THOMAS JEFFERSON COPE
Tom J. Cope was the son of John Everett and Lucretia Ray. John being originally from Pike County, Alabama, and Lucretia from Georgia. Tom's Mother was a daughter of a wealthy Baptist preacher named James Wilson Ray of the Fannin County, Texas area.
Tom was born 1871 circa Fannin County, Texas and migrated with his Father to Coleman County and later to Sterling County and eventually to Pecos County, Texas and known locally as T.J. Cope. It is not clear as to the date that Tom came to Pecos County but I assume it was around 1900 as his older brother Madison Earl Cope was ranching south of Fort Stockton at shortly before this time. Madison "Matt" (Tom's Brother) was killed in 1901 on his ranch when his horse stepped in a gopher hole and fell on Matt and either killed him or drug him to death. Matt is buried in the Old Fort Cemetery in Fort Stockton with an elaborate headstone marked M.E. Cope with a metal cage around it.
After Matt was killed, Tom took over the Ink Ranch and was half owner in the Santa Rosa Spring Ranch. ( Possibly, the two ranches were joined and formed a much larger ranch) A third son of John Everett Cope was William (Bill) Cope a cowboy and later a Pecos County Deputy from about 1938 to 1968 and died in 1971.
Tom married Maggie Valentine in November 29, 1905. According to court records, Maggie had been married previously to a man named Teel. (Noted in Pecos County Marriage listing as "Mrs. Maggie Teel") In 1908 Tom was elected to the office of Commissioner of Precinct 4 of Pecos County and was also actively involved in ranching with his Father, John Everett Cope. From his marriage to Maggie, Tom had one daughter, Tommie Lee (Photo on Web Site) who died while a teenager of tonsillitis. He also had three sons John, Willard, and Jesse. Willard was killed in action in WWII in 1944 (possibly at Normandy Beach) and only a death record remains in Upton County, Texas. He is buried in Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, Texas.
Tom’s son John Jack (from family records) went to Nevada to work for the Atomic Energy Commission and Jesse Oswin went to work for the Navy in Corpus Christi. To my knowledge, neither Jack nor Jesse returned to West Texas.
It appears that Tom was a very wealthy man in 1910. An article from the Fort Stockton Pioneer newspaper dated September 15, 1916 stated that Tom had purchased his Father's half interest in the Santa Rosa Spring Ranch for $10,000. It was not clear if this was the second half of the ranch that Tom bought or if another partner was involved. Although Tom was in the height of his career, many devastating blows would soon follow. These tragic events occurred in the following years 1917 to 1926. Along with other problems, came the drought of 1917 recorded in Olan George's book “Roundup of Memories”. This was a great hardship on all ranchers in the area and caused many bankruptcies. In 1918 Maggie died apparently in childbirth. (A note worth recording: Maggie Valentine was the daughter of Thomas and Maggie Valentine. Thomas was a German immigrant.) In 1919, Tom's Father John Everett died and was buried in an unmarked grave. (East Hill Cemetery) Three months later in 1920 came the death of his sister Presha Cope, a school teacher afflicted by the flu epidemic. Presha is buried in East Hill Cemetery with a beautiful white marble stone in the Boydstun plot. Tom continued as Commissioner until 1922 and was not re-elected or did not run again in 1924. A final blow was 1926 when Tom’s Mother died in a mental institute in Austin, Texas and is also buried in East Hill Cemetery and unmarked. It appears that Tom may have lost the Ranch lands shortly after these events and moved to Rankin, Texas where his sister Rosa Camp lived. Tom died in 1932 at the age of 61 Years old of unknown illness.
By: John Edward Cope aka "Eddie" Notes: Family records listed in "History of Pecos County" and also in "Milling around Sterling City" (Pecos County Library) Photos available on "Copes of Texas" website