Historical Walk and Talk in Cooper

Community members from Cooper and Alexander attended a cemetery tour and history presentation on Saturday, September 30th. The event was conducted by local historian John Dudley and focused on the life of General John Cooper. (Photo by Laurie Pike).

By Laurie Pike



On Saturday, September 30, 2017 there was a walk to visit the grave of General John Cooper with a talk to follow at the Cooper Community Center provided by local historian, John Dudley.  The event was a stunning success and provided some very interesting information and refuted some misconceptions and beliefs.  In attendance were about twenty-five people from the Cooper and Alexander communities.  General John Cooper was a very important early settler of Cooper and he was instrumental in many of the historical events and progress made by the town.  The day began with a walk to visit the grave of General Cooper located on private land with permission of landowner, Daniel Donaghy and with permission for parking from adjacent land owners, Micah and Erica Perkins.  Visiting this private cemetery is with permission only.  John Dudley explained that like this gravesite, graves were often in private family cemeteries and the stones were made of marble and were very fragile and brittle and thus would break at the ground level from years of acid rain.  Buried at this site are John Cooper, born in Boston, Massachusetts on December 13, 1765 and died on November 17, 1854 at the age of 79 and his wife, Elizabeth Cooper, born on April 15, 1770 and died on July 13, 1854 at the age of 84.  Also buried in this private cemetery are William Cooper who died on August 27, 1875 at the age of 81 years, 7 months and his wife Eliza B. Cooper who died on January 16, 1841 at the age of 40.  

One misconception about General John Cooper was that he fought in the American Revolutionary War for the independence of our great nation but in fact, he was only ten years old when the Revolutionary War began in 1775.  He was a Brigadier General in the Second Brigade, 10th Division of the Boston Militia from 1803 to 1811.  The Militia elected their own officers but generals were appointed by the governor.  Another position of significance for General Cooper was his appointment to the position of High Sheriff and Jailer for all of Washington County at the age of 24.  He was the first sheriff of Washington County and held this position from 1790 to 1820 after Washington County was incorporated on June 25, 1789.  

John Cooper moved from Boston in 1787 and had a prosperous store and trading post in Steward’s Neck, now known as Lubec, Maine.  He settled in Cooper in 1816 and he built a sawmill and a grist mill here.  The Town of Cooper was incorporated in 1822 and although he was not a principal owner of the wild lands in Township 15 East Division, now known as Cooper, he was instrumental in the establishment of residents as the agent for the proprietors of the township land lottery owners.  He was to sell up to 5000 acres at $2 or more per acre.  He also managed the funds for the building of roads, bridges, dams, and mills.  He was instrumental in the establishment of the town schools and the Congregational church.  He was a very detailed record keeper so there is much documented by General Cooper during that time.  He wrote deeds and mortgages.  General John Cooper also held the town positions of postmaster, assessor, town treasurer, justice of the peace, and selectman during the span of his life.  There are five account books written by John Cooper at the Maine State Library, other documents with the Maine Historical Society in Portland, and some with the Bangor Historical Society. 

On June 23, 1791, John Cooper married Elizabeth Savage.  Although John Cooper was financially well off, his wife Elizabeth came from a family that was considered “well-to-do”.  Their children were John Tudor, William, Emma E., Charles Wendell, Samuel, James Sullivan, Thomas Savage, Caroline Savage, and Arthur Savage.   Their son William and his wife, Eliza are buried in the private cemetery where John and his wife Elizabeth are buried but it is not known if other family members may be buried there as well.  The home of John and Elizabeth Cooper was known as Ashley Farm and was built in the early 1800’s on over 300 acres of land.  It was a large two-story home of 21 rooms with a huge central chimney and large cooking fireplace.  

This was a very informative event and more historical events are being planned in the Town of Cooper, initially focusing on the grave yards and private gravesites of our eldest residents and founders.   There are also individuals in town who would like to expand on this event with the beginning of a historical society for anyone interested in joining this group to study the history of Cooper.   Currently, the plan is to study the historical figures buried in the six recognized cemeteries in Cooper and to find the many private gravesites located throughout the Town of Cooper.  A walk to find some of these gravesites is now being planned for later in October, weather permitting.  Karen Holmes and Bill Krider have applied for a grant from the Maine Old Cemeteries Association for their participation in a workshop to learn to clean, repair, and refurbish headstones in hopes of repairing some of the damage to our cemeteries.