Stratton House Inn :: Beautiful Belmont, Part 16 -- Cope's Mill: A Stop on the Underground Railroad.
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by John Salisbury Cochran.

See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 15 -- Lucinda Taylor's Escape.

Cope's Mill, near the headwaters of Glen's Run, was some four miles from Martins Ferry, Ohio, and five from Wheeling, [West] Virginia. The mill had a chute that passed water around the mill's waterwheel when the mill was not working. The chute at this mill had a fall of some 20 feet -- from the tailgate of the millrace to the level of the ground -- where Glen's Run had its origin from this water.

The end of the millrace terminated in a stone wall built across the mouth of the race. In total, this wall was some 20 feet long. From the face of this wall, three slanting stone supports were built out from the wall, one at each end and one in the middle. Extending some thirty feet from the wall at the base, these supports tapered to nothing at the top of the wall. Each support was two feet thick, leaving spaces between the side and middle supports of seven feet each. The great water wheel of the mill occupied one of these spaces -- the one closest to the road. The axle of the wheel was supported in two of these support walls. The buckets on the waterwheel came close up to the wall to receive the water from the chute when the mill was running.

The space between the other two support walls -- next the hill -- was used for the waste chute, down which the water flowed when the mill was not running. Joists extended between the two chute supports. Two-inch-thick boards were extended lengthwise and nailed on these joists. These boards extended diagonally from the sill on top of the stone wall to the foot of the support wall, some 35 feet. This solid, wood surface served as the waste chute. The hill against which the side chute support -- the one farthest from the waterwheel -- was built, extended much further out and high above the mill.

A board in the center of this chute was loose and, when lifted, formed an entrance by which a person could pass under the chute. This board was provided with fastenings on the underside and could be safely closed and braced by anyone beneath. No one from the outside would for a moment suppose this plank was movable. Beneath the chute, a small door in the stone support -- the one against the hill -- closed an entrance into a small room in the hill itself. This room was provided with a cot, two chairs, a small table, and a few other household items, and was quite comfortable in summer and winter.

Within twenty minutes after leaving Campbell, the fugitives dashed their tired horses up to the bottom of this chute. Tom Pointer and Sam dismounted in the water and with their combined strength raised the plank. They then carried Lucinda and passed her through the opening under the chute. Tom then entered and led her through the door into the hill. "It is very dark, but I will bring a light and something to eat presently," said Tom.

As he came out through the opening in the chute, a man on horseback was passing down the road, but the mill blocked his view and he passed on without observing them. Tom went quickly to the kitchen of the Cope dwelling, bringing back a large well-filled basket, a pitcher of milk, and a jug of water -- keeping in the stream as far as possible in going and coming. He and Sam took the provisions to the little room and lighted a candle. "There is plenty to eat," he said, "and you will be supplied from time to time with whatever you need."

With great emphasis, he then added, "You must never answer any call unless you first hear three loud sounds from a whistle and hear your first name called three times. You must even then be sure it is a friend. The door into this room can be fastened by this strong bar which drops into these open iron staples. The plank in the chute out here is arranged the same way and you must place these short bars in it when we go out. You will have to remain here a few days until this blows over outside. Then we will take you on to friends in Oberlin, Ohio, where sooner or later, you will meet Sam, who is now going with me. Most important, you must never tell anyone of this place, or of any of us, or of anything that has happened here, for other fugitives may want to escape the same way. This job today would place us all in the penitentiary if word gets out."

Lucinda nodded, and said, "Be assured I will die before I disclose anything." And then she asked, "But, where is mother?" "She is over at Mr. Cope's house, not a hundred yards from you. But you can't have any contact with her for now. It's just too dangerous," said Tom. "You will have to be patient for this will raise a storm outside, I tell you."

Sam gave Lucinda a kiss as they parted. Then he and Tom replaced the plank. Sam washed the axe in the water, after which they mounted their horses and took to the woods, keeping in the steam as far as possible on their way back to Tom's cabin.

The Search for Lucinda

On regaining consciousness, Wickham found Maxwell in a bad condition. Although he was conscious, he could not reply to Wickham's questions, and the latter soon discovered that his jaw was broken and his cheekbone fractured. Wickham was suffering from his broken arm and injured head. His first thought was where to find help. He saw a light a few hundred yards distant, and telling Maxwell to remain where he lay on the roadside, he made his way to this light. He found Thomas Williams, who then lived at the junction of Buckeye Run and Glen's Run. With the aid of Williams and his son, Wickham and Maxwell were taken that night in a spring wagon by way of Bridgeport to Wheeling.

Maxwell had to remain many weeks confined to his room under the charge of physicians. During this time, and subsequently, he spared no effort to recover Lucinda.

Long and Manahan were arrested in hopes of obtaining some clue, but no evidence could be produced showing that they knew anything about Lucinda or that they had participated in her escape. A warrant was issued for Campbell, but he had left the country and was not seen again.

There seemed to have been no effort made to capture Sam. Indeed, his escape was not known until the return of the Thomas Swan to Wheeling, and the statement brought that his master did not want him back. Sam remained two weeks with Tom and then moved on to the northern part of Ohio by way of the mysterious Underground Railroad. He saw Lucinda just once more before his departure, but they both knew that Lucinda would soon follow.

It was thought best, at the time, that Aunt Tilda should not know where Lucinda was taken in order to avoid any possibility of that information being forced from her. After Sam headed north, Aunt Tilda went to live with Tom Pointer, since officers in search of Lucinda had already made a midnight descent upon, and search of the Cope premises -- which was the second search since Lucinda's escape. It was thought that Aunt Tilda would be interrogated further, and possibly abused, if searchers should return to Mr. Cope's again -- and still find her there.

The first search of Cope's property occurred the day following Lucinda's rescue. When the searchers arrived, they found the mill running and Joshua Cope in the mill. It was near the noon hour and two of the officers guarded the house, while two others went to the mill. When they stated their mission, Joshua Cope moved a lever that turned the water from the wheel to the chute, politely stopping the mill. This lever, at the same time, raised the tailgate at the chute, letting the water flow down it.

Cope politely informed them they could examine all the premises. They searched every nook and corner of the mill and even took a look at the chute, but the water pouring down over it satisfied them that it was solid, and they went to the house to continue their search. A thorough examination followed there, with a similar result. The searchers then attempted to intimidate Aunt Tilda by threats and otherwise, but she resolutely told them she did not know where her daughter was, and that she would not give them the information if she did. In these statements, Aunt Tilda was being honest. She had not seen her daughter since they were together in Wheeling, and she had no idea at the moment where Lucinda was being hidden. As for Mr. Cope, he could honestly say he had not seen her since the slave auction, although he had every reason to suspect where she was at the moment.

After the search for Lucinda settled into the past, Aunt Tilda made her home with us. What a patient, kind godmother she was to us. I can still see her in the large old armed rocker as in the evening firelight she used to rock backward and forward, singing her song, with the favorite chorus:

"The old ship of Zion will anchor bye and bye.
The old ship of Zion will anchor bye and bye."

I think nothing on earth could have shaken Aunt Tilda's faith, that the deliverance of her people was soon to come. Indeed, the revolution of 1861 was fast approaching. The unpaid toil of three million bondsmen, subsequently and so sublimely spoken of by Abraham Lincoln, was about to be repaid by a terrible price in blood. How prophetic were Lincoln's words -- as the outcome of war still hung trembling in the balance, and the hearts of all were humbled and chastened -- when he said in his second inaugural address:

"Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us not judge, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

"Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh. If we shall suppose American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a loving God always ascribe to Him?

"Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continues until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by a thousand drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, 'The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widows and his orphans; to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 17 -- Singing School.

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.


This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.

CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
CO-AUTHOR: Schultheiss, Tom. (Asst. Editor)

DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved
ENTRY NUMBER: EBK30011831

 

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