View Full Version : Language of the Times

January 8, 2011, 07:25 PM
A week or two ago, we were talking about the new version of the movie True Grit and the talk turned to the sort of language that folks used at the time. I've finally dug out several old family letters from the time and I thought that I'd post one of them here to give a taste of what was on their minds back then, and how they expressed it. Here goes...this is a letter William Cooper his brother (and my great great great grandfather) Christopher Cooper. Christopher lived in St. Joseph, MO and William was mining at Sailor Diggins, CA.

It's interesting that the topic of the letter is a little familiar: work is hard and nobody ever writes!

Sailor Diggins, Cal. March 3rd, 1853

Dear Brother Chris,

I write this not knowing when I will get a chance to send it - (as I have done many others). I have been living in rather an out of the away place out here to receive any letters or to send any, Although I see people agoing in to Oregon every week or so. I have never heard from Henry since I left Oregon. I have wrote a great many times. I should like to know if he went home, I have been very anxious about him & intended going in to Oregon this spring to try and learn something about him; in the Spring of 52 I wrote for Henry to come up to these Northern Mines but I never received an answer. I heard last fall that there was a young man by the name of Cooper lay sick in the Valley & not expected to recover at the home of a Mr. Roberts but I never could learn any thing. More although I have sent by more than a dozen different persons. We have had such a severe winter here that I don't think I will be able to go in before fall. As animals is very high. The severe storms has killed nearly all the animals in the County, especially the mountain parts.

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I lost two mules in the storm. And I don't intend buying any now until they get cheaper than what they are at present. Good mules bring from 180 dollar to 220. Last fall we bought them for seventy five.

I had intended coming home this spring but the winter has been so severe I will have to defer it another year. I done tolerable well last summer in the bed of the creek until the water drown us out in September & I have not done much since. There has been such a continual stream of snow & rain that it has been impossible to work out, so we have been housed up all winter. Paying a dollar a pound for every thing we eat, we have had a general starvation this winter. I lived on beef alone without salt three weeks (when we could get salt, we paid five dollars per pound for it), then five days on sugar, several days on dried apples and sugar and for the last month we have had nothing in the world but flour - Every body left these mines but about dozen of us - but it has cleared up now & we look for a train in before the spring storm. We might have killed plenty of deer but unfortunately we had no ammunition. I have offered ten dollars a pound for powder & lead this winter.

Me and my partner has very good diggins, what you might call half ounce diggins - and if provision gets down to a fair price this spring so we can hire hands we will do pretty well.

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Write as soon as possible and if any of the boys is out in the country, I should like to hear from them and have them with me, I should not advise them to leave the states and come here for this is a hard country to live in (but a laboring man can undoubtedly do better here than he can there) but if they should already be in this country or intend coming here I believe they could do better than any other part of California. I am located at Sailor Diggins, Illinois Valley, Northern California, right on the line between Oregon and Cal. Illinois is a tributary of rogue river.

Do write and let me know some thing about home. I have never sent any one I know in the states or heard a word from home. I received Mothers letter that was directed to Henry or my self which I happened to get by accident. I received 2 letters directed to Wm Cooper but they was not intended for me. Do let me know how Mother is. I long very much to hear from her & Jo & your self and all the family. We are going to have an express in this valley this summer & then I will every week if possible write to some of you. I have sent letters & sent for letters by nearly every packer that comes in to this valley and always the same disappointment. Direct your letters to Winchester, Oregon Territory or Salem, Oregon for Oregon City is to far down for me ever to receive them.

From your affectionate brother,

Wm. Cooper


By the way, Henry did eventually make it to California and, eventually, Henry and Chris end up in Idaho City, Idaho, where they are buried in the Pioneer Cemetery. William eventually went back to St. Joseph to the family farm.

If you guys find this interesting, I have many, many other letters that I'd be happy to transcribe.

January 8, 2011, 10:34 PM
Great letters. Do they talk about the actual mining in the letters? How about politics and current events?
How legible was the handwriting? I'm always amazed at the condition of the paper and ink in the old letters and diaries.
I spend alot of time in the library going over microfilms of old newspapers.

January 8, 2011, 10:49 PM
I love to read letters or accounts in the language of the people lived and suffered through hard times 150 years ago. The letters give insight into how hard life was and what they had to endure just to survive. I live in SW CO with record low weather now and when I go out to feed and water the horses I am wearing the best layered clothing I can find with wool, thinsulate, Gortex and polypropylene clothing and gloves. I have insulated muck boots.

Then I try to imagine how cold those folks were with their skins, clothing and blankets. They lived cold, they lived hungry and they had no electricity, no running water, no propane heaters, etc. You have to admire them.

Thanks for sharing your stories and if you don't post more here, I still would like reading about pioneer life from your letters if you post them anywhere.

I have an uncle who wrote about life on their ranch in Northern CA in the 30's and that is amazing also.

thanks again,

January 8, 2011, 11:51 PM
pohill, they don't really talk much about the mining itself. They mostly talk about who hasn't written whom, what adventures they've had and complain about how much things cost - sort of the same thing that people do today!

Their handwriting was quite good. Paper was fairly expensive in the day and it was a bit of a chore to use an inkwell and pen (although since that was the only way to do it, I guess they didn't know better). Some of the letters that I have are really quite beautiful. I'll scan some later to show.

I do have a real gem from 1817 that I'll dig up written by William, Henry and Chris's father Christopher Cooper that talks about how all of the immigrants are taking jobs away from good Americans - Irish immigrants.

This letter was written by William, but I'm not sure which brother it was to (there were quite a few) not too long before William headed west. I guess that the bakery business didn't work out so well.

St Joseph, Feb 2nd 18.51

Dear Brother

I received yours of Jan 4th and also Henrys Sept 20 /50 and I am glad to hear you are all well - Anns family included or I suppose you would of mentioned it. I am glad to hear Eliza is getting about again. The last time I seen you at Montrose you told me she was very unwell. You didnt tell me how mother was, but I infer from her being in town and enjoying her self that she is as well as could be. The last time I seen her she was very weakly. I am glad to hear Frank has gone home to stay the winter. In your next, let me know how George & Edward is getting along and whether they like to stay or likely to go off.

When I commenced writing I calculated to write three or for letters to day but I will have to defer it till some future time as I have no convenient place not even a table chair or anything of the kind and I am writing this on an old barrell head in the Bake Shop among noise and confusion of tin pans splitting wood &ct.

Well as to my where abouts and what am doing - well if you was a standing on the corner of on of the streets in St. Jo- and see a bread wagon come whizing along like a streak of lightning, with three or four strings of bells on making the (d-est) racket you ever heard

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and see me sitting on top and driving, you would think I had gone crazy, but such is the fact (not the crazy part). Me and Dan - thats my partner (not at present though) had the worst possible time coming here that any two men ever had. We was (30 days) coming through. We started through with two wagons but had to leave one with part of Dans furniture about two hundred miles from here which put us to great expense to get through (at least Dan) for I hadn't much but it was something then hard times. It cost between 2 hundred and three hundred $ be sides leaving the wagon to bring through afterwards. The way it was we bought 2 yoke of oxen and a wagon (and we had one horse and wagon) which we paid one hundred and twenty dollars for, after we got about 80 miles over the worst road you ever saw, a constable over took us and took Dan with a warrant for passing a counterfeit $50 bill State Bank of Missouri. As they didn't know my name and was out of the county they couldnt take me and I ave them a pretty sweet black guarding for they trouble. Dan took the bill of the GB Excelcior and had every confidence of the bill being good even after they served the warrant, but as the constable wouldnt wait to take the team back, we told him we couldnt go back and leave our team in the woods, so the constable told us if we would give them (for thare ware two of them) $18 and redeem the bill and that was more than we could do and have money to bring us through. So we gave him $18 and one yoke oxen as the only means of getting off as it was as much trouble to go back

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as it was to go ahead and probibly go to jail till we could prove where we got it or get security.

But lo and behold when we got to St Jo, we showed the bill to the merchants and all pronounced it good but was afraid to change it after telling them it had been disputed. We gave to Jos Robidoux indian trader, he sent it to St. Louis and it was pronounced good and he gave us the money for it.

Now we are going to prosicute and I think we can make them pay pretty dearly for sending a warrant and serving it before they found out the bill was good or bad and puting us to so much unnessary expense and robbing us of $18 besides and they would of took more if they had found out we had it but we told them it was all we had but before we proceed we will Legal Council (its a plain case and dont expect to make a fortune out of it).

Every thing is very dull up here. River fill of ice (Butchering is done over here). I have rented a bake house and taking a partner that is a baker, he bakes the bread and I sell it. We run a bread cart but it don't hardly pay but from all apearances it pays in the spring. Extension arrangements making here for Ensig rations this spring and if it comes here we will do well (Dans staying in a hotel till spring) and then we intend to open Boat Stone Bakery Grocer and every thing else or any thing that will pay. We dident get here in time to put up any ice.

Give my love to all yours

Wm Cooper


It was pretty clear to see has he wrote the letter and got to the part about the disputed "bill" that he was getting angrier and angrier. It got pretty hard to read what he was writing. Normally, his penmanship was pretty good, but he really started tearing through the story at breakneck speed, so his pen would start to run dry and he'd have to write over the letters again. Together with the 160 year old paper and ink, it got to be a challenge!

James K
January 9, 2011, 01:04 AM
Just FWIW, a dollar would have been worth about $60 or so in today's money. I don't know about in the gold fields, as "real" money was about worthless with everyone wanting paid in gold.

I did notice a term not used today when he wrote that he "gave them a pretty sweet black guarding...". We would say he cussed them out, or gave them hell.


January 9, 2011, 02:14 AM
That is so neat that you have family letters dating back that far. Thankyou for taking the time and effort to transfer them here for us to peruse and enjoy. Reading things like this is always educational.

January 9, 2011, 09:24 PM
I love this stuff. One movie I saw that was very authentic in it's dialect was "Ride wit the Devil" a Civil war film with very accurate dialect, horse tack, actually loading C&B revolvers etc. They both spoke and read letters in 1850s-60s language.

January 9, 2011, 10:18 PM
I moved my original post here in order to start a thread about Private William Webb, an African American Civil War soldier from Connecticut.


4V50 Gary
January 9, 2011, 11:27 PM
Thank you Hardcase.

January 10, 2011, 10:20 AM
Most of us probably can't imagine what life was like, back then.
A week of camping out, with our modern gear, can't be much comparison.
In the movie, "Tom Horn", Steve McQueen is being hounded by an Eastern journalist, who wants to know what life in the West is really like.
McQueen finally turns to the guy and says one word, "RaggedyAss!"
No doubt.

Was it noticed how well written these letters are?
Much better than on most forums, these days.

January 10, 2011, 12:10 PM
Very good point, g.willickers. A case in point: my grandfather was born in Boise, Idaho in November of 1906. But to get there, my great grandmother traveled in a stagecoach from Idaho City, about 25 miles on the typical dirt road of the time. She sort of "guestimated" when he was due and got to the midwife's house a few days early.

After she gave birth, she rested up for a couple of days and took the stage back to Idaho City.

Now, she didn't "work", but that's a misnomer, of course. Between raising three sons and a daughter, taking care of a husband, brother and brother in law, and keeping up the house, she worked like the dickens! And she was all of four feet, 11 inches tall and a stern taskmaster. I was 12 when she died and fortunate enough to hear some of the most extraordinary stories about growing up in the Idaho gold country.

Here's a brief story that she dictated to my great-aunt in 1964, mostly about her parents (my great-great grandparents):

My mother was born in Dublin, Ireland, 1858, named Mary Ann Smullen. Her parents were John and Bridget Smullen. She came to America when she was 9 years old by boat with her Grandma Cavanaugh who was to visit her sons, Dan and Tim Cavanaugh.

It took weeks to cross the ocean then and after a time her grandma became ill and died and was buried at sea. Mother often told about how kind the ones on the boat were to her as a little girl alone and far away from anyone she knew. She was soon to be with uncles she would not know when she reached New Orleans.

Uncle Dan and Tim were there to greet their mother and niece. They had no word of what had happened. Very sad, they returned to St. Louis with mother, a little girl they had never seen. They were very kind to mother and kept her as one of their family.

Grandma Cavanaugh had planned to return to Ireland after the visit and mother would have been home again with own family, though soon after she was in St. Louis her mother (my grandmother, Bridget) died. It was decided that mother would stay with Uncle Dan and Aunt Julia for a time. It was some time before mother was told of her mother's death. She had learned to love the family she was with and they loved her dearly.

We visited Uncle Dan and Aunt Julia when we were children and later when Will and I were in St. Louis we visited and went to see their daughter that was 3 years younger than mother. Her name was Mamie McCabe. I spent one afternoon with her and she told me what a pretty little Irish girl my mother was and her natural Irish wit amused them all. I can well understand as it was always with her.

Mother met Dad when he was a news boy in St. Louis and delivered the Globe Democrat to their house. He was about 19. He lived on a farm with his family in Jefferson County, Missouri. Though when winter came he spent most of it with his Aunt Ann Finnegan in St. Louis. He and mother fell in love and married and moved to the farm (Houses Springs, Missouri) where all of their six children were born.

Her folks were not too happy about her marriage because father was not Catholic and a farm boy. They visited her and were kind to all of us and some of them grew fond of Father and did not like the thought of him taking the family way out west. He often said he wished he had of come before he did.

At first Mother was lonesome and uneasy at Idaho City. She feared meeting a drunk or seeing a fight, and a saloon was something she had never been near and worried that her children had to pass one on their way to school.

The years went fast and the children grew to men and women. Three married and three were home. I was the first of the family to marry, was married in Centerville and moved 8 miles to Idaho City, Nov. 5, 1902. Sister Essie married Ernest Fietzie Oct. 1st, 1905, same place in Centerville. Brother Will married Mary Harris in Wallace, Idaho, after living there a short time came back to Centerville to live and once again all the family were together again, until Essie and Ernest moved to Boise a year or two later.

Will and I came to live in Boise then a few years later but Dad, Mother and Lydia, who had never left them and was always there when help and love were needed, never left Idaho City. Came to live in Boise Dec. 19th, 1909. I am now 86 and live alone and the last one of our family of eight: Six children, mother & father.


Incidentally, the whole "not Catholic" business came to head in Idaho City, shortly after Mary and Frank(my great great grandparents) moved from the farm in Houses Springs to Idaho. Idaho City was a pretty big town at the time, but didn't rate a full-time Catholic priest, but had a circuit rider who would come in every so often for communion, baptisms and such. Shortly after the Coopers' arrival, the priest came for a visit. Now, my great great grandfather was a staunch Methodist, but was willing to put up with the priest for his wife's sake. But his patience would only go so far - when the priest found out that they had not had a Catholic wedding, he pronounced that they were living in sin and would have to live apart until such time as the priest felt comfortable performing the service.

Frank Cooper gave him the boot and no Catholic priest ever darkened the doorstep of their household again!

January 10, 2011, 02:30 PM
One of the interesting things about most of these letters is the utter lack of punctuation. Some of them are an absolute terror to read because it's very hard to tell where one sentence ends and another begins. A missing comma can impart a tremendous difference as well.

I find myself reading the letters and suddenly realize that what I've read can't possibly be what the writer meant, so back I go to deconstruct and reconstruct the sentences. So, what I've posted here is a semi-edited version of what's on the original paper, with just enough punctuation added to preserve the original meaning of the text.

I don't mind reading a paragraph of run-on sentences, then take the time to decipher it, but I have a much greater personal investment in this stuff than you guys, so I figured that I'd share the fruits of my labor and save you some boring work!

Jim Watson
January 10, 2011, 02:39 PM
I don't see those letters as any worse than half the stuff you read on the internet. And I doubt your ancestors went through as much schooling as the typical Internet Generation.

January 10, 2011, 04:05 PM
Very true, Jim.

It's a funny thing - when my mother writes me (emails, usually - my folks have become stalwarts of the digital age in their 70s), she uses very precise spelling and grammar - just the way that she speaks.

When my dad sends me emails, the spelling is all over the place and the grammar is tolerably well done.

Both of them are college graduates, but my mom was a teacher and my dad was a civil engineer. I'm an engineer who teaches, so I guess that I got the best of both worlds - I can do my sums and my letterin' too!

Actually, I think that the the big difference is that for the past 35 or 40 years, it's been easier to pick up a telephone than to write a letter.

January 10, 2011, 05:24 PM
Here's another interesting letter. It's from my great-great-great-great grandmother's sister Ann Miles to my great-great-great-great grandmother Jennette Cooper (grandmother of William, Henry and Chris in the above letters.) Ann lived in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and Ann lived in St. Louis, Missouri. As you may gather from the letter, Ann was a very religious woman. She would periodically bombard Jennette with outpourings of hellfire and brimstone. From what I can gather, they had a fairly difficult relationship - Ann felt that Jennette was leading a rather willful life and Jennette thought that Ann kept sticking her nose in other people's business.

New York January 19, 1853

My Dear Sister Jennette

I received your letter of the 1st Novbr in due time. I was very glad to hear from you and your family that your health is improving. I am happy to hear and I hope it continues. I was struck with the news of your son Joseph sudden death. May the Lord bless the solemn event. To his surviveing brothers and sister, wife and be ye also ready for in the hour ye think not the son of cometh.

My dear sister I hope you have heard from your other son* ere this. May the Lord in his mercy and goodness preserve them and bless and turn them from the error of their ways and to walk in wisdom ways for her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.

Oh what a mercy it is that the throne of grace is open and an invitation to all that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. May you and I be partakers of that faith that is once given unto the saints to be found in him without

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our own righteousness which is filthy rags.

My dear sister, I have been longer without writing than I intended. I have scarcely any thing new to write to you. I enjoy tolerable health. The boys are pretty well in health though not without being warned that they are mortals very worldly minded. My son B is going on the same course. Every one goeth his own way so that my only hope is in Gods mercy and precious promises. I think I have a desire to live a Godly life in this present very wicked world. May our cold hard hearts be warmed with the love of God which passeth all understanding. Would that the Lord would revive His work in the midst of the years that His word may have a free course from the rising of the sun to the setting of the same.

I have taken the New York Observer which you have probably received. It comes weekly. You will get it for one year. It is reckoned the best religious paper in the City, less sectarian.

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The postage is less if you pay in advance. I find a great deal of interesting reading in it. Write a few lines as soon as you can. I am anxious to hear from you and family. Give my respects, Ann and family all.

Since I received yours, Ann has had another daughter added to her family which consists now of 7 children, 3 boys and 4 girls, the youngest about 4 weeks old. She is getting along pretty well for her. They have had a hard struggle to get along with such a large family. Pinkhams constitution is broken with sickness. They both lack energy. The same each seem to be in the children apparently, but we cant always tell what children are a going to be. Many children dont seem to do but just from hand to mouth, however providence provides beyond our faint expectation. They have not heard from Thomas since I wrote to you last. I fear he don't do much. Well after all our anxiety we must turn to the great Hand of providence with provides daily for us unworthy sinful creatures. I must draw my scribble to a close. Writing is hard work for me. From your very affectionate sister, to all the boys send love, Ann Miles

229 Henry St. NY

* I believe that the "other son" is William, of the first letter in this thread.

Here's an image (http://www.fluidlight.com/genealogy/mcneil_cooper/1-19-1853a.jpg) of the first page of the letter.

Doc Hoy
January 10, 2011, 07:19 PM
This is good stuff hardcase.

As I remember you have a bunch of photos too, Huh?

January 10, 2011, 07:25 PM
I do, indeed, Doc, and it'll be forthcoming. Interestingly, the Idaho State Historical Society has a bunch of our family photos in their archives. Turns out that several of the photo studios donated their photos to the museum years and years ago. This summer my folks and I are going to spend a couple of days at the archives and get copies of everything we can find.

There are also a number of photos and, of all things, my great great grandfather's (and his brother's) original headstones at the Idaho City Museum. About 10 years ago, the whole extended family got together and replaced the wood headstones with nice granite ones. Apparently my great aunt donated the originals to the museum - I just happened to be looking around the back of the building and there they were!

I've got pictures somewhere...my filing system is not exactly archival quality :eek:

Doc Hoy
January 10, 2011, 07:32 PM
Nuff said

Doc Hoy
January 10, 2011, 07:43 PM
....of an impression I got the other night.

We went to see "True Grit" I recommend the movie to all. It is one which I will buy in DVD when it comes out and will watch repeatedly.

Anyway, my impression of the movie centers on the dialogue. I think the dialogue was clever and very well executed but I doubt people spoke the way the flick portrays. We will never know since there are no recordings of people speaking in casual conversation from that time. We have only writings to examine but up until recently people never spoke the way they wrote. Our writing has always but a bit more eloquent than our speach until we started texting and emailing. Once that started happening our writing got worse. Now, since we don't really know how to write our speaking has gotten worse too. At least this is what I have observed in the emerging generation.

I had the same impression of the dialogue in Gettysburg. It seemed forced and artificial in Gettysburg. The speach patterns in both movies are of the type which need to be rehearsed or written and then spoken only after some practice.

Please do not infer from my comments that I did not like the flick. It was great....Far better than the original.

January 10, 2011, 07:53 PM
Doc, Barry Pepper called it "Western Shakespeare" and perhaps that's the best description. I sort of had it in my mind that that's the way that they spoke because of the letters that I'd read, but looking back over these letters, I can see that they did not write in the same way as the dialog in True Grit.

But I'm with you, it was a sensational picture.

And speaking of pictures, here are a few faces to put with names. Others will come as I dig them up.

Henry Cooper, the missing brother who eventually showed up and did quite well for himself:


Frank and Mary Cooper, my great-great grandparents. Mary is Mary Smullen, the little Irish girl whose grandmother and mother died during her voyage to America, leaving her stranded:


Finally, a glimpse at a real-life mining town. This is Main Street in Centerville, ID, about 1898. This is where my great grandmother lived for several years right after she got married and before moving back to Idaho City. It's still there, you can find it on Google Maps, but it's quite a shadow of its former self. I have several ancestors buried in its Pioneer Cemetery.


January 10, 2011, 08:21 PM
Thank you hardcase for taking the time to post your wonderful letters and pictures. I do not know anybody who has letters and pictures of their great, great grandparents etc. You are a lucky man and thank you again for sharing :).

January 10, 2011, 10:21 PM
I do not know anybody who has letters and pictures of their great, great grandparents etc. You are a lucky man and thank you again for sharing.

It's obvious proof of a long line of sentimental kleptomaniacs. Don't let the shrinks tell you that's a bad thing, see:D

January 10, 2011, 10:27 PM
Somewhere along the line, somebody decided that they were worth saving for some reason. I'm awfully glad that they did because all those little artifacts put a real human touch on my people. It's much nicer than just a list of names.

It also gives me a good excuse for when my wife asks me to throw stuff away.

January 11, 2011, 12:16 AM
All it takes is for one generation to be uninterested and it all goes to the dumps. That's why it's rare to have what you have. Hopefully your progeny will continue treasuring the family jewels. Big families help as it increases the likelihood of having an interested heir.

Ideal Tool
January 11, 2011, 12:28 AM
I am always amazed at what Hollywood would like us to believe the west was like, and the honest truth. Comparing the polite letters to say the Deadwood series. Now I am not saying there weren't sewer mouths back then..but I don't think it was so blatent, and certanly not in mixed company.

January 11, 2011, 10:06 AM
I am always amazed at what Hollywood would like us to believe the west was like, and the honest truth. Comparing the polite letters to say the Deadwood series. Now I am not saying there weren't sewer mouths back then..but I don't think it was so blatent, and certanly not in mixed company.

Deadwood is kind of a funny thing. I read an interview with the producers of the show in which they said that the language in the old towns and camps was pretty rough, but nothing like today's standard of rough. Back then, words like "damn" and "crap" were considered pretty foul, so the producers decided that in order to convey the sense of "foulness", they would have to ratchet up the profanity to our current standard. I guess that when they tried out the old style of cursing, it actually came across as amusing, which was not what they were after.

Unfortunately, at least for me, it turned what I thought was a great show into something that I couldn't enjoy with my father in law (one of the world's greatest Western aficionados) because he can't stomach the language.

January 11, 2011, 11:33 AM
This is a letter to my great-great-great-great grandfather Christopher Cooper and his wife Jennett. This isn't the same "Chris Cooper" as in the first letter in this thread - my family, bless their hearts, had a string of Christophers: Christopher Charles Cooper, then Charles Christopher Cooper, then Christopher Cooper (again). They did the same thing with Jennetts. It makes genealogy a little bit harder.

Christopher and Jennett came to Baltimore in 1817 from Merthyr, Carmarthenshire, Wales (which still exists as a church and a few buildings.) Christopher was an ironworker and Jennett, I'm sad to say, was a shrew - they separated in 1839 (which, I guess would make Jennett a "grass widow", as Rooster Cogburn mentioned in the book and movies). Ironwork and farming appear to have not suited her when compared to her siblings' success in the tonier New York City (I believe that another brother was a lawyer).

Jacob Davies was Jennett's brother and a currier, or leather dresser in New York City.

The letter was addressed:

Mr. Christopher Cooper
Ellicots Iron Mills
Near Baltimore

New York October 5 1819

Dear Brother & Sister

I judge from your reluctance in writing to me that you will acknowledge this an early answer to yours of 5th Feby. However I should be pleased to exchange letters with you oftener. Tho' we may have nothing particular to communicate it will appear friendly.

I received a letter dated 30th July from my Mother last Monday which states that the family were well & that Vaughan have never paid, but she intends to prosecute & see if anything can be recovered, which is all the news it contained only that our Brother Joseph has been at home ill for four months & but lately returned

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back to his situation. She rec'd a letter from you in April. Twenty months since, I commenced business in New York and have done as well as could be expected according to times it has been here & the opportunity I had to begin to turn. I have made many bad debts in all about twelve hudnred Dollars which plays the mischief with a many profits still I have not as yet been put about to meet my payments and promise myself if I live I will better success this year. I married July 2, 1818 and have a Daughter now five months old & all doing well and two apprentices I have taken, one of them I have had now Eighteen months, so you perceive my family is tolerably

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respectable. I shall be glad if you will write to us in few days as I long to hear whether the fever rages any in your neighborhood, it has nearly destroyed business here for present.

I hope this will find you & your small family well as it leaves us. I beg my respects to your friend and I remain your affectionate

Jacob Davies

Frankport St.
or Dwelling house
20 Rose St

January 11, 2011, 10:55 PM
During the midst of the Civil War, my great-great-great grandfather's brother, Henry Cooper, moved from Sailor Diggins to Idaho City. Eventually, his brothers (including my great-great grandfather) joined him there, where Frank and Henry operated a stage stop between Idaho City and Boise at Minnehaha Ranch. Henry is writing to his brother (my great-great-great grandfather) Chris Cooper, the one who is in the very first letter of this thread.

Minnehaha Ranch May 26th 68
Boise Co. Idaho Territory

Dear Brother Chris & Family

This is my first attempt to write a letter for several years as I have been living with Frank so long he gets all the letters and I trust to his answering them. That is the reason I have not wrote for so long. I read a j oint letter to me & Frank from you dated March 22nd, also two yesterday one for me the other for Frank date May 3rd. We are all well & join me in sending their love.

When I left California I left every thing with Frank & Bill except what would bring me up here. I have been broke ever since. I have been living with Frank the last four years trying to give him a start and get something to start with myself. I have had a good deal of sockness rheumetism in my hands and rists then broke my arm then the arysilus neuraligia. Get well of one then taken with the other. I am in very good health at present. We are making a good living & that is all, there is no chance to save anything. I don't know where to go or what to do to better my self. We are keeping a stage station on the road between

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Idaho City and Boise City 36 miles a part, doing the best business on the Road out of 6 houses & that is only a living. We have 2 horses 2 cows 4 hogs 2 geese 2 ducks 100 hens, that comprises our capital in stock. We have 6 or 7 acres of garden which I attend to mostly, between gardning choping wood hunting cows & horses building fence and the other nessasory employment about a place of this kind I am kept very busy. Frank has quite an interesting boy 3 years old last Nov. His name is Charles Finnegan Cooper. He is known by every body in the county. George Finegan is in Idaho City 12 miles from here tending sawmill engine, Andy Cadady was here about two weeks ago flat broke. He looks worse of the wear, you mentioned in your letter of March 22nd of making a propposition to by the farm. As for my self you are welcome to my intrest to do the best or what ever you please with it. Frank was speaking to me sometime ago about sending you a Deed to the place, I believe you will have to sind me a platt or set of instructions as to the locality amount of land situation and xoxo so that I can get an attorny to draw out the Deed in propper shape.

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This is the poorest part of gods creation for a poor man. The harder he works the more preservering & energetic he is. 9 chances out of 10 the worse his is at the end. Everything is over done. Chinaman is aboutto take this county. they live on the cheapest trade amongst themselves work for half what white men work for, consequently poor what men dont get mutch to do, besides we have from 4 to 5 months that men have to idle on account of cold weather & snow. I have taken up a timber claim here & have fenced it in. Have been watching it for three years. About the time I get tired & give it up then it will become valuable but I am not able to do anything with it. Its a good mill site. The nearest and best timber to Boise valley. All the timber neerer to Boise valley is pretty nearly used up.

Tell Frank Baldwin John Harness & all the rest of my old acquantances to write & let me know some thing about the suffering caused by the war for during the war letters from the Atlantic states were not alowed to rreach this coast that contained anything that didn't suit Abolitionism. Consequently I know nothing about what has transpired in that part

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I have written all that I can think of inerest and as Frank writes mostly he will give you all the particulars. George gets letters from home once in a while. I don't know of his getting any lately.

I haven't heard from Ed or George for over six month tho, so I will come to a close. Excuse the short and blundering writing. With my love to you all hoping these few lines may find you all enjoying good health. Give also my best wishes to Frank Baldwin John Harness and all the rest of my acquantances that are still there.

My love to all XOXO Yours XO

H.A. Cooper

Address HA Cooper in care of George
T. Finegan Idaho City Idaho Teritory

A word about the Minnehaha Ranch: An article in the Idaho World (still published in Idaho City and advertised as the oldest continuously published paper in Idaho) of June 22, 1867 says this:

"A full load of passengers made the heart of the driver glad, and he took care to give a touch of the inspiration to his team which sped along over the road in splendid style and with high speed. A delightful day was vouchsafed, and everything was favorable. At Cooper's Minnehaha Ranch we stopped to water the horses, and the moment's stay gave opportunity for a brief but pleasing survey of the pretty place Mr. Cooper has there built up in the lap of wilderness. An air of charming cleanliness and neatness everywhere pervades the house and grounds, and the sweet music of the bubbling, rippling waters of the Minnehaha as they leap and frisk over the pebbly, rocky bed, adds its cheery influence to the scene."

Also, just to give a bit of perspective to things, at this time, the population of Idaho City proper was about 7,000, making it the largest city in the Northwest - larger, even, than Portland.

January 11, 2011, 11:22 PM
Here's a photo of a typical mine near Idaho City, Idaho. It was probably taken in the mid 1890s, maybe a little earlier. There was a mix of hard rock, placer and hydraulic mining in the area. This was either a fair sized placer operation or maybe a hard rock mine. I'm pretty sure that it's not a hydraulic mine.

My folks on the McNeil side (whom you haven't met yet) were mostly miners and were involved in all three types of mining. The Coopers figured out after California that mining was a hell of a lot of work for the money.

This may be one of the McNeil boys - unfortunately, the photo is only marked "Idaho City Mine".


January 13, 2011, 06:05 PM
Here's another jump in time - sorry for the disorganized manner of posting; it's the fault of my awful filing system (which is to say, completely disorganized). I really need to sit down over the course of a weekend and get these papers put in some kind of decent order.

Anyway, this letter is from my great-great-great-great grandmother's sister who lived in Wales. It filled with the usual complaints of illness - I guess that outside of the usual daily routine, the only other thing on peoples' minds was whether or not they or somebody near them was going to die.

Pontypool Monmouthshire
May 24th 1819

My Dear Christr and Jennett,

I've to acknowledge the receipt of yours dated Feby 5th and I assure you it affords me inexpressible pleasure to hear of your well doing and that you enjoy such good health & prespects. The reason why I have not answer'd your letter sooner has been solely in consequence of my ill health and that of your sister Mary who has been confined & who has had a very bad time of it. Indeed so much so that I am now here the second time since her confinement of 9th Apl. She was put to bed and was taken very ill on the Wednesday after. She partly recover'd and was taken ill the second time on last Friday week. However she is now in a fair way of recovery and I find myself

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considerably better than I have been for some time back. The same cause as prevents my writing to you has prevented my writing and sending the money to your mother to Birmingham. However I have done so now & this letter and that of your mothers are put in the office at the same time. Joseph has been poorly for upwards of fourteen months, but is now recovered. He was with me at home between 3 or 4 months & return sometime in March & in the last letter I had from him he expressed himself in a way that makes me rather apprehensive that Liverpool will not agree long with him. He said he was particularly sorry that his sister left without his seeing her & further says that if he could find out some sort of speculation that would turn out to his advantage he would do so and come over. Benj'n is still in the same situation and is well. William is with Mr. Merick at Merthyr and doing as well as I can reasonably expect.

Your syster Ann and family are all well and are

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in the same situation as they did prior to your leaving here. I enjoy my health at present much the same as formerly. However I have been very indifferent and am induced to think that the place I reside does not any means agree with me and am recommend by all means to remove to some more likely place to suit my health. Batten and your system Mary still in the same situation and I rather suppose Mary will write herself to you soon. I have nothing particular to add only withing you to have in mind that I constantly pray to God for your prosperity both temporal and spiritual & although I dont expect to meet you in this world yet recognize there is an hereafter where we are sure to meet & if [illegible] enough to be of the happy few we shall meet never to part again. I forgot to inform you that Marys last is a little girl & a very fine one it is.

Your friends join in their best respects to you all. I will now conclude by wishing you all prosperity.

Am yours affectionately

Ann Davies

The last page of the letter was made a bit confusing because written across the left side, perpendicular to the text, was another message:

My best respects to your and also to my sister Jane and children. Please to direct the Merthyr Post Office. I would wish to know your address. Pray write soon.

I remain ever yours & best
wishes Wm. Davies

January 13, 2011, 06:26 PM
Those letters remind me about some of my own great grandparents. It seems to me that the people then were not that different from today. An awful lot of contemporary Movie Westerns, etc depict the people back then as illeterate bumpkins, sort of.....
"Wall, i says to ol Jeb, go get one of them thar bufflas and we gonna has ourselves a good feed on em."

I'm sure there were people that spoke that way- there are street people around today that speak that way, but I think a lot of today's movies would be vastly imroved if they knocked off the hillbilly stuff. IMHO. A lot of the old letters indicate that's NOT how a lot of people were. If I have noticed anything in the letters it may be sort of short, choppy sentences and maybe an occasional grammer error but that's about it.
What say some of the rest of you that have read any letters from that day???

January 13, 2011, 08:05 PM
What say some of the rest of you that have read any letters from that day???

The letters I have read almost always exhibit a degree of gammatical correctness not commonly found today. That last letter Hardcase posted is a good example.

However, to be honest, after having read most of Hardcase's other letter posts, I found myself eating crow with regard to my comment in the "True Grit" thread that grammar is worse today than before. Many of the grammatical errors I pointed out as being prevalent today were found in those letters. I'm sure that it is all relative, and there has always been a range of grammatical "correctness" depending to some degree on the amount of education available to which the writer was able to avail himself at that place and time in history.

Many of that period either did not have opportunity or the means to obtain a high degree of education. A lack of education was excusable during those hard times when lads were isolated or had to go to work as soon as they were physically able. With today's universal forced education through High School in America, I find the poor grammar of today's youth absolutely inexcusable, especially when we are all having to foot the bill for their so-called education.

(And, "Spell-check" is a horrible tool, largely responsible for people who can't spell worth spit today without it!)

I appreciate letters such as these that Hardcase has posted for the actual historical perspective from which we can learn so much. What may have seemed mundane and common to them at the time can be very interesting and enlightening to us today.

January 14, 2011, 03:41 AM
Hardcase, rereading through some of your lettes, it really struck me that in a few short years some of them will be two-hundred years old! What is the oldest family letter you have? Might be time to get some cotton gloves. I hope you are scanning them to preserve them digitally as well.

January 14, 2011, 09:38 AM
Model-P, the oldest letter that I have is from early 1819. I'm acutely aware of their age, so I handle them as little as possible.

Four or five years ago my wife started volunteering at a small historical museum and showed the curator a few of the letters. We got a very stern lecture on how to properly preserve old paper and photo artifacts. It was stern because, until then, they'd been stored in a couple of boxes with everything sort of piled upon each other.

Now each letter and photo is in a special archival plastic sleeve and those sleeves are stored in archival boxes. The only problem is that when I archived them, I didn't create any sort of organized filing system - I just put papers in sleeves and put sleeves in boxes. So, now I'm organizing them by date and as I organize them, I scan each one.

And, most definitely, I have several pairs of cotton gloves. That was also part of the stern lecture. My wife still volunteers at the museum and the curator is much happier :D

January 14, 2011, 11:33 AM
In the 1850s, mail from California was a little spendy and potentially unreliable since it either went 'round the tip of South America or across the isthmus in Panama (the Pony Express didn't exist and overland mail was virtually unthinkable). Packet service was well established between New Orleans and San Francisco or Sacramento, so several companies created their own mail services to get letters, packages and gold dust from California back to the states. One of them was Gregory's Express of San Francisco. They sold a small notebook with very fine paper, about 20 pages, that was the same size and weight as a regular folded letter. A person could send quite a long letter from the mines back to his family and not break the bank. Of course, all the other dangers of sending a letter via ocean and isthmus were still there, but at least it was affordable.

Here are a few images of the book that Henry Cooper wrote in.


Port Wine
July the 25th 1852

Dear Mother

I take this opportunity of writing a few lines hopeing they may find you all well. I received a letter from Anne afew[?] days ago and one from you yesterday which informs me that Frank is coming to California. I sent a Letter to

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Frank and one to Bill and to Anne. But I have not heard from Bill for six months. I dont know where to direct his letters. Its very un certain about getting Letters here. I will write to them again soon and as soon as I hear from them, I will write home. I have had very good health cince I came to California. You seemed to be distressed about excepting of some of Frank money before he started. You need not let that trouble you. He will get along some way or other. He will have no use for it on the plains and he can get some here. I shall be glad see him here. He will have a great deal better chance to make something here than he had in the States. I would advise

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sell or give away every thing that is no use to you such as young Cattle, poor hogs and sheep. The are more expence than profeit. Keep 1 good yoak of oxen and 2 good big work horses and enough of milch cows for your own se and George and Edward can raze enough to feed them with out much trouble. If they keep a lot of cattle they cant raze enough to feed them. I wouldnt plant more than they can attend to, or else they wont have any in the fall. There is no use in keeping Horses that will jump the fences, hogs that will get in the field. They will destroy more in one night than they are worth.

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Do not fret your self to death about things out of the House. The Boys know what ought to be done as well as you can tell them. Dont be uneasy about any thing for every thing appears to trouble you a thousand times worce than any body else. Write to me when you get this. Who all has got home from California? Tell me something about all the neighbors and especialy Eli Katts about his trip Home and his health on the way and after he got Home. Willson and Fuller, the Kile boys and Ben Arnold and whether Arnold is coming back the this Country or not. Dr. Grears son was here about a week

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ago. He is the first that I have seen since I have been here. I do not know when I shall go Home, but I think next spring. I want to get enough here to give me a good start in the States. Business is very dull here now but it will be better in the fall. When Frank gets here we will be of some advantage to onanother. If I can get anough of money ahead I will go home this fall and come back again and leave Frank in my place. I dont know whether I shall go home to the states or not to stay as Bill and Frank has come out here. If we do well we will soon be in the states. As I have wrote to Anne you will see

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letter. It aint nessesary for me to write much this time. I will write afew lines to George and Edward. No more at present but remain your effectionate son

Henry Cooper

Next, Henry writes a letter to his brothers George and Edward.

Dear Brothers

I now write a few lines of advice to you and at the same time hoping that you will take my advice. That is not to give mother any occaision to be vexed and troubled about things out side of the House. Be industrious through the week and you will be better satisfied at the

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end of the week. Keep no more than 2 or 3 horses and feed them well and try to keep them fat and fit. Don't let the saddle cut there backs and the color [collar] make their shoulder sore. Keep all your tools in good order. Don't use one of those wooden ploughs. Use a diamond plough. Keep up with your work and dont let it drive you. Dont give mother any occasion to trouble her self about your business.

I want you both to write to me as soon as you get this all about the times and neighbors as far as you are acquanted. How Smedley is getting on with the neighbors and if you have heard from John Jonson and where

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where he is. Let me know who all has got back from California and who all is married and who is likely to be and let me know who has left or come or moved in the neighborhood. Maybe I will go home next fall or spring. If I do I will fetch you out here or put you in a way to do something there but keep your shirts on and dont be too sure of coming till you some further news. As I have wrote so many letters for home I dont know what to write so I will come to a close.

I want you and Edward both to write as soon as you get this and I will wirte as soon as I here from Frank or Bill. Frank aught

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to be in California in a week or too.

Give my respects to all enquiring friends. Tell them that I am well and gaining a little in riches.

No more at present but remain your effectionate Brother

Henry Cooper

Send my best love and wishes to Anne and family, Chris and family, Joe and family. No more at present.


At the time, Henry was 24, George was 20 and Edward was 18. Their father, Christopher (my great-great-great-great grandfather) had died five years earlier, so Henry, as the eldest unmarried son (who wasn't in transit somewhere), took on the role of head of household, from a distance anyway. He was rather stern with his brothers because he knew that they couldn't stand farming and wanted more than anything to head out to California and be with their brothers. Eventually, they did, but not until after Jennett died and the farm was sold (in the 1850s).

There was another brother on the farm at the time, Alexander, who was 11 years old. I assume that he didn't get any brotherly advice because his duties would have been a bit more mundane.

Henry mentioned not knowing when he would go home - he never did go back to the farm in Missouri.

All in all, though, I think that Henry's advice in the second letter would be well-taken in just about any age!

January 14, 2011, 10:33 PM
That pocket letter book is interesting. I learn something new every day if I'm not careful. Thankyou!

January 15, 2011, 10:47 PM
In the late 1800s and early 1900s (and perhaps earlier and later than that as well), the analog to today's high school yearbook was the autograph book. Out in my neck of the woods, high school was generally as far as folks went in their education. College was an expensive prospect and the financing opportunities that we have today didn't exist - of course, that also means that the curse of student loans was also absent.

Anyway, I have five of these albums that belonged to various aunts and to my great grandmother when they lived in Idaho City and Centerville, Idaho. Remember, now, these are 16 to 18 year olds writing. While it's easy to be dismissive of today's kids' writing ability, there's definitely a sense here that the children of the late 19th and early 20th centuries had not only a firm grasp on the language, but also a certain sense of pride in its usage. There were no spelling or grammar checkers back then!

Here are a few examples:

To Lydia:

Be always kind hearted
Do Good without end
But never forget
your affectionate friend.

Is the sincere wish of
Miss Fannie M. Magee
Forget me not

Idaho City
Jan 10th 1893


Dear Lydia

Forget me not I only ask of you
The simple loan of thee
Let it be an easy task
Sometimes to think of me

From your school-mate
Kathleen OConnor

Idaho City
Jan. 12th 1893


To Miss Lydia Cooper
Idaho City
Jan. 12 - 1893

I will not say as so man have
"Forget me not", for I do not think
you will ever forget some of the
tirals of your life in this school
room. But may you remember that
it is my earnest wish to be a
useful and helpful friend to you.

H.P. Pomeroy


But the pièce de résistance is this remarkable pen and ink drawing - remember, this wasn't a fountain pen, it was a nib pen and inkwell. Indeed, a budding artist!


FYI, "Lydia" and "Nettie" were my great-great aunts. Unfortunately, both died before I was born, but I was fortunate enough to learn a little bit about them from their sister, my great grandmother and from my grandfather. According to my great grandmother, they were beautiful, all the boys chased them and they were the most popular girls at the frequent dances in Idaho City and Centerville.

January 17, 2011, 12:43 PM
Great letters. Do they talk about the actual mining in the letters? How about politics and current events?

I finally came up with some answers to the second question: As you probably know, there was a fierce streak of patriotism in the Confederate states - I think to a greater degree than in the North. I never got the impression that my Missouri ancestors were particularly fervent for the Southern cause (although, given that they rented slaves during harvest time, I'm sure that they supported it), but I believe that they had to be acutely aware that in the course of a letter's travels through the postal system it would be handled by those who were.

A letter from Houses Springs, Missouri to the gold fiekds would travel through St. Louis before reaching New Orleans. At either place, it's certainly possible that its contents would be examined before being sent on to the nominally neutral destination. With that in mind, according to what I've read, discretion was the better part of valor. If you didn't mention anything about politics or war, you didn't have to worry about saying the wrong thing.

There was no official censorship for mail heading west, as far as I can tell, but there were certainly prying eyes.

I still have a great many letters to sort through and scan and it's slow going due to my abysmal filing system, so it's possible that other answers lie in them. It's certainly something that I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for.

As for mining, after the brothers reunited in the gold field, they realized the opportunities that the retail business presented and pooled their capital to open a supply store. They were quite successful at that. It's possible that earlier letters went into some detail about mining - at some point I'll find out.

January 18, 2011, 04:41 PM
Back and forth in time we go. In 1829, my great-great-great-great grandfather had been in the US for about 12 years. He had left Wales for Baltimore because the ironworking opportunities in the old country had dried up. He found work at a foundry there, then moved around a bit, finally settling in Wheeling, Virginia (West Virginia was still some time in the future).

I don't know if you could say that he had a successful career as an ironworker - eventually, he moved the family to Houses Springs, Missouri, which may actually be part of St. Louis now.

At any rate, one of his friends, a Mr. Reeders, who lived in Jeffersonville, Kentucky discovered a fine business opportunity and attempted to persuade Christopher to join him. As far as I know, nothing came of it, probably because Christopher never had much money.

21 June 1829 - Jeffersonville

C. Cooper,
Dear Sir,

A prospect appearing at length to open for you to make your fortune without the intolerable bodily labor that you at present perform, and I should be heartily glad to take a wing of it with you.

The following advertisement has just appeared in the Public Advertiser.

The Louisville Foundry
Will be rented by private contract, and pssession given on the 1st day of Aug for a term of seven years in the following manner: The whole will be rented till the first day of May 1831, five sixths till the first day of Jan'y 1833, and two thirds till the first day of Aug 1836. the whole to be rented for a certain time, and the same proportion of rent to be paid till the expiration of the lease. It contains a Cupola that will melt as much Iron as will make a casting of 26 Cwt. The Steam Engine that blows the bellows has lately undergone a thorough repair, and is now in excellent order. A new and commodious black-smith's shop has been put up on the premises this spring; and there are also two pattern shops with an extensive assortment of valuable patterns. The superior advantage which this old Establishment possesses, are so well known that it is not necessary to make any comment. It is sufficient to say that it is well worthy the attention of any man of talent, who wishes to embark in this business.

Either of the subscribers will be at all times ready to show the premises, and to receive offers from those willing to rent.

Jacob Kesser
Jos. Middleton, Guardian of Arek, Geo and Wm. Prentice

The business having been very profitable in the hands of the late David Prentice, and Doctor Middleton, his son in law, a very just and reasonable man, I think that prospect a very fair one, and that you ought to come down and view the property without loss of time; especially as there is no opposition nor likely to be any for some time. The situation of the Foundry is good - as it fronts the river a little below the Steam boat landing place.

Hoping to see you very soon, with the respects of my Parents and self to you and Mrs. Cooper. I remain

Ever, Dear Sir,


E. Reeders

NB I observe in the advertisement some omissions; particularly a turning & boaring lathe.

The letter was addressed to:

Mr. Christopher Cooper
Iron Founder

As an interesting aside, the Louisville Foundry produced the first steam engine ever made in Louisville. It was made for a cotton mill.

January 18, 2011, 10:56 PM
Just got off the phone with my dad who reminded me that up at the mountain house, there is a stack of Harper's Weeklies tucked away in a cupboard.

I'll be up there shoveling snow the first weekend in February, so I'll take a look at them. I'm not sure how far back they go, but I do remember the "tag" under the title: "The Journal of Civilization".

January 24, 2011, 02:58 PM
From the Idaho World (Idaho's oldest, continuously published newspaper, by the way) from sometime in November 1902:

One of the most attractive weddings that ever took place here was that of Miss Madie Cooper, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank H. Cooper, and Mr. Wm. J. McNeil, of Idaho City.

The ceremony was performed by Probate Judge Hart at the residence of the bride's parents. The bride was escorted into the parlor by her father, followed by Mrs. Cooper and Mr. McNeil.

The bride was beautifully attired in a pearl gray gown, a pretty wreath of orange blossoms in her hair, in her hand a cluster of roses. Miss Essie Cooper, sister of the bride, was bridesmaid and looked charming.

Will Cooper, the bride's oldest brother, filled the bill as best man to perfection. The number of invited guests was large, and they passed an enjoyable afternoon; in fact so much so that were a stranger to enter the room he would think that everybody had just been married.

It is said that the bride received more presents and of greater value than any young lady ever married here, which to enumerate would occupy too much of your valuable space.

The wedding repast was served in the dining room, and surely it was a feast fit for the gods. Late in the afternoon the guests bade the bride and groom “by by," at the same time wishing them a long life of prosperity and happiness.

Mr. and Mrs. McNeil will make their home near Idaho City.

Since the wedding, bachelors who have withstood the charms and fascinations of the fair sex for years are trembling in their boots and feelingly asking themselves, "Who'll be next?"



Still in business after 164 years...just not as prosaic as a hundred and ten years ago. Madie (Mary) and Frank McNeil were my great grandparents. Madie's father William was the nephew of the Frank, Henry and William Coopers who have been mentioned in the previous letters.

So you can see that sometimes it's a little tough to keep track of who is whom. There are a bunch of Christophers, Henrys and Williams through the generations and it's painfully easy to get one generation mixed up with the other.

January 24, 2011, 11:32 PM
These days, if we need a certified copy of a government document, like a marriage license or birth certificate, we just trundle down to the county clerk's office, have it printed up and notarized and we're done. How much easier can it be?

Turn on the way-back machine, Sherman. Now it's 1839 and you need a copy of your naturalization papers. As it happens, you were naturalized in Virginia, but you live in Missouri now. I guess that you can't get on the Internet and fill out a form, right? And the Xerox machine is well over a hundred years away anyhow.

So, you send a letter to a friend or relative in Virginia and ask him to run over to the county clerk's office to have the clerk write out a certified copy of your document. By hand. And that's what happened on March 28, 1839.

http://www.fluidlight.com/genealogy/Cooper_Naturalization_Papers-a-sm.jpg http://www.fluidlight.com/genealogy/Cooper_Naturalization_Papers-b-sm.jpg

At the end of the document, the clerk certifies that he is who he says he is and the document is what it says it is, then he affixes the seal of the county. Then, the circuit court judge certifies that the clerk is who he says he is and that he can do what he says that he did.

The bill was $1.87: 50 cents for the copying and $1.37 for the seal.

January 27, 2011, 12:22 PM
Joseph Cooper was my great great great grandfather's brother. He was a glass cutter, working in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ann Finagin, the woman to whom he was writing, was their oldest sister.

Letters like this are a testament to the fact that cities in the "western" states of 1849 were not the metropolises that they are today. It was addressed simply: Mrs. Ann Finagin, St. Louis Mo.

At the time, there were about 115,000 people living in Cincinnati. St. Louis had a population of around 78,000 (not a tiny place, but definitely not what it is today.) In comparison, New York City was pushing 700,000.

Cincinnati, April 9th 1849

Dear Sister,

I receivd your letter last Wednesday. I promised to send you some cake and the particulars of the wedding but I kept putting of writing from day to day expecting I would get a letter from you before I wrote. I have not wrote to Mother yet but I will write to her to day. We have been married four week last Wednsday. 7th March we was married at the house by the Rev Mr. Jewell. I had Mr. Flin for grommsman and Mary had Augusta Shields for Brides maid. We had a very pleasant time. Shines and Mrs. Shines, Susan Tompson, Mr. and Mrs. Cook, Mr. Webb and Family, George Finagin, Sammy and Charley Hodgkins, Mrs. Shields, Mrs. Alexander, Mrs. Stickney, Mrs. Fithian, Mr. Huner, Mrs. Harrison, James Leslie. the house was pritty well filled. We had a good supper and brok up about one o clock. Everything passed of very agreeable. The room was to small or we would had some danceing.

We did not invite the Wightmans or Shells. Leslie dont appear to like the Wightmans much ever since they went on that Picnic. I should like to have the Shells, but we intended at first to have it take place privately with nobody but Flin and Augusta as it would be of less expense but Mr. Leslie invited Mr. Cooks and had to have Mary Fithian and if the next hadnt been invited they wouldnt of liken it.

We are boarding at Leslies. They will move out in the country about the first week in May and then we will go to house keeping. I like all of Leslies very well in fact better than I expected to for I youst to think Mrs. Leslie would be cross and ill tempered with anybody that lived with her but have not found her as yet. As for Mary I think we will live very agreeable together. We have been married more than a month and I find no reason to regret it yet.

Page 2

James Leslie died last Wednsday night half past ten oclock. He went down on the steamer Moro Castle the day after we was married. Took sick in New Orleans. Was sick all the way up. No Doctor on the boat. Over ten days coming up and was very bad when he got here with the inflamation of the bowels. He got here Saturday and died Wendsday. they put him in a vault out at Corninsville on Thursday. I sat up with him all Monday and Tuesday night and Wennsday night they thought he was getting better and I laid down and thought I would have a good sleep but I hant bee asleep over half a hour be Mary wokened me up and told me Jim was adiing. They all take it very hard as Jim was the pet of the family. He appeared to know he was going to die. He told them so on the boat but I suppose they laughed at him. I told his mother it was no yues to send for a doctor, he was going to die. He said he felt like as if he was going to die and we couldin make him believe otherwise.

George is now carrying papers to get his money from Easton and bought a route of the Daily Nonpariel. He gave 20 Dollar for the route. There is over 180 subscripers. Besides carrying weeklies, he makes 5 or 6 Dollar a week. He been carrying papers for four or five weeks. I see him every day. I take a paper from him. His hand is perfectly well but is stiff. He cant yous any of his fingers. His hand looks a great deal better. The swelling in the palm of his hand is a going down. I have not seen Mary for two or three week but george says they are all well. I told George that you sent a letter to Mary. He said she did not get it yet, perhaps it is in the Post Office yet.

Mr. Phillips has not been doing anything for the last two month. Seen the Battons yesterday.

Page 3

The youngest child has been very sick but is getting better. They told me Old Mr. Gowers had Poisend himselve by taking arsenick. he was drinking and his wife left him for two or three days when Bill Gowers to see him and asked him if he wanted to send word to his mother. When he tol him he poisend himself. You needent say anything to Mr. Shell about it. I dont know whether it [illegible] or not. Ive not been to Shell since we married. Ill go this week and se them.

I seen Mrs. Alexander yesterday. She was at Leslies. I se the Shieldses sometimes but have not seen the Wightmans for four or five weeks.

Coulters wife Susan is dead. She died about 3 week ago with the dropsy.

Tell Mr. Finagin Im trying to get some Chimneys out of Old Jukes but have not got any yet. I was there this morning. He promised to make some this week but I dont know when he will. He has been promising to make them for a long time but is all way making excuses. He is only been working one Pot all winter and been sick part of the time and making green glass. It aint no ues trying to get any money for I could not get any out of him when he already owd me 4 or 5 Dollar. Soon as I can get this he [illegible] them round or perhaps I can get some Ale glass out of him and cut them if you think Mr. Finagin could sell them as well or some of each. Thats partly the reason why I didnt write before. I wanted to kno wwhen I could get any thing from Old Jukes so I could let you know. It is as uncertain now as it was before.

My business has been very dul this winter and I hoped it would be better in spring but it aint much better yet. If I could find any thing else to do I would do it but I have to keep at it till I can find something else to get at.

Mary got your letter. It had been laing in the Post Office for six weeks. They always send Leslies letters to the Teatre and mine all comes to the Shop and I didnt think of going to the office till I saw it advertised.

No more at present. Give my love to all and write as soon as you get this.

Your affectionate Brother,

Joseph C. Cooper


"Dropsy" is now known as edema. Since I'm not a doctor, I don't know how one would die from it, but back then, it seems like just about anything was fatal.

For those who have an interest, there's some fascinating old-timey medical advice on treating dropsy and inflamation of the bowels. It ranges from the humorous to the downright scary. I think that the lesson is that getting sick in the mid-19th century was a pretty dicey affair.

Also, the "chimneys" in the letter are, I believe, glass chimneys for oil lamps and candles.

January 28, 2011, 01:24 PM
On a battered and torn scrap of paper, I found these prescriptions for ailments of the time:

1 dram oil of Lemon
1 drop Essence of Camphor
1 drop Essence of Cinnamon
1 drop Essence of Sassafras
1 drop Essence of Peppermint

1/3 Teaspoonful at a dose

Administer three or four times
in case of vomiting
If cramp'd in arms & legs take 1 oz Cyan pepper, 1 handfull salt.
Put this in as warm water as the patient can bear it. Immediately rub the legs and arms with a cloth and continue rubbing. Apply hot bricks to the feet in a moist cloth. As soon as the patient says ready give him 4 talbe spoonfulls Castor oil in a little brandy with nutmeg. If the bowels are hard and vomiting continues, make a bandage of woolen clothe and apply.

1 oz of Camphor in a Pint of Brandy and moisten the bandage with it.

Burn some bread and put it in water. 9 drops of brandy. Ground Ivy Tea is good.


I'm not sure who wrote it, but from the condition of the paper and the style of the writing, I suspect that it's more likely from the first half of the 19th century than the second.

Like I said earlier, illness and injury back then were dicey conditions.

January 28, 2011, 02:29 PM
Thank you for sharing this with us! :)

Ben Towe
January 28, 2011, 06:26 PM
I must say, everybody talking about ancestors has gotten me on ancestry.com searching out the family tree. It's rather intriguing. Also, a note about the language of the forefathers; do not assume they spoke as they wrote. If you were to meet me in person you would never guess I wrote this. I do not speak this way. I speak in the dialect of Appalachia with a little deep South thrown in, as most natives of this part of America do. To speak entirely proper English would be, at best, unwieldy in day to day life here. I write as I do because I was taught to and I speak as I do because that's how I was taught to speak. Accents also play a large part as they can make proper word pronunciation difficult, particularly in the South as we tend to soften sharp sounds and speak rhythmically. It can be quite annoying when speaking around people who do not live here, as they tend to attach the label "dumb hillbilly" as soon as you open your mouth.

January 30, 2011, 04:13 PM
Hardcase, I'm not sure if anyone else has said this but you have there in your letters and photos American History, which at all costs must be preserved.

January 30, 2011, 09:17 PM
Hardcase, I'm not sure if anyone else has said this but you have there in your letters and photos American History, which at all costs must be preserved.

Very true - I feel like I'm spending a small fortune on archival storage supplies. That stuff is expensive, but the letters and photos are priceless.

February 1, 2011, 11:47 PM
In the late 1890s, my great grandfather, William McNeil, was farming with his brother Albert near Garden Valley, Idaho. It's a beautiful spot in the mountains, but it's really more ranch country than farming because the growing season is pretty short. It's possible that they grew hay and perhaps had some cattle.

It was the second homestead for the McNeil boys - the first one was in an area called Round Valley, which was a bit farther north and quite a bit higher in elevation. They didn't last long there, although the cabin they built stood until the late 1960s (I remember seeing it as a boy when we drove up to the lake in the summer).

Anyway, while William and Albert made their living in Garden Valley, they would travel the 25 dusty, mountainous miles through Placerville and Centerville to Idaho City, the seat of Boise County and the nearest town of any size. Around 1900, a pretty girl caught William's eye and he determined to court her. Of course, this was at the close of Victorian times, so these things were done "just so". That meant a fair amount of accompanied meetings and such. As it happened, Idaho City did have a pretty well developed social life, so dances and socials were always going on. The problem for William was getting from Garden Valley to Idaho City.

In the summer, it was a fair ride on a horse, but for the hand of a pretty girl it was well worth it. In the winter...well, it snows like there's no tomorrow up there, deeper than a horse's back. But for the hand of a pretty girl...

William made himself a pair of skis out of a couple of planks that he sawed, carved and steamed, then attached some leather bindings to them and, every couple of weeks, skied the 25 miles from Garden Valley to Idaho City.

It must have impressed that pretty girl because she turned out to be my great grandmother Mary and William became my great grandfather. Now, he died before I was born, but I was lucky enough to hear first hand the story of how my great grandfather courted my great grandmother from Nana herself.

Oh, and those skis are still around. They're hanging on the wall of our cabin in central Idaho. I'll snap a picture this weekend.

The family, around 1920.

Front Row: Mary, Bill, William
Back Row: Everett (my grandfather), Dallas

February 2, 2011, 10:50 PM
A few posts ago, I transcribed a letter from the Pocket Letter Book of 1852 addressed to George and Edward Cooper. As I mentioned, the boys really disliked farming and were itching to get off the farm in Missouri and head West to join their brothers. Well, they did and George ended up at the Stonewall Mine, just outside of Descanso, California, about 40 miles from Old Town San Diego (which, at the time, was, of course, just San Diego, population: 5,000).

Now, it's interesting to read this letter for a couple of reasons. I guess that the most obvious is that George talks about the "Garden Spot of America" and about how nice the weather in San Diego is.

The other reason is that when I was stationed in San Diego in the Navy, I lived in Alpine, just one exit down the freeway from Descanso. At the time, I had no idea that my great-great-great-great grand uncle had lived there. In fact, I didn't find out until this very evening.

The Stonewall Mine was a hard rock shaft mine, but there's nothing much left now. For those interested, there is an interesting description of an archaeological investigation here (http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=25011).

About all that I know of George Cooper was that he was still working at the mine in 1900 as an "Amalgamator (Gold)" according to the US Census. He would have run the equipment that combined mercury with the gold ore to create an amalgam of gold and mercury, which would be further distilled to recover the gold. He's on my to do list for research.

Stonewall Cal Aug 27th, 74

Dear Brother Chris

I last night received your two letters maild the same date and was really glad to get a letter from you. I had suposed that Frank, Henry, Ed. & myself had several years ago Deeded all our Interests to you. Look over your papers and see if you can not find a Deed. However if not if you will send me the Range Township & Section of the Several pieces of Land, I will send you a Deed. And the $173.75 On Hundred & Seventythree Seventyfive Cents I will give to you.

I have nothing interesting to write or very little that would interest you. This is a nice county to live in but very poor farming county. I have been here five years and farmers have only raised one good crop. It dont rain much and they have no water to irigate with. But there is some splendid land here. The next county above, Los Angeles is called the Garden Spot of America.

But we are waiting for the Texas and Pacific Rail Road to build up the City of San Diego and I don't know of a nicer place to live in. I inclose the weather report for the first eight days in June. That is about as hot as it generally gets in the summer. In the Winter it is never cold. They have no frost or snow. All kinds of Tropical Fruits & Shrubery grows out of doors.

Where I am about 40 miles East of San Diego it snows in the winter sometimes two or three feet. I got a letter from Henry a few days ago. I have not heard from Ed or Frank for sometime and never hear from any of Sister Anns folks. As the Mail will be a long in a few moments I will have to close this.

Give My Love to your Wife & family.

Yours &c, George Cooper


The letter is prefaced:

My address is
San Diego Co

as there are several Coopers here in this County. My Name on the Great Register is George A Cooper.

The Post Master at San Diego and in fact most every man in the County knows me by that name.


The "Great Register" was the Great Register of Voters of San Diego County. Incidentally, the Texas and Pacific never made it to San Diego. As far as I know, it wasn't until 1919 that a direct rail line to the east made it to the city.

February 3, 2011, 12:18 AM
Hard Case,
Dropsy is an accumulation of fluids in the abdominal cavity usually from right sided heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, or cancer. Also edema of the legs can be part of the above syndromes. Dropsy is an old term to mean an abnormal accumulation of fluids in a body cavity or the tissues.

February 21, 2011, 09:48 PM
I've been working on letters and photos from the other side of the family (gotta take 'em as they come), so I've had a bit of a dry spell of anything notable for you guys. But I ran across this one over the weekend while I was up at the cabin - it was mixed in with a foot-high stack of Harper's Bazars, some mining journals and an 1879 issue of Scientific American.

Anyway, the letter was written by William Cooper to his brother, my great, great, great grandfather, Charles "Chris" Cooper. At the time, William was in the middle of his crossing from Missouri to what is now just north of the California state line in Oregon. He had paused in Fort Laramie, Wyoming Territory to rest his ox team and his cattle.

Fort Laramie May 21st 1851

Dear Brother

This is the first oportunity I have had to write since we left the States. I left on the 23rd of april the left bank of Missouri river and reached here this morning, making the first eight hundred miles in less than a month. With ox teams, we are a week or ten days ahead of all emigration. We left Wolf river on the 24th with about 30 teams, horses mules and oxen and pack mules and if ever there was rushing and pushing to get ahead it was done thare. We all tried to start first. I was the 7th team that crossed the river. After we raised the bluff we doscovered Robinetts train about five miles ahead with 300 head of loose cattle, then the chase commencet to get a head. Grass being very Scarse it was evry body's object to get ahead. Three of the teams gave out in 5 hours drive by not taking time to water. The other four of us went about 2 miles farther and wattered our teams again. That time the loose cattle came up and before they wattered and raised the hill we ware a mile ahead and Kept gaining all day. We made 40 miles that day and campt at 9 oclock. The next day we counted 12 wagons about five miles in the rear. We camped before dark and made 32 miles. Four horse teams came up that night within a mile of us but we got a early start next morning and left them and ever seen them since.

Page 2

The Salt Lake Mail came up about 10 days ago and reported the horse teams one hundred and the ox teams from one to two hundred miles be hind us, and we have continued to travell from 25 to 30 miles a day ever since laying by half a day now and then to wash and bake and eat. Wood being very scarce sometimes carriing wood 3 to 6 days before we find timber but we have a good substitute in Buffalo chips. We intend going about four miles above the fort and wait for more company to go through the Snake as crow indians they are the worst we have to fear. They say the pawnee is the worst but we came through thair country without seeing one of them. The rest of the tribes was very friendly. We generally gave them a little provision as we passed through. We have had pleasant traveling all the way considering all things. We had a severe hail Storm on the platte but lost no cattle. Robidaux had 18 killed in the same storm. Hail stones fell as large as hen eggs and some larger.

If we have no bad luck in the Mountains we will make the quickest time ever made with oxen. We are 6 days ahead of the quickest time and they went through in 84 days. Our cattle all look well and in good flesh and walk faster now than we could force them up at first. We can go 30 miles a day and never use a whip. Grass is getting good and the road is a better one this far than thare is in Missouri - Just as level as a floor.

Page 3

Plenty of game, Buffalo and antelope &ct. Our cattle followed a herd of Buffalo of which took us half a day to get them again.

I haven't time to write any more at present. Our team is ready to start. We are going above the fort 4 miles and if the grass is bad we will go farther and I won't have a chance to post this.

Yours Wm Cooper

Excuse my bad writing as I am doing it in a hurry out in the wind.

March 14, 2011, 12:08 PM
Here's a fine looking feller! It's one of my great uncles, probably around 1910 or so. I don't imagine that he bagged that bird with a Winchester 1892 takedown rifle, but you never know...there were a lot of crack shots back in the day!


Sad to say, that rifle didn't make it down the family tree, at least not to any of the family that I know.

March 14, 2011, 12:54 PM
Wow what an amazing piece of family history you have there, thanks for sharing them I loved reading through them all.

March 15, 2011, 09:54 AM
A while back, somebody asked if I had any letters about what mining was actually like back in the day. So far, I don't, but I did run across this neat old picture of my great grandmother getting ready to do a little prospecting somewhere between Idaho City and Centerville, Idaho. This was probably sometime between 1900 and 1910.


If nothing else, she was a really good sport :D

There is one of those family stories that's been passed down over the years about one of my great great grandfather's brothers (I don't recall which one off hand). As it's told, in the late 1800s, he had a mine near Idaho City that had pretty much played out, but with a lot of hard work, it would produce a pittance of gold. He'd go in and salt it a bit, then offer it for sale down in Boise. When somebody would come up to take a look, he'd offer to sell it "on terms", that is, to finance it himself. The, um, victim would take a sample of the ore that he'd "mined" into the assay office, find out that it was a pretty fair deal, make the down payment and set to mining.

Of course, he could never get enough out to make the payments, so the brother would be forced to take back the mine. Then, after a bit of a cooling off time, he'd do the whole thing again.

Now, to my skeptical mind, it's probably an apocryphal tale, but, still, who wouldn't like the idea of having such a scoundrel in the family line?

March 16, 2011, 12:11 PM
I found a clipping from the Idaho Statesman from almost 110 years ago. It's about my great, great, great uncle, Moses Kempner. He married my great, great grandfather's sister, Annie.

The Idaho Daily Statesman, Wednesday, June 25, 1902

Mose Kempner, Pioneer Pathfinder, Assumes the Task.
Carrying of Thunder Mountain Mail Will Begin Next Monday from Idaho City - Passengers and Express Will Be Taken Through to the Camp.
Mose Kempner, designated by H. B. Eastman as one of the most capable mail carriers ever in the employ of A. H. Bodmer, will carry the mail between Idaho City and thunder Mountain over the Bear Valley trail. Mr. Kempner is a pioneer mail carrier in the mountains and has never been known to stop for blizzards or high water. Wild animals never bother him, and stage robbers are too wise to attempt to interrupt his progress.

He will start next Monday with the first batch of mail, which will weigh over 150 pounds. Mr. Kempner will go through himself with the first mail, selecting the route that will be followed. he will drive a two-horse buckboard over the wagon road into Bear Valley, and from there will ride one horse and pack the mail on the other animal. Returning, he will brin gthe mail in the same manner to the wagon and driver over the wagon road to Idaho City. As soon as the proper route has been selected, Mr. Kempner will establish stations where relays of fresh horses will be kept.

Under his contract he must make the trip in three days when the route is once established. he does not intend to carry mail himself after the distance has been covered, but will employ drivers. The mail will leave Idaho City every alternate day including Sunday. He intends to accept for transportation both passengers and express, but has not yet fixed the rates of tariff. he will not do so until the schedule for carrying the mail is determined. He must also be prepared to feed and shelter his passengers. Mr. Kempner was buying his equipment in the city yesterday. He purchased a two-seated buckboard mountain wagon that has a carrying capacity of three passengers with their baggage. He also bought several horses for the relay service along the route.

Idaho City is preparing to celebrate the departure of Mr. Kempner next Monday morning on his journey as a pathfinder. J. A. Lippincott and Ashby Turner are authority for the statement that there will be much band music and red fire. A boquet of mountain flowers will be woven into a circlet and placed on the brow of Mose Kempner, the mail carrier.

Now, with all that glowing praise above, consider this bit of salaciousness that I plucked from the Boise County Historical Society:

Old Mose Kempner was a raw hider from the Banner Mine. He seemed to have funds, but was often broke, and his notes of hand floated about. Being once sued, a trial was held in the old courthouse, and Mose’s note was shown around, passing from hand to hand and finally into the hands of Mose himself, who promptly shoved it in his mouth, chewed it up with his wad of cut plug, and spat it down between the boards in the courtroom floor. The note being lost, the debt went unproved. Mose escaped judgment, and for twenty years maintained absolute silence, confessing only in his old age his clandestine mastication in the judicial presence.

By the way, a "raw hider" is a packer.

Moses was born in Krakow, Austria (Poland effectively did not exist between 1795 and 1918) in 1838 and came to Idaho in the early 1860s where he owned a store (the tax records say that he was a "dealer in liquor and tobacco") and ran freight in what is now the ghost town of Banner, north of Idaho City.

After the business with his trial and after the mail route, he was also caught up in a huge federal fraud trial that involved Idaho's governor, Frank Steunenberg (who was later assassinated), one of Idaho's senators, William Borah (who prosecuted the assassin, defended by Clarence Darrow) and several other prominent Boise businessmen. They were all involved with the Barber Lumber Company, the predecessor to today's Boise Cascade Company, and were accused of conspiring to file illegal timber claims in the forests above Idaho City. Moses provided pack services and lodging to many of them, so apparently his testimony was somewhat crucial.

On appeal, all were absolved of wrongdoing.

March 17, 2011, 09:31 AM
Back in 1862, George Grimes discovered gold in his namesake Grimes Creek not too far north from where I live in Idaho. It was pretty big news and started yet another gold rush. For a while, the usual bunch of guys (including the Cooper boys, my ancestors) did the mining the old fashioned way, with pans, sluice boxes, rockers and cradles. But in the 1870s and 1880s, the work turned very industrial. Companies were formed and steam powered dredges were built in the various rivers in the Boise Basin to start pulling gold out in a major way.

By the end of the gold rush in the early 1900s, more gold came out of the 300 square mile area than had come from the Alaska gold rush. Not bad, I think.

Here's a typical gold dredge with its crew. The third man from the left is my great great grandfather, Frank Cooper.


Here's a link (http://www.fluidlight.com/genealogy/gold_dredge_large.jpg) to a very, very large version of the same image.

As usual, there's a story that goes with the picture. My grandfather said that they had gotten into some fairly rough material and the dredge was bogging down, so the engineman tied down the pressure relief valve on the boiler to generate more steam and get more power to the engine. Of course, what ended up happening was that the boiler exploded, shooting the poor guy out one of the windows and at least a hundred feet out into the river. Nobody was killed (!) and they rebuilt the dredge. I don't know if they fired the engineman, though.

The other story is that about 35 years ago, McDonald's opened a new restaurant in Boise, only the second one in the city. It was a pretty big thing (yes, we were a little provincial). So, the whole family went down for a burger. We walked in and my grandmother stopped short and said, "Well, there's Grandpa Cooper!"

Now, that was an odd thing for her to say because he'd been dead for well over 30 years. But instead of losing her mind, in fact that the very picture that I posted above was hanging on the wall at McDonald's. Turns out that there's a copy at the Idaho Historical Society and the restaurant owner had picked it and a bunch of other mining pictures out as sort of a theme for the place.

March 17, 2011, 10:32 AM
Really cool - thanks for sharing.
My mom's mother came to Texas in 1894 by covered wagon from Mississippi.
I remember the stories she told.

March 17, 2011, 01:38 PM
My mom's mother came to Texas in 1894 by covered wagon from Mississippi.
I remember the stories she told.

One of the (or possibly the only) smartest things that I did as a kid was listen to my grandparents and great grandmother when they told stories. My great grandmother's especially fascinated me - it was as if she lived in a completely different world back then!

March 17, 2011, 01:52 PM
Hardcase: My dads mother was only a year younger and was a native Texan. She would tell stories of towns in Texas and how they grew. How times changed and why they changed.

The one thing that stick in my mind is a day I was about 19 or so, my mothers mother told me she had seen all she ever wanted to see. Two world wars, the great depression, automobiles, radio, TV, man on the moon, a president killed and many other events.

I marveled at all the 1st she had seen.

March 17, 2011, 08:19 PM
I hate to say this but that was only one generation of hundreds of generations that go back for thousands and thousands of years.
Oh if the previous generations could only speak then whatever they may have to say just might exceed our wildest imagination, and they go all of the way back to the beginning. It's an unbroken chain...:cool:

March 18, 2011, 09:54 AM
I hate to say this but that was only one generation of hundreds of generations that go back for thousands and thousands of years.
Oh if the previous generations could only speak then whatever they may have to say just might exceed our wildest imagination, and they go all of the way back to the beginning. It's an unbroken chain...

Amen, brother and well said!

The hardest thing, I find, is actually authenticating the stories that I've heard. Some stuff is easy, most is hard. I've been told about one branch of the family that emigrated from Germany to Russia, then back to Germany, then to North Dakota. That part was easy to see from birth records in census data, but the real jigger was that they supposedly walked all these distances - it seems reasonable, given the time period, but there's no way of really knowing.

Or, even crazier, that if you go back far enough, supposedly the McNeils are descended from a band of either tyrannical pirates or proud sovereigns of their own island (it depends on your point of view, I guess.) But to verify? As much as I'd like to travel to Germany, Russia, Scotland and the Outer Hebrides, it's not going to happen anytime soon.

But that's OK - I guess that all stories have, at the very least, a germ of truth to them. That'll do me for now!

March 24, 2011, 01:10 PM
In my family tree, there are many Christopher Coopers, so keeping them straight is a challenge sometimes. But there is one Christopher who sticks out because of the manner of his death - he was shot in a saloon over, apparently, a girl. Yesterday, I found a letter from his father, also a Christopher Cooper (this one being my great-great-great grandfather Charles Christopher "Chris" Cooper) to his brother Edward who was working in the mines east of San Diego, CA.

From Chris C Cooper
April 8th '72
Houses Springs
Jeff Co Mo

Dear Brother Edward,

I hast to write you a few Lines Sad news, Rather. I snatch from time a short Space and from my urgent labour, thairfore, Excuse my Brief. My Son Chris was Shot ded instantly in a Beer Saloon at Eureka P.R.R. Station, Mo, St Louis Co by the hand of one John Stoker on Sunday 24 day March between 5 and 6 O'clock in the Evening and was Buried on 26th on the Farm in the old Family Burying Ground. Stoker is in St Louis Jale. Strong Evidence against him willful and deliberate Murder without provication. Our house is a house of Mourning.

My wife is in Feble Helth.

Page 2

No cause assigned for the deed, pled axident at first but witness too strong against sutch Bosh. Alax was up to se us Sunday. It hapened Chris worked at Arlington a few miles above Eureka. Came down to Eureka Sunday Morning. Had a Settlement with Stoker to make, before going back to Alington. Going for Medison for a sick child. Met an old Man aquantance. Went into a Beer Saloon, plaid a game of Cards for Beer 4 handed. Got up from the table and was going out when Stoker fired a pistol of and Shot him through the heart from behind. Chris had no Idea of his intention fro the game had nothing to do with the provocation of the act. Had no bearing on the subgect whatever. Frank my son Learned at Church yesterday Stoker had threatened a few days before

Page 3

to shoot Chris. They had worked together geting out RR ties. Partners before Chrismass but Chris quit that buisness. They had had a settlement, mutual and agreable about that work before witnesses. Now I have heard also that Stoker was Engaged to be Married to a Miss Shoultz. Stoker, Miss Shoultz & Chris went to a party. Chris is a great hand to dance, did dance with this girl. She discarded Stoker. Told him She liked Chris. This is Rumer. I do know know. All will be made clear yet.

Sister Ann, Mrs Logan, Billy Finagan came up from Eureka with the numerous friends of Chris and Alax on Monday when the Corps was brought here. Preacher Stevens Preached the Funeral Sermon.

Page 4

I have just finished in hast a Letter to Bro Frank and it is late in the Eavening and Frank is waiting for the Letters as the mail goes in the morning. I must write again to you as I am Confused and harried. I am planting oats. Have in 8 acres up and looks promising. Planted 2 Bns Potatoes. Trimmed the orchard, Cleaned out some of the Creek. Broke up Sod Land. Mutch to do. Sorly embarassed in pecunary matters. To me it looks so at present but maybe I will overcome all after all with perseverence.

Well I am writing at Random trying to crowd in all my thoughts at wonce but time and space forbids. I have not heard from my son Ed for a long time.

Rily Hills widdow Buried her daughter 3 weaks ago (the Eldest).

Stoker is in St Louis Jale. Strong Evidence against him for murder, willful and deliberate.

I found this report from the Jefferson Democrat of Hillsboro, Missouri, April 5, 1872:

Murder of a Citizen of Jefferson County - On Sunday the 20th ult,
Christopher COOPER, John STOKER, and to other men were engaged in a game
of cards for drinks at Eureka. Mr. COOPER and his partner lost one game
and STOKER and his partner two(?), some one proposed to "saw off" to see
who should pay, when STOKER pulled out his pistol and laid it on the
table saying that it was the thing to saw off with; whereupon his
partner said he would pay for the drinks and they all walked up to the
bar. STOKER comming up last presented his pistol and fired at COOPER,
the ball passing through his body and killing him almost instantly.
STOKER was arrested and sent to the St. Louis Jail by a Justice. No
provocation having been given it is heard to account for the shooting by
STOKER. A large mob gathered at the time and would have hung STOKER
only for the interference of COOPER's brother who advised them to let
the law take its course.

March 29, 2011, 10:57 AM
Here's a letter from 1882, written by my great-great-great grandfather's sister Nettie to his other sister Annie. Nettie was living with her parents (my great-great-great-great grandparents) and Annie lived with her husband in St Louis. This is pretty much just a bit of chit chat between sisters, but I kind of chuckled over Nettie's admonition to Annie to take care of her dental problems.

At Home; Nov 27th 82
Houses Springs

Dear Annie

You asked me to write you this week, so I will write tonight and send it by Frank to Fenton tomorrow as he is going there with wheat. Pa and Mother have gone to bed, and I have anice fire so I locked the door and sit up by myself to write. Mother & I are quite well. But Pa is not well tonight. A glass of Beer made him sick. Mary was glad to get home and she stood the trip pretty well. Pa, Mother and I were the recipients of three nice handkerchiefs, presented by her. Well, I too was glad when they got back, for I had my hands full. I hope you have your teeth out

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by this time. I can't help but think of you and wonder every day how you are getting along with your teeth. Be brave Annie and get them out. Pay will send you some money just the first time he or Frank goes in, but if I sent it by mail, it would cost 90¢ to register it, so Pa says for you to wait till some one can take it to you. And that won't be long. I liked the Slippers very much, they fit too. I made the new bed today and my new bonnet. I finished quilting the comfort Friday and was glad to get it done, my fingers got so sore. I have not wrote to Auntie yet, but will just as soon as possible. I did want to go to town for a few days and as it has been so long since

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I have been off this place for one day, but I guess I'll wait till a better time. Martin says he believes I don't want to go (that is all he knows about it, ain't it.) Well Annie I'll stay home and can do without things that I would need if I was there. But one thing I want and you can get it - if you can, before Christmas and that is a piece of Calico for a wrapper for me, something bright - I am wareing that dress you lift me every day now and Martin is comeing up to spend Christmas week, so i want something to look neat in. I'll send you the money to get mine and one for Mother too if I can. I did think sure I would go in a few days before Christmas and see

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all the folks and get to ware my new dress, but Mary said you would have come home yourself if you had your teeth pulled out, so if that is the case, I'll stay to home. I baked some nice pumpkin pies for Alex Sunday, but he did not come to get them. Tell him to wait till some one goes in again, as the walk from Fenton is to long. Love to Puss & children from Mother and I and Pa. I guess there is a letter at the office for me from you. Good night - with much love and prayers for you & all. I remain Sister, Jennett C.

Love from all to all..

Since paper and postage cost money (two cents to mail a letter!), I guess that folks used up every square inch of paper back then, so, along the top margin, upside down, was this message:

If you see Aunt Ann, tell her I am not going in for a while and give her my love. Poor Mammie Logan. I cried my eyes nearly out about her hair being cut off. Kiss Bennie for me and Mother and you come home Christmas and Bring him with you. N..C. to A.C.

By the way, Houses Springs, MO is still around, although it's an unincorporated town now. But the farm is still in one piece, except for a half acre that was set aside in perpetuity (and a right of way to access it) as the family graveyard back in 1890 when the farm was sold. The graveyard is still there, but of the nine graves, only two have headstones now - Chris Cooper, the one who was shot, and his mother Eliza.

March 29, 2011, 11:39 AM
Fascinating thread and this is the first time I've ever looked at anything in this section. The past is barely past.

I don't have any old letters but my wife has a lot, including one from Lee's wife (Yes, Lee of Arlington), and one from an antecedent who was in Pickett's charge (and live to tell about it). While the old letters are fascinating, they sometimes disappoint when they don't mention things we might like to read about. They largely mention the same sorts of things we'd write about, if we still wrote letters.

My father never finished grade school, yet he had a very passable hand when it came to penmanship. I'd even say it looked a little like some European penmanship from people the same age.

In many places, you know, people lived in the "horse and buggy" era, as we used to say, until quite recently. If you go "deep enough" in, say, West Virginia, you will find log houses (never called cabins) still being lived in probably by the same family that built it before the Civil War. That was the case where I lived for a time in the 1960s. I met an old man who delivered mail on horseback. That was also a mining area (coal) and until the 1960s, it was booming. There were little villages every few miles along the roads, all gone now but for the names. It seems very sad to see what remains now. The people in the "coal camps" were mostly immigrants and some of the names linger on the the towns that remain but the old families from before the coal boom lived out on the family farms.

Thanks for sharing.

March 30, 2011, 02:29 PM
That's so very true, BlueTrain. It's kind of funny what passes for "old" history here in Idaho. Things didn't really get going until around 1861 or 1862, with the discovery of gold. That's only 150 years ago - a pretty short time compared to the east coast and the blink of an eye to Europe.

Anyway, I ran across one page of a letter from William Cooper to my great, great, great grandfather Christopher Cooper last night. It's got no date, but I would put it at 1858 or 1859, based on where everybody in the family was at the time. It talks a bit about the down side of mining - it ain't cheap!

I am keeping Billiard Saloon here although I am interested in bed rock mining claims and it will be probably another year before we get in to pay dirt. The assesments in these bed rock tunnels just keeps me doing all I can to keep out of debt. We pay fifteen dollars a foot for running the tunnel and I expect to have to run it from 12 to 15 hundred feet. The rock has been very hard and we get a long slowly. Money has got so scarce here. Just now we have concluded to only keep two hands in the tunnel this dry and dull season, which will make our assesments very light.

I will try and get George to write to Edward by this mail. John Cracoft was over here yesterday. He is completely gone in. John was worth at one time here some forty or fifty thousand dollars but now I suppose he is ten or twelve behind. He was burnt out not long ago in Downieville. John Eaton lived here with us a long time but got a situation in the custom house. He sent me a letter the other day to say he had resigned and gone to Fraser. James O'Niell is with Frank up at Fraser. Pat O'niell is here in town. Perry Handan and Bony Vandyke has been over to see me several times this summer, neither of them worth a cent. I will write as soon as I hear from Frank.

From your brother,

Wm Cooper

The Fraser River strike in British Columbia just about wrecked the northern California economy - I've got another letter that is sitting around here someplace that talks about how miners packed up with whatever money they had and lit out north without paying off their debts in California. And when the strike did not pan out, many of them returned to the old gold fields even more broke than before - but this time, the merchants were almost as destitute! By that time, though, the Cooper boys had headed over to the west central mountains of Idaho to take advantage of the gold strike there.

March 30, 2011, 03:28 PM
You know, there were several gold rushes, including one in Canada just after the war. While not all of them included mayhem and murder, they were sure all something of an adventure for those that went. In that one I just referred to, many of the prospectors went by airplane to stake claims but many went the old fashioned way. A few had fathers who had gone to the Yukon in 1898, too.

By a coincidence, my wife had an ancestor who was a Cooper, here in Northern Virginia. If I remember the connections correctly, the one was my wife's grandmother's grandfather. That Cooper was Samuel Cooper, adjutant general of the United States Army and later, when his boss, the Secretary of the Army, became President of the Confederate States, he became Adjutant General of the Confederate Army. He married George Mason's granddaughter. Think he's related to you?

March 30, 2011, 04:38 PM
No, other than the original Christopher, almost all of my Coopers started out in eastern Missouri, then ended up out west. Apparently none of them ever served in the military - they were too busy trying to eke out a living or recovering from some sickness or injury.

March 31, 2011, 12:23 AM
Hardcase, this is a gold mine of heritage and I am intrigued at reading these letters. Somebody on page 2 mentioned Ancestry.com and if you haven't already, I highly recommend it. (No, I have nothing to gain by this recommendation) but I did it, and found my Mother's side back to right at the Revolutionary war. I placed my family to Ireland, Whales and England. The U.S. records cost $150 for a years subscription and the international version is another $150. Do some detective work, I have been fascinated by it. You also seem to have a lot of the women's maiden names, which is very valuable to ancestry. Thanks for sharing, Mac.

March 31, 2011, 06:23 AM
While this is getting off the subject, I've done a little research on my family. My wife grew up knowing everything about her family because her ancestors were a little more distinguished than mine were. But I never used any of the commercial sites, just what I could find otherwise. There are lots of people with interests in geneology. But there are shortcomings.

I found that, even in places, with a lot of information, there were gaps. For instance, some place that had my father's name did not list all of his brothers (he was one of eleven). The more obvious difficulty is that ultimately you are trying to construct a family tree and everyone has a unique ancestry and except for your siblings, no one else has the same one you do. But I also discovered that it is a little easier when distant cousins married. That cuts down on the number of ancestors, you know.

I still find it hard to believe I'm descended from anyone that lived a thousand years ago.

March 31, 2011, 09:13 AM
But I also discovered that it is a little easier when distant cousins married. That cuts down on the number of ancestors, you know.

That made me laugh!

Mac1 I do use Ancestry.com and, since BlueTrain was speaking of cousins, I've found several of them through that site, which has helped a great deal with research that I've done on my dad's side of the family. For those who have an interest, it's the gold standard of genealogy sites.

March 31, 2011, 10:50 AM
Found it! The folks who made money in the California gold rush were the ones who got there right at the start. By the time this letter was written, in 1858, the easy pickins were long gone and mining was hard work with middling returns. But the new strike on the Fraser River in British Columbia (or, as they called it then, "New Caledonia") got the miners fired up and ready to make big money. Unfortunately, it left the merchants of the northern California gold towns in the lurch.

Another unrelated problem was that my great-great-great grandfather was trying to wrap up his father's estate, but because he had died intestate, the probate court needed to contact all of the children - a bit harder than it would be today, especially since they were scattered to the four corners of the continent.

Oh, and by the way, what I thought was another letter was, in fact, the first two pages of the letter that I posted yesterday. Apparently the third page had become separated from the first two. So, this is the first two pages of the letter to Christopher Cooper from his brother William.

Port Wine Aug 1st, 1858

Dear Brother Chris

I received yours this morning dated June 25th directed to Frank. I also received on from your son Alexander by last mail stating the difficulty you laboured under by not having a propper power of atorney. I intended to answer his letter this mail, by this mail, as it was too late when I received it last mail. The mail closes here in the mountain tomorrow at 9 o clock and I don't know as I shall have time in the morning to write but however tell little Aleck I shall not forget him.

Immediately on the reciet of Aleck's letter I write to Frank and expected to have an answer before this steamer left. I explained the difficulty in my letter to him. I also asked him to find out whether there is a notary public, consul or any other American officer in the Brittish posessions that is Qualified to take acknowledgements. Frank is away up in the Brittish Teritory and I don't expect him back for several months and if we all have to acknowledge a power of atorney seperately it will take some time to do it. I will go to a notary in the morning and if it can be done I will send it up for him to sign.

Page 2

I think we will be able to have a power of atorney properly aknowledged and ready by the steamer of the fifth of Sept.

I received two letters from Frank since he left here. He is well but dont give a very good account of the Climate and Country although he intends to stay and give it a Thorough prospecting. Fraser River is reported very rich and the Excitement and rush for the new gold fields of new Caledonia was so great that it almost threatened the depopulation of Calafornia at one time. The effects of so many people leaving Cal is is beginning to show it self. Nearly Every body that could raise a few hundred dollars was bound to go, regardless of their obligations to their creditors. The consequences is the mountain merchants cant make their monthly remittances as usual to the lower houses. There has been some very heavy failures in Marysville in consequence.

There has been 30 or 40 thousand people left Cal for the new diggins and taking all the money they could get a hold of with them and now, if it should prove a humbug, and they all get back here broke it will make times ten times worse than it is now for we will have to feed and clothe them for one year on credit until they have a chance to make a raise.

As it turned out, the Fraser River strike was a bit of a "humbug", although it did lead to the establishment of a formal British government - with the huge influx of Americans, there was a fear of losing the colony to its neighbor to the south. That in turn created the Colony of British Columbia...and so forth.

Within a few years, William and Henry Cooper would pack out of California to the new gold rush in the Boise Basin of Idaho. Frank would join them later and eventually most of the Cooper family would settle in Idaho City.

April 1, 2011, 12:40 PM
Turning the way-back machine up a little more, this one is dated September 28, 1820. It is a letter from Evan Thomas Ellicott, owner of an iron mill in Ellicott Mills, Maryland. The Ellicotts had quite an influence from Pennsylvania to New York to Maryland from the middle of the 18th century until the middle of the 19th. Although their biggest contribution to the Baltimore area was in flour mills (and in giving their name to a town), Evan was fairly successful in the iron business.

Christopher worked for Evan at the iron mill for at least a year, but at this point, he had moved up to the Pittsburgh area to work the iron mills there, possibly as an extension of Ellicott's business. The Cooper family did a lot of moving during their first several years in America as Christopher tried to find good-paying work. From what I can gather from other letters, due to an influx of immigrants from England and Ireland, wages were somewhat depressed. Also, there was a certain degree of resentment towards the new immigrants (as in, "taking our jobs"). I guess the wheel turns...

The letter:

9th month 28 1820

Christopher Cooper,

Nothing has transpired favorable to thy interests in the case which thee placed in the hands of Purviance. The parties have made several attempts to come to a settlement but have in every instance failed. There appear but little chance of an immediate settlement. I have therefore recommended the lawyer to proceed with the court of law. John Griffith has been very industrious and zealous in his efforts to bring the business to a close. He is just starting for thy neighbourhood and carries thy letter. He will explain the minutia of the business.

We keep our mills mostly at work, but have sometimes to stop for want of orders and from the scarcity of scrap iron. When we commence the business of scrap iron, we calculated with great confidence that when we could not get scraps that we could work cast iron by puddling, but in this we have been disaffected. Our workmen make so small a quantity in a pour that we find if we got the cast iron for nothing the business would

Page 2

hardly answer. I would be much obliged to thee if thee would inform me the quantity of bar iron that ought to be made in a pour and the quantity of coal that ought to be consumed. Also the loss heat that ought to be sustained. I allude to cast iron not scrap iron.

If anything transpires relative to the mortgage I will communicate it.

Are the works in which thee is engaged doing anything at present? And what is the price of bar iron?

In haste

Evan T Ellicott

It appears that it didn't take long for Christopher to become embroiled in legal troubles (and it wouldn't be the last.) "Purviance" is, as best as I can tell, either a judge or a lawyer in the Baltimore area. Based on an almost incomprehensible draft letter, it appears that the matter was about some missing iron and accusations against the port master of Baltimore.

Also, in case you hadn't guessed, Evan Ellicott was a Quaker - in fact, his family went quite a ways back in the Pennsylvania Friends community.

April 7, 2011, 05:45 PM
I have been reading while at work (extremely boring job, far below my experience, and wish I had something in the firearms industry!), and have found this site, and this thread in particular, amazingly fascinating reading. Thank you so much for sharing your family history!

I am on the cusp of becoming a BP addict... I am a huge fan of firearms in general, and have long wanted to experience BP weapons but have never taken the plunge. After finding this site and reading some of the marvelous posts, it's only a matter of (a short) amount of time before I take the plunge!


April 8, 2011, 10:15 AM
Thanks for the kind words, Zenkoji, and welcome aboard!

There's more to post. Right now, I'm sorting through some more modern stuff from the other side of the family - since there was no rhyme or reason to the filing system I inherited, I sort of get this stuff as it comes. I'm also blessed with wonderful extended family members who have been dropping off their collections, so I try to sort through their stuff first so that I can get it back to them as quickly as possible.

My office looks like a small museum exploded in the middle of it.

April 8, 2011, 10:47 AM
LOL, I can imagine! You should post a pic, so we can all see what you endure to bring us such treasures.

April 8, 2011, 08:37 PM
Since my wife is a volunteer preservationist at one of the local museums, I won't taunt her by posting pictures of what she believes is an absolutely horrific situation.

I figure that by the time I retire, everything should be in order.

April 9, 2011, 09:29 AM
Horrific though it may be, it still provides us outsiders with a welcome look into the history of an era that many of us have very little knowledge of. It's also an era well-connected to the guns we love so dearly, so that makes it doubly interesting!

April 15, 2011, 12:45 PM
It's easy to dash off a quick email or text message these days, so I never really gave any thought to how a somebody might have composed a letter back in the inkwell days. Even when I was in the Navy, when I wrote home, what I wrote was what you got.

Writing drafts of letters, even to family, was common back in the 19th century. And it's fortunate, I think, because we've managed to save several draft letters. We know what they were reading - these give us a little glimpse into what the folks were writing.

This is from my great-great-great-great grandfather, Christopher Cooper to, I believe, his brother in law, Jacob Davies. Jacob was a tanner in New York City. At the time, Christopher lived in Wheeling, Virginia.

The first letter is dated 1823, but I think that it was actually 1834 based on Christopher's description of his "bodily punishments":

Augt 23, 1823

Dear Sir,

Your kind letter is now before me. I confess it has given me and my family much pleasure, especially as the account from home arrived at a needy time for us. We have been very unfortunate in several ways. For myself, I have undergone much bodily punishments, the breaking or dislocating nearly all the bones, the entire loss of one eye and the other is nearly dark. Mrs. Cooper has had no reason to complain of ill health. An unfortunate fire destroyed the greatest part of our several years hard earnings, however we have not been reduced to any material difficulties. but as I am now far advanced in age and a numerous young family, I anxiously wish the little we have could be so placed as to secure to them a comfortable means should I be taken from them before they are capable of providing for themselves. I thank you for your kind offer to take charge of any communications I may send you and I entirely agree with you that William deserves our thanks but am sorry to hear of Mrs. Davies ill health, also of William Battens. I have a great desire to see him and if possible I will.

Second letter's draft is on the other side. I think that it's also to Jacob:

Dear Sir,

I was very agreeably surprised at receiving a letter from you although I frequently hear from travelers of your doing well. Your daughter and husband stayed one night with us and I saw them safe over the Ohio River in gay spirits. I understood she wrote hom from this place. I have not written to the old country for many years nor received any letters. I have beard of Joseph being somewhere above Pittsburgh but could not ascertain what place, not having been at Pittsburgh for several years. I have done nothing in the iron way for a long time. We have a small grocery which suits me better as I am much disabled and nearly blind, but spirits good. In all probability I may see you in a few weeks as I expect I shall have to go to New York in answer to a [illegible] of our family. We have eight stout Yankee boys and only Ann whom you remember. She is married and has three children. Lives in Cincinnati. You will give all our respects to William Brown and family and all the acquaintances who are near you.

And be assured I am yours truly,

Chris Cooper

There's yet a third snipped of a draft in the space between the end of the second and the bottom of the page, but upside down:

You will please give our best respects to your mother, brother, Mr. William Batten and all the family, many of whom I cannot name.

Within a couple of years, the family moved to Virgina and Christopher bought a farm. I have no idea how he managed to farm it if he was as banged up as he describes, although the place was not a huge operation. The boys most definitely helped out and there is some mention of "hired" help, which may have been slaves contracted from another person. I can't say for sure, though, because the part of Missouri that they lived leaned pretty hard toward abolitionism, as did what eventually became West Virginia, but there's an ambiguous receipt for "pmt on $300 for 1 year loan of Sundry persons". Perhaps pragmatism outweighed idealism.

Christopher was concerned about providing for his family after his death - he ended up living until 1846. The farm was eventually sold around 1890 and apparently it provided for his wife, Jennett until she died in 1857. The place was sold off in pieces through 1890, with the exception of about half an acre that is the family burial ground, along with an access right of way. I don't know who owns that bit of land today, but several of the headstones are still there.

April 26, 2011, 04:28 PM
Those of us who are students of the era know that the "wild west", such as it was, including ranching, mining and sundry assorted ventures, was a reality almost up to the start of the Great Depression, especially in the more remote areas of the west. There were places in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada that had to be dragged, kicking and screaming into the 20th century and that didn't happen, sometimes, until a substantial part of the century had passed.

My great-great grandparents had seven children. One of them was my great-great uncle, William Cooper. He, like his dad, was a miner in Idaho in the last of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s. In 1921, he moved the family from the Boise Basin to Jarbidge, Nevada to work in the Bluster Mine. Almost 80 years later in 1999, his daughter, my cousin Josephine Cooper, made a recording talking about growing up in the mining town.

Bear in mind that this is the early 1920s - but, other than the way that they traveled to get to Jarbidge, notice just how easily it could have been the 1880s...or earlier!

My name is Josephine Marie Cooper Fisher. I was born at St. Alphonsus Hospital, September the 6th, 1916 in Boise, Idaho. I was considered a birthday present for my mother, as she was born September the 8th, only it was 1891. We left Boise early in June of 1921 in our Buick Touring car for Jarbidge. My father knew he could get work there. he truly had gold fever and with his knowledge from working in Idaho gold mines, Tonopah, Virginia City and several others, he became the foreman of the Bluster in Jarbidge.

When we moved there, my sister Lillian was eight; my brother John was six; and I was four and a half. We were all very close and shared everything. Everything about Jarbidge was exciting to us. Dad rented a house on the upper end of Bear Creek. I don't remember how large it was but I think perhaps a kitchen and two small bedrooms. I know our weekly baths, Saturday evening, consisted of a large tub which was used for the family laundry once a week on wash day. The white clothes were put in a boiler on the kitchen stove to make sure they were white when they came out. The baths were all in the kitchen.

I don't remember any neighbors names but we children all played together and in winter we would sleigh-ride down the sloped street. It was great fun even though we had to walk back up each time. We never complained of the cold because we knew we wouldn't be able to be out and play if our parents knew that we were freezing.

There was never much money. I do remember that our grocery bill was paid once a month when Dad was paid and the store owner would give an all-day sucker to the one who was with him. that was a vivid memory. Our mother would make wonderful divinity at home for special occasions. No one ever talked about money, it was just understood that you made ends meet. I remember we ate anything that my mother cooked and she was a marvelous cook. Her bread was the best in Jarbidge and women would ask my mother her secret, which my mother discussed freely. The divinity was what I looked forward to the most.

Many times when Dad would walk home from the mine, I would run down to meet him and then I'd say, "Daddy, did you leave anything in your lunch bucket?" And so one night he pulled out a jelly sandwich and handed it to me. that was the most important thing. After that I ran down every day to meet him after work and my mother put in half of a jelly sandwich so that he could save it for me.

Christmas was most exciting in Jarbidge and the miners, many of them so young, all donated money so each child would have a huge red stocking made by the women in town. Each stocking was filled with one orange, an apple, some nuts, candy and one present. Usually mittens, scarf or a cap. We all were in a program put on by the school at the town meeting hall. When I was six, I had to hold my doll, which I had received, and recite a poem alone on stage. I remember it like it was yesterday. It goes like this:

Just see this lovely dolly that Santa brought to me,
And I'm the happiest girlie that ever you did see.
If I could see old Santa, I'd give him a great big kiss.

Well, Santa started to walk over toward me and I ran off the stage in tears. Later I learned that my dad was Santa that year. I still have the doll, but she has lost her hair in all our moves [Josephine donated the doll to the Jarbidge museum].

The only businesses I remember was the post office, grocery store and the dentist. The dentist would come once every six months and he would use the barber chair and, of course, that had to be arranged ahead of time. One day I was sent to the dentist and I had to have a tooth extracted. Anyway he gave me a shot to ease the pain and the needle broke off in the gum. He was very concerned and said that if I didn't cry and let him pull the needle out, he would give me a big box of candy. Needless to say, I was very scared but I agreed by nodding my head. He kept his word and, I remembered, he removed a box of chocolates off a shelf and handed it to me and said that I was very brave.

I remember that the post office was small and mail came in by stage from Elko. In fact, everything that I remember came in by stage from Elko. I don't remember a lot of mail, but each letter from family was an occasion.

The "red light district" was well-known and proper ladies never went on that end of town, believe me! As children, we knew that they were very special ladies as the young miners didn't have any wives and no one to keep them from being lonely. We accepted the explanation and only remember how beautifully they dressed. When we ever got a glimpse of them, which wasn't too often, but they did attend our Christmas programs. The one person I remember so well was the sheriff. I have forgotten his name, but he and my dad were good friends and I hung around them when he came into our house. He was very kind to me and would talk, which was so important as a child to have an adult just sit and talk to them.

We had a one-room schoolhouse and one teacher for eight grades. I remember there was usually only one person in the 8th grade. Each morning during roll call when our name was called, we had to go up by the teacher's desk and she would hand us an iodine pill and we would use the dipper in the bucket and take our pill. It was to help the thyroid and to prevent us having a goiter, which seemed to be very prevalent in those days. My biggest and saddest memory of school was when my brother was seven. he apparently said something to the teacher that she didn't like. She said, "Josephine, you come up to the desk." I couldn't imagine why. She then said, "You go out and get a switch. Your brother deserves punishment." I told her I couldn't as it would hurt him and she sternly said, "You go and go now!" I went out and took my time and brought in the smallest I could find and gave it to her. She had John come up to her desk and she switched his bare legs. The tears rolled down my face, but he didn't cry.

One time when Dad was working at the Bluster, one of the miners had money missing from his pocket where his things were hung. Everyone trusted each other then and so they felt they had to know who would do such a thing. Nobody confessed and one miner had an old Ouija board. he said tha tif they used it that the thief would have his name spelled out. The decided it was time to try. The owner of the board took control and sure enough the pointer spelled out a name. The man confessed and was dismissed immediately, making restitution.

I can't remember any favorite teacher but I truly loved spelling and arithmetic. I don't know why except they came easy for me. In fact, we all loved school. I don't remember the number of children in school, but I know there weren't many and the building was small. We each had our own desk and were very proud. There was one young boy in school whose father owned the Bluster. he was constantly challenging my brother. John took all he could stand and one day he hit the boy across the nose and the blood poured out. Dad heard about it when he came through town after work that day. Secrets weren't kept very well. When he came home in the house he said, "Mother, we better start packing as John has ruined everything for us." Later that evening when a knock was heard on the door, Dad opened it and there was the owner. He said, "Bill Cooper, I want to shake your hand. Your son did me a big favor." he said nothing he ever did could keep his son from being a bully but now he had been taught a lesson. My mother and dad were so relieved, as we all were.

When we lived on Bear Creek, we had a special place to hike to called "the rabbit's den". We hiked up the mountain which was a long ways to a narrow ledge which we had to cross to reach the den. The den was huge to us and just inside of it was very exciting. We never told our parents about it because we would have been forbidden to go there anymore. But you know how children are, they do keep secrets!

Also, certain times during the year, we had to bring mahogany to stack for winter fires. It was used for summer cooking also. No one complained because it was a chore that we all did. We didn't have indoor plumbing but no one else did either so that wasn't a big deal. A big inconvenience, however one can adjust to anything. With so few children in town we all got along well. Once in a while there was someone who wanted things their way and they would holler insults. In reply, we would holler back "stocks and stones may break our bones but names and faces will never hurt us!"

Another exciting thing that happened in Jarbidge that I remember vividly was the saloons there made their own liquor and they would throw the mash out in back. One day this cow got into the mash and ate until it got drunk. When it started up the road and before it had gone too far, it fell into the creek. So we children happened to see it and we ran and got whoever we could find to gather some men to pull it out, which they did. That was an exciting moment for children.

Another thing that I remember very vividly in Jarbidge was when short hair came in and none of the barbers in town, in fact, I think we only had one, would cut the ladies hair. so, they found out that my mother had cut my father's hair all the time so they came to her to see if she would cut their hair. They called it "bobbing" the hair in those days. Well, my dad was a little upset, he didn't want my mother to be ostracized, but she said, "Well, if that's what they want and it makes it easier for them to shampoo their hair, so be it." So he said, "Go ahead." So she cut the hair of several ladies and they were so pleased, she carried on. I remember the picture that I have of myself, my sister Lillian and our friend Geraldine Eckley, my mother cut her hair. So naturally, my sister wanted hers cut but at the time my father wouldn't allow it so that went by the wayside.

All the holidays were very special. Everyone pitched in to make them a real occasion. the children had sack races, tug of war and several other things on the 4th of July. The men had competitions but we were all too busy to care. I only remember our Thanksgiving was at home. I guess it was because of the weather. The weather was very severe in the winter and people didn't go out much. Christmas was different and the weather was ignored. We had church services and Sunday school. A minster from Elko would come and before he left, he would give out lessons for the next Sunday. Most families insisted their children learn the Bible. There was always someone to take charge.

There was a small cabin on Bear Creek, considered the hospital, where the miners who were hurt on the job were brought in. It was almost across from our house. My father's family in Boise had raised a girl like one of their own and she was the nurse there. Her name was Faye Myers. Her father was alone and knew she would be loved by the Coopers. She was born in 1900 and felt she wanted to go to college, so she left and later went to Berkeley, California and attended the university there. Later she married, but she never gave up nursing. She died just a couple of years ago and had a wonderful full live.

Dad was not feeling well by that time and the decision was made to move to Pavalok. I think Dad worked in the mill. I remember it so well and how the three Cooper kids would climb up the mountain. On the way up, we passed a sheepherder shack and he would let us rest there. He always had a pot of butter beans and gave us each a dish. I've never tasted anything that good, which is locked in my memory forever. If only you could know how it has been a highlight in the lives of three children. Dad wouldn't let us ride the tram which brought the ore in buckets to the mill. He felt it was too dangerous for children.

In Pavalok, we lived in a house whose back porch was almost to the creek edge. My brother John and my mother always fished from the porch and they had very good results. Mom was one of the best fisher women up there. We kids hunted the creek for gold nuggets and always found some regardless if they were small or large, we had both. We would save them until men from California, the gold seekers, would come and they were anxious to buy them. We were anxious to sell them for cash. I don't remember how much they paid, but I'm very sure it wasn't very much. I would give anything if I had saved them.

Our lives went on as usual, except we had to walk the two miles to Jarbidge to school and back each day. And for little children that was a long walk. Winter was hard and we had to leave early. We walked on the crust of the snow when possible. When we arrived at school, the teacher would let us warm our hands by the pot-bellied stove. Looking back, I think it helped shape our lives and we knew you had to do the very best you could.

My saddest memory was when the doctor finally decided that Dad's illness was due to miner's consumption and he said you must leave and get out into the fresh air. This was in 1924. I think it was about late August or September. We packed up and left for Twin Falls. Dad never complained about his illness or discussed it in front of we children. I do remember it was a hard change for a man that loved mining. It meant a new job, new schools and illness to deal with.

After a few months in Twin Falls, we moved to an acreage in Gooding, Idaho. My mother loved working in the earth and Dad later became the water master in town. He regained his health being in the outdoors, but later returned to Boise and finally back to the mining country above Boise and Centerville where his youth started.

In Jarbidge, all books were furnished, all papers and pencils. Moving back to Idaho, all school supplies had to be paid for. That was quite a shock. What I have recorded was the happiest days of my life and my sister Lillian, who is now 85 and will be 86 in June. My brother John was diagnosed with cancer and given one month to live. he died September the 20th in St. George, Utah, almost to the day. I regret that we didn't have time to recall life in Jarbidge. It sounded like I said "Jarbridge", but I certainly didn't mean it that way. Jarbidge has always been the way it was pronounced.

Jarbidge set the pattern for our lives to come. Loyalty to friends, helping those who needed help, and most of all, always speaking the truth. Until you walk in someone else's shoes, you cannot know what they are going through. Before my brother died, just a few months ago, he had written down a few things that he wanted to leave behind and this was just before he entered the hospital, about four weeks before he actually died in 1998. He said, "Believe in the Supreme Being, have faith eternal, use judgement in all acts, idleness breeds contempt, work first and play second, be tolerant and understanding in relating to people. Accept people as they are in all social situations, show appreciation, actions speak louder than words, and you learn from your mistakes."

I'll never forget Jarbidge, the happiest days of my life. I have met people since we moved from Incline Village, Nevada to Reno. When they heard that I had lived in Jarbidge, they said, "Oh, wait till I tell my family. We spend summers up there or at least our vacation and they won't believe that I have actually talked to somebody who lived there as a child." So, of course, I'm always happy to tell them about it and one of these days I hope to go back and see Jarbidge again.

God bless.

May 9, 2011, 04:03 PM
My great, great, great, great grandmother came from the hellfire and brimstone branch of the church, which apparently caused my great, great, great, great grandfather a great deal of grief. Although all we have to go by are letters, it becomes apparent that he didn't share Jennett's Christian zeal - nor her love for her family back home in Wales.

However, Jennett's sister Ann also lived in America, so they kept a correspondence going, although it seems that it wasn't terribly regular. But, as you'll see, they were definitely two of a kind.

I don't know how affected they were by the Second Great Awakening - it was certainly right around this time, but I had always assumed that my family was Catholic - my great grandmother was, which caused quite a bit of religious self-searching on my great grandfather's part, as he was a staunch Methodist (and I know that I have some letters between the two that discuss their religious differences - I'll get to them). I guess more research is in order.

As with most of the 19th century letters that I have, punctuation was non-existent. I've added periods where I think that they should be, but preserved the rest of the writing as-is.

New York, Sept 2nd, 1852

Myy Dear Sister Jennett,

Ive received your letter of Feb'ry last. I was glad to hear from you and family & intended then to have written soon to you but as you say time goes on. Steady I put it off from time to time till months passd away. I make so little use of pen and ink that it is hard to set about writing.

However as I am spared I make an effort to write a few lines. The Lord was pleased to visit me with sickness for about two months though I am much better than I have been a nervous complaint. I have always enjoyed very good health. I do not know how to apreciate it. May the Lord bless the present afflicsion that I may say with the psalmist. Before I afflicted I went astray. Oh for a closer walk with God a calm and heavenly frame a light to shine uppon the road that leads me to the Lamb. We shall soon be swallowed up in Eternity. Oh what reason we

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have to be thankful that we have seen a little of the evil of our wicked heart and the necesity of an intercescen to plead our case before the Father. I am so ready to cling to the things that perish but through the grace ye are saved through Faith and that not of yourself it is the gift of God not of works lest any man should boast.

I was glad to hear that your health was in proved and your family comfortable. I hope you all enjoy the same blessings still. We always have ample reason to be thankful to the Lord for all his goodness towards us unworthy creatures. I am anxious to hear from you and of all your family much scatered as they are. It must cause you a deal of anxiety. It is such a source of trouble to see them hardening themsefs in sin and trampling the Lord Commandments. May the Lord enable you and me to cast ourself and children at the feet of Jesus the only hope of Salvation. It seems too much for you to work so hard. If you could manage to let the farm on shares you must take

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it more easy. It seems your sons are not incline to farming. It seems they are leaving as they grow which is very natural. The evil of this age is too much thirst for the things that perish. And now I must draw to a close. Don't follow my example. I feel anxious to hear from you. I sent a couple of copies of the N York Observer in may giving an account of the aniversaries to you.

Now I have nothing new to send to you about myself and family. The boys Wm and Jacob are very atentive to business setting their affection on the things that perish neglecting their only day of salvation. Their Souls are perishing for lack of knowledge. My youngest son though in the City I never see him. he goes on the same track. All I have is to hope against hope. It is griveous to see them grope their way in darkness and will not come to the light.

You expect hear a word from the girls. Mary is in the same place doing very well. Don't save much. I fear she is very complaning. Ann's health is very poor. She embraced religion last spring and joined the Baptist Church the same as Mary. I hope she has the right one. Wm has two children. Dont get along very well. They never hear from Thomas. They all send their love to you and yours. Accept the same from from your affectionate Sister, Ann Miles

In a postscript written in the margin of the letter, Ann added:

If you hear from Thomas let us know in your next. Please to excuse both writing blunders and mistakes.

At this time, my great, great, great, great grandfather, Christopher Cooper, had been dead for about five or six years. A couple of the boys were still on the farm, trying to keep the place going and Charles "Chris" Cooper, Jennett and Christopher's son (my great, great, great grandfather) was doing his best to help from St. Louis. Jennett did end up sharing (renting) most of the farm out. She died about five years later. The farm stayed in the family for another 35 or 40 years, until Chris sold it and moved to Idaho.

May 9, 2011, 09:30 PM
Reading these letters is something else! My GGGG uncle Charlie Crosby rode shotgun on the gold stage from Idaho City to the Boise Assay office. He is the reason I'm involved with black powder. I have his 1860 Army. Made in 1862, it's in great shape.

My family has been in Idaho since 1861, when my GGGG Grandmother's family moved here.

Thanks for the letters!

Andy Baker

May 9, 2011, 10:20 PM
That's pretty interesting, Andy - Charlie would have stopped at the Minehaha stage stop that my family ran back then! It's kind of funny how this stuff ties together. It sounds like the Crosbys and the Coopers showed up here about the same time.

May 9, 2011, 11:18 PM
Intresting string!
I have not yet seen the new True Grit, having saved it for the home version I have ordered. I am really looking forward to seeing it!
I have always had a knack for decoding the paragraph and sentance structure of the times and I really appreciate it when writers put the extra effort into "periodising" the speech in a film.
I truely enjoyed deciphering the speech in Deadwood (once you got past the attempted "shock vulgarity"). The old Victorian English was very thrifty, it sometimes used one word to convey an entire thought. It is truely like Shakesphere, as you must find the alternative terms used then translate it into todays more complex language.
It's hard to explain how to decipher the language but once you get it , it becomes simpler.

May 12, 2011, 07:11 PM
My great grandfather, William McNeil, homesteaded in the southern end of Long Valley in Valley County, Idaho in 1899. He and his brother each bought 120 acre parcels adjacent to each other.

It's one of the most gorgeous places that I've ever seen and certainly would have been one of the most brutal in the winter. My great grandparents were married in 1901 and I think that my great grandmother made it through one winter before she put the kibosh on the homestead.


It had a dirt floor back then and that never changed. In the late 1960s, when my dad took this picture, it still had a dirt floor. The difference was that the current owners were storing farm equipment in it.

I remember seeing the old cabin every weekend in the summers when we went up to our "new" cabin at the lake. Sometime in the mid-70s, the heavy snows and lack of maintenance finally took its toll and the old place collapsed. It's long gone now.

May 12, 2011, 09:35 PM
Reading these letters is something else! My GGGG uncle Charlie Crosby rode shotgun on the gold stage from Idaho City to the Boise Assay office. He is the reason I'm involved with black powder. I have his 1860 Army. Made in 1862, it's in great shape.

Would you be so kind as to post a few pics of the gun? I'm sure everyone here would love to see them!

May 13, 2011, 04:28 PM
I'll sure try to get a few pic's up this weekend. Hey Hardcase - I was getting a home re-finance at the Home Federal Bank on 8th St. in Boise a few years back. The loan officer (a lady) told me her relatives ran the stage stop between Idaho City and Boise. Any chance you two are related?

Will try to post some pics soon guys!


PS - Hardcase - You ever hear of Uncle John McClellan? Ran the 8Th St. Ferry in the 1860's -70's. His sister was my GGGGrandmother, married to Charlie Crosby's brother Fayette. (My GGGGrandfather)

May 13, 2011, 05:10 PM
Could have been a cousin, idaram, I've got a few that have been in and out of banking.

I haven't heard of John or Fayette. But I'm not so up on Boise history as Boise Basin.

I'd love to see those pictures, too.

May 20, 2011, 12:48 PM
I thought that this one was very interesting. It tells a little bit about the discovery and naming of Sailor Diggins, along with some of the trials and travails (at least financially speaking) of running a business and of mining back in the day.

It is to my great, great, great, great grandmother from her son William (my great, great, great grandfather's brother).

Of note, Sailor Diggins was considered to be in California, but it's actually just over the border in Oregon.

Sailor Diggins, Illinois Valley, Cal, Aprl 16th/53

Ever Dear & Affectionate Mother,

I hasten to answer your letter of March 12th/52 which I have just received along with 10 or 12 others. (Which I perceive by the date has been written thirteen months ago). One from Christopher dated June 30th/52 - and one from Henry dated Feb 12th/53 which gave me both joy and sorry.

Joy to know that he was still alive to see and read a letter of his own hand write (for I had apprehended the worst). Sorrow to lean the death of our dear brother Joseph. The painful intelligence overwhelmed me with grief and sorrow. Oh if there was one brother I loved, admired or thought more of than another it certainly was Joseph. I never knew how vastly I loved him until now. When I think of the moral and social influences (always imparted to me when in his company) and goodness of heart, it makes me shed tears of bitterness to think I lived within a few hundred miles of him for a number of years without going to see him, although purposed it many times.

This is the first letter I have received from Henry since I left Oregon about sixteen or seventeen months and he writes but very few lines in this, only half a side, the rest blank. But he informs me where he is, what he is doing and refers to many former letters he sent me. I also learn that Frank is with him but where or how he came he don't inform me. He merely says Frank is with me and we are both well and hearty

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although he says Frank will write to me in a few days. Henry informs me he has been keeping store and intends going home this summer, which I hope he will. If he has made out as well as I infer from his letter, it is quite likely he will. I have also been thinking of going home this fall, but I have had such a set back this last winter that I will have to postpone it until spring or fall next.

I am in very good diggins of our own discovery. While prospecting this coast range last spring, we gave it the name of Sailor Diggins on account of a majority of sailors being in the company. I have been here about a year now. Last summer we had no water to work with, so we threw up dirt (every man holding as much as he can throw up). I have secured a good lot of dirt which will pay from half ounce to 12 dollars a day which is considered tolerable fair diggins. The winter has been so unaccountably bad that nobody has made anything like expenses. This winter provision has been very high from on to two dollars a pound and very scarce - but provision is coming down in price very fast. I bought one hundred pounds of flour for thirty five dollars yesterday. There is a new harbor or bay discovered about 80 miles southwest of us which will be a great benefit to this country. There has been one vessel up with provision and gone back for another load. I think we can get provision for about 20 cents a pound this summer. If provision gets cheaper, I shall keep a years on hand. My own board since the first of Oct until April hasn't cost one less than five hundred dollars.

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I have been cutting a race about three miles long to bring water into the diggins which cost considerable time and money. I hired hands very cheap but their board cost three times as much as their labor but however I have got my race in and at work. Our race is so long and the ground so open that we can't run but one machine but if we can keep at work all summer, we will get very well paid for all our trouble. For we can work 3 or 4 machines in the fall and winter. I have but one partner now, James Coutie by name, a sailor, but a working man. I have quit trading and turned my attention to mining. Me and McKinley dissolved some time ago. He went back to Wyreka and took a house that we had built and abandoned. He tried very hard to have me go back with him, but I rather chose to make 7 or 8 dollars a day than run the uncertain chances of trading as you have to trust any and every body that comes along and ten chances to one you never see half of them again (I had enough of that while I was in the business). Although Mc was a good partner and had plenty of money, but I didn't think he knew how to take care of it. I heard he had lost a good deal by selling his goods on credit and nobody having money to pay him in the spring. Besides, his pack train perished in the snow.

But excuse me, I have been running away with myself here writing things that you know nothing about and cannot interest you. I have filled this up without perceiving it, but I shall write soon again. I shall write to Henry this morning and next Sunday I will write to Chris. Direct your letters to Salem, Oregon Territory. I see you put Houses Springs on the back. Tell the boys to do the same and I shall be sure to get them.

From your affectionate son, Wm Cooper

My love and respects to all. You shall soon hear from me again.

Now, it turns out that the "sailors" that William mentions were a group of mariners who had deserted their ship when it docked in Crescent City, CA. They heard about the big gold strike on Jackson Creek in what is now southwest Oregon. They left the ship and hotfooted it up to the headwaters of the Illinois River. Somehow, William Cooper joined their company and the rest, as they say, is history.

Incidentally, William did do pretty well in both mining and sales. He sent several thousand dollars back home and eventually moved back to Houses Springs to live out the remainder of his days in relative comfort.

May 20, 2011, 01:56 PM
I love the language uses of the day.

My grandfather was courting my grandmother. He wrote a letter to her and one of the sentences was:

"May I expect that you will save your Friday evening next for me?"

May 25, 2011, 12:41 PM
In 1831, my great-great-great-great grandparents were fairly well established in Wheeling, Virginia. Christopher had been working in the iron foundries, but probably, by this time, had left that business to start a grocery store. He was in his mid-40s and not in the best of shape - the iron business was extremely hard back then (it's no picnic today, either!)

I'm not sure what Jennett was doing at this time - probably working in the store as well, along with being very active in the church.

In this letter, one of Jennett's old friends from Wales, Mary Batten, has come to America. Although she addressed Jennett as "sister", they aren't related.

The names are a little confusing - keep a close eye on the different Jacobs, Benjamins, Anns and Marys. Good luck with it!

What interested me most about this one is that Mary Batten talks a bit about apprenticeships. Also, there's a brief mention of the start of her sea voyage. Of note, the vessel "Cosmo" that she sailed in was a 490 ton, single deck sailing ship. I'd roughly estimate that it was, maybe, 150 feet long. Having crossed the Atlantic in a 450 foot, 4000 ton frigate, I can't even imagine just how miserable a copper-sheathed, wooden sailing ship would be.

Like I keep saying, those folks were a lot tougher than us.

New York, September 16th, 1831

My Dear Sister,

It was with great pleasure and afforded me great happiness to receive your letter by Wm. Jordan. My husband left England on the 27th day of April 1830 and arrived on the 4th day of June in the same year. I followed him with my two daughters (Ann and Mary) on the succeeding voyage. After we arrived, we were on the look out for some likely prospect of doing some service and we took a house in Hudson Street in this city. Where we found it not quite convenient and we moved to our present residence, No. 153 Bowery, corner of Broome and as far as I am able to judge at present, can make a comfortable livelihood. We are offered a lease of seven years or more at the expiration of the six months, from May, provided we find the business answers.

My sons William and Thomas have been here for some years. William has served his time to the currying business and is now working with his late master as a journeyman and is very comfortable. My son Thomas is apprenticed to a coach and wheelwright manufacturer in wh ich place he is very harshly used, but I think it better for him to spend his time out, when he may be his own master. My daughter Ann has been apprenticed to the dress making and milinery business and will have eleven months from this time to serve before she earns anything for herself. My daughter Mary is in school. My brother Benjamin is gone to England since the 1st January and he

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intended reminaing there if he could, but I find that he thinks of returning on the first day of October next.

We find by all accounts received from our native home that things are going very badly, but that they have prospects for the better. My mother lives at Merthyr at my brother William and you may rely on her doing you the utmost justice.

I was under the necessity of leaving much quicker than I expected in consequence of my passage with that of children. And as I was crossing the channel toward Bristol the ship Cosmo, which I sailed with, was coming out of the river. And consequently, I came off in a hurry. We came out to the lands and obliged to put back, where we remained a fortnight.

Jacob is very unwell and obliged to walk on crutches and is not likely to get better. His wife has lately been confined of a still born child. He has got one about 13 or 14 years of age. Benjamin has been married between three and four years to a young woman from North Wales. He has no family and has given up his business for some time. He has two chapels to superintend at Utica.

My sister Ann has been here for four years and has been in comfortable situation in Stueben County with a gentleman and his lady. Her son William that came here about 8 years ago is learning the currying business and is very steady. Her son Thomas is leaning the cabinet business. His son Jacob is with her and getting so much a month with I don't

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know. Her son Benjamin is with my brother Benjamin and is about 10 years old. This is the youngest. Joseph is the same situation in Liverpool as when you heard last. He has got three living children and two died.

To explain my mother's situation (understand that she keeps her own house and William lives with her) - she lives with Merrick as chief clerk. I heard about 2 months since that she enjoyed her health as well as could be expected from a woman of her age.

You may rely on Benjamin's returning the particulars of your affairs. And on his return I shal be able to hear the news from the Old Country and my own prepects.

I should have written sooner, but that I expected my Ann whom I have not seen for the last four years. Yet I hope to receive a letter from you soon.

I must conclude with my respects to your husband and children. Believe me to be your

Dear Sister

Yours Affectionatly

Mary Batten

Swan Tavern
Corner Bowery and Broome St.
New York

By the way, it's worth taking a look at 153 Bowery on Google Maps. It's definitely not what it was 180 years ago!

June 1, 2011, 06:49 PM
Back around 1863, the townsfolk of Idaho City got together and built a Catholic church, the first one in Idaho (not such a tough record - Idaho became a territory that year.) The church made it through the first fire in 1865, but didn't survive the second one in 1867. It was rebuilt that year and got through fires three and four in 1868 and 1871.

It still stands today. Mass is celebrated every Sunday.

Here's a photo of the congregation, probably sometime in the early 1890s. I recognize my great grandmother, Mary, all the way in the back in the middle, along with my great, great grandfather, Frank Cooper.


I don't think that the church ever had a full time priest because the population was always in such flux, even during the peak of the gold rush. Thus, in 1901, when my great grandparents were married, it was by the justice of the peace because the circuit priest was not available. When he arrived, he told them that they had been living in sin and would have to be remarried after they had lived apart for a while. According to family lore, that's the last time a priest was ever allowed into their house.

It probably didn't help matters that my great grandfather had been a member of the Loyal Orange Lodge for all of his adult life, either.

June 1, 2011, 07:13 PM
Hardcase why arent you writing a book about your family?

WildthesedaysitseasytopublishAlaska ™©2002-2011

June 1, 2011, 11:17 PM
It's on my bucket list, WA. I'm still sorting through all of the material. In fact, I've got all day Saturday set aside for another trip to the state historical archives to get copies of 60 or so court records. It's interesting - we talk about how litigious society is today. I have no idea if my family's legal finagling was commonplace, but they were so bound up in the courts it's astonishing!

June 5, 2011, 01:28 PM
Sorry I've been so long in getting this posted. Hope this works!
Here is Charlie Crosby and his '60 Colt Army.


June 7, 2011, 06:04 PM
those are very articulate letters- particularly if the spelling hasn't been corrected. A lot of 19th century writers were very good with words and sometimes, grammer but creative and inconsistent with spelling. I have heard that the formal language used in the series "Deadwood" was not all that uncommon and it certainly did show up in written material
There is a popular conceit that cowboys did not use vulgar language. They probably didnt when talking to their mom. I have heard Deadwood critized because of the frequent use of the Queen Mother Of All Curse Words and its derivations. Some have even said that that particulary word-having to do with procreation, (and a current hip-hop standard) was not in use at the time. A perusal of Eugene Fields' " Ode To The Old Fashioned Harlot" will put an end to that idea. It was based on the Old Oaken Bucket and delivered by Fields to a men's club in 1888. He also wrote a lyrical poem about Socrates and Alcibiades that Oscar Wilde might have liked.

June 7, 2011, 10:27 PM
I've tried to leave the spelling and grammar as-is, but sometimes I think that my fingers automatically type the right word. The one thing that I did add is punctuation. Almost none of the letters have any - they're one vast run-on sentence. No periods, commas or correct capitalization. It usually takes a while on the first read to parse a letter. Also, penmanship varied from very, very good to very, very bad.

Sometimes I feel like a forensic proofreader.

June 22, 2011, 04:09 PM
I don't have kids, but I have a niece and some nephews. And I remember some pretty rambling telephone calls when they were 9 or ten years old where there were a lot of subject changes, ums and uhs and some of the most mind-boggling run-on sentences you ever heard.

I guess it's a kid thing (although I'm pretty sure I was quite astute and well spoken at age 10. That's my story, anyway).

When my great grandmother's sister, Essie, was ten, she wrote her grandfather and her aunt a letter. She lived in Idaho City, they lived not too far outside of St. Louis. Here we go...

Idaho City Idaho
Sept the 27 1893

Dear grandpa and aunt nettie we are all well hope you the same aunt nettie I was glad to heare from you I like the ribbon and the picture I hope the Dr did grandpa eyes good O grandpa Madie and I had a picnic trying to make another if Papa gold mine turns out good I think we will come back Warren suffers with the toothake aunt nettie yestrday was warren birthday he was 4 years Mama bake him a cake aunt nettie geneva and I had lots of fun the bath tub we can see lots of snow on the mountains I will close for this tim hope to hear from soon

Essie A Cooper

Here is the original letter:

http://www.fluidlight.com/genealogy/essie_1.jpg http://www.fluidlight.com/genealogy/essie_2.jpg

By the way, although "Papa's" gold mine turned out pretty well (Papa was my great, great grandfather Frank Cooper), they didn't go back. Instead, they brought "Grandpa", who, in real life was my great, great, great grandfather Christopher Cooper, out to Idaho City, Idaho the next year.

July 7, 2011, 04:53 PM
I'm transcribing a pamphlet that's long out of print and copyright called "Idaho City - Queen of the Gold Camps". I'll put a link to a PDF version of it here when I'm done. It has some most excellent information on the gold rush there during the Civil War and, although it's specific to Idaho City, much of it could just as well be a generic history of gold mining of the day.

One thing that kind of made me chuckle was a brief summary of business activity in September of 1865. There was a list of the number of various establishments within Idaho City (or Bannock, as it was called back then). Here's a sampling

Newspaper: 1
Saddle Shop: 1
Photograph Shop: 1
Paint Shop: 2
Church: 2
Tailor Shop: 3
Jewelry Store: 3
Tin and Stove Shop: 3
Hotel: 4
Drug Store: 5
Cigar Stand: 5
Billiard Parlor: 5
Barber Shop: 6
Bakery: 9
Chinese Laundry: 10
Blacksmith Shop: 12
Restaurant: 15
Dry Goods and Clothing Store: 20
Law Office: 23
Grocery Store: 36
Saloon: 41

Now, that was at the beginning of the year. In May, most everything burned down. Of interest, all of the saloons burned. None of the churches did (although they did burn in later fires.)

July 11, 2011, 11:34 AM
Here's a link to a PDF file of the little book that I mentioned in the previous post. It's a transcription of a pamphlet that came out in 1958 about mining and other events in early Idaho City, Idaho history.

From what I know about local history, most of it's true. Even if you're not as wound up in southwest Idaho history as I am, it's an interesting read about a pretty typical mountain mining town of the mid to late 19th century.

As far as I can tell, the copyright has long since expired and it's been out of print for decades.

Idaho City - Queen of the Gold Camps (http://www.fluidlight.com/genealogy/Idaho_City.pdf) (about 96KB)

July 11, 2011, 04:36 PM
I found a clipping from either the Idaho Statesman or the Idaho World over the weekend that had an interview with John Hailey, one of the early packers into the Idaho gold mines. He and his partner, William Ish, ran saddle trains from Umatilla, Oregon into the Boise Basin. Here's how he described it:

The owner of the train would furnish each passenger with a horse and a saddle so he could ride, would also pack a small amount of baggage for each person and furnish sufficient amount of substantial provisions for the trip, with the necessary cooking utensils. The passengers did the cooking in camp while the train-master looked after the animals, packing, etc. The fare for this trip was fifty dollars and each passenger was exprected to pay in advance. Toll cost about ten dollars for the round trip for each animal, and added to this was the cost of the grub, the shoeing of the animals, th ewages for the train-master, and frequently the loss of a horse or two. It took about fourteen days for the round trip and then the horses and train-master had to lay off for a week to rest from the hard trip, so it will be seen that all they took in was not clear profit.

It was quite a trip, back in 1863. The train had to cross the Blue Mountains, go through the Grande Ronde valley, then the Baker valley. It would follow the Burnt River to the Snake, then the Payette River to the little town of Horseshoe Bend (which is a thriving little burg today). Then it would follow Harris Creek over what we call The Divide and into the Basin. To be honest, if a round trip was fourteen days, then they must have been moving right along because that is some very rough country even today! A person in a car could make the trip one way in a long day, but that's at highway speeds on the Interstate most of the way. On horseback? No thanks!

One of the books that I have on the Basin says that the next year, Hailey and Ish started a stage service from Umatilla, advertising that the trip could be made in just four days - about 75 miles a day!

July 11, 2011, 08:21 PM
I just picked up a copy of"Cowboy Slang" by Edgar R Potter.
I got it used but it's sure worth every penny that even a new version costs!
It dosen't have all the slang of the period for sure but it does highlight much ofthe daily twists of the language you'd run into.
It never fails the human animal will twist and turn the "right" word and try to make it humorous in discussion.
Some was because of illiteracy and some was simply brilliant twists of a word!
Keep your eyes open for this book, its a fun read!

July 11, 2011, 11:05 PM
Some was because of illiteracy and some was simply brilliant twists of a word!

Oh absolutely! It strikes me that there was much more attention paid to literacy and a sort of "classic" education, even if it was homespun, than most people think.

It's telling, I think, that one of the first buildings that went up in Idaho City (well, after the saloons and the jail) was a theater. And it worked hard to book acts that traveled between Salt Lake City and Portland. And not bawdy stuff, either, but Shakespeare and the like.

I suspect that there were plenty of twists of a word that were quite brilliant in origin. Those old fellers may not have had a finishing school education, but they weren't illiterate hicks, either.

July 18, 2011, 10:52 AM
I was kind of surprised to find out just how literate and, I guess, "socialized" the miners in the early to mid 1860s were. I ran across a book that somebody in my family bought a long time ago about the Boise Basin and one of the chapters discussed entertainment in Idaho City and the surrounding area.

There were plenty of saloons and bars, along with the hurdy-gurdy girls (who were not prostitutes) and the "soiled doves" (who were), but, according to the state historical society, most of the mining towns had a brass band, some of them had theaters (of the live stage kind, of course) and there were even a few literary clubs - Idaho City had a German literary club - there was a sizable German population in the Basin, even though Germany as a country didn't exist until 1870.

I suppose that the sort of "high society" level of entertainment isn't so odd when you figure that most of the men (and it was, for several decades, pretty much a "men only" settlement) were immigrants from either the eastern United States or from Europe. They didn't give up on culture - they brought it with them. Or at least, they brought a version of it. Here's a story from the Idaho World from the 1880s about Johnny Kelly, a violinist who was such a fine performer that he caught the eye of the territorial governor, William McConnell (who wrote the following about Kelly's early 1860s performances):

He commanded a salary second to none and was engaged in the largest gambling resort in the city. The contract under which he played included the installation of a swinging stage or platform, swung by iron rods from the upper joists, several feet above the heads of those who might stand on the main floor below. This platform was reached by a movable ladder, which, after he ascended, he pulled up out of reach of those below. The object was two-fold; first, when located upon his aerie, he was removed from the danger of panics which were an almost nightly occurrence, caused from the sportive instincts of some visitor who, having imbibed too freely of the regulation vest-pocket whiskey, or having suffered some real or imaginary grievance, proceeded to distribute the leaden pellets of a Colt's navy revolver, not only into the anatomy of the offender, but quite as frequently to the serious, if not fatal injury of some innocent bystander.

When it is understood that it was not unusual for 500 men to be present in the room at the time these diversions occurred, it is not difficult to imagine the kind of panic liable to ensue. Hence the first object of Kelly's lofty perch. His second object was to be above the course of flying missiles and thus preserve his violin, which as a valuable on, from the chance of being perforated by stray bullets.

Apparently Johnny Kelly gained enough fame that he eventually toured the country and even made it back to his old home in Ireland, where he died in the 1870s.

July 19, 2011, 04:10 PM
I hope that you guys enjoy reading this stuff at least half as much as I do discovering it. I know that a lot of it doesn't have as much meaning to you as to me and I'm honestly not sure just how typical my corner of the West was compared to other parts of the Frontier, but it's all pretty fun to me.

Anyway, among all the papers and photos that were left to me or that I've borrowed from relatives is a copy of The Early History of Idaho by William McConnell. He was one of the early settlers in the Boise Basin area and later one of the first two senators when Idaho became a state in 1890. He was also governor for one term.

His book is really quite funny in places - sometimes it was meant to be, other times the clever twists of a phrase to meet with the Victorian sensibilities of the time really make me chuckle. Here's a passage:

During the summer of 1863 large wagon trains of emigrants from Missouri and Arkansas arrived in Idaho. They consisted of entire families of men, women and children, and would have been a desirable acquisition to the population of any country. They had abandoned their former homes to escape the terrors of guerrilla warfare, which was epidemic in those states at that time. As a rule they brought with them good teams and wagons and such household goods as were portable. Their advent marked the arrival of the first feather-beds into the territory. They also brought a new element into the country - an element which made the mountains look more attractive. It was immediately noted by the young men that the rivers and brooks which had heretofore gone silently on their way, made sweet music as they traveled over their pebbly beds; the birds sang more sweetly; even the clouds which swept the summer skies bore laughter on their wings. The magic which wrought such marvelous changes was a bevy of girls. When the train of wagons on which they traveled reached Boise City and stopped on the main street to permit some of the families to purchase articles from the stores, the card games, billiard halls and saloons were quickly deserted, even the "barkeep" and the "lookout" for the "faro" games, with their hair parted in the middle, were soon in the front row along the sidewalks, craning their necks to get a peep. "Goo-goo" eyes were seen on the Boise streets for the first time that day. Whether they were an importation from Missouri or Arkansas matters not - they did effective work. Other trains quickly followed the first, and a camp was established on the riverbank near the outskirts of the town, where acquaintances were formed, and during the evenings which followed, sitting around their smouldering camp fires, plans for the future were amde by the older people, while the girls and their visitors from town formed groups of two beneath the blinking stars. Each mountain swain had wondrous tales to tell - of dreary days and nights alone. Of course they had never loved before, and never could again. 'Twas thus the stories ran, while mothers, argus-eyed looked on.

These fathers grim had guns; some had been tried at Wilson Creek, and others on the plains. So every vow made on that river bank was kept. There was a dearth of wedding gowns, dearth of wedding bells; but "eyes spoke love to eyes that spoke again" and ere the slim young moon that first had listened to their sighs had grown to full, many a young bachelor had been bound in hymeneal ties, and was enjoying for the first time, since leaving home and mother, the comforts of a feather-bed. Of the marriages resulting from these speedy courtships, I have yet to learn of a divorce. Many of the immigrants of that year located in Boise valley, while a few crossed the divide to Payette. Among the latter may be named the Flourneys, the Burges family, and others.

That's how my great, great, great uncle, Frank Cooper met his wife, Libby. They went on to own the Warm Springs Resort, a hugely popular natural hot springs just an hour or so wagon ride south of Idaho City (and, I might add, scheduled to reopen this winter - alas, it's been out of the family for about 110 year!)

I don't think that a shotgun was necessary for Uncle Frank to keep his vow, though.

James K
July 19, 2011, 04:26 PM
The level of education in those times was actually higher than it is today in many ways. Grade school children learned English grammar, mathematics, history, geography, poetry, some classic literature and, of course, writing and penmanship of a quality that has not been seen in decades.

Far from illiterate rabble, the general American public was quite well educated in those days, and the letters of pioneers and Civil War soldiers bear this out.


July 19, 2011, 05:12 PM
One occasionally quoted piece of 19th century literature was a letter to a friend from a woman embarked on the western expansion with her new husband. It was an innocent and frank explication of the joys of marital fecundation written in flowery 19th century language and in apparent ignorance of religious prejudices against that sort of thing. It might have been fake but we would like to think it was genuine.

August 1, 2011, 01:48 PM
It seems like the Cooper family members who stayed in Missouri could never quite get ahead financially. The farm at Houses Springs seemed to have been a pretty marginal operation (and it doesn't look like farming-type land on Google Maps), consequently, there was plenty of hustling for work.

Of course, the work was typical for the times - manual labor, for the most part, so if a fella got injured, well, he just didn't work.

Here's a letter from (I think) Alexander Cooper to his sister Jennette. They were siblings of my great, great grandfather. Jennette lived on the farm and Alex lived in St. Louis. I added a few periods, but the spelling and grammar are the genuine article.

june the 19th 84

Sister i will send you a few lines hopping this will find you all well as it leaves me the same at present. i am going to lave for grandrappids mich tuesday on a boat 280 miles over the lake. it is 561 miles from st louis. i will stay there a few days then i will come home. nettie that man will bring a 160.00 to you satarday eveing and if he dont send little Charley to get it for you. his name is emet tobin 1708 10st.

i will wright to you as soon as i get in the other town. you can wright to me before i go. i will get your letter anyway if you send one to me. you can send a letter home and tell the folks i am going. i would send you some money but i am out of work again. but as soon as i get to work i will send you some.

i will Close
Love to all

Alex Cooper

Another page was included in the envelope, but it based on the dates mentioned, it was probably sometime in December of 1884. That's part of the difficulty in sorting through these things. Or part of the fun...

St. Louis mo

to all at home

i got your letter Thursday. well i got my hand cut again. i went to the doctor and had it tied up. i gess the doctor bill it will cost seven dollars. i am getting a over coat made for $23. i must pay $10 monday dec 5th. tell nettie to come in monday dec 11th and i will go with her to get a clock if i get money enought. puss and all is well.

i would had the money if i had not got cut.

from Cooper

On a side note, Alexander's wife Mary committed suicide about ten years later by drinking carbolic acid. He killed himself not long after that by throwing himself into the Missouri River so as not to be a burden on his children. This was at the height of the Panic of 1893, which probably played a pretty big role.