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1932 Stories

By Harriettee F. Wakeman, Dist. 5

Mr. John Cooper was born August 18, 1830, in Pennsylvania. He lived with his parents until he was twenty-six years old. He and his father then came West to look for new land. They came on a train as far as La Salle. The next year he returned and brought his young bride. She described her new country as "nothing but sky and sod." They had to go 12 miles to the nearest post office, and their nearest neighbors were several miles away.

In 1857 he erected a one and a half story house on the land he bought. He bought the place for $1.25 an acre. He built the road running past his house. He plowed and harrowed it; later it was graded and put in the present condition.

In those days they had no roads, highways or automobiles. They traveled on horseback and in buggies. They had a few paths which they went on, and they cut through pastures to get to their destintaion.

The land then was mostly all prairie. Where people lived they would cultivate the land and put it in wheat. In those days they raised but little corn.

In April, 1857, they could carry fifteen bushels of wheat in a wagon across the ice without cracking it.

The post office in Rutland was in a box under the porch of a hotel. The hotel was a four-room house.

When the war came, Lincoln called for volunteers. Mr. Cooper, then only thirty-two, enlisted in the 104th Illinois Volunteer Infantry August 9, 1862. He marched with Sherman to the sea, and was imprisoned at Andersonville, Georgia. He was in the battle of Hartsville, Kentucky, where forty-four of his company were killed, one hundred and fifty wounded, and the living taken prisoners. Mr. Cooper was uninjured and was committed to the prison for six months. He was released in an exchange of prisoners at the end of the six months and immediately plunged into the thick of battle again. He was in the battle of Peach Tree Creek; in the fighting of Utoy Creek, at Mission Ridge. He escaped unscratched in the terrible Lookout Mountain encounter. He was at Ransacka, Jonesboro and Bentonville - all historical locations - in the Civil war.

Mr. Cooper finished the war without a wound, although he was in the most terrific of the fighting throughout. He was discharged June 6, 1865, more than sixty-seven years ago.

After the war Mr. Cooper came back to Illinois and re-etsablished his home. He was a good farmer, good father, and made a wonderful home for his children, giving them all a good education. He had nine children, of whom seven are living.

When John Cooper celebrated his one hundredth birthday all his children were there except one, Howard, who lives in California. Those present were Mrs. Suetta Cledge, of Rutland; Mrs. Ada Lawther, of Streator; Miss Clara Cooper, at home; Wayne, who lives near by working on his father's farm; Wilmot, of Oregon, and Mrs. Anna Bradish, of South Dakota. The pioneer mother died twenty-five years before.

There was just one wish he had at his birthday celebration and that was "I wish mother could have been here."

He has never used tobacco except during the war. He attributed his long life to outdoor exercise and good, clean living.

When the telegrams and letters of greeting came to the Cooper home on the day of his celebration, he was able to read all of them without glasses.

Mr. Cooper had the distinction of seeing Shabbona, the great Indian chief. Shabbona was on his way to Bloomington and passed by Mr. Cooper's house.

Mr. Cooper has lived to see Washington's centennial and bi-centennial.

Templates in Time