Not all the people in Lake County, before and during the War Between the States, were dyed in the wool Union Patriots or Confederate Sympathizers. Some wanted no part in the war whatsoever… and they put their feelings into action.

In the early 1860’s, Noble Copsey smelled big trouble coming. He was right. His family, in a train of 40 wagons, came from Missouri to Lake County expressly because they wanted no part of the bitterness and dissension, which, in six more years, would boil over into a national blood bath.

When war came, in 1860, the Copseys had established themselves in Lower Lake. Fearing the Union draft, Noble was certain his sons and the young men of friends would be drafted in a war of which they want no part. They decided to resist.

A half-mile south of where the road crosses Soda Creek in Jerusalem Valley, and one-quarter of a mile west of the stream, there is a slope. That slope is mostly clay. A few small white oaks grew there. The Old Immigrant Road, that goes from Middletown to Jerusalem Valley, also runs on a road next to the slope.

In the middle of the slope there is a neat little hill. It is forty or fifty feet in diameter. The hill looks as though it had been poured out of a sand bucket. On the top of this hill is a natural formation of broken rock. The chunks range from stones the size of a man’s head to boulders as large in diameter as a man is tall. Copsey and his friends, Pleasant Smith, George Bishop, and other friends, looked at the hill and the rocks.

“This can be a fortress,” Pleasant Smith opined.

The group turned to with a will to make the fort a reality.

“A single enclosure will be difficult to defend,” Noble Copsey stated. “We need more.”

With that, the boys dug a series of fox-holes each about five feet across and three feet deep. They managed to complete four holes and had started on six more when they ran out of steam. Still, what they made satisfied them. As he stood at the top of the hill Noble Copsey proudly surveyed the handiwork.

“We have a good view in any direction. With two men to a fox-hole, back to back, and hidden behind our fortress barricade, it will take a small army to shake us loose.”

With a Huzza of celebration, the men went to work hauling supplies to the fort; powder, lead for bullets, and everything they needed to withstand a siege. When weeks passed and no effort was made to recruit men for the Union Army, Noble rested more easily.

At last he announced to his fellow conspirators, “We are safe. The danger is over. We shall divide the supplies and take them back to the original donors.”

During the building of Jerusalem Fort, a lead brick was found and stored in the fort. The intent had been to melt the brick down for bullets. All honor to folks in Lake County that had such strength of belief in their convictions.

With the passage of years, the lead brick was forgotten.  Much later and more recently, boys playing on the hill, found among the ruins and partly buried, the lead brick. The brick was cut into small pieces and used for one of the boy’s father’s muzzle-loading shotgun… so the ammunition was put to use after all.

Next Episode: Susan’s 26 Letters

Lake County History. $32. (includes. Tax & Shipping)

Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485

Website: genepaleno.com

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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