Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: Lane

Opens at once both earth and heaven.

I went to my mistress and inquired what was her price for me. She said a thousand dollars. I then told her that I wanted to be free, and asked her if she would sell me to be made free. She said she would; and accordingly I arranged with her, and with the master of my wife, Mr. Smith, already spoken of, for the latter to take my money  and buy of her my freedom, as I could not legally purchase it, and as the laws forbid emancipation except, for “meritorious services.” This done, Mr. Smith endeavored to emancipate me formally, and to get my manumission recorded; I tried also; but the court judged that I had done nothing “meritorious,” and so I remained, nominally only, the slave of Mr. Smith for a year; when, feeling unsafe in that relation, I accompanied him to New York whither he was going to purchase goods, and was there regularly and formally made a freeman, and there my manumission was recorded. I returned to my family in Raleigh, and endeavored to do by them as a freeman should. I had known what it was to be a slave, and I knew what it was to be free.

But I am going too rapidly over my story. When the money was paid to my mistress and the conveyance fairly made to Mr. Smith, I felt that I was free. And a queer and a joyous feeling it is to one who has been a slave. I cannot describe it, only it seemed as though I was in heaven. I used to lie awake whole nights thinking of it. And oh, the strange thoughts that passed through my soul, like so many rivers of light; deep and rich were their waves as they rolled; — these were more to me than sleep, more than soft slumber after long months of watching over the decaying, fading frame of a friend, and the loved one laid to rest in the dust. But I cannot describe my feelings to those who have never been slaves; then why should I attempt it? He who has passed from spiritual death to life, and received the witness within his soul that his sins are forgiven, may possibly form some distant idea, like the ray of the setting sun from the far off mountain top, of the emotions of an emancipated slave. That opens heaven. To break the bonds of slavery, opens up at once both earth and heaven. Neither can be truly seen by us while we are slaves.

[Footnote omitted.] From THE NARRATIVE OF LUNSFORD LANE, FORMERLY OF RALEIGH, N. C., Embracing an account of his early life, the redemption by purchase of himself and family from slavery, And his banishment from the place of his birth for the crime of wearing a colored skin. PUBLISHED BY HIMSELF (1842).

There are many worthy of confidence.

The State v. Ephraim Lane, 30 NC 256 (1848).

Ephraim Lane, a free man of color, was indicted for keeping and carrying a pistol without a license.  Lane resided in Perquimans County, but at the time of the indictment was working for a white man named Barker “getting shingles” in Pasquotank County.  Lane carried the pistol at Barker’s behest.

Per the Supreme Court, “[d]egraded as are these individuals, as a class, by their social position, it is certain, that among them are many, worthy of all confidence, and into whose hands these weapons can be safely trusted, either for their own portection, or for the protection of the property of others confided to them.” Lane did carry a weapon, but it was not unlawfully carried.

Determined to seek a home in the North.

A Semi-Centennial Anniversary. A pleasant company, numbering about forty persons, assempled on Monday afternoon, August 15th, at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. John C. Copeland, a little southwest of Oberlin, in response to invitations to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary or golden wedding of the host and hostess. Congratulatory remarks were made by Hon. James Monroe, and prayer offered by Dea. W. W. Wright, after which a bountiful supper was served. The presents consisted of about $50.00 in gold coin, two gold-lined silver cups, numerous floral offerings, and other articles.

John C. Copeland and Delilah Evans were married in Hillsboro, North Carolina, August 15th, 1831, and settled in Raleigh, the capital of the State, which had previously been the home of Mr. Copeland, and where he labored for seven years as carpenter on the State House. Mr. Copeland was born a slave, but at the age of seven years was made free by the will of his deceased master, who was also his father. Mrs. Copeland was never a slave. She is a sister of our fellow townsman, Mr. W. B. Evans.

In the year 1843 Mr. Copeland, Allen Jones and John Lane left North Carolina with their families, determined to seek a home in the North. Traveling with teams, they crossed the Ohio river at Cincinnati, and by the advice of Abolitionist friends, started for New Richmond, Indiana. When within five miles of that place they were hailed by a farmer by the name of Tibbets, a friend of the colored man, and invited to stop and rest. It being near the close of the week, they reamined over the Sabbath, and by invitation attended an Abolitionist meeting in New Richmond. Having been informed by the slaveholders of the South that the Abolitionists in the North were accustomed to capturing colored men and selling them into slavery, they were somewhat reluctant about entering the room where the meeting was held, but after much urging entered and took a seat near the door, where they could escape if indications of danger appeared. They listened to the speaking and were much pleased with their new-found friends, and greatly relieve in their minds to learn that the stories told them by the North Carolina slaveholders were untrue. Here they became acquainted with Amos Dresser; a graduate of Oberlin College, class of ’39, who advised them to locate in Oberlin, where the slave-holders would not kidnap their children as they were in a habit of doing along the Ohio river. With written directions from Mr. Dresser at to the route to be travelled, the three men mounted their horses and started for the colored man’s land of promise. As an illustration of the feeling of the people in regard to Oberlin at that day, Mr. Copeland relates that when within twenty miles of the place they stopped at a tannary to inquire the way, and were told with oaths that there was no such place, that it had “sunk.” Mr. C. replied that he “would go on and look into the chasm.”

They arrived at their destination on Sunday and were much surprised as they passed up the street to see two young men, one white and the other colored, walking arm in arm. They were greeted by some citizens, who inquired why they were riding on Sunday. They answered that they were seeking a home for themselves and families. One of their number was taken in charge by the late Dr. Dascomb, the other two by citizens.

They soon decided to make this their home. Messrs. Copeland and Lane returned to New Richmond for the three families, Mr. Jones sending word that he “had found a paradise and was going to stay.”

For thirty-nine years Mr. Copeland has lived in Oberlin and vicinity; has reared a family of eight children — two daughters and three sons still survive, all of whom have recieved a fair education. Laura A. has for eleven years been teaching in Indiana. Mary, who has also been a teacher, now resides with her parents. William is a lawyer in Arkansas, Henry and Frederick are carpenters, the former living in Kansas, and the latter in Oberlin. The eldest son, John, studied for a time in the college, and started for Detroit to engage in teaching but at Cleveland met with John Brown and became one of his associates in the ill-fated attack upon Harper’s Ferry in 1839, who executed along with the great martyr, and his remains turned over to medical students for dissection, the efforts of Hon. James Monroe and others to recover his body for Christian burial proving unavailing. A number of letters written by the young man while awaiting execution, are preserved by his parents as sacred mementoes.

Mr. Copeland is now 73 years of age and his wife 72. The generous response in the way of presents shows the esteem in which they are held by their friends.

Oberlin Weekly News, Aug. 19, 1881