Typically, it seems as if streets are named in memorial after people have died. Unless, of course, you’re one of the richest men in the city, or you use a street as your cow’s shortcut. Sometimes, people are honored even before their deaths. Copeland Place is a short, less than a tenth of a mile, road near the intersection of Ontario and Tonawanda Streets in the Riverside Neighborhood of Buffalo. What an honor and surprise it must have been for Copeland Place’s namesake to be called into a real estate developer’s office and see his name place on a map!
Copeland Place is named for Rev. D. Benjamin Copeland, pastor emeritus of Richmond Avenue Methodist Church. Rev. Copeland was very important in Buffalo – he founded three methodist churches – Richmond Avenue Methodist (see photo), Ontario Street Methodist, and Central Park Methodist (on Beard Avenue). He also built two other churches – Trinity Methodist (on Main at Masten…now known as Lincoln Memorial United Methodist), and St. Lawrence Chapel (the original home of Central Park Methodist).
Rev. Copeland was born in Orleans County in 1855 and descended from a long line of pioneers – his first American ancestors settled in Massachusetts in 1630! He was educated at Hobart College and was ordained at Delaware Avenue Methodist Church (Now better known as Ani DiFranco’s The Church). His first congregation was in Pennsylvania, but he returned in November 1878 to become the pastor of the Glenwood Mission, which became Trinity Methodist Church. (Are you keeping track? This man was a part of A LOT of churches in Buffalo!)
Syracuse University bestowed upon him the degree of Doctor of Sacred theology. He retired in 1919, but was still active in the Buffalo community. He was still visiting the hospitals and shutins at the age of 88 in 1938! Apparently, real estate developers were developing some of the streets in the area near the Ontario Street church he founded and decided to name Copeland Place in his honor. They surprised him by calling Dr. Copeland into their offices and asking him to look at a map.
He was also a poet, and wrote several hymns for the Methodist church. He also wrote books of poems, including this one, titled “Hail to the Cheif” which was written for President William McKinley’s arrival at the Pan-American Exposition on Sept 3, 1901 (as most of you probably know, McKinley was shot at the Pan-Am on Sept 6th and died on Sept 14th).
“Hail to the Chief”
Niagara-like the welcome which awaits
The Nation’s Chief, approaching now our gates ;
From depths sincere the People’s joy shall pour
Like many waters thundering on the shore,
As to her heart her honored Guest she takes,
The Town we love, the Empress of the Lakes !
Nor ours alone the President to greet ;
The North, the South, the East, the West, here meet,-
Each Commonwealth contributing its share
Of honor due, beneath one banner fair:
Brothers forevermore, from sea to sea,
One country dear, one hope, one destiny !
Nor even here shall the wide welcome end ;
Beyond our bounds its ardour shall extend ;
For neighboring Nations, each American,
Admire with us the President, the man !
And, sharing with delight the common feast,
Shall feel anew their noblest aims increased.
City of Light! Crown-jewel of our fame!
Throw wide your gates to him of blameless name ;
With peerless pageant swell the rising tide
Of grateful joy and patriotic pride.
Rehearse the thrilling history once more:
Manila’s bay and Santiago’s shore !
Let glowing dome and pennoned turret tell,
To God’s sole praise, the matchless miracle.
Nor fail to voice the Present’s mighty plan,
And justify the name American !
Saxon, or Latin-born, we’re all one blood :
The Exposition stands for brotherhood.
So may the morrow dawn, so pass away,
In cheer prophetic of our widening sway;
And when the evening’s deepening shadows fall,
And heaven’s sweet silence broodeth over all,
May the blest memories of the day be blent
In that fair Vision in mid-firmament,
The Tower of Light ! Niagara’s flood in flame !
The radiant symbol of our Future’s fame :
Pledge of an age whose light shall never cease,
The boundless empire of the Prince of Peace!
Dr. Copeland seems like he was a pretty awesome gentleman. He died in 1940. You can find his entire book of poems in google book form, here.
Sources: “Copeland Place Honors Methodist Clergy’s Dean”. Courier Express November 27, 1938. Clipping found in BECPL Buffalo Streets Scrapbook, Vol 2.
Copeland, Benjamin. Niagara, and Other Poems. Buffalo. The Matthews-Northrup Works. 1904.