Mary S Cope (1852-1882) and her poem on Avebury: A guest feature by Thelma Wilcox

The following poem, written so long ago in America by Mary Cope, is written in tribute to Avebury. At first I was wary of its 19th century romanticism, but reading it again and again made me realise that it had a very special charm in its description of Avebury. After all it was an outside eye that was looking back at the stones and the village, and its neat little manor house serene in its garden. Though I think Mary got it somewhat wrong as to nuns being at the Priory when monks are mentioned in the history. So what inspired such eloquence? Our ancestry haunts us all, and Mary Cope came from a strong Quaker family whose forbearers had travelled to America in the 17th Century. Henry (1793-1865) had established a family 'enclave' at Germanstown and called it Awbury, their house and grounds now are part of the Awbury Arboretum and the following quote explains the reason as to why we find Mary S Cope writing a poem about Avebury.

"The house he built on that land was named "Awbury" after the family ancestral home in the village of Avebury in Wiltshire, England; as the nineteenth century progressed, the name came to indicate the entire enclave and not just Cope's dwelling. John Haines's and Henry Cope's tracts were augmented with purchases made by Henry's son Francis on the southwest and south later in the nineteenth century. The family enclave was expanded in 1885 with a purchase of land made by Clementine Cope, Henry's niece, in 1885."

But let us go back to the original Oliver Cope - a tailor who lived in Avebury and took that momentous step to emigrate to America. Gilbert Cope in his genealogy of the Cope family (1861) seems to think that Oliver was not a Quaker when he left England with his wife Rebecca, they seemed to have had three children at Avebury - William, Ruth, and John, Elizabeth being born in America, Oliver must have left England in about 1682, and could have travelled on the same boat as William Penn who also made a voyage in that year. In a Deed of Land he seems to have bought 250 acres from William Penn in the province of Pennsylvania, this he must have done in England as the Deed is dated 1681.

"This indenture made the 5th day of September in the year of our Lord 1681, and in the thirty-third year of the reign of King Charles the second over England, between William Penn of Worminghurst in the County of Sussex and Oliver Cope of Awbury, in the County of Wiltshire, tailor, on the other part witnesseth that the said William Penn, for and in the consideration of the sum of five shillings of lawful money of England to him in hand paid by the said Oliver Cope, the receipt whereof he doeth hereby acknowledge, have bargained and sold, and by these presents doth bargain and sell into the said Oliver Cope, the full and just proportion and quantity of 250 acres within the province of Pennsylvannia"

There is a lovely note by Gilbert Cope at the end of the page in which he states "Abury (sometimes spelt Awbury, Aveburg or Auburn) is an unimportant village in Wiltshire, about 81 miles west of London.”

Oliver’s arrival in America has a somewhat mixed account in Gilbert Cope's book, Mary is given at one stage as his wife that accompanied him on the voyage and that he came on the boat with William Penn (on his second voyage) in 1701. This account can probably be considered a bit whimsical, though it does say that they landed at Nameen's Creek (the place where Oliver died) and Oliver's will definitely states Rebecca as his wife. There is also a note that in May 1682 William Penn sent to Thomas Holme - Surveyor General - a list of the people who had purchased land and Oliver Cope is listed as having five hundred acres. So it would seem that Oliver bought this land in England, probably making two purchases of 250 acres at separate times, the dream of an American future winning over a drab existence in a small Wiltshire village. John Cope one of Oliver's children is seen as the founding member of the Cope dynasty in America and a prominent Quaker member.

Genealogy notes; The original Oliver Cope was born at Avebury in approximately 1647 he died in April in 1697 at Naaman's Creek DE. Mary Stokes Cope; Her mother was Elizabeth Waln Stokes (1823-1902) and her father Thomas Pim Cope (1823-1900). They had 9 children, including Mary Stokes Cope. Her brother Alban seems to have been committed to an asylum between 1890-1891, and her father a strong Quaker made a religious trip to Europe in 1890, this to be found in the archives of the Cope-Evan correspondence here -

Mary's grandparents Thomas Pim Cope (1768-1854) and Mary Drinker (1766-1825) were also strong Quakers, Thomas was one of the wealthiest merchants in Philadelphia. He was a politician and philanthropist, and Mary his wife who seemed to be very much in love with him wrote a charming love letter to him. Could it be that her granddaughter inherited a love of words from her and a romantic notion of Avebury, which she must have visited and then penned her poem of Awbury, a return to an ancestral home.