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McLean County, Illinois
History and Genealogy



JAMES COOPER, one of the pioneers of McLean County, respected and loved by all who know him, and a progressive farmer of Funk's Grove Township, is a resident on section 1. He was born in Ross County, Ohio, July 24, 1828, and his father, Michael Cooper, was a native of Lancashire, England. The latter grew to manhood in his native land, was there married, and came to this country about 1820. He had come to America with the intention of seeking a home for his family, but while here his good wife died in the old country, and his mother took charge of the children, who always lived in England. Mr. Cooper was again married, in Ross County, Ohio, and the lady selected as his life companion was Mrs. Ruhanna Hickle. She was born in Virginia, and was the daughter of Abraham VanMeter and the widow of Jacob Hickle.

Michael Cooper was a wagon-maker by trade, but after his second marriage engaged in the vocation of a farmer. In 1830 he bought land in Madison County, Ohio. The tract contained 160 acres and was military land and heavily timbered. His title to this property proved to be worthless, and after clearing quite a portion of it he lost the entire property. In 1837, accompanied by his wife and five children, he started for Illinois. The journey was made overland with a team of horses and a wagon, occupying three or four weeks' travel, and terminated at Bloomington, this State. Soon after his settlement there he rented land of Col. Gridley, at Lexington, a portion of which is now included in that city. This he worked until 1841, when he moved to Towanda Township and rented a farm, which he worked for three years. He then went to Hudson Township, where he was a renter until 1847, during which year he started on his return to England, and it is supposed he was lost on the voyage as he has never been heard from since. His wife died at the home of our subject in 1872.

Of the second marriage of Michael Cooper five children were born, the subject of this notice being the third in order of birth. He was nine years old when he came to this county with his parents, and here attended the pioneer school and assisted his father in the labors of the farm. After his father's death he worked out, receiving $7.50 per month for his services. He saved his earnings, and in time was enabled to carry on farming on rented land, and made money by so doing. In 1867 he bought 210 acres of land on section 1, Funk's Grove Township. There were no buildings on the place in which to live, and he rented until 1873, when he moved on to the place and has since made it his home. He has a good farm under an advanced state of cultivation, and has been successful in the prosecution of his labors. In 1878 his residence was destroyed by fire and he then erected the one in which he is now living. The place at present consists of about 300 acres, all of which is enclosed and well improved.

Mr. Cooper was married, Jan. 23, 1866, to Frances Veatch. She was born in this county Nov. 18, 1842. Her father, Covington Veatch, was a native of Indiana, and her paternal grandfather was born in Tennessee of Scotch-Irish ancestry. Mrs. Cooper's father lived in Indiana until nineteen years old, and then, in 1836, came to this county with his parents and settled with them in Randolph Township. His father entered Government land and improved several farms. He was a carpenter by trade, and he would build a house on a small tract of land and then dispose of the place and buy another. He spent the last days of his life in Quincy, Ill. He was also a Baptist preacher, and labored in the pulpit on Sundays for the conversion of souls. He died in 1878, aged eighty years. The mother of Mrs. Cooper, Eliza Branton, was born in Virginia in 1823, and came to this State with her parents in 1834. They located in Champaign, where their demise occurred. Covington Veatch, after living some time on his farm in Randolph Township, sold out and went to Kansas, settling in Kingman County, where he lived a retired life.

Socially Mr. Cooper is a member of the Masonic fraternity, and holds fellowship with Lodge No. 251, of Heyworth. He is also a member of Robert T. Harvey Post No. 606, G. A. R. He enlisted in August, 1862, in Co. B, 94th Ill. Vol. Inf., and was in the service sixteen months, participating in the battle of Prairie Grove, Ark., and several other minor engagements. He was discharged on account of an affection of the eyes, from which he never recovered, and has lost the sight of one of them entirely.

Portrait and biographical album of McLean County, Ill. : containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Illinois, and of the presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887), 509. Transcribed and annotated by Judy Rosella Edwards.


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