LIKE ALL REFUGEES, the members of the Copeland–Jones party were eager to reach safe harbor. Consequently, they headed to Cincinnati – their first stop on free soil – where they intended to consider their options for permanent settlement. Cincinnati had a substantial free black population, but the Copelands and Joneses were wary of living so close to slaveholding territory, and they found “that colored folks fared in Cincinnati about as in Carolina.” They were advised that New Richmond, Indiana, might be a safer and more welcoming place, so they soon continued their journey onward to the west.
Reaching the outskirts of New Richmond, they encountered a farmer named Tibbets, who told them he was “a friend of the colored man.” Because it was already Saturday, Tibbets invited the travelers to rest at his home over the Sabbath, and he invited them to attend an anti-slavery meeting in town that evening. The Copelands at first were hesitant, recalling the stories they had been fed about the perfidious abolitionists who would sell them into slavery. They overcame their misgivings – reassured by Tibbets and no doubt prodded by the more venturesome Joneses – and attended the meeting, which was probably their first exposure to abolitionism. With Devereux's disingenuous warning still haunting them, however, the Copelands insisted on taking seats by the door “where they could escape if indications of danger appeared.” To their great relief, they realized that their fears were unfounded, and they soon made friends with the white people in attendance. In later years, the Copelands would make light of their naiveté, but the experience was bracing at the time. Their guardians in Raleigh had been untruthful to them, and they had much to learn about life in the North.
Among the attendees at the New Richmond meeting was an Oberlin theology graduate named Amos Dresser, who had once done missionary work among slaves and free blacks in Tennessee.
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