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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



Romance often found its way into the privations and perils experienced by the pioneers of the west and it was not lacking from life's activities with Mr. Cooper as boy, youth and man, nor has its pleasant glow wholly faded from the gold-tinted horizon of his memories as, retired from the strenuous tasks of former years, he finds leisure to reflect upon the past and enjoy its many interesting recollections. From the far-distant past there come to him memories of the family home at Lexington, Ky., where the father, Archibald H. Cooper, M. D., engaged in the practice of medicine for a considerable period and where his own birth had occurred December 17, 1840. Genealogical records indicated that the family had been established in America during the colonial era and descended from English ancestors, but the American representatives fought on the side of the colonies during the Revolution. Their devotion to the country has been imitated by every generation of descendants and patriotism is a family characteristic.

The Kentucky doctor had established a home of his own during early manhood and had chosen as his wife Miss Elizabeth A. McIntosh, a native of Kentucky, descended from Scotch and English progenitors and like himself a representative of a Revolutionary family. Her death occurred in 1854, two years after her arrival in California. One of her sons had died of cholera while they were crossing the plains and that boy, Louis, lies in an unknown grave. Another son, David, a soldier in the Civil war and in the Indian struggles along the western coast, died in Sacramento in 1901 and was buried with Grand Army honors. A daughter, Laura, died in 1907 and her husband, George F. Nourse, passed away the following year. Shortly after the discovery of gold in California the children of this family had seen their father and uncle depart for the west and later received word that they had started stores at Mud Springs and Diamond Springs, to both of which places they had given their names.

Deciding that he would remain in the west the doctor sent his brother-in-law, John McIntosh, back to Kentucky to bring the balance of the family across the plains. A large company of emigrants was gathered together. Twenty-seven wagons were required for the people and supplies. The boy of twelve years, John F. Cooper, rode the entire distance on a little white mule and he vividly recalls the hardships of the journey, the dangers from cholera, the perils from Indian and Mormon outbreaks and the countless vicissitudes marking such an expedition. The party was unusually fortunate and after a quick trip of three and one-half months arrived safely in California August 27, 1852. The majority of the relatives took up residence in Colusa county, but John F. Cooper's family made their headquarters at Sacramento. His second memorable experience was while serving as cabin-boy on board the ship, Witchcraft, from San Francisco to New York by way of the Horn. At New York he shipped for return passage on the clipper Swordfish. Upon his return to the west he collected fares on the steamer Clinton, phdng between Oakland and San Francisco.

While at Stockton in 1854 the young lad was fortunate in winning the friendship of Prof. W. L. Wright, head of the department of mathematics in Yale College. The older man took an interest in the self-reliant youth and aided him in his efforts to secure an education. Nor was this the extent of his benefactions. He had previously bought the Rough and Ready Island ranch and at his death he willed one-half of the estate to young Cooper, who thus found it possible to attend the Benicia high school for three years and later completed his education in the Sacramento schools. Meanwhile he learned the trade of a printer and worked in every department of the business with the Sacramento Bee and Republican. A life-long fondness cherished for music found expression when he took up its study under Professors Winter and Mansfeldt. Under their superior instruction he became proficient in both vocal and instrumental music. The organization of the Philharmonic Society was largely the result of his energetic efforts and for many years he was honored with its presidency. Besides having charge of music in the Sacramento public schools, he was organist of the Methodist Episcopal Church for eight years, held a similar position in the Presbyterian Church for twelve years and at the Jewish Synagogue for seven years. One of the results of his efforts was the formation of the Sacramento chorus of one hundred and fifty voices which were added to the San Francisco chorus of fifteen hundred voices for the Camilo Urso Concert under the leadership of Carl Zerahn.

After over thirty-five years as proprietor of a music store on J street, Sacramento, in 1893 Mr. Cooper sold these interests. As evidence of his influence in musical circles it may be stated that his successors incorporated the business under the title of the Cooper Music Company, the name being considered one of the valuable assets of the house. Since he relinquished his associations with musical affairs Mr. Cooper has bought and improved a number of fruit farms, but these he has sold from time to time. In former years he owned interests in mines in Mexico, California and Nevada. For a time he made his headquarters in San Francisco, where with his brother-in-law, George F. Nourse, he started the Overland Freight and Transfer Company in 1873. The company collected freight for the railroads and shipped to Australia, China, Japan and other foreign points. Even up to the present the business is still flourishing, but Mr. Cooper sold his interest and returned to Sacramento because the San Francisco climate proved unpleasant to him. Through his personal efforts the Capitol Sacramento Transfer, Van and Storage Company was incorporated in 1899 and in 1902 he purchased his partner's interests, thereupon becom- ing sole proprietor of the concern. While he still manages the business he has practically retired from business cares, and he has also retired from the fraternal activities that once engrossed much of his time, for in former years he was an active member of the Knights of Pythias, Improved Order of Red Men, Foresters of America, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and other organizations.

The marriage of Mr. Cooper and Miss Joanna Powelson, a native of Philadelphia, Pa., was solemnized in Sacramento October 19, 1869. Mrs. Cooper is the daughter of a California pioneer who died while still in young manhood. Afterward her mother became the wife of Captain Cunningham, a Mississippi river captain of the early days, but later until his death a captain on a Sacramento river steamboat. When a girl Mrs. Cooper studied music under Mulder Fabri, a world famous instructor. No expense was spared in the cultivation of her rich soprano voice and she became one of the most popular soloists in Sacramento. Her two daughters, Misses Laura and Ruby Cooper, are also accomplished musicians and prominent in musical, literary, golf, tennis and other club affairs of the city. 

History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011