Every community has a remarkable sort of leader who accomplishes a great deal without making too much noise.
These are the people one often finds working at the neighborhood level with civic, social and service organizations. They are the people one often finds in education, public-service or religious organizations. They are the quiet people who make America work.
We do not often remember these people. We probably should.
One of those people who made Columbus work well 100 years ago was a courtly, articulate and cheerful gentleman named Foster Copeland.
The name may not be familiar today, but in his time, he was well-known across a variety of local organizations.
Copeland was born in Evansville, Indiana, in 1858, but his family had deep roots in Ohio. His grandfather, Josiah Copeland, migrated to Ohio in 1810 and was the first mayor of Zanesville. He was a soldier in the War of 1812 and later served in the Ohio General Assembly.
Josiah Copeland's son, Guild Copeland, grew up in Zanesville and later became a merchant and banker in Kenton.
Married with children, Guild Copeland, like many people on the edge of the frontier, moved frequently to seek new opportunities. His banking career continued to be successful, first in Evansville, where his son, Foster, was born, and later in New York City.
Foster Copeland attended public schools and the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He also studied for a time at Amherst College in Massachusetts. At 18, he began working as an errand boy in his father's office.
Seeking a career of his own, he left home and came to Columbus in 1882, finding work as a bookkeeper at the H.C. Godman Shoe Co.
Henry Clay Godman was one of those people whose mixture of energy and charisma led him to success. He thought he could make his fortune in the shoe business, and that the place to do it was Columbus.
The keys to Godman's success would be a plan to manufacture affordable, ready-made shoes from a steady supply of inexpensive leather.
The leather came from local cattle herds. Served by a number of railroads, such cities as Columbus, Indianapolis and St. Louis became major transfer points for large herds of livestock. Columbus soon became a leading source of shoes.
Until well after the Civil War, most shoes were made by local cobblers. But with easily available raw materials and a labor force of immigrants and new arrivals from rural America, local entrepreneurs were able to find financing to produce shoes in large numbers.
Columbus became the home of a number of successful shoe companies, H.C. Godman Shoe Co. among them.
Godman was a salesman. He sold shoes, but he also sold himself. He became the public face of a successful company and was the person rightfully acknowledged as the source of its success.
He is best remembered today not so much for his shoes as for the Godman Guild Settlement House he helped to finance and establish in 1898.
What is not as well remembered is that the person who quietly managed and developed the financial success of the H.C. Godman Shoe Co. was Foster Copeland.
By 1889, the company was reorganized as a stock company, and Copeland was its treasurer. He would hold that job for the next 10 years.
In 1898, he took a chance and became a banker like his father. A man named J.J. Jennings has had formed a City Deposit Bank at Fifth and High streets in 1898 with capital of $50,000. The little bank needed both capital and financial expertise. It found both in Copeland.
Copeland would be president of the bank for the rest of a long career. By the time he retired, the bank had become City National Bank. That bank in turn would later become Bank One, and today is part of JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The phenomenal aspect of Copeland's life is not simply that he was a successful banker -- it was the remarkable number of other activities he fit into his life.
He served on the board of a number of local companies and at various times was president of Columbus Academy, the Columbus School for Girls and the board of Children's Hospital. In addition, he served for 10 years as president of the local YMCA. He also found time to serve as treasurer of the local chapter of the Anti-Saloon League.
He was active at Broad Street Presbyterian Church and taught a Sunday-school class at the church for 45 years. He married Martha Thomas of Columbus in 1893 and was the proud father of three children.
It was later said of him that "no good enterprise has lacked his active support or, where it was needed, his financial aid."
Copeland died in 1935. He is buried in Green Lawn Cemetery.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.