Dusting off the (Cooper) history books, and briefly delving into who's who, and
when, and where, and why...
The following information is from James Thomas Cooper, Alvin Loyd Cooper, Joe
Bougeno, and Mary Frances Wallace—all descendants of Newton C. Cooper—and also
from Ruth Douglas Thomas, whose husband, Bill Clark Thomas, is a Cooper
descendant as well.
[Key information that has been provided, the individual
pieces to the puzzle, as it were, are credited to each Cooper descendant, often
in brackets such as these.]
Newton C. Cooper, born in 1837, was in Trigg County at the time he married
Emerine "Emma" Cunningham. Little is known about Newton's past, except that his
father died when he was young, and he was raised by his mother, Frances Cooper.
Emerine Cunningham's father, Dabney Carr Cunningham, born in Virginia in 1804,
and her mother, Rebecca Wimberly (1809), born in North Carolina, were married in
Trigg County on September 3, 1829.
Once Newton and Emerine were married, they had six children: John, called "Jack"
(1861), James Edgar "Edd" (1864, pictured at right), Willis (1869), Frances "Fannie"
(1872), Mattie Lora (1874), and Thomas C. (1876). Apparently Emerine Cunningham
Cooper died sometime between 1881 and 1883. We do not know just when. But this
is based on the fact that she was listed with Newton in the 1880 Trigg County
Census with the above children.
And we know that Newton C. Cooper married Elbert Emeline Choate on November 29,
1885. At the time of their marriage, Emeline Choate Cooper already had a little
boy named Charles (b. 1883), who took the Cooper name as his own [from Joe Bougeno].
Eleven children were born to this union: Arthur (?), Effie Media (1886), Axiom Clay
(1889), Bessie Lou (1891), Betty Pearl (1893), Lallie Virginia (1895), Seth (1897),
Elbert (?), Luke (?), Ollie (1903) and Joshua (1905).
Brothers Alvin Loyd and James Thomas Cooper, as well as Bill Clark Thomas, are
all descendents of James Edgar Cooper, whose mother was Emeline "Emma" Cunningham
Cooper, born in 1842.
Mary Frances Wallace and Joe Bougeno are descendants of Bessie Lou Cooper Oliver
and Betty Pearl Cooper Oliver, respectively, whose mother was Elbert Emilene
Alvin Cooper relates that the Coopers, who originated in Scotland, left their
homeland and took refuge in Ireland during political upheavals. Eventually, they
came to America, and entered through the seaport of Savannah, Georgia.
While history was being made in the Cooper family, very little of it was written
down. The stories were told from one generation to another. And some of the stories
are pretty wild.
When Newton Cooper's family came to Kentucky, they settled in Trigg County, in
an area near the Cumberland River, named "Trigg Furnace." This is the place
where the children were born, and grew up and married, and where many of the
older ones died and were buried.
This is also where James Edgar Cooper began his life in 1864. He married Cornelia
Florence "Nelia" Morris on October 30, 1884, a year before his father married
Elbert Emilene Choate. Consequently, both young James Edgar and his father were
becoming fathers to new babies at the same time. James "Edd" Cooper's first child
was a son, Carl (date unknown). Then there was a daughter, Williemine, born 1888,
and Jessie Jewel (1891), Edd Huelett (1893), Ruby, Erie Dalton Cooper, and Thomas
At this time, Newton and wife Emilene had Arthur and then Effie Media and Axiom,
and others, all of whom were very close to their little neices and nephews who
were all the same age. They were so close that confusion arose in later generations
as to which children belonged with which parents!
James Edgar Cooper's son, Carl, was reputed [by Alvin L. Cooper] to be a gifted
musician. "He could play any instrument." Carl married Amanda E. "Maud" Monroe.
They had one son, Carl Otis, born circa 1908. Amanda died 28 days after her 21st
birthday. According to the obituary [Mary Frances Wallace] "she professed faith
in Christ a few months before her death. She died of consumption at the home of
her father-in-law, near Rock Castle." Unfortunately, we do not have any dates
for either Carl or Amanda or their son. Carl's parents, James "Edd" and "Nelia"
raised the child in their home.
From now on, James Edgar and Cornelia Morris Cooper will be referred to as Edd
and Nelia. They left Trigg County early in their marriage and moved to Ballard
County, KY. They were living there at the time of Newton C. Cooper's death,
according to his obituary of 1915. [Per Mary Frances Wallace]
When their daughter, Williemine, grew into a young lady, she married Alfred Earl
Clark on November 3, 1909. They lived in the Canton area, on the Tooke farm,
where Earl grew up. Williemine was affectionately called "Willie" by everyone.
When "Willie" gave birth to her first child, Dorothy, on August 5, 1910,
complications set in, and Willie died ten days later. She was buried the same
day she died in the Curling cemetery nearby. Her tiny baby was lovingly embraced
by Edd and Nelia Cooper, and along with little Carl Otis, they now had two
grandchildren to raise. [From Ruth Thomas]
This Cooper family moved on across the Mississippi River, and down to Arkansas,
looking for farm work. They worked hard in the cotton fields, and did other farm
work. Their entire family, except for Carl (and maybe Ruby—we don't know) went
along. Sons Edd Huelett, Dalton, and Tom worked hard with their father to make a
living, and these boys found their wives in Arkansas and began families of their
own. Jessie Jewell married a Trigg Countian, Cleveland Cunningham, but they also
went to Arkansas with the parents. [James T. Cooper]
Dorothy Clark, daughter of Williemine, remembered happy days in Arkansas. She
had to leave the Coopers when she was 10 years old, and return to Kentucky
because her precious "Mammie Nelia" died June 20, 1920. She never quite got over
being taken away from the Cooper family as a child.
Eventually, she lost touch with most of them, but she treasured the photos she
took back to Trigg County, KY, and kept them in a little album which Ruth Thomas
(her daughter-in-law) has kept since Dorothy's death in 1989. (You may see other
photos of Dorothy, who married Cecil Seldon Thomas in 1926, on the photos page.)
She is the reason for the Thomas connection. Her descendents continue on through
the families of her sons, Bill Clark and Seldon Earl Thomas. [Per Ruth Thomas]
In James Edgar "Edd" Cooper's family, Carl and Williemine have been introduced.
The next child was Edd Heulett Cooper, known by everyone as Edd. This brother
served in World War One in Germany.
After his discharge from the Army, he returned to Arkansas and married Ira Fenia
Gay, born in 1903, in Floral, AR. Ira Fenia Gay was only 15 years old at the time.
They had seven children, including Alvin Loyd (1928) and James Thomas (1933).
Five of their six boys served in the U.S. Military during World War Two, the
Korean War, and the Vietnam War. They served in the US Army, the US Navy, and the
US Air Force. [James T. Cooper]
Although the Cooper family established roots in Trigg County, KY, they began to
scatter in the early part of the 20th Century. The ones who moved away have never
returned to Kentucky to live. At the time of this writing [June, 2000], there is
only one male Cooper listed in the Cadiz, Trigg County phone book. The main
family to stay in Trigg County was the family of John "Jack" Cooper, son of
Newton C. Cooper. Jack married Emma Carrie Cunningham—they had eight children,
including 5 daughters. Two sons grew to maturity.
There was much marrying of Coopers and Cunninghams. And perhaps even more marrying
between the Cooper and Oliver families. If you study the Cooper Family Tree page
at this website, you will also find that the Clark family, which was fairly
small, also has several marriages with the Cooper family.
Among the Coopers who married Olivers were two sisters, Bessie Lou and Betty
Pearl. They married brothers, Robert Warren and Sam Walter Oliver.
Newton C. Cooper fathered many sons! And three of them became "famous" because
of their involvement in the Tobacco Wars. They were a part of the "Night Riders"
[according to Joe Bougeno]. "I do know that Charles Cooper, Arthur Cooper, and
Axiom Cooper were all members of the Night Riders group. You can read about them
in a book called On Bended Knees by Bill Cunningham. Arthur Cooper moved to
Illinois to get away from the Night Riders."
Newton C. Cooper's youngest son, Thomas C. Cooper, moved to Oklahoma. Joe Bougeno
reports, "Thomas Cooper was a politician before he became a millionaire in
Oklahoma. He owned oil wells. He lost all of his wealth and died of malnutrition.
When he died, he was in the vestibule of one of the skyscrapers he had previously owned."