In keeping with the upcoming presidential election, I thought I would bring out a little piece of Tennessee's connection with the first Mormon who ran for the office. I'm speaking of Joseph Smith and his second choice for the VP position. Solomon Copeland.
Colonel Solomon Copeland. Perhaps one of the most prestigious friend of the church from Tennessee that you've never heard of. But he was well known to the leaders of the church. When Joseph Smith was picking a Vice Presidential candidate, one of the names on his short list (and closer to the top that Sidney Rigdon), was Solomon Copeland of Paris, Henry County, Tennessee. According to Joseph Smith's own notes, he was not a member of the Church. In the interest of full disclosure, Joseph had to pick someone who wasn't a resident of Illinois, since the U.S. Constitution forbids both the Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates from being from the same state.
Colonel Copeland appeared in a couple other places in the Mormon historical record. When David Patten returned to Tennessee in April 1836, following the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, Wilford Woodruff notes that he is at Solomon Copeland's home. Then in July 1836, when Patten and William Parrish are arrested in Benton County, Woodruff receives the news while staying at the Copeland home. Sometime between July and September of 1836, two young men, Lewis and Robert Copeland, were baptized in the Academy Branch by David Patten, the same branch in which Solomon Copeland lived. It isn't clear from the record how they were related, but it is likely they were.
By the time Joseph was considering Solomon for the VP position, the church leader who knew him best, David Patten, had since died. But Wilford Woodruff knew him too. So it was he who, on March 8, 1844, was asked by Joseph Smith to write a letter to Colonel Copeland requesting that he come and visit the Prophet in Nauvoo, with the possibility of joining the presidential ticket. Woodruff completed the letter and showed it to Joseph Smith almost two weeks later on the 20th. No specific answer is recorded, but we can assume the answer was not a positive one, since attention is soon directed toward Sidney Rigdon instead, who accepted the nomination.
Solomon appeared in a few non Mormon records, but none after the 1840 census. He was certainly a wealthy man, and a prominent citizen. And perhaps had he accepted the position, we might know more about him today.
2 weeks ago