The society is working towards the restoration of the Copeland Carriage Shop. More news to come on this…
Copeland Carriage Shop History
By Priscilla L. Edwards, Town of Edinburg Historian
Brothers Arad and Leonard Copeland arrived in Edinburgh in 1828 from Guilford, Vermont via the Town of Day. The property along Beecher Creek from the shop to below the present covered bridge was purchased by the Copeland brothers in October 1828 from local businessman Eli Beecher.
Beecher had built a sawmill and dam on the creek prior to 1828 below the covered bridge site (the bridge wasn’t built until 1879). This sawmill was included in the newly acquired property of the Copelands.
It appears that the carriage shop was an early carding mill built by Beecher. (A carding mill had machines with wire teeth that brushed, cleaned and straightened the fibers of wool in preparation for spinning.) Sylvester’s “History of Saratoga County, 1878” tells us that Beecher owned the first carding mill in 1808 and replaced it with a larger one in 1817. The business declined and in 1878 was a cabinet shop. This was quite likely Copeland’s shop.
At any rate the shop surely came into use shortly after the land purchase since the building produced the Copeland’s source of income. Totally powered by water, the dam was behind the building with the mill pond just above. They were very talented wheelwrights; cabinet, furniture, coffin makers and metal workers. It is believed that the large wooden columns in front of Barker’s Store on the corner of North Shore and Military Roads were made in this shop.
After a number of years Leonard decided to leave the business and moved his family to Wells. Arad continued to run the business becoming a successful businessman.
A one-liner in Sylvester’s tells us that in 1870 Arad built a blacksmith and carriage shop. This may have been when the front wing was added. There is also evidence of two other buildings in the back on the creek side that either were torn down or fell in over time plus a possible wing on the rear east end of the building. From extensive research done by water-power experts it appears that Copeland and Latcher operated the shop by the use of a turbine and not a waterwheel.
When Arad died in 1884 his son-in-law (husband of daughter Rosena) John W. Latcher inherited the business. A native Swiss, Latcher converted the building from a carriage to a machine shop.
In 1889 John installed a new and larger turbine to replace the one Arad had used. The parts, shipped from Amsterdam, were quite probably designed by Latcher since he was a very clever machinist with many patents to his credit.
Among his inventions he designed and built at least 7 machines for Ray Hubbell’s business in Northville. Olaf Johnson, a machinist from Northville worked with Latcher in constructing a knitting machine. Several of the machines built in this shop are at the American Precision Museum in Windsor, Vermont. When needed John made calls to mills up and down the valley repairing their machines.
John Latcher died in 1919 bringing the turbine to a halt and the building has sat dormant all these many years.
Niece Nellie Tyrrell finally sold the shop to John Ordyk of Broadalbin who in turn sold it to John Shepherd of Fish House. The Town of Edinburg bought the property including beautiful Beecher Falls with a grant in 2005. With the remaining grant money carpenter and restoration specialist Andre Garand worked on the shop for several months doing immediate, necessary repairs. The historical society now owns the shop but much more work needs to be done in order to make the shop usable and open to the public.