January 23, 1957

Buildings on Cooper's "home ranch," probably the first lumber buildings in Griggs county. The barn was started ' in 1880 and the house in 1881, for his men. Small building in foreground was used by his men as a washing house. Bearded man on horseback in center foreground is probably Mr. Cooper. Large woodpile is behind him. At least forty horses and mules are on this photo. This picture was probably taken in 1883 or later. Originally the entire house had vertical siding. Present owners of this place are Mr. and Mrs. Max Arndt. The barn still has the original shingles and vertical siding.

 

Granary on Townsite

(Quoted from William Glass of Big Timber, Montana) "The granary that was used for a County office immediately following the November 1882 election, was the only building on the townsite and stood just about opposite the entrance to the present court house block. It was built to store the grain that grew on the townsite in 1882. I think it must have been at least seventy feet long and about sixteen wide. It was constructed with heavy dimension lumber in order to carry the weight of the grain when filled. It was sheeted on the inside of the studding with shiplap, but there was no covering on the outside. It had a gable roof and was shingled. It was built for use and not for show. When Cooperstown was declared the new county seat we had to have an office quick, so we partitioned off about sixteen feet at the east end of the granary, putting in a small window, and a door made with inch boards, and fastened with a 25¢ lock. It was the plan to occupy it only a few weeks while they were constructing a new and commodious building two or three hundred feet to the north, which was later known as the "Dakota House."

Mr. Cooper and others from Michigan and Canada built their first granaries with studding material on the outside, and sheeted up smooth on the inside. They reversed their building methods when they built new ones, or they sheeted up the outside and removed the inside lumber.

Dakota conditions seem to have caused the change. Methods of grain handling of eastern United States, Michigan, or Canada were forced to adjust to the rapid handling of much grain from the large threshing machines of Dakota.

Sacked at the threshing machine in the first years, it was hauled to the granary and dumped from the sacks into the grain bins through openings made between the studding. These were usually placed twelve to fourteen inches apart. It was then shoveled into the bins through the openings for that purpose. But the studding gave trouble.

It was hard to get close enough to the bin to shovel from the straight sided grain tank, through the openings at the far side of the studding without much spillage, for the large shovel could scarcely get between the studding to the opening.

In getting close enough to the bin, the hubs of the wagon wheels often would strike the studding, damaging the wheel, or studding, or both. Planks were then placed at the height of the hubs on the outside of the studding to protect both the building and the wheels. (Edwin Bolkan, source.) An improved grain tank which came into general use at about 1900, was made wider at the top until it was wider than both wheels and hubs. And at about that time the bins were boarded up on the outside. Both improvements saved grain and labor.

 

R. C.'s Mules, Horses

Cooper had used mules in freighting from Missouri to Colorado, and, later, did freighting in Colorado when he lived there.

He considered them to be "tougher" than horses under unusual conditions and in new or strange places. He knew that they would not overeat or drink when they were too warm and-get "foundered" as horses often do. And they would have to be driven by different men.

Tales of the numbers of mules' and horses that Cooper owned were sure to grow with repetition. But the number listed with the assessor, or given in security for a mortgage would seem to assure that he had at least the number listed for these purposes. Just how many he bought when he "outfitted" in Fargo in 1880 is not known. No doubt it was the smallest number he could get along with and provide tent shelter for, until his first barn was built. But about five months later, in the spring of 1881, five cars of "about eighty mules from Missouri" came to Sanborn, "Cooper had more an one hundred horses and mules to begin with." (William Glass, who came in spring of 1881)

In 1884 horses and mules were assessed at an average of $66 each. Cooper Brothers were assessed $980 on their horses, or about 20, and $4020 on their mules, or about 80 head. (All assessor's and mortgage data are from court house records). This would indicate that Mr. Glass was close to accurate.

In the last year of their partnership, 1886, the Cooper Brothers were assessed for seven horses over three years old, and fifty-six mules. Also in September, 1886, R. C. Cooper listed as part of his security on a mortgage ,sixty mules and eleven horses. In 1889, the year following the "big freeze," Mr. Cooper was assessed for twelve horses and fifty-four mules, and Mrs. Cooper for eight horses.

In 1891 Mrs. Cooper was assessed for three horses under two years old, and nine horses over three years old, and Mr. Cooper for three horses under three years old, nine horses over three years old, and fifty-live mules. This seems to indicate that they had begun to raise colts.

But in 1896 Mr. Cooper bough twenty five mules shipped in from Montana. (Courier, July 31, 1896).

Mr. and Mrs. Cooper each kept a fast driving team, and Mr. Cooper kept a favorite saddle horse for years.

In later years the proportion I of horses to mules increased, until both were partially replaced f by tractors when he retired from 'farming.

 

Cooper's Cattle

Mr. Cooper's grain farming held first place in his planning. He had photos taken of all his grain farming operations, but none of his cattle and hogs. Of each of these he had a larger number than any other farmer in the county. That he needed large amounts of meat for his large crews of men in the busy seasons may have had something to do with his reasons for raising them at first. But Cooper's plans always made use of everything he owned.

His partner, T. J. Cooper, bought 10,400 acres of land direct from the Northern Pacific Railroad in the fall of 1880. Until put under cultivation this gave fine pasture lands and hay meadows.

As "Cooper Brothers," Rollin C. Cooper bought cattle in Minnesota for his first herds. (Theo. Nierenberg, who worked for Cooper 1882 and following). He hired men to herd them on his unbroken railroad lands north of Cooperstown. Here he built a small building for the use of his "cow hands." Cattle thrive and fatten on native grasses and prairie hay without grain. Cooper built shed type barns about one mile east of the first ranch. Here the cattle were wintered and cared for by men hired for that purpose. These men were often homesteaders who were glad to earn something for their families in the winter season. (Ed Zimprich)

In 1884, as "Cooper Brothers," their cattle were assessed at $905, but neither number nor individual assessed valuation are shown. However, in 1889 a cow was assessed at $18 and younger ages in proportion.

In 1885 Mrs. Cooper had 104 head of stock. After the dissolution of partnership on November 1, 1886, Mr. and Mrs. Cooper kept 100 to 200 head of cattle, for a period of years— at least while they themselves still lived on their farm. About half were assessed to each. Their cattle were branded with different brands but often were pastured in the same herd. Mrs. Cooper's cattle were branded with "66 on the left flank (Mortgage given Nov. 2, 1887) but there is no North Dakota, or Territorial record of Mr. Cooper's brand. However, in 1900 he had the brand 1A—registered in Colorado, address Beulah, Pueblo County, Colorado.

Cooper's farm lands under cultivation extended to the city limits of Cooperstown, on all sides. Most families kept a cow, and, often, a driving team. They often broke their picket ropes, or were picketed too close to a field of Cooper's grain or a hay- meadow. As Cooper's stock was t herded to keep them off the farmers' crops, the town stock were at one time too much, even for Mr. Cooper's good nature.

This notice appeared in the paper. (May 15, 1891 Courier) “All stock of every name and nature found trespassing on my fields or meadows after the 17th Instant will be taken up and held for damages. I mean just what I say, too." (Signed) R. C. Cooper.

One week later. "R. C. Cooper impounded some stock Wednesday. This will be a lesson to persons having stock loose. Mr. Cooper doesn't believe in fooling around after giving due notice."

 

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