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Mary Cosper Recalls Her Youth On Cobb Creek
BY DONNA RHOADS PEARCE
History In Our Midst series…

The third oldest of 13 children, Mary (Dunn) Cosper of Colony survived scarlet fever in 1919, the Big Colony Tornado in 1951 and major surgery in 1993.

Mary celebrated her 84th birthday, Dec 30, 1993, by coming home from the hospital. Although she tires easily, Mary enjoys company and talking about the history of Colony and Colony folks. She remembers most of what has happened in this small western Oklahoma town established in 1886 by John Seger.

Mary was born to Elbert Franklin and Elizabeth Francis (Schwartz) Dunn on Dec 30, 1909, on a farm four and a half miles north of Colony.

Mary’s father, a carpenter, water well driller and farmer, had two daughters by a previous marriage. After Mary, six more girls and four boys were born into the Dunn family. All of the children were born at Colony, except for Jenny, the daughter born right after Mary.

Shortly after Mary was born, the Dunn family moved to Tulsa for three years, so Mr. Dunn could work for the railroad.

In 1912, the Dunn’s returned to Colony and leased land across Cobb Creek on the north side. There, the family built a house and lived until 1919.

During that year flood waters from the north, where Crowder Lake has since been created, flooded the lower area around Cobb Creek. An outbreak of scarlet fever took the life of Mary’s eldest sister. The entire family was quarantined and couldn’t attend the funeral.

Dr. E.E. Darnell, then Colony’s medical doctor, told the Dunn’s they must move out of the bottom land to survive.

The Dunn family moved up on the hill, across the street from Mary’s current residence, to a house behind where her daughter and son-in-law, Virginia and Delmer Scott, now live.

When Mary, only 16 at the time, married James Lloyd Cosper on June 30, 1925, they moved into the house where Mary now lives. At the time, it was a hotel.

Talking about the hotel prompted additional Colony memories from Mary. She said, the hotel had been used as a high school and one of the teachers had been a Miss Lester.

Mary, completed only the eighth grade. She was Valedictorian of her class. In the early years, Colony offered only two years of high school and didn’t have any graduating seniors until 1932.

Like her mother, when Mary married Lloyd he had two children---James Richard, age 3, and Ethelda, 21 months. The young family moved into the hotel. Also, living in the hotel at the same time was Grover Ainsworth, who barbered in Colony; Thelma and Jack Beckham, who ran a café; and a Mathis family.

In the 1920s, Mary and Lloyd bought the old hotel. There they eventually raised four more children—Virginia, Jimmy Doyle "Buddy", LaQuita (deceased) and Lilburn.

Even though Lloyd passed away in 1992, Mary still lives in the house on the hill. Besides her children, 49 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great-grandchildren, Mary entertains many friends and other relatives there.

Among the other relatives who visit Mary in the little house on the hill are her four youngest surviving siblings—Lenore Hodge of Weatherford, Gwendola Barnes of Colony, Bill Dunn and Jim Dunn, both of OKC.

In the early years of their marriage, Mary recalled Colony as a bustling town with hotels, a movie theater, mercantiles, cafes, cream stations, two cotton gins, a pool hall, shoe shop, barber shop, butcher shop, a livery stable and blacksmith, garage and gas station, phone office, dance hall, bank, a doctor and dentist, a newspaper, a hospital near the school, churches and a bead lodge established by the Reece Kincaids who were missionaries to the Columbian Presbyterian Mission Church.

According to Mary, Virginia Kendrick played an old pump organ at the historic Mission Church. One of the Indian boys from the Seger Indian Industrial School had to keep the pump going.

Talking about the church prompted additional memories about the Seger School. Mary said the Indian children, about 100 girls and boys, lived at the boarding school. She vividly recalled the children, girls in blue dresses and boys in khaki uniforms, being marched by a school matron from the school to the church for services. Besides regular studies, the male students operated a dairy across the creek and the girls learned cooking, sewing and other domestic skills.

Recalling all that had been a part of Colony’s early days, Mary said the Big Tornado of 1951 almost blew the whole town away. It was a Friday…June 8, late in the day, when her son Lilburn came rushing into the house to announces the coming storm. They had only seconds to seek shelter.

The next day, Colony residents found many homes and businesses destroyed. As they are today, the Fred Kauger buildings, which housed the barber shop, drug store, the old Post Office and Payne’s Grocery remained.

During her 80-some years in Colony, Mary has seen a lot of people come and go. Some of the names she recalled besides those already mentioned included Dr. Jones, Dr. Childress, Rosser, Milliner, Brown, Parks, King, Eby, Jahns, Reed, Whitt, Dr. Ballard, Montgomery, Gallup, Gleener, Smalley, Baird, Lumpmouth, Washa, Devina, Ramsey, Veal, Littlebird, Dr. Sullivan, Walker, Freeman, McQuaid, Sharry, Cronk, Crissman, Hashbrook, Gaunt, Dunaway, Clancy, Rhoads, Gyles, Smart and many more.

Besides remembering nearly everyone’s name, Mary also remembers where they worked, etc.

In the early years of their marriage, Lloyd worked at the co-op and as a mechanic for Earl Brown at the garage. Later, he drove a school bus for Colony Public Schools.

In 1943, Mary worked as a cook at the old Colony School. When the new buildings were opened in 1954, Mary again worked as a cook and stayed until she retied in1970.

Over the years, Mary has cataloged into her memory so many people and events about Colony. Along with Ted and Irene Johnson, she is the oldest living Colony resident who was born in Colony and still living there.

Indeed, Mary had a lot of stories to tell about old Colony. Often, she is sought out by people looking for a link to their past…like my cousin, Jeannie (Dorothy Jean Brown) Gonzales of Long Beach, California.

Mary is one of Colony’s treasures—a link to our Pioneer and Native American history

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Along with this article there is a photo of Mary and Eunice Cosper, stating., "In 1937, Mary Cosper (right) and Eunice Cosper posed besides what was left of the old hospital located in the Colony Park."

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Footnote: Mary Cosper passed away 30 December 1999
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.Note by James L. Cosper her Grandson: - Mary Helen Dunn Cosper passed away Dec 30, 1999 in Colony, OK. She is buried with her husband, Lloyd in Poage Cemetery near Colony, OK.
(Obit )
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Cosper Family Photos

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