Thomas Cooper Biography

Submitted by Don Rivara

Thomas C. Cooper*
abt. 1705-1785
Mary Unknown*
abt. 1710-abt. 1791

Thomas Cooper and Mary Unknown were the parents of Job Cooper [abt.1732-1804].  We know this from Thomas’ will probated in Frederick County, Virginia, in 1785.

We do not know Thomas’ parents, but we suspect they were German immigrants or the children of German immigrants who may have changed their surname from Kieffer to Cooper.  Both mean barrel maker.  Rose Cooper Goodrich [1875-1960] stated that she was a “smidgeon” Pennsylvania Dutch, the name given to Germanic Pennsylvanians.  There is no German in her other lines, so it is believed that it is from the Cooper line that the German comes [Pennsylvania Dutch].  There are quite a few Kieffers who changed their names to the English Cooper upon arrival in the colonies.  Most were originally French Huguenots who fled to the German states to avoid persecution by Catholic France.  The name for barrel maker in France is Tonnelier, which was the surname prior to the exodus to the German states.  We have been unable to connect Thomas to any Cooper families in the colonies nor to any Kieffers.  Perhaps we never can.

We know nothing of Mary Cooper’s background nor of her maiden name.

It is believed that Thomas and Mary Cooper emigrated from Pennsylvania to Virginia about 1750, but there is a possibility that they came from Frederick County, Maryland. After arriving in Virginia, they first settled on the South Branch of the Potomac River in what is now West Virginia.  Our first documentary evidence of their presence there is in twenty-one-year-old George Washington’s diary as he passed through the South Branch frontier on his way to where the Monongahela River meets the Allegheny River and forms the Ohio River [present-day Pittsburgh].  Washington recorded the capture of Thomas Cooper’s eleven-year-old son by French-allied Indians.

...a party of seven French Indians...on October 26 attacked the home of Thomas Cooper on the South Branch of the Potomac River and carried off his eleven year old son...

[Forts on the Pennsylvania Frontier 1753-1758, by William A. Hunter, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA, 1960, p.86]

 Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette in an early November 1753 edition also told the story.  We have recorded the article in the biography of Job Cooper, but we will repeat it here:

Copy of a letter, just came to Hand
Potowmack, November 1, 1753

Mr. Green,
I take this Opportunity of informing you of a most melancholy Affair, which happen’d on the 16th of last Month.  One Thomas Cooper, an inhabitant on the South Branch of Potowmack, happen’d to be from home, and having left his Children to manage his Affairs during his Absence, one of the Boys about eleven years old, went from the House about a hundred Yard in order to drive some Cattle round the Corner of the Fence, where he was met by seven Indians [who were seen some Time before skulking about that Place], who carried him off the Spot, and none of the rest of the Children could tell what became of him, only that they heard him Halloo twice.  After his Father came home, he got several of the Inhabitants, to go along with him into the Woods, to try if they could find him, but without Success, for they have heard no News of him, or of the Indians since that Time.  The Father of the Child came here, and has got a Certificate in order to carry it to the Governor of Virginia, together with a Piece of Birch Bark, which he found stuck up in the Notch of a Stick close by the Path which the Indians had gone, which was mark’d by the Indians, and which being shewn to some Indian Traders, they all say that they are French Indians, being acquainted with their marks.  I have another Piece of News to acquaint you with; we lately received a Letter, together with a Belt of Wampum, from one of the Heads of the Indians called the Half King, directed to the Governors of Virginia and Pennsylvania, intreating to send up immediately and build two forts on the River Ohio, as they are continually expecting a Visit from the French.  I have nothing more particular to add, but that I am,
G. Gardiner

This event just precedes George Washington’s disastrous attack on a French diplomatic party, which some historians say was the spark that ignited the French and Indian War, or the Seven Years War, as it is known in Europe.

The Gazette later reported that the Cooper boy was seen in company with the French Indians in the Great Lakes area.  It is believed that the captured boy was the Coopers’ son Joel.  It is believed that he made his way home again by ransom or other means, but it could be a different son who never returned to his family.

Losing their son was reason enough for the Coopers to leave the farthest reaches of the frontier and retreat to the east bank of the Shenandoah River on the west slope of the Blue Ridge.  This was then part of Frederick County, but today their farm site lies in Clarke County, Virginia, not too far south of Harper’s Ferry, the site of the mouth of the Shenandoah River where it meets the Potomac River.  It is believed that this farm stretched eastward from the Shenandoah up the slope of the Blue Ridge and over the top into today’s Loudon County, Virginia.  [There were taxes paid by the Coopers in Loudon County also.]

  When the French and Indian War formally began in 1755, the Coopers’ older sons enlisted.  Even with the Shenandoah River to protect them, the Coopers must have lived on high alert for the duration of the war.  All the the frontier settlers had retreated to the Blue Ridge or points farther east for safety.  George Washington commented in one of his letters that the much-receded frontier was now the Blue Ridge.
Perhaps the Coopers had kept ownership of the land where they had lived on the South Branch of the Potomac because some of their children later settled on Patterson Creek in that area.  Thomas and Mary, however, spent the rest of their lives on their 200 acre farm on the Shenandoah River.  The war ended in 1758 in the New World, but the peace treaty was not signed until the war in Europe had ended in 1763. 
Then began the struggle with Britain that was to climax in 1775 with the shots at Lexington and Concord that began the Revolution.  Once again life on the frontier became dangerous due to depredations by the Indian allies of the British. We can’t know the tribulations that the aged couple experienced during the time of the Revolution.  Theirs sons and grandsons fought in the war on the side of the Patriots.  There were certainly some casualties with so many of their family involved, but we don’t have those records. 

About 1782 Thomas purchased 373 acres of land on Allegheny Mountain in present-day Hampshire County, West Virginia on Elk Lick.  It was surveyed for Thomas by Elias Poston.  Witnesses were Joel Cooper and John Myers.  After Thomas’ death, this same 373 acres was patented on 5 January 1787, to Thomas Cooper II. Joel Cooper seems to have been the Cooper son most trusted with financial matters, for he was to be the co-executor of Thomas’ will a few years later.

From the personal property tax records of Frederick County, we learn that in 1782 Thomas was listed as a white male over 21 years of age with 2 horses and 16 cattle. The following year, 1783, he had 5 horses and only 8 cattle.  In 1784 he had two horses and 14 cattle. 
In 1785 Mary Cooper was listed as owning 4 horses and 8 cattle.  Thomas had died about July of 1785.  His following will, executed on 30 April 1785, was probated in Frederick County, Virginia, that August:

In the name of God Amen I Thomas Cooper Senr of the County of Frederick and State of Virginia being weak in body but of perfect mind memory thanks be given to God for it Calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die I do make and Ordain this my last Will and Testament that is to say principally and first of all I give and recommend my Soul in the Hands of God that gave it and my Body I recommend to Earth to be buried in decent Christian Burial at the discretion of Executors nothing doubting but at the General resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God and as touching such worldly Estate where with it has pleased God to bless me with in this life I give demise and dispose of the same in the following manner and form

Imprimis it is my Will and I do ordain that in the first place all my just Debts and Funeral charges be paid and satisfied

1st Item I give and bequeath unto my well beloved wife Mary Cooper all the lower part of my plantation from Hesses Cabin towards Cleavingers during her natural life and if she wants timber or fire wood of my other part of Land on which my son Job Cooper now lives to have it without Charge or Molestation for the use of her part of the plantation and I Will and Bequeath all Horse kind Cattle Sheep and hogs alikewise all my household furniture solely as her own right and property

2dd Item I Will and Bequeath to my beloved Son Job Cooper during his natural life the upper of my land where he now lives on beginning at a large Popular and  and running thence across to Shanandoah River within view of the Spring near the point of the Island and also I give and Bequeath my said Son one Heifer and three pounds due to me from Hegroe Toney and ten bushels of wheat my said Son Job Cooper shall not sell or Rent the land above Willed to him that in Case  he leaves the said land to give it up to his mother or Brother George Cooper

3d Item I give and bequeath to my two beloved sons Joseph Cooper and Thomas Cooper four hundred Acres of Land lying in the Alegaina [Allegheny] Mountain to be Equally divided between them and their Heirs and Assigns forever the said Land lying on Elk Lick

4th Item I give and Bequeath to my beloved son Job Cooper ten pounds to be paid to him in stock at the appraisement of my Estate

5th Item I give and bequeath to my beloved Son William Cooper Ten pounds to be paid to him in stock at the appraisement of my Estate

6th Item I give and Bequeath to my two Daughters Viz Hannah Cris & Elizabeth Emery each and separately one Shilling Sterling apiece to them and their Heirs forever

7th Item I give and Bequeath to my Beloved Son George Cooper the plantation where I now live on to him and his Heirs forever he peaceably allowing his mother Mary Cooper to Enjoy her part during her natural life & Job Cooper to Enjoy his part during his natural life upon condition as above stated

And lastly, I do hereby nominate appoint Constitute and Ordain my well beloved Wife Mary Cooper Executrix and my Beloved son Joel Cooper Executor of this my Last Will and Testament and I do hereby utterly Disallow Revoke and Disanul all and every other former Testaments Wills Legacies and Executors by me in any wise before this time Named Willed and bequeathed Ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my Last Will and testament In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand Seal this 30th day of April 1785

Signed Sealed published pronounced and declared by the said Thomas Sr as his last Will and Testament In the presence of Evan Cleavinger his mark Thomas X Romine his mark John Romine Samuel Wingfield

Thomas C Cooper Sr. his mark

The will was probated as stated here:

At a Court held for Frederick County the 2d day of August 1785
            This last Will and Testament of Thomas Cooper Deceased was proved by the Oaths of Edwin Cleavinger Thomas Romine and John Romine  Witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded and on the motion of Mary Cooper the Executrix therein named who made Oath According to Law Certificate is granted her for Obtainng a probate thereof in due form giving Security whereupon she with Security having entered into And Acknowledged Bond Conditions as the law directs
                                                By the Court
                                                Jakeith C. Hed

From Thomas Cooper’s will we learn that his middle initial was “C” and that he was unable to write his name, no doubt due to illiteracy?  We have nothing to prove the literacy of any Cooper in our line until Isaiah Cooper’s time, although Isaiah’s father Nathan and his grandfather Job may have been literate.

Mary Cooper appeared on personal property tax lists in both Frederick and Loudon.  In 1786 she was shown to have 5 horses and 10 cattle.  In 1787 she had 5 horses and 5 cattle.  In 1788 she appears to have sold her cattle because only 5 horses are shown.  In 1789 she had 1 horse and 4 cattle; in 1790 1 horse and 3 cattle.  The last year in which Mary appears on the personal property tax list was 1791, when he had 1 horse and 4 cattle. Either she died in 1791 or early 1792, or she ceased to live in her own home and went to live with one of her children.
  The farm was willed to the Coopers’ son George, but Mary was given a life estate on a portion of it.  Job Cooper also received a life estate on a portion of it with the stipulation that he could not rent or sell the land.  He appears to have abandoned his life estate on the farm about 1789 because he does not appear on the personal property tax list after that date.  George Cooper seems to have sold the farm soon after his mother’s death. 

[1]   Job Cooper was born about 1732 and died in 1804.  He was our direct ancestor.   
            his biography has been handled separately.
[2]   Thomas Cooper II was one of the older sons of Thomas and Mary Cooper.  Born
            about 1737, he and his brother Joseph enlisted to fight in the French and Indian
            in 1757.  Their brother Job was already fighting in that war.  Thomas was married
at least twice, probably three times.  His last wife was Rebecca Douthit.  His  father, Thomas I, willed 373 acres he owned on Allegheny Mountain [today’s Allegheny Front?] to Thomas II and his brother Joseph.  This land lay on Elk Lick.  At that time Thomas and his brother Joel Cooper lived on Patterson Creek.  Upon inheriting the Allegheny Mountain land, they leased out their land on Patterson Creek.  Thomas presumably moved to the inherited land.  Joel appears to have moved to the Watauga River Valley in what is today the extreme eastern tip of Tennessee.  Witnesses to the lease were Job Cooper, David Cooper, Joseph Cooper, and Arjalon Price. [Early Records of Hampshire County, Virginia, Now West Virginia, by Clara Sage and Laura Sage Jones, Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1990, pp. 10, 67, 112] In 1795 Thomas and his wife Rebecca sold 50 acres on the North Branch of the Potomac River and 67 acres on Allegheny Mountain.  In 1799, the year of his death, Thomas sold 60 5/8 acres on Allegheny Mountain to his son, Thomas III.  The will of Thomas II was dated June 2, 1799.  It was proved [probated] December 16, 1799.  Children of Thomas Cooper II were Joseph; Mary, Rachel; Elender, who moved to Kentucky; Margaret; Joel, who moved to Ross County, Ohio, married Jane McMullin there March 5, 1806; Elizabeth Cooper; Thomas Cooper III, born 1771, married Abigale Unknown, moved to Adams County, Ohio, about 1805, later to Schuyler County, Illinois, there met Daniel and Mary Cooper Matheny, distant kin, two of  his sons later moved to Yamhill County, OR, by the Mathenys, died after 1850; John William Cooper, born abt. 1790, married Rebecca Wolfe, lived in Ross and Fayette counties, Ohio, died abt. 1847 near Clinton, Vermillion County, IN; Kety Cooper; Sally Cooper; and Rebecca Cooper.
            Thomas Cooper III’s sons who lived in Yamhill County, Oregon, were Thomas C. Cooper IV [1817-1874] and Jacob “Jake” Cooper [1816-1873].  Jake arrived in Oregon in 1847.  Thomas IV didn’t arrive until the late 1860’s.  The cemetery at Hopewell is full of the Coopers of the family of Thomas IV.  Being so distantly related to our Oregon Coopers, it is a testament to the sense of family that they chose to live together.
[3]        Joseph Cooper  Like his brothers Job and Thomas II, he fought in the French and Indian War, Thomas and Joseph serving from Frederick County, Job from Hampshire County.  Joseph also served in the Revolution from Georgia [Georgia’s Roster of the Revolution, by L.L. Knight, Atlanta, 1920, p.379] but apparently returned to live in Hampshire County, Virginai [WV now], showing up on tax lists there in 1782 and 1784. After inheriting land from his father in 1785, he returned to Georgia.  In 1807 he was living in Hancock County at the time of the land lottery and purchased land but later appears to have moved to Putnam County.  He was on the tax list there in 1813 and died sometime before 1820; only his children were listed there in the census of 1820.There is a probated will for Joseph Cooper sometime between 1808 and 1820 according to the Index of Georgia Wills. Coopers living in Putnam County in 1820 were Samuel, William, James, Philip, Joseph Jr., Newton, and James W. Cooper. Joseph is believed to be the father of a Job Cooper, who was born before 1765 and died 28 August 1822 in Hampshire County, VA [WV].  A David Cooper there was also probably his son.
[4]        Hannah Cooper Cris [aka Crist, Criss, etc.] To his two daughters, Thomas Cooper left only one shilling sterling in his 1785 will. In 1774 Hannah Crist and her husband Jacob Crist leased out their 167 acre farm on Patterson Creek in Hampshire County, VA [WV].  Like Hannah’s parents during the French and Indian War, the Crists retreated from that area at the time of the outbreak of Dunmore’s War, when most of the frontier Indian tribes allied in a war against the British frontier settlers after the murder of the family of the Indian Logan.  The Crists were probably the parents of Jacob and Henry Crist, who settled in Bullitt County, Kentucky, across the river from Hardin County, where the Coopers and Mathenys settled in the 1790’s.
[5]        Elizabeth Cooper Emery was the wife of Stephen Emery, probably kin of Edward Emery, who lived near the Coopers in Hampshire County, and who served as executor of the 1799 will of Elizabeth’s brother, Thomas Cooper II.  In the 1784 Virginia State Enumeration, four “white souls” lived in the household of Edward Emery in Hampshire County. There were a house and two outbuildings.  A descendant has Elizabeth born about 1728 and Stephen about 1725 and married in 1751 in Virginia.  They had the following children:  George Emery, born 2 Oct 1751, Frederick County, Maryland; and Rachel Cooper, born 1753 in Loudon County, Virginia.  The Emerys were in Fairfax County, VA, in 1756 and later Berkeley County, VA [WV].
[6]        George Cooper inherited the Frederick County, Virginia, farm of his parents, Thomas and Mary Cooper but seems to have sold it soon after his mother’s death.  A George Cooper immigrated to Hampshire County, Virginia, in 1791.  This may be our George since his siblings lived in that area. Descendants of that George Cooper claim that their ancestors came from Frederick County, Maryland.
[7]        William Cooper  The Coopers’ son William, who received only  ten pounds in livestock in his father’s will was probably the William W. Cooper shown in 1761 land records of Halifax County, Virginia, near a clan of Youngers, who may have been relatives. He is on the 1782 census of Hampshire County, VA [WV] with his brothers Joel and Thomas II. He was also called as a witness in a 1782 lawsuit in Washington County, North Carolina [now Tennessee].  He is believed to have been the father of the Job Cooper who lived in Halifax County in 1784 and who died there in 1791.  He may be the William Cooper who emigrated to Wayne County, Kentucky, and died there in 1801.
[8]        Joel Cooper  Thomas Cooper left nothing to his son Joel in his will, yet he made him the executor of the will.  This suggests that Joel was provided for during Thomas’ lifetime or that Joel was very prosperous. Born about 1743, Joel may have been the Cooper son captured by Indians in 1753. He was married 5 November 1764 to Courtney Roberts in Norfolk County, VA.  He appears in the Hampshire County, VA [WV] censuses in 1782, 1783, 1784, and 1785. 
                        After settling the estate of his father in 1785, Job appears to  have left Virginia.On September 12, 1786, he and his brother Thomas II leased out 146 acres on Patterson Creek in Hampshire County that they apparently owned jointly.  Witnesses to the lease were Job Cooper, David Cooper, and Arjalon Price.  Thomas II moved to his inherited land on Allegheny Mountain and Job moved to the Watauga River Valley in what is today the easternmost tip of Tennessee. The 1787 tax list shows that Joel owned 150 acres on Sinking Creek.  On January 20, 1788, Joel Cooper, Jr., married Elizabeth Job with Joel Jr.’s uncle, Job Cooper, as surety.  In March of 1819 Joel Sr. made his X to sell 180 acres there to his son Joel Jr.  Joel Sr. died in Carter County, Tennessee, in 1825. [By then the portion of Washington County where the Coopers lived had become Carter County.]  In his will, he left his “plantation” to Joel, Jr., and divided the proceeds of the sale of the rest of his property among his other heirs.  Joel Jr. remained in Carter County and died there in 1858.
[9]        James Cooper  Living near Job and Joel Cooper in Carter County, Tennessee, was a widow, Patience Cobb Cooper [abt.1745-1804].  Her husband, James Cooper, may have been a son of Thomas and Mary Cooper.  Born about 1740, he predeceased Thomas and therefore would not have appeared in his 1785 will. A Benjamin Cobb also lived in the area.  He was probably Patience Cooper’s father or brother. 
                        James, while living in Virginia, had served in the colonial Virginia Militia under George Washington [Tennessee During the Revolutionary War, by Samuel Cole Williams, Tennessee Historical Commission, 1944, p.18] By 1775 he and Patience had settled on the Watauga River in what is now Carter County, TN.  We find the tax bill listed under her name that year.
                        When the Revolution began, the Indians mostly allied themselves with the British and began to attack frontier settlements like the one in the Watauga Valley.  James joined the North Carolina Militia to fight Indians and was one of the almost 100 men who signed the “Watauga Petition” to become part of the state of North Carolina. [Also signing it were John Sevier and David Crockett.]  By the time that the North Carolina Provincial Council saw the petition on August 22, 1776, James Cooper was already dead. [North Carolina Colonial Records   X-711]
                        The eastern division of the Cherokees, under Chief Old Abraham of Chilhowee, followed the Watauga River along the foot of the mountains toward Fort Caswell, which lay on the river.  James Cooper was stationed there and the women and children were “forted up” there also.  The fort was under the command of Col. John Carter, assisted by Capt. James Robertson and Lieut. John Sevier [who would gain lasting fame in that region].  The Indians made a fierce assault on the fort on the morning of July 21, 1776, but the 75-man force was able to repel the attack.  The Indians then laid siege to the fort.
                        During the siege, James Cooper and a boy named Samuel Moore went out of the fort to get boards with which to cover a small cabin within the enclosure.  When near the mouth of Gap Creek, they were attacked by the Indians.  Cooper leaped into the river and, by diving, hoped to escape their arrows and bullets, but the water became too shallow and he was killed by them and scalped.  The firing by the Indians and the screams of Cooper were heard in the fort, and Lieut. Sevier attempted to leave to rescue Cooper and the boy, but Capt. Robertson saw that the Indians were superior in force to that within the fort and held Sevier back, stating that he needed all the men inside the fort to protect the women and children.  He said that he thought the firing and screaming were being done by the Indians as a feint to draw the troops outside the fort.  By then Cooper was probably beyond rescue.  The Moore boy was taken back to the Cherokee town and tortured to death. [Williams, pp. 45-46]
                        By December 20, 1776, the North Carolina Provincial Council, newly renamed the House of Representatives, was well aware of Cooper’s death and the plight of his widow Patience.  On that date they passed the following resolution:

The House being informed of the distressed situation of Patience Cooper of Watauga, with eight small children, whose husband was lately killed in a scouting party against the Indians:
Resolved:  that the said Patience Cooper be allowed the sum of 100 pounds for subsistence of herself and her children; that the treasurers, or either of them, pay her the same and be allowed in their accounts with the public...
[North Carolina Colonial Records, X-978]

Patience was now better off than she had ever been with James.  In the 1778 tax list, she was taxed on an estate of 408 pounds and was taxed on a 400-acre “manor plantation” in 1779.  In 1784 she received a 300-acre bounty land claim for her husband’s Revolutionary War service. [North Carolina Grants in Tennessee 1778-1791, p.24] From 1778-1788  Patience was involved in four litigations; she won at least three of them, and in February of 1789, the enterprising widow was given permission to open “a house of public entertainment,” which was probably something like a road house.
Probably working for her mother at the road house was a daughter, Mary Cooper, about fifteen, who gave birth in 1790 to a “base-born child” by John Dasey Boring.  Boring was ordered to pay maintenance on May 11, 1790, in the Washington County Court. [Carter County hadn’t been formed yet.] [Washington County, TN Court Minutes, Book 1, Page 440]  Mary appears to have been tainted by this occurrence because she never married and was disinherited by her mother.
Patience and James’ son, Joseph Cooper [abt.1775-1828], married Elizabeth Taylor, daughter of Andrew Taylor.  Job Cooper witnessed a deed for Andrew Taylor, which indicates a connection between the family of James and Patience and our Coopers.[Deed Book A, Pages 471-472]  Patience’s farm lay right on the Watauga River and was inherited by Joseph.  She died in 1804, the same year as Job Cooper.  Her executors were Pharoah Cobb and Andrew Taylor.
Other children of James and Patience were Izzabella Cooper[22 Nov 1769-9 June 1849], who married Andrew Taylor, Jr., [1765-22 Oct 1847], buried Taylor Family Cemetery, Taylortown, TN; Charlotte Cooper, born abt. 1770, who married Archer Evans 19 Sept 1787;  Ruth Cooper, born abt. 1772; John Cooper, born abt. 1765; William Cooper, born abt. 1763; and Catherine Cooper, born 1776, who married Unknown Clowell. [Allen Papers, McClung Collection, Knoxville, TN Library]    




Clarke County, Virginia