1/25/1756 – 11/5/1840

Benjamin A. Cooper was born on January 25th, 1756, in Culpepper, Virginia, to Francis Cooper and Ann (Abbott) Cooper.  He married Susan Higgins, probably before 1848, most likely in Madison County, Kentucky.  He rose to the rank of Colonel in the militia, and spend much of his life on the frontier of the new country, helping to push settlement westward.  Benjamin was closely affiliated with Daniel Boone during several of the Indian engagements, as well as the establishment of new settlements on the frontier, as the western boundaries moved from Virginia, to Kentucky and on into Missouri.  Benjamin Cooper died on November 5th, 1840, in Howard County, Missouri.

More information on the Cooper family’s involvement in the original settlement of Howard County< Missouri can be found at: http://www.rootsweb.com/~mohoward/history.html 

Records on service in the Indian Wars (part of the Revolutionary War) for Benjamin, Sarshal, Braxton and Francis can be found at:



From:  www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/frameset_search.asp


Individual Record

FamilySearch™ Ancestral File v4.19

Benjamin A COOPER (AFN: 83B7-J7)Pedigree
 Sex: MFamily
 Birth: 25 Jan 1756
  , Culpepper, Va
 Death: 5 Nov 1840
  , Howard, Mo
  Cooper Cemetery, Howard, Mo.
 Father: Francis COOPER (AFN: 83B6-W0)Family
 Mother: Ann ABBOTT (AFN: 83B6-X5) 
 Spouse: Anne FULLERTON (AFN: 83B8-H6)Family
 Marriage: Bef 1786 
  , Prob Madison Co, Ky 


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The following was copied from “FOR WE CANNOT TARRY HERE”, by Kirke Wilson, San Francisco, 1990. Much of the information is a repeat of the information contained on the Francis Cooper page, as their lives were so closely intertwined.

Francis Cooper and his wife, whose name is not known, established a household in Culpeper County in the early 1750s. In January 1756, Francis Cooper’s wife gave birth to their first son Benjamin A. Cooper (1756-1841).23 Later that year, Francis Cooper served in the Culpeper County militia. He was one of 53 foot soldiers in the company formed in March 1756 under the command of Lt. Col. William Russell and Capt. William Brown.24 Francis Cooper served 95 days with the Culpeper troops defending the Virginia frontier during the French and Indian War.25

In May 1761, Francis Cooper purchased land in Culpeper County from John and Elizabeth McQueen for 30 pounds. The land was in St. Mark’s Parish and was located “on a stoney point corner to Richard Tutt, Gent. in John Yancey’s line-in Alexander McQueen’s line…”26  In addition to their oldest son Benjamin, Francis Cooper and his wife had several other children including a son Sarshel (1763-1815), as well as at least two other sons and several daughters including one named Betty, who married James Wood.” Francis Cooper continued to live in Culpeper County until the Revolutionary War and served in Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774.

The Coopers in Kentucky:

Beyond its military and political dimensions, the Revolutionary War was also a source of change for many of the families it touched. Like other wars in United States history, the Revolution provided opportunities for young men to travel, learn about other places and acquire experience that would later prove valuable. For the Cooper family of Culpeper, Virginia, the Revolution was a period of dramatic change. They began the war living, as they had for a generation, in the settled rural community of Culpeper County. Francis Cooper had twice left his home to fight on the Virginia frontier but had, each time, returned to his family and farm in Culpeper County. In 1776, his son Benjamin followed his father’s pattern by enlisting as a private in the militia of Washington County, Virginia where he served under Capt. Daniel Smith, Lt. William Bowman and Ensign William Cowen. For three years, Benjamin Cooper was part of a ranger company patrolling and defending the frontier settlements on the Clinch and Holston Rivers of southwestern Virginia.36

In 1779, Benjamin Cooper was part of a company under Capt. John Duncan which was marched from Virginia to Boonesborough on the Kentucky frontier. In Kentucky, Isaac Ruddle replaced Duncan as captain of the company with Col. John Bowman and Maj. James Harrod in command. The company patrolled the area from Boonesborough to the Blue Licks and the Forks of the Licking River. Cooper participated in the 1779 campaign against the Shawnee towns in Ohio and returned that summer to the fort on the Licking River, perhaps Smith’s Station, which the ranger company had occupied. In September 1779, Cooper requested and obtained a furlough from Capt. Ruddle to return to his home in Virginia.37

At the same time Benjamin Cooper was traveling from Kentucky to Virginia, the Kentucky settlers were petitioning Virginia to establish a land office in Kentucky and issue land grants for settlers. In the hyperbole of the frontier, the Kentuckians explained, “…exposed to all the Barberous ravages of inhuman savage, whose savage disposition being animated by the rewards of Governor Hamilton has enabled, them to hold up a constant war this fouryears, which term has reduced many of us so low that we have scarce cattle amongst us to supply, our small Family’s and many of us that brought good stocks of both Horses and cows, now at this juncture have not left so much as one cow for the support of our familys…many of our inhabitants both married and single, have been taken by the Indians and carried to Detroyt others killed and their wives and children left in this destitute situation not being able as yet even to support their indigent family’s…38 The petition requested that Virginia grant the Kentucky pioneer “some compensation in Land for his loss, trouble and risk.”39  In response to the pleas of the settlers, Virginia established the Kentucky land law in 1779 enabling pioneers to claim the land for which they were fighting.

It is unclear whether Benjamin Cooper’s September 1779 visit to Culpeper County was planned as part of a family move to Kentucky but sometime that fall,  in spite of the dangers, Francis Cooper and his family moved to Lincoln County, Kentucky with Benjamin Cooper.40  The Coopers were not among the 46 residents of Fort Boonesborough who petitioned for land under the new land law in October 1779.41 It is likely the extended Cooper family arrived in Kentucky late in 1779 or early the following year. Because he had been part of the militia in Kentucky in 1779, Benjamin Cooper is listed among the 627 “pioneers at Fort Boonesborough” whose names were inscribed on a marble monument erected at the site of the reconstructed fort in 1981. 42

The 1779 land law granted 400 acres and rights to 1000 additional acres to pioneers who had raised a crop of corn in Kentucky by 1776. Settlers who arrived by 1779 had the right to purchase 400 acres at a nominal price. To adjudicate land claims, the governor of Virginia appointed a commission composed of Col. William Reming, who had been disabled since the Battle of Point Pleasant, Col. Stephen Trigg, who would be killed leading troops in the Battle at the Blue Licks in 1782 and two others. On January 29,1780, the land commission convened at Harrodsburg and, among several claims, approved the preemption claim of Benjamin Cooper for …400 acres of Land at the State price in the District of Kentucky on Account of Making an Actual settlem’t in the Month of April 1779 lying on the South fork of Coopers run Waters of licking Creek about 2 or 3 Miles above the forks of the s’d Coopers run Satisfactory proof being made to the Court they are of Opinion that the s’d Cooper has the right ot a preemption of 400 Acres of land to include the above location…43 The land commission issued a certificate for the 400 acres. It is unclear who paid the fees but appears likely that Cooper immediately sold the land on Coopers Run as the deed was delivered to William Williams.

Soon after his return from Virginia, Benjamin Cooper enlisted in the Lincoln County militia under Capt. Samuel Scott and Col. Benjamin Logan. In the Spring of 1780, the militia elected Benjamin Cooper lieutenant of Capt. Scott’s company.44 In early 1781, the Country Court, the administrative body governing Lincoln County, recommended the names of several local settlers, including that of Benjamin Cooper, to the Governor of Virginia for appointment as militia officers.45

In addition to his service on the Virginia frontier 1776-1779 and Kentucky 1779-1780, Benjamin Cooper also participated in the Battle of the Blue Licks and invasion of Ohio in 1782 as well as the Indiana campaign of 1786. In 1833, a 77 year old Benjamin Cooper living in Missouri recounted his service in an application for a Revolutionary War pension. To qualify under the 1832 pension law, Cooper had to show a minimum of six months service in the Continental Line, state militia or volunteers. He claimed continuous service from 1776 to 1782 and requested a pension of $320 a year based on his salary as a lieutenant of militia.

The War Department, unconvinced by the 1833 affidavit, requested additional proof of Cooper’s claims. Cooper’s lawyer sent a sworn statement from Samuel Brown confirming that he had served 48 months, beginning October or November 1781 in Capt. Samuel Scott’s Company where Benjamin Cooper had been the Lieutenant. In January 1834, the Pension Office denied Cooper’s application explaining “it is hardly probable he could have been in service so long-he should also have in mind the War of the Revolution closed the 30th of September 1780.”46 Cooper and his lawyer responded by sending a sworn statement from Samuel Teeter confirming Cooper’s service as a lieutenant in Ohio in 1782 and 1783.

Despite the earlier denial based on excessive service and the premature end of the war, a year before Yorktown, the War Department reversed itself and approved an annual pension of $320 to Benjamin Cooper for Revolutionary War service.47 Many years later, the federal land office at Richmond allocated 2666-2/3 acres of land to ten surviving heirs of Benjamin Cooper “for his services as a lieut. in the Illinois Regt. for three years ending with the war.” The military land warrant was originally approved in 1835 and issued to the surviving Cooper heirs in 1851.48

Benjamin Cooper appears to have been the only member of his immediate family who served in the Kentucky militia during the Revolutionary War. His father Francis Cooper, a veteran of the colonial militia in Virginia, arrived in Kentucky accompanied or followed by his sons Sarshel and Braxton.49 In addition to the sons of Francis Cooper who were early Kentucky settlers, at least one Cooper daughter was also a Kentucky pioneer. Betty Cooper married James Wood who built her a cabin in Kentucky. One day in 1783, Wood was away from his cabin overnight on a hunting trip. He returned the following day but, as he opened the cabin door, he was shot and killed by Indians hiding near the cabin. By the time Betty Wood was able to close and bar the cabin door, one of the Indians was inside. Betty Wood and her children fought the Indian until Wood’s twelve-year old daughter grabbed an axe and killed the Indian. The widowed Cooper later married a man named Jesse or John Peak.50

By the time the Revolutionary War began to shift toward the colonist side, two generations of the Cooper family of Culpeper County, Virginia were settled on the frontier in Kentucky. Like many similar families, they were drawn by the availability of land and the opportunity to build a new community. They were beyond the settlement line proclaimed in 1763 by the British king and they were in a region that remained exposed to invasion by the British and their Indian allies. While the fight for independence was moving toward conclusion, the survival of Kentucky remained in doubt.

As he had since 1776, Benjamin Cooper would continue to be called upon to defend the Kentucky settlements and assure their survival and growth.

Blue Licks:

During the Revolutionary War, the British in concert with the native Indian population, harassed the settlers along the frontier.  Daniel Boone was an active participant in these skirmishes, as was Benjamin Cooper.  One of the most devastating battles took place at Blue Licks. 

The following account was obtained from pages 84 to 89 of “FOR WE CANNOT TARRY HERE” by Kirke Wilson, San Francisco, 1990:

As Todd explained, the British and Indians continued the siege at Bryant’s Station all day August 15 and all that night. The attackers attempted to set fire to the fort but the defenders, assisted by favorable winds, were able to stop the fires. By the next morning, when the attackers had given up and left, the fort was intact but it was surrounded by smoldering ruins. The raiders had failed to capture the fort but they had severely weakened its economic base.

Captain Caldwell reported to his British superiors that he and his force of 300 Indians and rangers had failed to capture the station but had:

Killed upwards of 300 hogs, 150 head of cattle and a number of sheep, took a number of horses, pulled up and destroyed their potatoes, cut down a great deal of their corn, burnt their hemp and did other considerable damage.12  Within the fort, four were killed and three were wounded. Among the attackers, five were killed and two were wounded.13

To The Blue Licks:

Although the British and Indians had departed, additional reinforcements continued to arrive at Bryant’s Station. The defenders of the station and the volunteers who rode to their assistance agreed that the attack could not go unpunished and that a major retaliatory campaign should be mounted immediately against the Indian raiders and their British allies. By Sunday morning, August 18,182 Kentucky volunteers had assembled at Bryant’s Station. In the absence of Col. Benjamin Logan, the commander of the Kentucky militia, Col. John Todd of Fayette County was in command. He was joined by Col. Stephen Trigg of Lincoln County and Lt. Col. Daniel Boone as well as numerous other experienced frontier officers.14

Benjamin Cooper was then 26 years old and living on the Kentucky frontier. More than fifty years later, he remembered:

     “I was Lieutenant in Capt. Scott’s company in Kentucky, and was      in the battle of the Blue Licks, and was of Col. Trigg’s regiment.

     . . I joined the Fayette troops at Bryant’s Station the day the Indians left there, and the troops then collected, and marched in      pursuit of the Indians toward the Blue Licks.”15

The Indians had made no effort to cover their trail as they moved away from Bryant’s Station. The Kentucky volunteers, most of them on horseback but some on foot, followed the day-old trail for several hours before reaching a camp where the Indians had stopped the previous night.  Benjamin Cooper recalled, “I was with Col. Boone when he, by counting the Indian fires, concluded there were at least 500 Indians.”16 Aware that they were badly outnumbered, the Kentuckians decided to proceed hoping to catch the retreating Indians by surprise. The Kentuckians followed the Indian trail along a buffalo trace leading toward the Licking River. The volunteers rested briefly at an abandoned station four miles from the Blue Licks before resuming their chase the following morning.

Maj. Levi Todd later reported, “On the morning of the 19th we came within sight of the Enemy about 3/4 of a mile, north of the lower Blue Licks – we dismounted.”17   Indians were visible on a hill across the Licking River at a place where the river made a large horseshoe bend.18 The river was shallow at the foot of the horseshoe where there was a ford but was too deep to cross along the sides of the horseshoe. The Indians who could be seen were several hundred yards beyond the ford in hilly and wooded terrain. Benjamin Cooper reported that the Kentuckians paused while their officers assessed the situation, 

When the troops came near the Indians, at the Blue Licks, there was a general council of officers held, at which I was present, and I knew the officers were of opinion and had decided not to fight the battle – that they were too weak and the enemy too strong.19

Fifty years after the battle, Benjamin Cooper remembered that Col. John Todd, Maj. Levi Todd and Daniel Boone had shared his opinion “of the desperate state of our troops contending against so much odds.”20

The Direful Catastrophy :                  

That August morning on the Licking River, the Indians had the advantage of position. They were on a small ridge, across a river and protected by ravines, brush and timber. The Kentucky volunteers had lost any advantage that surprise might have given them but were strongly motivated by the desire for revenge against the Indians and British who had terrorized the frontier for several months. They remembered Estill’s Defeat, the recent ambush of Holder at the Upper Blue Licks and siege at Bryant’s Station as well as numerous other indignities. Like Estill and Holder, these experienced frontiersmen may also have underestimated the Indians’ willingness to fight.

Historians have disputed the cause of the disastrous attack that followed. One explanation is that the Kentucky volunteers believed that they would soon be reinforced with additional troops organized by Col. Benjamin Logan. A second explanation is that Colonel Todd took the opportunity to attack the Indians at the Blue Licks because he knew he would not be in command after the arrival of Colonel Logan. Benjamin Cooper appears to have been aware of these explanations in 1836 when he attempted to reinforce the widely-held theory that the attack at Blue Licks was the result of the impetuous leadership of Maj. Hugh McGary.

The action was forced upon us by the act of Major Hugh Magary, who broke from the council, and called upon the troops who were not cowards to follow him, and thus collecting a band, went without order, and against orders, into the action, and in consequence of this act a general pursuit of officers and men took place, more to save the desparate men that followed Magary than from a hope of a successful fight with the Indians.21

Cooper specifically discounts the theories about Logan’s impending arrival or Col. Todd’s desire to exercise command because Logan was not present:

I never heard or knew myself of any expected reinforcement from Colonel Logan, until in the retreat we met Col. Logan with his force six miles in advance of Bryant’s Station, to join us. In the pursuit of the Indians, and in the battle, I never saw or heard any disposition in Col. John Todd to force an action, or hasten it contrary to the known and expressed wishes of the council; and throughout his conduct was prudent and regardful of the safety of his men. I believe that Col. Todd had no motive to anticipate losing the command by Col. Logan’s arrival, for, as I stated, it was not expected that Col. Logan could or would join us in the pursuit.22

Contemporaneous accounts by Daniel Boone and Levi Todd, as well as an account written many years after the battle by Capt. Robert Patterson, suggest that the attack was orderly and planned. The Kentuckians crossed the river, dismounted and approached the Indians in three columns. According to all accounts. Col. John Todd, the commanding officer, was on the right with Colonel Trigg. Major McGary was in the center with an advance party under Major Harlin ahead. Daniel Boone and Captain Patterson were on the left. No troops were kept in reserve.

The Kentuckians advanced to within forty yards of the Indian position before heavy firing began on both sides. The left column of the Kentucky line surged forward but the right crumbled leaving the Kentuckians exposed along their right flank. Major Todd described the battle in a letter to his brother,

The left wing rushed on & gained near 100 yards of ground. But the Right gave way, and the Enemy soon flanked us on that side, upon which the Center gave way & shifted behind the left Wing.  And immediately the whole broke in Confusion, after the Action had lasted about five minutes. Our men suffered much in the Retreat, many Indians having mounted our men’s Horses haveing open woods to pass through to the River, and several were killed in the River. Several efforts were made to rally, but all in Vain.23

Daniel Boone reported, in an August 30 letter to Governor Harrison, that the settlers attacked in three columns but the right flank collapsed, “…at the first fire. So the Enemy was immediately on our Backs, so we were obliged to Retreat.”24

From British accounts, the battle was brief and decisive. Alexander McKee reported to Major DePeyster, “at half past seven o’clock we engaged them and in a short time totally defeated them.”25 According to McKee, the British and Indians “were not much superior to them in numbers.”  In his report to DePeyster, Captain Caldwell explained that his force at the Lower Blue Licks had dwindled to 200 because of Indian desertions after the siege at Bryant’s Station. Caldwell’s report of the battle, except for his estimate of Kentucky losses, was similar to the accounts of the settlers:

On the 18th…at half past seven they advanced in three Divisions in good order, they had spied some of us and it was the very place they expected to overtake us. We had but fired one Gun till they gave us a volley and stood to it very well for some time, till we rushed in upon them. when they broke immediately. We pursued for about two miles, and as the enemy was mostly on horseback, it was in vain to follow further. We killed and took one hundred and Forty six.26

According to McKee, ten Indians were killed in the battle as well as a British Indian agent named LeBute.  Overrun by the Indians and trapped by the river, the Kentucky lines were in chaos. Their officers killed or wounded, their horses scattered, the Kentuckians were slaughtered as they attempted to retreat across the river. During the fierce but brief battle, at least 60 Kentuckians were killed, seven taken prisoner and many more wounded. Several of the militia officers were among the dead including Col. John Todd, the commanding officer as well as Col. Stephen Trigg and twelve of the twenty-one other officers in the battle. Two additional officers were among the Kentuckians taken prisoner. Daniel Boone, whose son Israel was among those killed, reported “I cannot reflect upon this dreadful scene, but sorrow fills my heart.”” A week after the battle, Andrew Steele, a private in the Kentucky militia, wrote

We followed them to the Lower Blue Licks where ended the Direful Catastrophy-in short, we were Defeated-with the loss of seventy five Men-among whom fell our two Commanders with many other Officers & soldiers of Distinguished Bravery. To Express the feelings of the Inhabitants of both Counties at this Ruefull Scene of hitherto unparralelled Barbarities Barrs all Words & Cuts Discription short.28

The surviving Kentucky volunteers retreated in disarray until they encountered Colonel Logan’s volunteers on the road from Bryant’s Station. Later that week, Logan and an army of 400 volunteers returned to the Blue Licks to bury the bodies. Levi Todd reported that the burial detail was able to find about fifty bodies. “They were all stript naked, scalped & mangled in such a manner that it was hard to know one from another.”29

At the battle of Blue Licks, the Kentucky settlers suffered a crushing defeat. They lost a substantial number of experienced militia officers and a large number of able-bodied pioneers. The last major engagement of the Revolutionary War was won decisively by the Indians and their British allies.       “This sanguinary and disastrous engagement was the last battle of the Revolution. The contest which began at Lexington,      Massachusetts, ended at the Blue Licks, Kentucky…”30

On August 19, 1928, a group of prominent residents of Kentucky gathered at the Blue Licks battleground to dedicate a forty-foot granite monument to what Judge Samuel M. Wilson characterized as “…the high enterprise and daring deeds of the heroes of the Blue Licks.”31 The memorial lists the names of fifteen officers killed in the battle, two captured and seven who survived as well as the names of 49 privates who were killed. The inscription on the south side of the monument lists the names of 93 “privates who escaped” including Benjamin A. Cooper. The inscription around the base of the monument lists six Indian tribes that participated in the battle.32

The following was copied from pages 117 to 120 of “FOR WE CANNOT TARRY HERE”,by Kirke Wilson, San Francisco, 1990.

Benjamin Cooper and his family, like other pioneer families in Kentucky, settled into the life of small farmers in the “Middle District” of Madison County immediately south of the Kentucky River.58 This area, which included Fort Boonesborough, had been subjected to Indian attack during the late 1770’s but was somewhat protected in later years as the population increased north of the river. The Coopers had acquired land and other property soon after their arrival in Kentucky. By 1792, Francis Cooper owned six horses and eleven cows. His sons Benjamin, Sarshel and Braxton owned an additional fifteen horses and thirty-five cows. Francis Cooper also owned two slaves, one of them a child under the age of sixteen. None of the younger Coopers owned slaves in 1792.59

Benjamin Cooper and his family, in spite of their pioneering role, left little permanent record in Kentucky. At some time in the 1780s, Benjamin Cooper married Anne Fullerton (1760-1826).60 As Benjamin Cooper recalled many years later, “I was married to a relation of Col. Daniel Boone.”61 The only surviving record of Anne Fullerton Cooper is a letter addressed to her “near
Bryan’s Station.” The letter was left for her at the printing office of the Kentucky Gazette in Lexington in July 1791.62 Benjamin Cooper and Anne Fullerton Cooper had a typically large frontier family including at least seven sons and three daughters.”

Although there is little direct record of the frontier life of Anne Fullerton Cooper, it was likely to have been a life of continual domestic responsibility punctuated by the terror of Indian raids.   The pioneer woman of the late eighteenth century, with home-made equipment, made the soap, churned the butter, smoked the ham and bacon, spun and wove the cloth and supervised an active and large household while cooking, cleaning and sewing. During the early period of settlement, the frontier wife, often alone while her husband was away hunting or on a military campaign, would fetch water from the spring or tend her garden or animals knowing that Indians might be in the area. As Harriette Simpson Arnow explained,

It was in these years that women learned to fear the calm and
beautiful weather that came after frost and most of the leaves had
fallen, but before the deep snows of winter, the last weather
suitable for long journeys; it was then the Shawnee came for scalps
and horses, and so the frontier settler called the season Indian

Arnow describes a life of hard work and simple pleasures for frontier women but also a life of brightness and satisfaction in the crafts of the home and the rhythm of the seasons. Amow contrasts the lifeless “reconstructed” frontier cabins in museums with the original,

The pioneer home was alive – cooking smells, wandering dogs,
playing children, working men and women. There was even
without people, a life and a brightness, impossible to re-create
without the smell of new wood…”  and the contrasting colors and textures of furniture like the cherry chest, the poplar safe, the red cedar chum, piggen and pail, as well as the brightly-colored coverlids on the feather beds and the clothing hanging on the walls.

Beyond his frontier skills as pathfinder, hunter and Indian fighter, the frontier man also had to have some familiarity with the tools and skills necessary to clear land, grow crops, care for livestock, build a cabin and maintain the wooden, tin and iron equipment used in the house.  Although traveling merchants were active in Kentucky and Tennessee by the 1790’s, the frontier farmer had to rely on his own skills and tools for most construction and repair. In addition to the rifle, axe and hoe necessary for basic survival, the frontier settler would have been likely to have a variety of wood-working tools including a felling axe to cut trees, a maul and wedges to split logs, an adz, drawing knife and a froe to shape and smooth boards and gimlets and angers to drill holes for wooden pegs. Many frontiersmen also had simple blacksmith tools to make nails and horseshoes and to repair hoes, axes and other equipment.”

In addition to farming, Benjamin Cooper also engaged in salt manufacturing in Kentucky. In January 1785, he leased salt works in Lincoln County for one year from David Tanner. The lease required Tanner to provide Cooper “all the kettles or salt boilers…together with all the vessels of convenience-.and the free and unmolested use and privilege of as much wood and water as may be necessary for the purpose of making salt for the term of twelve months.”67 Salt was a necessity on the frontier where it was used in curing hides and preserving foods. Its manufacture in Kentucky as it would be in Missouri thirty years later, was hard and dirty work involving cutting firewood and maintaining large cooking fires to boil the salt out of cauldrons of water. Surviving records do not indicate what Cooper paid for Tanner’s 1785 salt franchise, although it is likely that payment was made in salt. Sometime during the year Tanner’s lease was assigned to James French to whom Cooper delivered the equipment, eleven kettles of sixteen gallons and two of twenty gallons, at the expiration of the lease.”

Benjamin Cooper’s younger brother Sarshel was also living in Kentucky during this period.  Sarshel had married Ruth Hancock, the daughter of Stephen Hancock. Ruth Hancock had arrived at Fort Boonesborough as a thirteen year old girl and was present during the six-day siege in 1778.69  Her father was among the 27 Kentucky pioneers captured by the Indians while making salt at the Blue Licks in February 1778. In July 1796, the Madison County Court appointed Sarshel Cooper, spelled “Shershal” in the court records, guardian of William Wood.70 Wood is likely to have been the teenage son of Betty Cooper Wood Peak, the sister of Benjamin and Sarshel who had been widowed in a frontier Indian raid in 1783.71

By 1800, the Coopers who had been part of the settlement of Kentucky, had become moderately prosperous landowners. The 1800 census lists Benjamin, Braxton, David, Francis and Shett Cooper living in Madison County.72 Unlike Daniel Boone and others, who had been unable to obtain or hold title to any of their Kentucky land, Benjamin Cooper had successfully perfected land claims in Kentucky but, like Daniel Boone, Benjamin Cooper and his brothers decided, soon
after 1800, to move west to a new frontier across the Mississippi River in Missouri.””

Francis Cooper, by this time nearly seventy years old, appears to have returned to Culpeper County, Virginia, rather than move to the new frontier in Missouri.74 He probably died in Culpeper County between 1813 and 1817.75 By the spring of 1806, Benjamin Cooper was settled in Hancock’s Bottom along the Missouri River in St. Charles County. The following year, he was joined by his brothers Sarshel and Braxton Cooper.76 The Coopers, like the thousands of other pioneers who followed, were bound for Boonslick. 

Copied from pages 13 and 14 of “THE PLATTE PURCHASE, The Simpson and Cooper Families, 1836 – 1846”, by Kirke Wilson, San Francisco, August, 1999.


The Cooper family of Culpeper County, Virginia and Madison County, Kentucky had settled in the Boonslick area of central Missouri by 1810. This family was large and related through marriage to several other families who had followed a similar path to Missouri. In addition to the direct descendants of Benjamin A. Cooper and his ten children, a large number of Cooper cousins continued to live in Missouri. These included the children of the two brothers and the three sisters of Benjamin Cooper who had moved to Missouri. Elizabeth Cooper Woods Peake (1758-1815), widowed twice before leaving Kentucky, had at least five children who moved with her to Boonslick. Her sisters Malinda Cooper Fugate (ca. 1760-ca. 1843) and Frances Cooper Brown (ca. 1766-n.d.) each had twelve children. Benjamin Cooper’s two brothers were killed by Indians during the War of 1812 near Cooper’s Fort but each left a widow and a large family. Sarshel Cooper (1762-1815) had eleven children and Braxton Cooper (ca. 1768-1812) had six children. By 1840, many of the descendants of these families had settled in the Platte Purchase and within a decade several had moved to the Sacramento Valley of California.49

The Coopers and the Brown family of Middlesex County, Virginia were large clans which intermarried over three generations in Kentucky and Missouri. Frances Cooper married Samuel Brown (1758-1844) in Kentucky where Brown had served under her brother Benjamin Cooper in the Revolutionary War. With his wife and twelve children. Brown followed his Cooper in-laws to Missouri about 1810 where he participated with his sons in the defense of Cooper’s Fort during the War of 1812. Four of the children of Samuel and Frances Cooper Brown married their Cooper cousins. Robert Brown married Mildred “Millie” Cooper, the daughter of Braxton Cooper and heroine of Cooper’s Fort.50 Robert Brown’s younger brother Benjamin married Millie’s younger sister Mary “Polly” Cooper. Her brother Robert Cooper married Elizabeth Carson in 1813. Benjamin Brown served as legal guardian of his nephew, the young Christopher “Kit” Carson, after the accidental death of Carson’s father at Boonslick in 1818.51 In addition, a brother and sister of Robert and Benjamin Brown also married cousins, children ofTownsend and Malinda Cooper Fugate. Townsend Brown married Rachel French (Fugate) Still and Nancy Brown (1801-1850) married Rachel’s brother Hiram Fugate.

Another of the sons of Samuel and Frances Cooper Brown, William Brown (1785-1843) moved from Howard County to Clay County in 1832 and into the  Platte Purchase in 1837. William Brown married Mary “Polly” Woods and they had ten children including two sons who married daughters ofBraxton and Fannie Hancock Cooper.52 Another son of William and Mary Woods Brown was the Sarshel Brown who had raised an illegal corn crop in the Platte area in 1835. By the time the Platte Purchase opened for settlement, Frances Cooper Brown had died and Samuel Brown was elderly but seventeen Brown children, nephews and in-laws claimed 2800 acres in Pettis Township, Platte County. The area came to be called “Browntown” and was near the William Cooper and William Simpson property.53

Born in Madison County, Kentucky, William Benjamin Cooper (1797/8- 1848) was the sixth of ten children of Benjamin and Anna Fullerton Cooper and cousin of the Browns.54 As a young man, William Cooper had been active with his brothers and cousins in the defense of the Boonslick forts during the War of 1812. He also participated briefly in the fur trade when he and his cousin Joseph Cooper assisted mountain man Ezekiel Williams to recover furs hidden on the Arkansas River during the winter of 1814-1815.55 In 1818, William B. Cooper married Susan Higgins at Cooper’s Fort in Howard County, Missouri. Susan Higgins Cooper (1801-1877) was the daughter ofJosiah Higgins (1782-1841) of Tennessee and Barbara Smelser Higgins (1779-1840). The Higgins family had lived at Coopers Fort at the end of the War of 1812.56 After his marriage, William Cooper is likely to have accompanied his father and cousins on the second successful trading expedition on the Santa Fe Trail in 1822.57 He later served with the Illinois Mounted Volunteers in the Black Hawk War of 1832.

William and Susan Higgins Cooper owned land in Howard County near the William Simpson family and lived for several years in Saline County, Missouri. When they moved to the Little Platte, they claimed the southwest quarter of Section 7, Township 51 North, Range 34 West four miles north of the Platte River in Pettis Township. The Cooper land is on the west side of road N eight miles due south of Platte City on both sides of a tributary of Brush Creek. The land is near the present day intersection of 1-435 and SR 152 approximately three miles southwest of Kansas City International Airport.58 The Cooper land was adjacent to a parcel owned by Alvis Kimsey and a mile south of the Platte County property owned by William Simpson. William and Susan Higgins Cooper lived three miles west of 320 acres owned by her brother Jacob Higgins and 160 acres owned by her brother Philemon Higgins.59 The land was also about four miles northwest of 240 acres in Pettis Township owned by Susan Cooper’s cousin Jacob Smelser (1805-1888), a Platte County Justice of the Peace.60 Her father, Josiah Higgins was a  prominent Plate County pioneer. Josiah Higgins was elected a Justice of the Peace for Pettis Township in the fast Platte County election in 1839. At the time of the 1840 census, he owned four slaves including an adult woman and three children.61 Josiah Higgins died in Platte County in 1841. William Cooper served as Secretary in the probate of the 1841 eastate of his father-in-law Josiah Higgins.62

On June 8,1843, the paths of the Cooper and Simpson families converged when Nancy Cooper (1820-1883), the daughter of William and Susan Higgins Cooper married Benjamin Simpson the son of William and Mary Kimsey Simpson. Over three generations the Coopers had moved from Virginia to frontier Kentucky and Missouri. The Simpsons began their journey from Maryland a generation before the Coopers left Virginia but avoided the frontiers and moved more frequently. They settled at two locations in North Carolina, one in Tennessee and two in Missouri before moving to the Little Platte. The William Cooper and William Simpson families had been neighbors in the 1820s in Howard County and were neighbors twenty years later in Platte County when Nancy Cooper married the young widower Benjamin Simpson.63

Benjamin and Nancy Cooper Simpson remained in Platte County less than three years after their June 1843 wedding. In addition to Benjamin Simpson’s son John, they had two sons born at Elm Grove, Platte County, Missouri. Their first son Sylvester (1844-1913) was born March 21, 1844 and their second son Samuel (1845-1899) was born November 10,1845. In April 1846, with three children under the age of five, Benjamin and Nancy Simpson left Missouri on the Oregon Trail.

Several other Boonslick pioneers and their descendents were among the early Platte County settlers. Joseph Todd (1777-1851) was one of the Boonslick defenders during the War of 1812 where his older brother Jonathan was killed by Indians. Todd moved to Clay County in 1823 and Platte County in 1839 where he and his sons claimed 640 acres in Lee Township between Bee Creek and the Platte River.64 Joseph Still, whose father Joseph W. Still was also killled by Indians in 1814, settled in Platte County in 1839 where he acquired 160 acres in Can-oil Township.65 Three grandsons of Archibald and Elizabeth Cooper Woods also claimed land in the Platte. William C. Woods and Adam C. Woods settled on adjacent quarter sections in Pettis Township near several members of the Brown family and their brother Archibald Woods claimed two parcels in northeastern Platte County near a bend in the Platte River.”



Coopers led pioneers far west into hostile territory


Published Monday, March 29, 2004

In February 1804, Ira Nash, eccentric genius and U.S. government surveyor, Stephen Hancock and Stephen Jackson were “the first men to put their feet upon this sacred soil,” which we now call Boone County.

They came up the Missouri River in February, surveyed, hunted, fished, built a cabin and departed in March. While on a hunting trip in 1805, Daniel Morgan Boone, son of the famous old woodsman, located a “spring” of salty water – oozing from the ground – more than 100 miles west of the Boone family’s settlement in the St. Louis/St. Charles area.

A saltwater spring was a great find for pioneers; salt is essential in our diets, and it improves the flavors of wild meat and cornmeal mush.

Animals also need – crave – salt; they licked the brackish earth where salt accumulated as the water seeped away from saline springs. Obviously, that’s a good place to hunt game. Deer, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits and waterfowl provided meat for frontier tables upon which there was almost nothing besides meat and mush!

In November 1806, Morgan Boone and his younger brother Nathan, sons of 71-year-old Daniel, started a salt “factory” at those salt springs far from home. They boiled water in iron kettles, dried the remaining sludge in the sun, then used the precious salt to flavor food, tan deer hides for clothing, make jerky and preserve foods; sometimes salt was even sold for cash.

The Boone brothers’ wagon tracks across the state – once a mere Indian “trace” – became a cross-state route known as the Boone’s Lick Trail, and Central Missouri was known as Boonslick Country. But there was still no settlement of Caucasian people west of Cedar Creek and north of the Missouri River.

In 1808, the three Cooper brothers – Benjamin, Braxton and Sarshell – explored farther west. They planted a corn crop and built a log cabin about two miles southwest of the Boones’ salt factory. The Coopers planned to bring the Loutre Island settlers there, but territorial Governor Meriwether Lewis directed the Coopers to leave because they were too far west to have government protection from the natives. Two years later, the three Coopers came back, bringing the Loutre Island families with them! Benjamin Cooper’s cabin stood unharmed, although Indians occupied all the adjacent country.

As planned, the newcomers built other cabins in a line with Cooper’s, thus creating a protective stockade – fort – by driving 10-foot-long stakes into the ground endwise, between cabins. Cabin doors and window holes faced inward. There was only one opening for the entrance and exit of the stockade. It was as protective as was as possible. Widow Hannah Cole, with her nine children, and the Stephen Coles had built across the river when they arrived from Loutre Island.

In 1812, except for an occasional bear or panther, the settler’s life was one of peace and quiet. His livestock found lush grazing in summer and winter. Family names of newcomers who also went south of the river and built a stockade were: Jolly, Darnell, Ruse, Box, Olin, Savage and Burgess.

A few months after the fort was completed, about 400 natives appeared when most of the men were hunting. Two men, Smith and Savage, were pursued by the Indians. Smith was killed, but Savage, shot at 25 times, was not wounded.

Next Monday, I’ll continue to share facts written in 1876 by Henry C. Levens and N.M. Drake.

Sue Gerard is a great-grandmother and author of “My First 84 Years” and “Just Leave the Dishes.” You can reach her via e-mail at editor@tribmail.com.

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