Walter Copeland (4 February 1836 – 2 April 1904) was the son of Joseph Copeland and his wife Janet Newall. He was the youngest of six children. The family had immigrated to Cornwall County, Ontario, from Dumfries, Scotland, around 1828-9. They were farmers.
Little is known about Walter’s early life in Cornwall. He was literate, and so likely received some kind of formal elementary education in the nearby town of Cornwall or Williamstown, where there were schools.
Walter’s uncle and namesake Walter Newall was a prominent architect in the town of Dumfries. He also owned a farm at nearby New Abbey. In the 1851 Canadian census Walter was still living in Cornwall (age 15), in the 1861 Scottish census he is living at New Abbey with his uncle, and his aunt, Nicholas. In 1871 he is still there, and appears to be the farm foreman.
Walter Newall had died in 1863, at the age of 84, and had left his property to his elderly sister Nicholas. Walter Copeland was then running the farm for her. When she died in 1872 she left her estate to her nephew. He appears to have added the middle name Newall at this time.
Walter was now free to live as he pleased, and travel. He appears to have maintained ownership of his Scottish properties, but immigrated to British Columbia with his brother Archibald (who had continued to live in Cornwall up to this time). British Columbia appears not to have been the end of their journey, as the brothers then went to California. Gold Rush? The exact nature of the business is unclear, but it did not end well.
In May 1885 he filed a statement in the BC Supreme Court that he was present at the death of his brother in Cloverdale, Sonoma County, California in April that year. Walter described both himself and Archibald as farmers from the North Saanich district. Walter was present at his brother’s death.
There are several shipping logs from the late nineteenth-century which show Walter Copeland going back and forth from Britain. It is also at this time that Walter begins to use the name Walter Newall Copeland.
In April 1888 Walter, now aged 52, married Jessie Newall Rankin, age 26 in Castle Douglas, Scotland. It is likely that they were somehow related, although it is not clear exactly how. Jessie’s mother’s name was listed on the marriage certificate as Jessie Newall Copeland.
They had one son, Walter Newall, born in 1890, in Saanich, BC. A hint of his life in British Columbia appeared in the Cornwall Standard. Walter was described as the owner of valuable coal mines in the district, and his home as handsome, situated on the branch road to Sidney, with great views. His wife was described as a keen musician whose services were invaluable to the Methodist Church.
Walter Copeland died in April 1904, in Saanich. In his obituary he was described as being from Craigend, Kirkcudbrightshire, not Saanich. He left his wife an estate valued at $80 000, $5 000 of that the land in North Saanich. His lands in Scotland were sold off at this time.
His wife Jessie lived until 1931, but by 1911 had been declared insane. Her son Walter began managing her estate in 1914, which by then was only the British Columbia land, where they lived. At her death the estate was valued at $ 3 500.
Canadian Census, 1851, 1901
Scottish Census 1871
BC Archives – Probate records
BC Archives – Photographs
The Standard, Cornwall, Ontario
Daily Time, Daily Colonist, Victoria, BC.