Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens
GEORGE COOPER. Memoirs dealing with enterprising men, especially good men, are very often of inestimable benefit to others, having a tendency to point the way to the goal of worthy things. The examples they furnish of steadfast endeavor and patient integrity forcibly illustrate what is in the power of each individual to accomplish when they have courage and right principles to control their course of action. Some men belong to no exclusive class in life; apparently insurmountable obstacles have in many instances awakened their dormant faculties and served as a stimulus to carry them to ultimate renown. The instances in the face of adverse fate would seem almost to justify the conclusion that self-reliance, with a half chance, can accomplish any reasonable object. The late George Cooper, a well-known business man and enterprising citizen of Springfield during the past generation, was a man who lived to good purpose and achieved greater success than that which falls to the lot of the average individual. By a straightforward and commendable course, he made his way from a none too favorable early environment to a respectable position in the industrial world, winning the hearty admiration of the people of his adopted city and earning a reputation as an enterprising, progressive man of affairs and a broad-minded, upright citizen which the public was not slow to recognize and appreciate, and there is much in his life record which could be studied with profit by the young man starting out into what we are prone to allude to as the battle of life.
Mr. Cooper was a representative of a sterling old English family, whose genealogy traced back to ancient days; he first saw the light of day under England's skies on December 5, 1863, at Leicester. He was a son of Henry and Mary (Richardson) Cooper, both natives of England and also, where they grew to maturity, were educated, married and established their home, residing there until in 1872, when they immigrated with their children to the United States, landing in New York City. From there they came direct to Missouri and established the future home of the family in Wilson township, Greene county, where the father secured a farm and became one of the enterprising general agriculturists of his locality, and is now living in retirement on a small farm in that township, where he bears an excellent reputation. Upon taking up his residence in the Republic of the West he made a careful study of the political situation in this country, and cast his lot with the Democrats, He has served as a member of the school board in his district. He is a member of the Episcopal church. His father, William Cooper, was born and reared in England, and there spent his life. He was a man of rare business ability and was for many years regarded as one of the foremost and wealthiest citizens of the city of Leicester, in the upbuilding of which he took much interest; one of his principal benefactions was the building of a handsome Episcopal church there, he being the principal contributor, and he was long an active member of that denomination. He retained the coat-of-arms of his ancestors, the older Coopers having been a prominent family in that part of England.
Henry Cooper was twice married, his first wife, mother of the subject of this biographical memoir, passing away in 1874, leaving two sons, namely: Harry, a well-known business man of Springfield, a complete sketch of whom will be found on another page of this work, and George of this review. Elizabeth Jackson became Henry Cooper's second wife, and to this last union one son was born, Frederick Cooper, who is now engaged in the plumbing business in Springfield.
George Cooper spent his early boyhood in England, being nine years of age when his parents sailed with him to America in 1872. He grew to manhood on his father's farm in this county and assisted with the general work during the crop seasons, attending the public schools during the winter, continuing to farm on the homestead until he was about twenty years of age, then decided on a business career and went to Springfield, where he was employed as clerk in Sutter & Bryan's grocery store for a short time, then began learning the plumber's trade, in which he became an expert, and followed this until 1887, when he formed a partnership with his brother, Harry Cooper, establishing a plumbing business of their own at 412 South street, later moved to 414 that street, then to 402 the same street, the last location being now the site of the Bank of Commerce. They were successful from the start and their gradually increasing business compelled them to seek larger quarters from time to time. They did not only have an excellent practical knowledge of the plumbing business, but they each proved to be men of exceptional executive ability. They continued in this line of endeavor with ever-increasing success until 1908. During that period of twenty-one years the Coopers became widely known throughout the Southwest in their line of endeavor, and turned out some of the finest work and some of the largest contracts in the state of Missouri, including the plumbing for the Missouri state building at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1903, at St. Louis. They maintained a large up-to-date and well equipped establishment and kept a large number of skilled artisans constantly employed.
Having accumulated a comfortable competency, George Cooper lived a retired life from 1908 until his death. He had long desired to visit his native land, particularly his boyhood home at Leicester, so he and his brother. Harry sailed for England, February 9, 1910. After spending some time at the old home they made extensive tours about the British Isles and were preparing for their return trip to America when our subject was suddenly stricken with illness and a few days later was summoned to his eternal rest on April 9, 1910. His body was brought back to Springfield for burial.
Mr. Cooper was married in 1891 to Grace Keet Smith, who was born in Keetsville, Barry county, Missouri, November 3, 1866, and she received a good education in the high schools of Springfield. She is a daughter of Dr. John R. and Frances R. (Keet) Smith, a prominent family of Springfield, a complete sketch of whom will be found on another page of this volume. Mrs. Cooper has long been a favorite with a wide circle of friends, and she and her children belong to the Episcopal church.
Mrs. Cooper is living quietly in her beautiful home on Cherry street, with her two winsome daughters, Mary Ruth, born October 30, 1892, and Elizabeth Fearn, born May 31, 1894, who are receiving excellent educational advantages.
Politically Mr. Cooper was a Democrat, but being a quiet, unassuming business and borne man, he never sought public office. Fraternally he belonged to the Royal Arcanum lodge, and was an active member of the Episcopal church, in which he was a vestryman for twenty-six years. He was held in the highest esteem by all who knew him.
Springfield-Greene County Library