HENRY COOPER. A goodly capital of energy and perseverance, sustained by determination, when intelligently applied invariably wins recognition in the business world and results in success and substantial reward. This fact was most clearly demonstrated by the life of the late Henry Cooper, of Nilwood, who was born in England on Christmas day, 1825. His father was James Cooper, whose last years were spent in Australia.
Henry Cooper remained a citizen of the mother country until he was twenty-four years of age, acquiring his education in the common schools. An unusually ambitious youth, he became dissatisfied with the conditions as he found them in his native land, so as soon as he could accumulate the necessary money he took passage for the United States. Two years after arriving in this country he walked from Alton, Illinois, to Nilwood and took a sub-contract for grading and finishing a portion of the Chicago & Alton Railway, while later he was made foreman of construction on the road from Springfield to Alton. His keen foresight and business sagacity early revealed to him that a contract to supply wood to the railroad must prove a very good source of revenue. There were extensive timber lands throughout this section of the state at that period, which could be acquired for a very reasonable price. Being awarded the contract, in 1852 he purchased a forty-acre tract to begin with, constantly adding to his holdings until he had obtained possession of three thousand acres of timber land. Later he also bought land for agricultural purposes and at one time owned one thousand acres of farm land, all of which was improved and under cultivation. In addition to these properties, he owned a large portion of the village of Nilwood, where he subsequently erected two grain elevators and engaged in the grain and coal business with his two sons, Charles and Frank. In 1877 he bought four hundred acres of coal land that he leased to operators. All of his enterprises proved a success and his investments constantly increased in value until he became one of the affluent men not only of the county but of this section of the state.
In 1852 Mr. Cooper was united in marriage to Mrs. Mary (Murphy) Dea, a native of Ireland and the widow of Richard Dea. Seven children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Cooper, two of the sons, Charles and Frank, being among the leading business men of Nilwood.
Fraternally Mr. Cooper was identified with the Masonic order, while his political allegiance was always given to the democratic party, though he never prominently participated in political affairs. He passed away in November, 1906, being survived by his widow, who continues to make her home in Nilwood. Mr. Cooper possessed the essential qualities for success in any vocation, having the ability to recognize opportunities that his keen discernment enabled him to utilize to the best possible advantage.