Excerpt from The Cooper Family, History and Genealogy, 1681 - 1931
The younger Coopers were doubtless moved by the advantage of the Mississippi Territory over North Carolina in the production of cotton. Eli Whitney had invented the cotton gin, thus making cotton far more valuable. They had their slaves to do the hard work, and so expected to become wealthy planters “down on an old plantation.”
Between 1800 and 1830 North Carolinians by the hundreds made the long Westward journey. But we are concerned here about a small group who made the trip in covered wagons, along the Chickasaw Trail from Sampson County, North Carolina, to Mississippi Territory three years before it was admitted to the Union. In this company were Reverend William Cooper, William Cooper, Jr., Wilson Cooper, Sr., and his son Wilson Cooper, Jr., and Joseph Cooper and their wives and children. The route they followed from Sampson County the east central part of North Carolina was southwest through South Carolina to Fort Mitchell, Georgia; Fort Claiborne and Fort Stephens, Alabama; thence directly west to Monticello, Mississippi, the only town on the map north of Natchez in 1807. West of Georgia all was territory under the dominion belonging to France, Spain, and the United States. Mississippi was an organized territory, and had sent Mr. Lattimore as delegate to Congress to ask for Statehood. Governor Holmes, of Virginia, was the governor of the Mississippi Territory since 1809, and was so popular that he was elected by acclamation the first governor of the new State, when it was admitted in 1817.
In Lawrence County where the Coopers located, the Indians were at peace, and the white people were never molested by them. If a diary were kept we have not been able to find it. Nor do we have an account of that long and perilous journey. The road they traveled was more than a thousand miles. Today, by airplane it is a six or eight-hour trip; but more that one hundred years ago in covered wagons, over roads that were only Indian trails, how different. Even if there were no accidents, no delays of any kind, it must have taken more than two months to make the trip. There were the babies to be cared for; among them was the writer’s grandfather. How many wagons and how much household goods they had we do not know; but there remained in the family until 1890 many things “brought from North Carolina.”
The Coopers received land grants in Lawrence County, and went to work, clearing “new grounds” and building houses and barns. They had to turn a wilderness into open fields and happy habitations. It greatly handicapped education. Money that had been kept for private teachers had to be spent for buildings. Mothers could not teach their children, for they had to “card, spin, and weave cloth for clothing; and then make their clothes. “It was work, work, all the time, work. Not only were the slaves slaves, but so were the wives and mothers. No wonder the women favored slavery. They wanted all the help possible for the daily grind of cooking, house cleaning, milking, sewing, etc. They had no electric lights, no telephones, no running water in the house, no bath. The women had no lipsticks or paint. Nothing modern; but the work they did put blood into their faces that brought natural, rather than artificial beauty. Only the horny-handed men who had something to show for the horny hands had a show with the beautiful women. There were no automobiles for the young people to go “joy riding.” But they probably enjoyed horseback riding as well, since they knew nothing of our modern conveniences. As William Cooper, Sr. was the first man in Monticello to build a two-story residence, so he was the first in the in county to buy a “modern surrey.” It was drawn by two fine horses, while the old preacher rode with his young wife to church. In a way it was an announcement that the pastor expected no salary from his churches. He lived in a better house, and was “better off” as they put it, than the laymen of his church. Nevertheless, he rendered the same faithful service as if they paid him a large salary.
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