February 7, 1957

Cooper's Hogs

Cooper was the largest pioneer hog raiser of Griggs County. The variety seem to have been "just pigs," as no breed is mentioned. These he kept at the "Home Ranch on 26," where he had special sheds made for them. Cooper did not try to I raise corn, but fattened his hogs on barley, using it as ground feed. Cooper raised the barley.

In 1884 the assessed valuation of his hogs, as of April was $275 but no number was given. In 1889, he was assessed $150 for seventy hogs. In 1886, one of his mortgages included four hundred hogs as security. At one time he had seven hundred hogs. He butchered them and hauled them to market in Hope, North Dakota. He got 2½ cents per pound for them.

In earlier years after threshing, the hogs were allowed to run loose and wandered the more than two miles to Cooperstown. Editor Stair was probably echoing the thoughts of others in Cooperstown when he wrote: (November 15, 1885 Courier)

"Cooper's pigs are not so 'by-yuse-fly' handsome, 'hut they are so 'gol derned' sociable and numerous, that the lambent air about the Terminal Town is often blue with suppressed profanity, and several of the neighbors have roast pig for dinner every day.

"R. C. says he is getting even with the town for the depredations of the metropolitan cattle in his wheat fields. It was a pleasant sight Sunday to see about ninety of the piccaries, in solemn procession, single file, go round and round the Palace Hotel. If Bowden (proprietor of the Palace Hotel) had any enterprise he would have had a cellar full of fresh pork before the vesper hour. Just now as we glanced out through the open door over the landscape, through the most delightful air that ever blessed the air in November, there were pigs to the right of us, pigs to the left of us, just a shimmering sea of infantile hog, reveling in the joyousness of their porcine nature, and vegetable mold. The breath of the mystical Indian Summer was redolent of pig. Verily, Cooperstown is the Cincinatti of the Northwest."

Cooper's Equipment

From the first Cooper bought the best farm machinery on the market, and kept up to date, as improved models came out:

"Cooper Brothers bought three broadcast seeders—one each of ‘Stowbridge', 'Gem' and 'Calhoun' ." (Courier, 3-7-'84)

"Cooper purchased 10 new seeders for the farm of an entirely new pattern—the 'American Broadcast' that are supposed to seed 110 acres per day each" (Courier 4-10-85), and in 1889 he had two 14-runner Havana drills. (Mortgage record).

The Cooper farm became sort of a "demonstratiow farm for new machines. About half of Cooper's crew of men were homesteaders or their underage sons. Here they saw, and were taught how to use, the most up to date equipment. Naturally, Cooper, and everything connected with his farm became the central topic of conservation in almost any group of men. These stories, still told by second generation, have come to border on the "Paul Bunyan" type of tales.

Cooper kept "experts," presently called mechanics, to keep binders and other machines in running order. He also kept a good blacksmith, and a woodworking shop for use when extensive repairs were needed.

None of Mr. Cooper's books or ledgers are known to exist. But during the hard times of the late '80's Mr. Cooper was forced to make many chattel mortgages, in which his machinery was listed. The various documents indicate he owned as follows.

35 pair of harnesses; 9 plows (and breaking plows at the start); 45 drags and harrows; 9 seeders (1886); two 14 runner Havana drills in 1889; three pulverizers; 12 rollers; 10 Red Wing wagons and 23 others; four mowers; three rakes; one hay loader; 23 harvesters and binders; three threshers and engines (in 1886, one engine was an Ames); 9 wheat tanks (3 for each machine); 9 water tanks (3 for each machine); in 1888 one threshing engine separator, 36 inch cylinder, with tank and stacker and 14 foot wagon elevator and bagger, and 150 foot belt.

August 10, 1897: one Buffalo Pitts-14 horse, straw burning tractor engines, second hand, with main drive belt, trucks, hose and all fixtures belonging to same.

August 11, 1897: one Buffalo Pitts – 16 horse power straw, burning engine, second hand shop no. 1852, with main drive, belt, trucks ,hose and all fixtures to same.

Mr. Cooper used both Deering and McCormick binders, not necessarily at the same time. In the late '80's Mr. Cooper often bought repossessed binders from dealers. These, his "experts" either put into running condition, or used them as parts for his other binders.

Cooper's Homestead

(Information from Mrs. Oscar Nierenberg, who was a "maid").

Mr. Cooper's homestead house was not like that of the average homesteader's. All too many had to live in a one or two room house made of logs, sod, or a dugout. But Mr. Cooper's house had five bedrooms beside its sitting room, parlor, dining room, kitchen, closets and woodshed. They had good furniture.

When they were alone Mr. and Mrs. Cooper ate on an oilcloth covered table in the kitchen at the end of a long hall.

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, sat at the table with them, and often did milking and outside chores beside her household duties.

Mrs. Cooper's "maid" did no milking or outside chores. Her room was small— only large enough for the bed and her trunk. It was next to the kitchen. The kitchen was placed at the end of the long hall purposely, so that the odors of cooking might not reach the front of the house. The "maid", served the meals in the dining room. Here the table was set with good linen, china, and silver. The "maid" carried all food, etc., the length of the hall from the kitchen. 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.

When Mrs. Cooper had help her washings were large, because I lightly soiled or wrinkled table linens and clothing were thrown into the wash. All washing was by hand on a scrub board. It I was not hard washing, but required so much ironing—often, three days a week. The irons were heated on a stove, fired by wood from the Sheyenne River.

Mrs. Cooper kept a separate bedroom for Mr. Cooper's use when he was doing field work, and got so very dirty.

At his homestead, Mr. Cooper kept a "man" who cared for, and milked the cow or two that were kept there for their milk, and cream and butter. The surplus "skim' milk was sent to the Ranch for the men there. There also were some chickens kept for eggs and meat. 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 there 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 he brought with him. It grew "sway-backed" 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." Mr. Cooper was often quite upset when she would come home with her team all "lathered up." Mrs. Cooper would give a ride to such of Cooper's men as she might overtake walking to town. Also, in the first years, she often came to see what she could do when some of the men were sick at the ranch, (Sam Langford, source) but by 1890 she never came to the ranch-house. (Mrs. Oscar Nierenberg source.)

The homestead house, a half mile south of the Ranch, was located on a small hill, and gave Mr. Cooper a complete view of his men and his mules on the south slope of that glacial hill. By using his spy glass (telescope) or his binoculars he could identify each man in the yard, and always knew how everything, was going on over there, without always having to be among the crew or men. He left many details to be taken care of by his Ranch Foreman.

Mrs. Cooper made no effort to know the homesteaders among the Scandinavian and the German groups. The American-Eastern-Michigan-Canadian group was large. Here were her social activities among relatives and friends: visitors from out of town, the professional group, the teachers, and the English speaking ministers of town. But among these she was very active, taking part in their various projects for church, school, social or "dry" activities.

 

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