Lewis Co, Tennessee:

Robert Melville  Cooper  of Lewis County, TN

A TnGenWeb Project


Submitted by: Mary Bob McClain Richardson on 19 September 2004.

Robert Melville Cooper was a Private in Capt. Bird S. Hurt's Company, 1st. Regiment Tennessee Militia (Col. William Metcalf) Smith's brigade, Carroll's Division; Gen. Andrew Jackson's Army from Nov. 13, 1814 to may 13, 1815, and according to his own statement participated in the Battle of New Orleans.

On June 6, 1817, he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel and commandant of the 51st Regiment of the State Militia of Tennessee.

Robert Melville Cooper was the twelfth child of Capt. Robert and Jane Hamilton Cooper. He was a small boy of almost eight when his father died, but old enough to remember his father and the stories that he and his friends told about the Revolutionary War. It is through his letter to Colonel Lyman Draper, the Wisconsin historian, and the family letters that he cherished and saved that this Cooper family history has been proved. We, the descendants of Capt. Robert Cooper, are deeply indebted to Colonel Robert Melville Cooper for the records he left to us.

After the death of his father, his mother left with many small children, left Chester County, S.C. in 1804 and came to Tennessee, bringing Robert Melville, three daughters, and three other sons. She settled first near Nashville, then they moved to Williamson County, and in 1809 moved to Maury County when it was still covered in cane.

In one of his letters to Col. Draper, Robert M. Cooper tells about making the nails for the casket of Meriwether Lewis saying:

" I was living in Maury County when Gov. Meriwether Lewis committed suicide. Just in the S.W. corner of Maury about 12 miles from where I was living. My older brother, John, carried on a blacksmith shop near where I lived but was absent from home at that time, and the country west from Bigby Creek having scarcely any inhabitants, the people of the house where Lewis killed himself sent to my brother's shop to get nails to make a coffin and my brother, Hamilton, two years older than myself and I went to the shop and between us made the nails which were used in making his coffin. This I think was 1810."   (Note: the year was 1809. lwr)

As history records, it was Robert Melville Cooper who identified the remains of Lewis when his body was exhumed and buried beneath the monument which now stand in Lewis National Par, Lewis County, Tenn., on the old Natchez Trace. The county was cut from Maury County in 1843 and included the plantation of Robert M. Cooper who was one of the members of the commission to name the county and to apply to the Tennessee Legislature for an appropriation to erect it monument to Meriwether Lewis.

Robert Melville Cooper taught school when he first came to Tennessee but in 1810 opened one of the first stores in Mt. Pleasant. In 1814 he joined the State Militia to fight with Andrew Jackson. His brothers in Mississippi had joined the forces and he and his younger brother, Matthew Delamere, took up arms in Tennessee. They fought in the Battle of New Orleans and returned with Jackson to Tennessee helping him raise funds to pay the troops.

All of his sister had married and his mother lived alone, so he continued to live with her until he married Catherine Cooper in 1816. After his marriage, his mother moved to Mississippi to live with his brother Hamilton Cooper.

By 1819 Robert Melville Cooper was assessed for 113 acres on Cathey's Creek. However, it appears from the Bible records that he moved to Bainbridge County, Mississippi about 1821 and stayed there until about the fall of 1825 when he returned to Maury County. He no doubt was lonely for his brothers, who were all living in Mississippi except for his youngest, and his mother had died there in 1822. However, from correspondence his heart belonged to Tennessee, as did his wife's, so they returned there to live and rear a large family of children. His brother, William Gill Cooper, shipped his household goods from Vicksburg, Miss. by boat to Nashville after he left Mississippi.

When Robert Melville Cooper came to Maury County is was sparsely settled. The county was a dense forest of oak, hickory, walnut, beech, cedar, and poplar. Bear, wildcats, and other wild animals roamed in these woods. Nearby were Indian reservations. Homes were selected where the land was fertile near a spring or water. Land sold for about $1.00 per acre and was usually surveyed in 100 acre tracts. Surveying was extremely difficult and hazardous. The first lots in Columbia were in 1808. Men paid cash for their land. Houses were made of rough logs, largely of cedar with dirt and stick or stone chimneys. After the logs for the house were collected and there was a "house raising." Friends, neighbors, and family were all invited and everyone worked on the house. This apparently was an old Quaker custom that had followed the settlers as they migrated to Tennessee. Crops of cotton, corn and flax were raised. The cotton and flax were used in making homespun for clothing and for coats. As travel was difficult it was necessary that everything that could be made in the home was done by the members of the family. There were many professional men in the country such as carpenters, blacksmiths, weavers, hatters, tinkers, saddlers, and even coach makers. Supplies were brought by flatboats from New Orleans through the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. Salt was a problem for beef, deer and other meats, and was shipped from the salt licks of Kentucky or as far away as New Orleans and Baltimore. Many brought their salves with them to the new area. The stock consisted of animals found on any farm; however, most of the horses were Indian ponies for the could get through the cane and forest better. Mules were raised for plowing and cultivating the cotton. Schools were few. Teachers were employed by the year and their salaries averaged about $10.00 per month. Some of the teacher were paid at the rate of $1.00 per month per student and allowed $5.00 per month for his room and board. Jackson College was the first fine school in the county. The county grew and was noted for its excellent living and its wealth of professional men.

Robert Melville Cooper was appointed Lieutenant Colonel and Commandant of the 52nd Regiment of the State Militia on June 6, 1817. He was an ardent soldier. Although the state records were not searched, it appears that he was later promoted to a full colonel. He was always called and referred to as "Colonel Cooper." His letters prove him to be a man interested in his country and showed no bitterness when he gave five sons to the cause of the Confederacy.

He acquired many acres of land in Maury County. He owned a farm six miles South of Mt. Pleasant, and in 1806 the deed records show that he deeded land to Robert Nelson. In 1819 he was assessed in Maury County for 113 on Cathey's Creek, as previously stated, and from that time on his land acquisitions amount to many hundreds of acres which are record in the Tennessee Land Office. Much of this land he sold.

On June 30, 1845 he stated that he was 50 years old and was sometimes employed by Lee & Hoge with whom he also did business. In 1850 a new Masonic lodge was formed at Hampshire and in March of the year Robert M. Cooper became the Worshipful Master. The lodge was chartered on October 8, 1850.

In 1853, he was named one of the Commissioners to lay off Lewis County, Tennessee. He became the first County Clerk of Lewis County and later served as the Clerk of the Circuit Court. He had an office in Newburg the county seat, which he sold on July 30, 1850 to James S. Smith for $256.50. In 1860 his real estate on the Lewis County census is valued at $17,000.00 and his personal estate $10,000.00.

The Civil War came with its ravages. Ten of his eleven living sons went to war. One could not go because of a physical handicap. Two of his sons were killed and three died from wounds, and four were severely wounded. Only one escaped unhurt.

His wife Catherine Cooper, was known for her charm. She was a tender loving wife and mother and beloved by all who knew her. She rose above her own personal sorrow in giving one son after another to the war, and devoted most of her time to caring for the wounded and ill in the hospital. She did this almost constantly for the year of 1862 and part of 1863. She died April 16, 1863 of pneumonia which her family attributed to exhaustion and over-exposure caring for men in both armies who needed nursing care.

Robert Melville Cooper died at the home of his daughter, Ellen Houser.

Children of Robert Melville and Catherine Cooper Cooper, (fifteen) - twelve boys and 3 girls - Albert Gallatin, Paris, John Hamilton, William McAdams, Eleanor Jane, James Carlisle, Mary Catherine, Henry Augustus, Robert Theodore, Thomas Simpson, Sarah Elizabeth, Alexander Duval, Samuel Gwin, Leander Bruce, and Alfred Theordoric Cooper.

Robert Melville and Catherine Cooper are buried in Lewis County, Tennessee at McClain's Cemetery.

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This page is 2004 Cheryl Zelek.

This page was created on 25 September 2004.

This page was last updated on  Thursday, August 13, 2015.

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