Benjamin COOLEY was one of the original 42 inhabitants of the settlement of Agawam, later named Springfield, MA. He bought 40.5 acres, 4 of which were in town proper and where he built his first house. Benjamin Cooley was an honored member of the Springfield community due to his weaving skills and personality.
Admittance as an inhabitant of Springfield was a privilege not lightly acquired. Only those were admitted who could contribute something of value to the community--the financial ability to pay others to work; the ownership of merchanidse needed by the townsmen; abilities and talents helpful to the growth of the town. Strangers who slipped in were warned out of town. In case of doubt concerning a desirable applicant, a bond was required. Even sons of such a prominent citizen as Deacon Samuel Chapin were admitted only on these conditions. Cooley was recruited to come to Springfield as having a skilled weaver was as vital to the town as having a blacksmith. There is ample evidence that Cooley was a skilled worker in both flax and wool.
During his forty years in Springfield, Benjamin Cooley acquired a competence far beyond the average, while yet retaining the good will of his fellows. At his coming he acquired forty acres of mediocre land. At his death he owned 524 acres of the choicest. He had houses and barns to meet his own needs and those of his eldest sons. Of livestock, gear and equipment and the merchandise of his trade he had a sufficiency. The debts he owed, amounting to £9-16s-6d were more than offset by the £15-15s-2d due to him. The inventory of his estate totaled over 1241 pounds sterling, having a present-day value of perhaps $60,000.
August 17, 1684, Benjamin Cooley died at the age of sixty-seven. Six days later died Sarah, his wife, the mother of his eight children. Five sons and three daughters they had brought to maturity. As one recalls the terrific infant mortality of those days, he realizes what an unusual type of mother Sarah Cooley must have been to have carried her entire brood safely through the dangerous period.
Death seems to have come suddenly to Benjamin Cooley for though he attempted to make a will, he did not live to complete it. However, it was carried far enough to indicate some of his wishes, and with a sense of justice worthy of such a father and with a consideration for the needs of each other the heirs divided the estate and carried on.
Details of his life and the early settlement of Springfield and Longmeadow, MA can be found in: Wright, Harry Andrew, Early Springfield and Longmeadow, Massachusetts, with Special Reference to Benjamin Cooley, Pioneer, Chapter IV.
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