sadly, the main action that these three brothers-in-law faced was at Stillman's Run on May 14th, 1832. I say "sadly" because this battle was such a fiasco. Although the stories differ, it appears that these militiamen killed some of Black Hawk's warriors who had come under a white truce flag. According to an article in a 1927 "Decatur Review", here's what happened:

"Stillman's Run", public domain image from wikipedia
Benjamin Drake, 1st published in 1854 book,
"Great Indian Chief of the West"
We don't know how valiantly or efficiently Macon county troops fought in this campaign, but we are assured that they fought as valiantly and efficiently as other untrained, undisciplined troops fought, and one man was killed, several wounded and some had their horses shot. Major Stillman's brigade and that under Major Bailey were ordered to proceed without delay to the head of Old Man's creek, twelve miles north of Dixon. The first clash with the Indians was at this point and it was due to foolhardiness and boneheadedness.

Black Hawk sent out three men under a truce flag. These men were captured. Another squad of five men under a second flag were sent out. These were fired upon and two o[f] them were killed. Infuriated by this treatment and without stopping to collect his main force and with only forty warriors, he fell upon the whites with the fury of a tornado. The white troops were put to ignominious rout and some of them never stopped running till they reached Dixon. Eleven white soldiers and seven Indians were killed. 

In other articles I've read it was reported that the volunteers believed there were over 1,000 warriors fighting against them while, in reality, there might have been between 20-50.

I wonder what kinds of stories young Peter heard when these three young men returned home. At the time, the war was still going on. What kinds of fears did my family face? And, how did they feel about this battle?

George Coppenbarger was 3rd corporal in this battalion. The 4th corporal, James Milton, was killed in this battle. Were they friends? Were George, Elisha or Obadiah injured during this battle? Were their horses shot out from under them? Were they some of the men who didn't stop "running until they reached Dixon?"

Black Hawk
"Chicago Daily Tribune", 12 Jul 1891, page 25, column 6;
On August 27th, Black Hawk surrendered in Wisconsin and the Black Hawk War was over. He gave an incredible surrender speech which can be read here or listened to performed by Don Cheadle here. His speech ends: "Farewell, my nation. Black Hawk tried to save you, and avenge your wrongs. He drank the blood of some of the whites. He has been taken prisoner, and his plans are stopped. He can do no more. He is near his end. His sun is setting, and he will rise no more. Farewell to Black Hawk."

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at

Friday, January 22, 2016

Family Lore: Related to Pocahontas

My great aunt, Beulah (Peters) Brewer, got me interested in genealogy about 18 years ago. One of our ancestral lines are the Randolph's of Virginia. Here's the story she emailed me of what got her interested in learning more about her family:

Myrtle Mae (Coppenbarger) Peters painting
Probably the photo taken for the newspaper

James Madison Randolph is the reason that I started doing genealogy. Mother had a copy of the paper that had his obituary in it, and his part took up about four pages. It was one of the smaller papers. Mother started doing oil paintings when she was in her late 70's, and the paper came out to take her picture and then they wanted some of her background history. She was so proud, and when she showed it to me, I asked her why she had them put all the Randolph data down? It had been handed down by word of mouth for generations and you couldn't convince any one of them that it wasn't so. In Lee County, Virginia, they still tend to believe it.

Image of Pocahontas from Wikipedia

So, what did the family believe for generations? That we were related to Pocahontas.

Just last week I came across a typed copy of the obituary of James Madison Randolph my great grandmother probably showed her daughter, Beulah. (I found it on De Witt County's Rootsweb.) Besides being related to Pocahontas, it states our family is related to a handful of other prominent people! Wouldn't that be neat? However, my great aunt said that her finding showed that, though we are descended from the Randolph family of Virginia, we aren't a part of the more famous Randolph family of Virginia. Here's the wonderfully lengthy obituary:

Dated April 8, 1927; Paper: Unknown
Laid to Rest Under Sheltering Branches of Ancestral Oaks in Randolph Cemetery.

The subject of this sketch, James Madison RANDOLPH, was born June 27, 1846 in Logan county, Illinois, on the old homestead which had been taken from the government about two years before by his father. He was the oldest son of Willoughby H. and Louvicy (BARR) RANDOLPH, and the Randolph family of three brothers- James, Brooks, and William RANDOLPH had emigrated to Illinois from Virginia ,a sixteen years previous, before the winter of the big, snow in 1830. William RANDOLPH was his grandfather and James RANDOLPH was the father of J. S. RANDOLPH, better known as "Shelt". While he and "Shelt" were thus second cousins, yet all their lives and until the death of J. S. Randolph a number of years ago, their association was almost that of brothers, instead of distant cousins. He was thus one of the few remaining pioneers of the first generation and with advancing years took delight in recounting experiences of his boyhood. He told of one occasion of starting to Clinton with a load of grain and two yoke of oxen and having a serious breakdown on the present site of Kenney. He was married to Elizabeth G. JETT on December 30, 1871 who survives him. Seven children were born to this union; G. A. RANDOLPH, of Richmond, Va., R. J. RANDOLPH, of Kenney; Jett and John RANDOLPH, Mrs. Mack CARLLEY and Mrs. A. P. ROBERTSON, of Tulsa, Okla. One daughter, Grace, died at age of five. Two sisters, Mrs. Emma HILDRETH, and Mrs. Mary FORREST are living, both residing On Pacific Coast, and there are ten grandchildren. Always a deep student and constructive thinker, he spent the years 1865 and 1866 at Shurtleff college, Alton, Ill., and but for several years of weak eyesight from an epidemic of eye trouble, he would have graduated as a civil engineer and made this his life work. Generous with his family, tolerant of the opinions of others and yet with firm convictions of his own, his life showed continually the workings of a well balanced and orderly mind. Baptized in the Christian church at Kenney, following a revival in 1888, he talked freely in his last illness of the state of his soul and said he was prepared to meet his God. In all the trials of life, in withstanding the "Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune,"' he showed the iron determination of his forbears who stood at Crecy and Agincourt.

In the summer of 1923, he visited his son, G. A. Randolph at Richmond, Va., and took great delight in looking up the site of the home of his ancestor, William Randolph, of Turkey Island, and in visiting the monument of the Indian Princess, Pocahontas, at Jamestown Island, from whom he was descended. On a boat trip down the historic James, the captain, on learning his name and ancestry, showed pleasure in pointing out the sites of the homes of the Randolphs in this locality, so aptly called the "Cradle of the Republic."

Among his relatives were, John RANDOLPH, of Roanoke, Peyton RANDOLPH, President of the First Continental Congress, and Edmund RANDOLPH, Governor of Virginia and First Attorney General of the United states. Thomas JEFFERSON, Chief Justice MARSHALL, General Robert E. LEE and Carter H. HARRISON of Chicago were kinsmen, their mothers being Randolph's. After being in remarkably good health for a man of his years, the final illness came in January and he passed away at his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma on March 26. The remains were brought to Kenney to the home of his sister-in-law, Mrs. Sabra BUCHANAN.

Funeral arrangements on March 28 were handled by R. B. PULLEN and the services were at the Christian church in charge of Rev. O. P. WRIGHT, who is an old friend of the family. He delivered a most feeling discourse. A quartet composed of C. A. TROWBRIDGE, Ned WARRICK, H. K. CANTRELL, and E. *. HOGGARD, rendered appropriate selection with Miss Nina WARRICK at the piano. The pall bearers were four grandsons James HOMER, Ross and Harry RANDOLPH and two nephews, Roy and Ralph BUCHANAN. Services at the cemetery were conducted by Kenney Lodge I.O.O.F. of which he had been a member nearly 50 years.

Under the sheltering branches of the ancestral oaks of his grandfather Randolph's farm where he had wandered happily with his cousins, Levi and Whitney REGAN and Frank and Josiah COPPENBARGER, all that was mortal of James Madison Randolph was laid to rest. 

Do we share common ancestors? If so, I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment or contact me at

The 1828 Will of Peter Close's Relict: Catharine Elizabeth Close

Yesterday, I shared the 1810 will of my 5th great grandfather , Peter Close of Armagh, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. Peter's wife, Catha...