The Homestead Home


Much has been written about R.C. Cooper and his large-scale farming.  Pictures were taken of the many field activities, mules to begin with and horses later on.  Not much has been written about feeding the large crew of men or the human life style on the Ranch and Homestead.

To fully understand the human side of such a ranch we must realize there were two separate types of homes within mile of each other.  On Section 34 about mile south of the Ranch lived Mr. and Mrs. R.C. Cooper.  Their house was not like that of the average homesteaders.  All too many had to live in a one or two room house made of logs, sod or a dugout.  Mr. Cooper's house had five bedrooms, beside the sitting room, dining room, kitchen, closets and woodshed.  Cooper had a separate bedroom when he became very dirty from being out in the fields.  The Coopers had good furniture.

Whenever possible Mrs. Cooper kept a "maid".  This is not to be considered the same as a "hired girl", who was treated as one of the family.  Mrs. Cooper's "maid" did no milking or outside work.  The "maid" served the meals in the dining room.  Here the table was set with good linen, china and silver.  During the meal she would be in the kitchen, on call of Mrs. Cooper's table bell.  After the meal, all was returned to the kitchen.  The "maid" and the homestead "hired man" ate in the kitchen.

At his homestead, Mr. Cooper kept a "man" who cared for and milked a cow or two that were kept there for their milk, cream and butter.  The surplus skim milk was sent to the Ranch for the men.  There were some chickens kept at the Homestead.  Mrs. Cooper, herself, cared for the chicks she raised each summer with the old "cluck" hens.  There was also a kitchen garden for fresh vegetables.  None were raised at the Ranch for the men except a large amount of potatoes.

Mr. and Mrs. Cooper each had a driving team and buggy.  Mr. Cooper also had his favorite riding horse.  It grew "swaybacked" from carrying him and the heavy saddle.  Mrs. Cooper drove off somewhere nearly every day.  She had a fast driving team, but she was a "hard driver’.  Mi.  Cooper was often quite upset when she came home with her team all "lathered up".  Undoubtedly the homestead hired man took care of the horses.

The first few years Mrs. Cooper often came to the Ranch to see what she could do when some of the men were sick but by 1890 she never came to the Ranch.

Mrs. Cooper made no effort to know the homesteaders among the Scandinavian and the German groups.  Her social activities were among the large group of friends who came from Michigan to settle here in 1881 and 1882, visitors from out of town, the professional group, the teachers and the English-speaking ministers in town.  Among these she was very active, taking part in their various projects for church, school, social or temperance activities.

Mrs. Cooper had married Rollin when she was 19 years of age in 1870.  They had two children who died in infancy and they adopted a daughter, Florence, who died at the age of 27 in 1911.  In the obituary of Florence Myrtle Cooper, in the Cooperstown Courier for May 4, 1911, no mention was made of her being adopted.  Florence was born in Griggs County April 18, 1884.  She died at a sanatorium in Batavia, Illinois where she had resided about two years.  She had been afflicted with nerv6us disorders and had been subject to epileptic attacks.  The funeral was held from the Cooper home in Cooperstown with Pastor I. Evans of the Congregational Church officiating.

Mrs. Emma Cooper was initiated into the Order of Eastern Star on March 29, 1915, while R.C. was initiated in the new Temple October 12, 1921.

In the Times-Record of Valley City, September 16, 1920, Percy B. Trubshaw wrote about the Golden Wedding of the R.C. Coopers at their splendid home built in 1906 in Cooperstown.  About 60 of the old time friends and former neighbors were present at this notable party with a program of music, and a most appetizing luncheon.

Mrs. Cooper died September 20, 1929 and R.C. died March 17, 1938.  They are buried in the Cooperstown cemetery.

(R.C. Cooper's homestead house was located on Section 34, Cooperstown Township.  It was said to have burned.  Described by Mrs. Oscar Nierenberg.  She was a maid there in 1888-89.  Rooms etc. are reasonably accurate only in their relations to each other.  Sizes are not known)

The front part had a mansard roof - that is it sloped upward from four sides.  Behind this was a very long addition with a common gable type roof.

The square front part had a "sitting room" and a "parlor" with a bedroom off each.  The spare room off the sitting room was a guest room.  Mr. and Mrs. Cooper's bedroom was off the parlor.

A long narrow hall extended down the center of the long addition.  The dining room was nearest the parlor, and the kitchen was purposely put at the end of the hall to keep the cooking odors from the rest of the house.  The maid's room was next to the kitchen.  In it there was only room enough for the bed and her trunk.  A special bedroom was kept for Mr. Cooper when he was in the fields and got very dirty.

The kitchen was large.  Here they ate on an oilcloth-covered table when they had no maid.

There was a bedroom for the hired man who lived at the homestead.  There also were two large closets.  In one of them, Mr. Cooper kept his medicines for his horses and mules, among other items.  The other closet was used as a winter, indoor toilet.  The last room was a large woodshed with wood for all the stoves.

To Mrs. Porterville from M.N. Holland, Anacortes, Wn., dated Feb.  21, 1957.

"Really, I did not feel that you had omitted anything in your description of the old ranch house occupied by the Coopers.  When I read your column I felt that you had come into my old home, and many memories came back to me.

"In the fall of 1906 when I was eight-years-old my folks rented the Cooper (homestead I believe) farm from Hammer-Condy& Company.   I do not know when the farm was acquired, or from whom it was acquired.  There was no evidence that any part of the house had been altered, or any out buildings had been altered, since the Coopers made their home there.  I remember a large room at the east end of the house with a bedroom to the north.  There was another quite large room next to the east room with a bedroom to the north, making one bedroom off each of the two large rooms.  The next room was the kitchen which was used for kitchen and dining room.  At the north end of the kitchen, and extending westward in the building, was a narrow and long pantry.  (That was the place I started a fire when I tried to find something with the aid of a match.  A curtain hanging over the door was ignited.) In the southwest corner of the kitchen, close to the kitchen range, was the door that opened to the small bedroom you mentioned.

'A door near the middle of the west wall of the kitchen opened to a hallway leading to a room that appeared like a summer kitchen.  The indoor toilet you mentioned was a part of this room.  The last room of the house was the woodshed.  I cannot remember an outside door from the kitchen; to get out we had to go through the woodshed.  The top of the roof over the main area had a flat top with a railing around it.  It could be reached by entering the attic where a wall ladder had been placed to reach the top of the roof.  A loose cover protected the opening in the roof

'A new barn was built during the summer of 1907.  I believe the new house was built in 1908 on Part of the site of the old house.  The old house being a long rambling type, a part of it was dismantled to make space for the new house.  A part of the old cellar became part of the new basement.  I remember things in the old cellar that had once belonged to the Coopers, particularly a nickle plated dining table gadget for salt and pepper shakers and small bottles of condiments or something."

In 1957 Mrs. Annie Michaelis wrote the following to Mrs. Porterville:

“I was another that lived on one of the 'noted' Cooper Ranches, previous to the date and description sent in by Mr. Holland of Washington in a previous issue of the Sentinel - Courier. "

"In the spring of 1903, I moved with my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Rowley and a brother, Luther, from Iowa, to what was then a Hammer-Condy Company farm located about four miles southwest of Cooperstown and what had been one of Cooper's typical ranches and from which many happy memories are cherished by me.

"On the east side of the east room was a front door and also one on the south side of the next big room joining the east one, then numerous additions of rooms continuing west. (All this was necessary for the Coopers.) "

"There was a beautiful tree grove of box-elder (and still is, 1957) west of the buildings, that was just large enough then to afford good shade and which may have been planted by the Coopers.  (R.C. Cooper had a tree claim on one quarter in Section 34, and homesteaded one quarter, Ed.) A driveway along the south side of these trees to the west field was called 'lovers lane.' (H.H. Cooper, brother of R. C. claimed one quarter in 34.)"

"I lived there until December of 1905, when Herman and I were married in the ‘east' front room of the house on this ranch.  The place now (1957) is owned by Mrs. Hanna Feske and two sons.  "

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial page 37

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