EDMOND MILLS COOPER. No history of Girard would be complete without extended mention of Edmond Mills Cooper, not alone because of the success which he achieved in business but also because of the active and helpful part which he took in many movements that promoted public progress. His principles have their root in the teachings of the Baptist church and of the Masonic fraternity, and at all times his life was in harmony with his professions. He was a man whom to know was to esteem and honor, and to his family he left not only a substantial competence but also the priceless heritage of an untarnished name. He remained for forty-six years a resident of Girard and throughout that entire period there was not one esoteric phase in his life work.
Mr. Cooper was born in Christian county, Kentucky, on the 25th of November, 1831, a son of Edmond Landrum and Mary Mills (Perry) Cooper. The Cooper family trace their ancestry in diverging lines back to England and Wales, but representatives of the name came to America when this country was numbered among the colonial possessions of Great Britain. Edmond Landrum Cooper was born in Orange county, Virginia, September 28, 1799, and was married in Christian county, Kentucky, November 20, 1822, to Mary Mills Perry. They began their domestic life in that state and after fourteen years removed to Greene county, Illinois, where they arrived in April, 1836. Mr. Cooper there not only followed the occupation of farming but was also prominent in public affairs, serving as assessor and treasurer of Greene county in 1853 and 1854. His early political support was given to the whig party and after its dissolution he became a stanch advocate of republican principles. He was a gentleman of the old school, always courteous and dignified, yet jovial and approachable, and his companions found him a congenial friend. He lived to be more than one hundred years of age, while his wife died some years before, passing away in Greene county, Illinois, March 6, 1887. They were the parents of nine children, Mildred Ann, James Perry, William Tandy, Robert Rutherford, Emeline Elizabeth, Edmond Mills, Adrian Alfred, Cornelia and Verinda. Of these James, Cornelia and Verinda died in infancy, while the others reached adult age. Of the family of Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Cooper, two now survive, Robert R. Cooper and Mrs. Emeline Cunningham, both residing in Greenfield, Illinois.
Edmond Mills Cooper was little more than four years of age when brought by his parents to Illinois, the family home being established in Greene county where he lived until some years after his marriage. He experienced the usual hardships and trials of life upon the frontier, for Illinois was at that time sparsely settled. Only four years before the Black Hawk war had occurred. While in the home there was a lack of many of the comforts and conveniences now to be found, the training was such as to awaken in him those principles which constituted the foundation for an exemplary character.
Having arrived at years of maturity, Mr. Cooper was married on the 30th of August, 1855, in Greene county, to Miss Martha Tunnell, who was born in Tennessee, February 11, 1836, and was a daughter of Luther Tunnell. They established their home in Greene county but after about nine years removed to Macoupin county, settling at Girard. They became the parents of five children, of whom two died in infancy, while Frederic passed away after attaining manhood, leaving a wife and children. The two remaining sons are: Charles, now a resident of New York city; and Edward Everett, of Girard. There are also seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
It was in the year 1864 that Mr. Cooper left Greene county and brought his family to Girard, where he embarked in merchandising. He established a dry goods store, always carried a well selected line of goods and by reason of his straightforward dealing and earnest efforts to please his customers he secured a liberal patronage and in time through his well conducted business interests acquired a substantial competence. In his later years he put aside business cares and lived a retired life, enjoying a rest that he had truly earned and richly deserved. One of the local papers said of him: "Mr. Cooper was a man universally respected and held in high esteem by all who knew him. His conscientious adherence to the principles of right, which seemed to be a part of the man, gave him the confidence of all with whom he came in contact."
Mr. Cooper's principal activities outside of his business and his home were in connection with the masonic fraternity and the Baptist church. He held membership in Girard Lodge, No. 171, A.F. & A.M., which found in him an exemplary representative, true to the teachings of the craft concerning mutual helpfulness and brotherly kindness. He was ever ready to extend a helping hand to those who needed assistance or to speak a work of encouragement to a brother when the day seemed dark and the outlook unpromising. Back of all this was his Christian faith, which had its root in the doctrines of the Baptist church. He was sixteen years of age when he untied with the church and he continued loyal to his professions all that time to the close of his life. Christianity was with him not a matter merely of the Sabbath observance but something which became a part of his very life. He endeavored always to practice the Christian virtues of temperance, forbearance and charity, and in many lines of the church work he was a most helpful factor. For several years he served as Sunday school superintendent and for many years was one of the deacons of the church, sparing neither labor nor expense in promoting the growth of the church and extending its influence. Death came to him after considerable suffering and was a welcome relief from the pain through which he had passed. He was called to the home beyond June 4, 1910, when he had reached the age of seventy-eighty years, six months and nine days. The words of the poet might well be applied to him that "his were the blessed accompaniments of old age - riches, honor, troops of friends - " for success had rewarded his labors and investments in the business world, his well spent life had gained him the unqualified respect and confidence of his fellowmen and his genial, cordial manner had gained for him the friendship of the majority of those with whom he came in contact. His political allegiance was given the republican party and he ever kept well informed on the issues of the day but never sought nor held office. H preferred to concentrate his energies upon his private interests, his duties as a citizen and as a member of the church. He was ever most devoted to his family, his interest centering in his own household, where he was ever a devoted husband and father. He never sought to figure prominently before the public and yet his worth was acknowledged by all who knew him. In the review of such a life record as that of Edmond Mills Cooper we are reminded of the works of Abraham Lincoln: "There is something better than making a living - making a life."