Monday, January 14, 2019

Lowell Copeland Lived in a Church

It recently occurred to me that I had never looked for my great-grandfather, Lowell Copeland, in a city directory, which is a genealogical source that can provide different information than a census, a vital record, or a newspaper article, and if you're lucky, you can find an ancestor in consecutive years and see if there are any changes.

As I have previously shared at Grandfather's Occupation, Lowell Copeland was living in New Trier, Cook County, Illinois, between 1900 and 1920 and all three of his children were born there. By the time of the 1930 federal census, he was living in Michigan City, Indiana.

Lowell Copeland appeared in Chicago City Directories from 1897 to 1902, where he was listed as Asst Treasurer, Sullivan Machinery and resided in Winnetka. He appeared in the Evanston City Directory (living in Winnetka, a nearby suburb) from 1912 to 1922. 

Some time between 1922 and about 1926, Lowell moved to Michigan City, when his information might have been collected for the following year's city directory. His entry is in a gray rectangle in the image.

Caron's Directory of the City of Michigan City, Ind. for 1927-1928 (Louisville, Ky: Caron Directory Co., 1927), p. 131; digital image, ( : accessed 10 January 2019).

His name was Lowell Copeland; I'm not sure why the middle initial T appears here; his son (my grandfather) was Lowell Townsend Copeland.
Ethel M. (Greeley) Copeland was his wife.
His occupation was pur agt: purchasing agent for the Sullivan Machinery Company, which I wrote about at Grandfather's Occupation.
Lowell and Ethel lived at 614 Franklin. Well, the first thing I like to do when I see an address in a city directory is to search for it on a map.

It turns out that this is the site of the Trinity Episcopal Church, which has been at this location since the middle of the 19th century.

Just to confirm, I explored this city directory a bit more and found that the directory had a street listing (as opposed to the alphabetical listing above). On page 577 of this same directory, I find 614 Franklin with residents: Brennan J K Rev, Barker Hall and Copeland Lowell T. (at the bottom of this image).

On page 13, the listing of churches in the city by denomination showed 614 Franklin as the location of the Trinity Episcopal Church. doesn't have city directories for every year in the 1920s, but I can see that in 1925 (p. 122), Lowell E. [sic] Copeland, purchasing agent at Sullivan Machinery, boarded at 614 Franklin and by 1929, Lowell T. (now office manager at Sullivan Machinery Co.) and Ethel lived at the Sheridan Beach Hotel, which is where they are found in the 1930 U.S. census.

I wonder what the story is behind why they were living with the Rector of this church for a few years before ultimately moving to the Sheridan Beach Hotel. If any cousins know, please comment below or send me an email.

By 1931, they were living in Princeton, New Jersey, where their older daughter, Betty, had settled down with her professor husband and where my grandparents got married.


  1. Hmm...maybe in his spare time, Lowell was the handyman at the rectory? Or his wife worked for the rector in some capacity? Just guessing. Unusual residence, to be sure.

  2. Like Marian, my guess is that one of them, perhaps Ethel, worked as either a housekeeper or secretary/receptionist in the rectory in exchange for lodging.

  3. Marian and Linda, I love your suggestions, but neither seems likely based on what I know of the family. I do know he worked for the Sullivan Machinery Company, which was owned by a Copeland cousin. His father-in-law was a well-known engineer in Chicago and possibly helped them out financially. Family lore says he suffered from depression so perhaps that had something to do with living with the Rector? Thanks for your comments!

    1. Hello cousin Elizabeth! My mother said that Granny's father (Lowell Copeland) had a nervous breakdown and his ability to work suffered. When she was a young teenager Granny (Ruth) was sent to live with the Dunbar cousins in Framingham. Note she's not listed at the church residence--these dates match up with time she was with the Dunbars. The Michigan City time was recalled as a time of poverty and exile from the lovely neighborhood in Winnetka.

    2. Suzanne, I knew that Lowell Copeland had a nervous breakdown but I didn't know that they considered their time in Michigan City as a time of poverty and exile from Winnetka (which is a lovely neighborhood).
      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your knowledge about our great-grandfather!