Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897


[p. 201] a retired farmer who lives at No. 165 North Jefferson Street, New Castle, Pa., is the son of James Cooper and grandson of Robert Cooper, who was born in County Down, Ireland, and came to America about 1790. He married his wife on his native soil, and four children were born to them there and five after their settling in this country. Their names are as follows: William, Robert; John; Richard; James; Joseph; Peggie; Margaret; and Elizabeth. Our subject's grandfather was a weaver by trade, but after coming to this country, and locating near Philadelphia, he did not follow his aforetime trade, but took up agricultural pursuits; after a stay of four years at the above-mentioned place, he moved to Washington Co., Pa., where he remained one year, going from there to Allegheny Co., Pa., where he followed agricultural pursuits the remainder of his natural life.

His son, James Cooper, was born in Allegheny Co., Pa., in 1796, and in 1843 moved to Lawrence County, where he secured a farm and identified himself with the agricultural interests of the town and county, departing this life in 1861. His wife, Elizabeth McLister, who died at the age of seventy-six, bore him seven children, four girls and three boys.

David P. Cooper was born in Finley township, Allegheny County, July 4, 1830. He came with his parents when they moved to Lawrence County, and started in life for himself at the age of fourteen as a driver on the canal, receiving promotion until he was captain of the packet. After saving up a comfortable sum of money he took to traveling, and when only twenty-one years old had been in twenty-two States and three territories, and had seen an unusual amount of the world for one so young. While he was on the canal, he was a popular and familiar figure, and it is stated that be knew every person in New Castle, and was well acquainted with residents along the canal and with the traveling public. The period between 1860 and 1862 he was touched with the oil craze and speculation, and was employed in drilling many wells in Pennsylvania and in Canada. In 1864, when the Idaho gold mines were opened up and golden possibilities of the future rose up before those who were of sanguine temperament, Mr. Cooper started for that territory to realize sudden wealth if possible, leaving St. Joseph, Mo., May 5, 1864, and reaching Virginia City, Idaho, Aug. 27, 1864, traveling with three pair of oxen. Our subject walked the entire distance, carrying his gun, for he thought that the animals had plenty to do in drawing the carts and supplies.

Upon his arrival in the El Dorado of his hopes, he found the country to be very uncivilized, at least when compared to the life and conditions to which he had been accustomed, and to hang a man was of daily occurrence. One thrilling incident, which goes far to show how very rude and even dangerous were the conditions of life there, and which has served as the theme of a truthful story, was related to us in substance by Mr. Cooper as follows: Some seventy-five miles from Virginia City was a village, Banic, which was reached by stage running at regular intervals. Between the two places was a canon, where it became a frequent occurrence for the stage-coach to be held up, and the passengers relieved of their valuables at the muzzle of loaded guns. One day, a merchant of Virginia City, desiring to transact some matter of business in this neighboring village, became a passenger on this local stage line; when the coach approached the dismal spot, the scene of many highway robberies, sure enough they were held up in true Western fashion, and asked to "shell out" whatever they had with them in the shape of watches, jewelry, and money, which you may be sure was acceded to very promptly, accentuated as the request was by the shining barrels of some half dozen guns leveled at them. When the destination was reached the merchant approached the sheriff of the county to secure assistance in the recovering of his lost articles, and was somewhat surprised to meet with a curt refusal to aid in anything of that sort, the officer claiming he had no control over such men! As the merchant desired to take home with him quite a sum of money, he explained to the sheriff what he wished to do and asked for a guard to pilot him home and help him to protect his money from the highwaymen. The sheriff refused to even consider this, and the merchant was about ready to give up the idea of taking anything of value with him, when he found a man in search of work, and after a few moments conversation, arrangements were completed for the man to accompany him back to the city; he also explained the danger to him, and they provided arms for their defense. They started towards home, and when they reached the canon, the driver was commanded to hold up his hands by the desperadoes, and when the stage came to a standstill, the door was opened by one of them, who to his great surprise found a rifle aimed directly at him ready for action. He was forced back, and they journeyed home with no farther molestation. The merchant studied over the refusal and indifferent actions of the sheriff, and the more consideration he gave to the vexed question the more certain was he that the sheriff knew more about the gang of desperadoes than he cared to admit, and this growing suspicion of the sheriff prompted him to call together the first business men of Virginia City and explain to them the circumstances, and give them the result of his conclusions. They at once resolved themselves into a vigilance committee, formed an armed body of men, went back to the sheriff's home, surrounded his place, and searched the premises. In his keeping was found certain and indisputable proof of an organized gang for the systematic robbing of the people of the two places. No mercy was shown. The sheriff was hanged and his associates in crime hunted down and treated likewise—seven meeting death in the sheriff's own village and more than twenty in Virginia City. If there were any of the gang left, they must have thought that other places wore a more inviting appearance and cleared out, for no more trouble was experienced with them, and the entire territory made better by the riddance of a dreaded class of people by the somewhat rash and foolhardy act of the merchant in braving death by resisting them.

After Mr. Cooper spent three years in the wild west, he returned to his native State, married and settled down on a farm just outside the city limits of New Castle. A farm was bought by him and his brother, which was later developed into a large limestone quarry; they derived a comfortable income from leasing the property, for they did not care to quarry themselves. Our subject married Annie Casey. In 1890, he built a comfortable residence in the city on North Jefferson Street, and has lived there since.

Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897

Previous Biography | Table of Contents | Next Biography
Explanation/Caution | Lawrence Co. Maps | Lawrence Co. Histories
Updated: 10 May 2001