Peter Cooper – Who resides on section 12, about two miles north of Rochelle, is one of the early settlers of Flagg Township, one who has endured all the trials incident to pioneer life, and one who, commencing life without means, without friends, or held of any kind, has by his own industry, thrift and enterprise, gained a competency, and well provided for his family in future years.  He was born in Marsh County, New Jersey, August 22, 1823 and is the son of Garrett and Sarah (Smith) Cooper, both of whom were natives of the same state, the former born in 1791 and the latter in 1800.  The paternal grandfather, John Cooper, was also a native of Marsh County, New Jersey, as was also his wife, Catherine.  They were the parents of eleven children, of whom Garrett was third in order of birth.  John Cooper was a shoemaker by trade, an occupation which he followed in early life.  He later engaged in farming in which line he continued the remainder of his life, his death talking place in his native state during the second decade of the present century.  His wife survived him a number of years.
Garrett Cooper grew to manhood in Marsh County, New Jersey, and was reared to farm life, and when arriving at man’s estate chose farming as his life work.  He was united in marriage with Sarah Smith, daughter of Peter and Sarah Smith, both of whom were natives of New Jersey, the former born November 10, 1775.  He followed farming as a means of livelihood, and continued to reside in his native state, where his death occurred January 23, 1854.  His wife died November 21, 1857.  They were the parents of nine children, of whom Sarah, wife of Garrett Cooper, was third in order of birth.

Garrett Cooper and wife came to Ogle County in November 1858 and here the wife passed to her reward in October 1861.  He then returned east, where he remained about eighteen years.  His children by this time had all made for themselves homes, and he was left homeless.  Our subject then went east and persuaded his father to once more come to Ogle County and spend the remainder of life with him.  He did so, and the son and his family made it as pleasant as possible for the old man.  He did not, however, long survive and passed away in June 1890.  He was a good man, one who endeavored to live right with his fellowmen.  In politics, he was a Jackson Democrat.

The subject of this sketch spent his boyhood and youth in his native county and state, and assisted his father in the farm work, while attending the common schools as the opportunity was afforded him.  When eighteen years of age he left school and commenced life for himself.  For the next five years he worked on farms and then learned the molder’s trade in Marion, Ohio at which he worked for about two years.  Borrowing twenty-five dollars of his uncle, George Smith, in the fall of 1849 he left Ohio and came to Ogle County, having previously purchased a soldier’s land warrant for one hundred and sixty acres of land, for which he gave one hundred and twenty-five dollars.  With his land warrant he took up a tract comprising one hundred and seventy-two acres, paying the government for the twelve acres additional at the rate of one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre.  He then returned east, where he remained until the spring of 1855, when he came back with the intention of making this his permanent home.  He now boasts that on coming here he built his house, manufactured the furniture for it and was married , all within one week.

On the 29th of May, 1855, Mr. Cooper was united in marriage with Miss Mary E. Serick, who was born in Henry County, Oho, December 12, 1836, and a daughter of John and Mary (Miller) Serick, both natives of Pennsylvania, but of German origin.  They located in Henry County, Ohio where he engaged in farming and there the remainder of their lives were spent.  In their family were twelve children, of whom Mrs. Cooper was eleventh in order of birth.  Immediately after their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Cooper moved into the house which he had built, and in which the first two years of their married life were spent.  It was a car roof shanty, 12x16 feet, with one window and one door.  It was however their home and the beginning of better things.  In two years they had laid by enough to purchase a house located on another farm, for which they paid three hundred dollars.  The house was removed to their farm, and in that they lived until 1868, when their present commodious house was erected.  The new house, which is of brick, was erected on an eighty-acre tract adjoining his original purchase and compares favorably with many of the more modern structures.  The brick house has been the home of the family up to the present time.  In the years that have passed fortune seems to have smiled on our subject.  In the home place, and in the adjoining township of Dement, he has some five hundred acres of excellent land, all of which is under cultivation.  He has also over a section of well improved land in Gage County, Nebraska.
To Mr. and Mrs. Cooper fourteen children were born.  Mary L. married Joseph Haines, and with their children they reside in O’Brien County, Iowa. Garrett P. is a stock buyer, living in South Omaha.  He married Alice Sweeney and they have one child.  Oliver is living in Rochelle.  Edith A. married Fred Crandall, and is living in Woodson County, Kansas.  They have four children.  Alma K. is the wife of Jonathan Lynn, and they reside in Flagg Township.  Nettie E. died at the age of nine years.  Albert C., who is living in Rochelle, where he is engaged in the butcher business, married Anna Strite and they have three children.  Minnie is living at home with her father.  William W. died the result of an accident at the age of thirteen years.  Charlie is living on his father’s farm.  He married Elsie McDowell, and they have one child.  Lucinda died when one month old. Howard is attending the Rockford Business College.  Clifford died in infancy.  Florence is living at home.

Mr. Cooper has done well by his children and has given each a good start in life.  In March, 1897 he gave to each of his ten children a present of eight thousand dollars, a sum that s certainly not to be despised.  Not withstanding he has passed his three score years and ten, he is yet hale and hearty, and gives personal attention to his business interests.  He has been a successful farmer, running after no special fads, but content to go along in the even tenor of his way giving his time to general farming and stock raising, looking carefully after the little details of his business.  When he came to this section it was but thinly settled, the great body of the land which is now paying such golden tribute to the husbandman was untouched by the plow.  The settler’s cabins were yet few and far between.  He has lived to see a remarkable change, one that can scarcely be realized even by those who have not only been eye witnesses but active participants in effecting the great transformation.  Scarcely an acre of untilled land is to be found in all this section, and thousands of acres which were considered worthless by reason of their swampy nature have been reclaimed and are now the most productive lands.  Villages and cities have sprung up, railroads have been built, miles upon miles of telephone and telegraph wires have been strung, school houses and churches dot the prairies, and a happy and contented people are living at peace with all mankind.  Our subject has not only the satisfaction of having witnessed these things, but he has the double satisfaction of knowing that the credit is due to him and other pioneers for all that has been done.

Transcribed by Denise Border

Biographical Record of Ogle County


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