The California pioneers of 1849 are fast passing away, but there are still among the residents of the state those who came to the Pacific coast the year following the discovery of gold in California, attracted by the possibility of rapidly securing wealth. Among this number is Isaac Cooper, now one of the prominent citizens of Oleta, Amador County. He has reached the eight-seventh milestone of life’s journey and receives the veneration and respect which is always accorded old age, for his life has been upright and worthy of high regard.
Mr. Cooper was born in New York on the 8th of February, 1813, and traces his ancestry back to James Cooper, a minister of the Society of Friends who settled in Philadelphia in 1650 and became one of the prominent merchants in that city, being connected with its commercial interests for many years. His son, William Cooper, was the father of James Copper, and the latter had a son William, who was the grandfather of the subject of this review. Representatives of the name were participants in the war of the Revolution and were prominent in public office and in all the public affairs in the early history of the country, leaving the impress of their strong individuality upon events which aided in shaping the destiny of the nation. His birth occurred in 1734, and after arriving at years of maturity he became a leader in thought and movement of the public life of the community. He served as a judge of the court of common pleas, for two terms was a member of the United States Congress and in 1811 occupied a seat in the state legislature. He was killed by a political antagonist who struck him over the head with a club. One of his sons, Fennimore Cooper, has gained world-wide fame as a writer of stories concerning the early conditions of America. Another son, Samuel Cooper, the father of our subject, was born in New Jersey and when he had attained his majority married Miss Elizabeth Bartlett, a lady of English lineage whose ancestors were early settlers of the colonies. Her father was captured by the British in the Revolutionary War and was held as a prisoner in the New York sugar-house until the cessation of hostilities. They had three sons, of whom Mr. Cooper is the only survivor.
Our subject is a self-educated and a self-made man. He received but limited educational privileges and began to earn his own living by chopping wood at twenty-five cents a cord. In 1849 he was employed in a similar manner in California, but received eight dollars and board for his work. He spent the year 1833 in Toledo, Ohio, and in 1834 went to Chicago, being present at the time the last payment was made to the Indians for the land on which that metropolis is now located. In 1836 he was a resident of Iowa, and thus has he been a pioneer in various states. In 1839 he married Miss Caroline Armstrong, in Ohio. Five children were born to them: Frances, the wife of F. M. Hubbell, of Des Moines, Iowa; George Pomroy; Florence, a widow; Alice, deceased; and Fennimore Isaac.
His love of pioneer life and the hope of securing wealth on the Pacific slope led Mr. Cooper to cross the plains to California in 1849. He made the journey with an ox team and was accompanied by two companions. Unmolested by the Indians, they arrived at Shingle Springs on the 7th of September, and at Sacramento Mr. Cooper began work on the levee, for which he was paid ten dollars a day. Subsequently he engaged in placer mining at Coloma and on the American River, where he met with a fair degree of success. In the fall of 1850 he returned to the east, but voted on the question of the adoption of the state constitution before leaving. He made on an average twenty-five dollars per day while in the placer mines, and with the capital he had acquired he purchased a farm near the city of Des Moines, Iowa, after his return to the Hawkeye state. There he carried on agricultural pursuits and afterward acted as a clerk in the United States land office and also discharged the duties of receiver and registrar in the city of Des Moines. He likewise engaged in dealing in stock and conducted various other enterprises, which were capably managed and netted him good returns.
In 1870 Mr. Cooper was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife, who died that year, leaving three children: George Pomroy, Florence Alice and Fennimore. For his second wife Mr. Cooper chose Miss Charlotte Mann, a niece of Horace Mann. He then returned to California on a visit and while at Oleta he purchased the fine house in which he now resides, the place being surrounded by seven acres of valuable land. Here he is now spending the evening of his active and successful life. Since returning to this state he has been extensively interested in mining enterprises and is the owner of the Cooper mine.
In politics he has been a Democrat since the time of Andrew Jackson, but the honors and emolument of public office have had no attractions for him. He is still a hale and hearty old gentleman and still associated with business affairs. Old age does not necessarily indicate weakness, nor incapacity, for there is an old age which is an inspiration and a benediction to all and which gives out of the rich stores of wisdom and experience to those who have more recently started upon life’s pilgrimage. Of such a type Mr. Cooper is a representative, and in Amador County he is widely known and honored.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.