Thomas Cooper (1617 - 1675) MP

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Birthplace: England
Death: Died in Massachusetts
Cause of death: killed by Indians
Occupation: carpenter
Managed by: Ivy Jo Smith
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Thomas Cooper

Lt. Thomas COOPER was born abt 1617 in England & died on 5 Oct 1675 in Springfield, MA

  • Parents: Thomas COOPER

Notes

° He sailed from London on the Christian, March 16, 1634-5, at the age of 18. He was apprenticed to carpenter Francis Stiles, 35, who had been engaged by Sir Richard Saltonstall and other London investors to establish a plantation in Connecticut, most of which was covered by a patent issued to Saltonstall in 1631. Once in America, the Stiles party made its way to Windsor, where the chosen site was found to be occupied by Plymouth Colony settlers (who had purchased land from the Indians, but had not obtained an English patent for it) and by freelance squatters from Dorchester, Mass. The three-cornered dispute ended in Plymouth’s favor by sheer weight of numbers, and the Stiles/Saltonstall group drifted apart to find other land to settle on. Nothing is known of Thomas Cooper’s next few years, but he appeared in Springfield, MA about 1641, probably the year he married Sarah Slye. Springfield, settled in 1636 by people from Roxbury, Mass., had seceded from its initial association with the Connecticut towns in 1638, under the leadership of its founder, mentor and magistrate, William Pynchon.

° Cooper bought land in Springfield 1/27/1642, and the next year was allotted additional land by the town. He paid eleven shillings as his share of the price of purchasing a new tract of plantation land from the Indians. In 1644 he was elected by Town Meeting as one of the first five Selectmen of the town, a position he held through all but a handful of the next thirty years. In 1645 he built Springfield’s 25' x 40' First Meetinghouse, for which he was paid £80 in "wheate, pork, wampum, debts and labor." The same year he was appointed measurer of lands and, in that capacity, he surveyed the lands for the new town of Longmeadow in 1646. He was granted additional land in 1651, 1656, 1660, 1664 and 1665. On Sept. 24, 1663 he witnessed the deed by which the land now comprising Northampton, Hadley and several other towns was purchased from local Indians by John Pynchon. In 1661, as highway surveyor, he laid out the first road linking Springfield to Chicopee. In 1662 he was appointed Clerk of Writs (a combination, more or less, of court clerk and town clerk). He served as town constable and as Ensign, later Lieutenant, of the local militia or "train band." On top of everything else, he was on a committee to make grants of land in the plantation, and yet another committee to assign the seats in the meetinghouse. (He got the coveted front pew, an indication of his peers’ esteem for him.) On March 20th, 1665, perhaps needing a rest, he failed to attend town meeting and was unable to provide an acceptable excuse. For this dereliction of his civic duty he was fined sixpence by the town!

° Cooper did a great deal of trading with the Indians around Springfield, dealing in land, beaver pelts, wampum, trading cloth and other conventional media of exchange. He represented the prospective planters of Brookfield in negotiations with the Indians for title to the land they wished to settle on, and concluded a mutually satisfactory price for it. He also served as commercial intermediary between William (and later John) Pynchon and the Indians, obtaining goods from the Pynchons and trading them to the Indians for furs. He appears frequently in the local records owing large debts to the Pynchons — debts that were always paid and never seemed to occasion any trouble for either party.

° Undaunted by his already burdensome public responsibilities, Cooper in 1667 was promoted to Lieutenant of the train band; served on a committee to draw up plans of the plantation to be presented to the General Court for ratification; served on another committee to appraise all the livestock of the plantation; served on a third committee to adjudicate the requests of certain settlers to redraw the boundaries of their land and make it more conveniently usable; was chosen auditor of the accounts of the Selectmen; served on a fourth committee to consider the plight of the plantation’s poor; enlarged the minister’s house; and served on a fifth committee to exact overdue payment for the minister’s home addition from recalcitrant church members. Over the next few years he was appointed to assist the Selectmen in setting a tax rate for the plantation; surveyed the boundaries of Hadley, Massachusetts; laid out the town of Suffield, CT; inspected and made recommendations for repairs to roads damaged by flooding in Springfield; and was on committees to oversee construction of Springfield’s new, larger Second Meetinghouse, to build a new mill there, and to lay out the highways between Northampton and Hadley. He represented Springfield in the General Court at Boston in 1663, ’65, ’67 and ’68.

° He was a combination of extraordinary talents, energy and skills. In addition to his manifest abilities as farmer, carpenter, engineer, surveyor, soldier, trader, public administrator, translator, and agent in Indian affairs, he also was a practicing attorney who represented many clients before the County court. Finally and perhaps most amazingly, he was the best-known setter of broken bones in the region, at a time when there was no surgeon in the Massachusetts portion of the Connecticut Valley. He traveled anywhere among the river settlements on such emergency errands whenever he was sent for. Only after several years, when the costs of this work and travel began to tell on him, did he petition the General Court for permission (which was granted) to charge a fee for his medical services.

° In 1675, with King Philip’s War sweeping across New England, all the Connecticut River settlements were in constant danger. On October 4, Cooper was quietly warned by an Indian friend that Springfield was surrounded by 500 warriors who planned to annihilate it on the following day. He thought to use his 30 years of friendly Indian relations to persuade the hostile force to disband. Accompanied by one other settler, he rode out of the palisaded village to negotiate with Indian leaders. Before they had gotten to the edge of the woods, Cooper’s companion was shot dead and Cooper himself was wounded by unseen snipers. Shot again as he struggled back to the stockade, he was barely able to reach a house where the villagers had taken refuge. He died there of his wounds while the Indians pressed their attack — killing all the livestock, burning the corn mill, sawmill, crops and storehouses, stables, barns and more than thirty houses with everything in them. The advance warning given to Thomas Cooper had enabled most of the settlers to save a few possessions and gather for their defense and safety in a handful of fortified houses. As a result of this preparation only three settlers were killed and four wounded, but the plantation was left so destitute of food and shelter on the verge of winter that it nearly had to be abandoned. Some families, thoroughly demoralized, did return to the safety of the Boston area.

° The Springfield Massacre, as it came to be called, was one of the key episodes in King Philip’s War. At the war’s end the tribes of southern New England were decimated, their best leaders dead, their villages and their social order in ruins. They would never again mount a serious threat against the encroaching colonists.

° After his death, Thomas Cooper’s estate in Springfield was sold in 1679 to Joseph Parsons, formerly of Northampton, whose wife had been accused of and tried for witchcraft there, and who had had enough of that place.

° In "Beginnings: Thomas Cooper of Springfield and Some Allied Families" (A. T. and J. B. Cooper, Gateway Press, Baltimore 1987), the authors argue persuasively that Thomas Cooper had a brother John Cooper who settled in New Haven, and a sister Ellen Cooper who married Henry Glover of New Haven. Though not conclusively proven, these relationships would help to account for the Cooper family’s otherwise surprising links to New Haven families by affording the Springfield Coopers an occasional base of operations in New Haven. It would also help to explain Cooper links with Newark and Elizabethtown families, since many early settlers of Newark were from New Haven, some of them via Branford. It is also possible [this is my own speculation] that Timothy Cooper’s widow and children, left homeless and destitute by John Pynchon and bearing only awful memories of their last years at Springfield, were taken in by the New Haven Coopers and/or Munsons until Elizabeth remarried.

Marriage: abt 1641 Springfield, MA

Spouse: Sarah SLYE, 329

Birth: Oct 1615 Lapworth Parish, Warwickshire, ENG

Death: 8 May 1688 Springfield, MA

Father: George SLYE, 330 (1564-)

Mother: Deborah GARDNER, 5632

Other spouses: Lt. William CLARK, 4974

Misc. Notes

° After the death of Lt. Thomas Cooper, Sarah m. (2) 11/15/1676 at Springfield, Lt. William 1 Clark, a founder of Northampton, MA. Her daughter Rebecca Cooper (1657-78) was the first wife of Clark’s son Deacon John 2 Clark. Sarah’s death date is given by Sheldon in his History of Deerfield, p. 124.

° Her last name, as given in Beginnings, is deduced mainly from the 1/18/1670 will of the wealthy Capt. Robert Slye of Bushwood, St. Clement’s Manor, St. Mary’s County, MD. This will mentions his "nephews Timothy and Thomas Cooper, both of Springfield in New England." Only one pair of brothers named Timothy and Thomas Cooper were at Springfield in 1670, so the authors of Beginnings deduce that Capt. Slye was the brother of Lt. Thomas Cooper’s wife, who must therefore have been born Sarah Slye. A careful study of several place names given to Capt. Slye’s estates in Maryland (and mentioned in his will) shows them to match certain place names in Lapworth Parish in England, where the baptisms of a Robert Slye and his sister Sarah Slye, children of George Slye, are recorded. Lapworth is in Warwickshire, 3.5 miles NE of Henley in Arden. "Beginnings" cites additional indirect evidence that I find persuasive in support of the Slye hypothesis.

° A one-page typescript article by F. C. Warner dated 9/15/1972, found at the Jones Library in Amherst, argues that Sarah’s last name was not Slye but Russell. I find it unconvincing; it seems to be based on a very questionable premise. The Slye theory advanced in Beginnings is more recent and far more cogent, so I won’t present the Russell theory here.

° A roguish, fictionalized version of Maryland’s Captain Slye figures prominently in John Barth’s very funny novel The Sot-Weed Factor.

Children:

1 M: Timothy COOPER, 324

Birth: 26 Apr 1644 Springfield, MA

Death: 1676/1679

Misc. Notes

° As a youth, Timothy Cooper was probably one of the first people in New England to be "ticketed" for speeding. He and some friends were caught racing their horses along the street in Springfield in violation of an order by the Selectmen, and were fined two shillings each. That seems to have been his only brush with the law.

° Timothy m. at New Haven 10/19/1664 Elizabeth Munson, dau. of Capt. Thomas and Joanna (_______) Munson.

° He was fence viewer of Springfield in 1668 and highway surveyor in 1671.

° Following his father’s example, early in 1675 he established a fur-trading partnership with John Pynchon. Timothy was to oversee the business and conduct the Indian trade in Albany, which was then the center of the American fur trade; Pynchon would supply him with trade goods and broker the sale of all the purchased furs to overseas markets. As they were setting the venture up, Albany passed from Dutch into English hands. The English regime moved the legal monopoly on overseas fur trade from Albany to New York, taking away all of Albany’s business except direct trade with the Indians and, in effect, fixing an artificially low ceiling on the resale value of furs obtained by the Albany Indian traders. Jealously guarding what was left of their business, the established Albany merchants shut out all newcomers, finally banishing Cooper from the state for his justifiably outraged comments about the reigning authorities. The trading partnership failed, and Cooper was left with crushing debts to Pynchon. He died shortly afterward, still in his mid-thirties. The cold-blooded Pynchon secured a judgment against his estate and stripped the widow and children of everything they had, including landholdings in Albany and New Jersey.

° Timothy’s son John, b. 1/24/1668-9 (at Springfield?) m. (1) before 1694, Phebe Ward, dau. of John and Sarah Ward of Branford, CT and later of Newark. He m. (2) 1732 Hannah (__?__) Sergeant 1677-1757, widow of Jonathan Sergeant of Newark, formerly of Branford and New Haven. John and Phebe Cooper removed from Branford to Newark (as did the Wards) and he became a prominent man there. His name first appears in the New Jersey records about 1688. He was named High Sheriff of Essex County in 1711. A Col. John Cooper was a prominent member of the NJ Assembly, 1726-33, appearing often before the Governor’s Council to present bills in behalf of the Assembly. He was much concerned with economic and monetary policy matters. The 1732 will of John Cooper of Newark (who died in 1636) names his "deceased sister Sarah Woodruff" (from whom I, Eric Weber, am descended).

° 1732, Nov. 16. Cooper, John, of Newark, Essex Co.; will of. Son-in-law, John Sergeant, who is under age. Brother, Samuel Cooper. Children of sister Sarah Woodruff, deceased. Children of sister Mary Ward. Eldest daughter of sister Elizabeth Frayley, deceased. Sons-in-law - Thomas and Daniel Sergeant. Real and personal estate. Executors - wife, Hannah, and son-in-law, Jonathan Sergeant. Witnesses - Sam'll Farrand, Ezekial Alling, Nathaniel Farrand. Proved March 11, 1736. Lib. C, p. 154.

° Timothy’s daughter Mary Cooper, b. ca.1669, married Caleb Ward, son of John Ward and brother of Phebe (Ward) Cooper. His will is abstracted as follows:

° 1735, Dec. 31. Ward, Caleb, of Newark, Essex Co..; will of. Children - Caleb, Timothy, Theophilus, Thomas, Mary Smith, Sarah Sealley, Hannah Woodruff and Elizabeth Ward. Land joining lands of John Plum and Thomas Sergeant. Executors - Wife, Mary, and son Timothy. Witnesses - John Cooper, John Van DerPoel, Griffen Jenkins. Proved April 14, 1736. Lib. C, p. 89. 1736, March 29. Inventory, L139; made by Samm'll Farrand, Joseph Bowen.

Spouse: Elizabeth MUNSON, 325

Marriage: Oct 1664 New Haven, CT

2 M: John COOPER, 6488

Death: 19 Sep 1677 Hatfield, Hampshire, MA

Misc. Notes

° He was killed by Indians at Hatfield in a raid that claimed the lives of several settlers there.

3 F: Sarah COOPER, 6557

Death: 21 Nov 1726

Spouse: Thomas DAY, 6558

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Lieut. Thomas Cooper's Timeline

1617
1617
England
1640
1640
Age 23
Hartford, Connecticut
1641
February 23, 1641
Age 24
Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts
1644
April 26, 1644
Age 27
Springfield, Middlesex County (Present Hampden County), Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)
1646
July 3, 1646
Age 29
Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts, USA
1651
May 15, 1651
Age 34
Longmeadow, Hampden Co, Massachusetts,
1654
April 12, 1654
Age 37
Springfield, Berkshire, MA
1656
April 17, 1656
Age 39
Springfield, Berkshire, MA
1657
May 15, 1657
Age 40
Springfield, Hampdon, Massachusetts
1668
January 1, 1668
Age 51
Somerset, Bristol, MA, USA