A week or two ago, an internet search rabbit hole led me to the website of The Cooper Group, described on their front page as “one of America’s oldest and largest stevedoring and maritime firms.”
The company has extensive operations in Mobile and other parts of Alabama, and as I have Cooper ancestry in South Alabama, I looked for the company’s history. I found it under the “About” tab. The page says, “The story of the Cooper family begins right after the Civil War when Henry Harrison Cooper and his two brothers immigrated from Scotland and settled in South Carolina. They soon moved to Baldwin County, Alabama, in an area later appropriately named Rosinton.”
Maybe these weren’t my Coopers after all, I wondered for a moment, because mine were here well before the American Civil War.
My great-grandmother was Mary Margaret “Maggie” Cooper, who married Theodore Hahn in Rosinton, Baldwin, Alabama, on May 12th, 1905. Maggie’s father was Henry Merrit Cooper (1858-1898), and his father was John Jordan or Jurdan Cooper (1830-1909). John married Arminta Alice Stephens on July 23rd, 1857, in Baldwin County Alabama.
According to U.S. Census records John was born in Georgia. His parents were Lewis Jordan Cooper and Frances Jane Cumbaa, who were both, according to multiple records, born in South Carolina, and who later both died in Baldwin County, Alabama. An unmarked plot in the Old Cooper Cemetery, surrounded by a low stone wall, is said to be their burial place.
Going back to the Cooper Group website, the history acknowledges the connection to South Carolina. I will admit, I haven’t dug deep into the family tree beyond that. Other researchers on FamilySearch have linked the family back to Pennsylvania, and a few generations earlier, to Yorkshire, England, but I cannot attest to the accuracy of their research.
I do feel confident about the Baldwin County Coopers.
Records show, among Lewis Jordon Cooper’s many children, in addition to my 3x Great Grandfather John Jordan Cooper, a son named Henry Harrison Cooper (1846 – 1909).
Let’s go back to the Cooper Group’s history: “Henry Cooper and his wife, Matilda, had fourteen children; the next to youngest was named Angus Royal Cooper.”
Lewis’ son Henry Harrison Cooper married Matilda Camella McKenzie in Baldwin County on February 27th, 1868. Matilda was my 3x Great Grandmother Arminta’s half-sister. They shared the same mother, Katherine Webster. Matilda’s father was Daniel G. McKenzie, born according to records, in North Carolina in 1794.
When I first joined FamilySearch, Daniel had a father or grandfather listed who was from Scotland, although that connection has been removed, and I have not researched it. Maybe that is where the people who assembled the history got the Scottish connection.
My family’s Henry and Matilda Cooper, my 3x Great Grand Uncle and Aunt, did have a son named Angus Royal Cooper, among 13 children listed on FamilySearch. He was more in the middle of the pack, not the next-to-youngest. He was born in 1877. He had three children: Vivian, Robert, and Ervin.
The Cooper Group website continues, “Angus Cooper’s son, Ervin, joined his family’s business. He married, had two sons (Angus II and David), and went on to personally direct the firm’s expansion to ports throughout the U.S.”
Yep, these are my Coopers. Whether they came from Yorkshire or Scotland, they were in the United States – and Alabama – well before the Civil War. My, they did well for themselves.
Ervin is memorialized with a statue at Cooper Riverside Park in downtown Mobile. The park is named after him because his sons donated $244,000 towards construction, back in the 1990s.
In comparison, in my branch of the family, John Jordan Cooper was a farmer. Henry Merrit Cooper “worked in turpentine,” according to the 1880 Census. Maggie was a farmer’s wife. Interestingly, her husband’s father worked sometimes as a stevedore and a bayman, but despite his career on the waterfront, he didn’t found his own company that would grow “from modest beginnings to a complex, multifaceted maritime giant.”
Such are the fortunes of family.
This post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.