Cooper


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Cooper is an English occupational name for a maker and repairer of wooden vessels such as barrels, tubs, buckets, casks, and vats.  It comes from the Middle English couper, cowper (and also from the Middle Dutch kuper, a derivative of kup Ďtubí, Ďcontainerí, which was borrowed independently into English as coop).  Cooper may in fact also be an anglicized form of the Dutch Kuiper or Coper (meaning a buyer or merchant). 

The prevalence of this surname bears witness to the fact that it was one of the chief specialist trades in the Middle Ages in Europe.

Cooper and Cowper are the two main spellings of the surname.  William Cowper, the 18th century poet, always insisted that his name should be pronounced "Cooper."

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England.   A Cooper family, originally Cupper, acquired the Pawlett manor in Somerset in 1531 and later married into the wealthy Ashley family.  From the Ashley Coopers came:
  • the 17th century politician Anthony Ashley Cooper, the first Earl of Shaftesbury, who was a prominent politician in England at the time of the Restoration.
  • and his 19th century namesake, the seventh Earl of Sheftesbury, a leader in the movement for factory and child labor reform.
SE England.  John Cowper was married at Strood in Sussex in 1467 and was the ancestor of the Cowpers of Cornhill in London:
  • John Cowper, Sheriff of London and resident of Cornhill in 1551   
  • and Sir William Cowper who acquired Ratling Court at Nonington in Kent in 1628.
William Cowper of this family was Britainís first Lord Chancellor in the early 1700ís and was made Earl Cowper.  From this family also came the Rev. John Cowper, rector at Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, and his son William Cowper the poet.

There were later Coopers at Berkhamsted, beginning with William Cooper who had arrived in the town from Shropshire in 1842.  His invention of a sheep dip, to solve the problem of sheep scab, ended up being sold around the world.  Production continued with the family for almost a century until it began to be replaced by synthetic insecticides.

East Anglia.  Coopers from the Norfolk village of Hingham date from the 1360ís.  Anthony and Thomas Cooper emigrated from there to New England in the 1630ís Another line moved to Norwich where Samuel Cooper was a surgeon and his grandson Sir Aston Paston Cooper, born at Brooke Hall in 1768, a more famous surgeon.   The Cooper name remained at Hingham.  Billy Cooper, born into a large family of late 19th century shopkeepers there, was well-known locally for playing the dulcimer musical instrument.

Coopers from Bracondale in Norfolk have been traced back to the early 1600's.  From this line came, via King William IV and his mistress Dorothea Jordan, Sir Alfred Cooper, a fashionable doctor in Victorian society, and the diplomat and writer Duff Cooper.


Coopers at South Weston in Oxfordshire date from the 1500ís.  Thomas Cooper was a Parliamentary officer during the Civil War.  A later Thomas Cooper was Lord of the Manor at South Weston in 1790.
  Frank Cooper was the 19th century Oxford shopkeeper whose wife Sarah devised the famous formula for Frank Cooper's Oxford Marmalade.

Elsewhere.  Grey Cooper, the son of a Newcastle physician who had married into the powerful Northumberland Grey family, had an extended Parliamentary career in the late 1700ís.  He claimed a baronetcy, perhaps dubiously, as did his son the Rev. William Cooper who married the Jewess heiress Isabella Franks in the early 1800ís.  She brought with her Isleworth House in London and plantations in Jamaica.  But the male line here died out in 1835.

By the late 19th century it was more London and the southeast and Yorkshire where Coopers were most to be found.


Scotland.  The Cooper name has cropped up mainly in the northeast, in Aberdeenshire.  A John Cupar held lands there in the late 13th century.  One family history in Clatt dates back to 1690; another in Old Deer to 1799.

The town of Coupar in Fife may have been the origin of some Couper families.  William Couper, born in Edinburgh, was appointed the Bishop of Galloway in 1612. 

Ireland.  There was a notable Anglo-Irish Cooper family descended from the Royalist Austin Cooper.  He had moved his family in 1661 from their farm at Byfleet in Surrey to a purchased estate in county Wicklow.  A descendant was the early 20th century adventurer and raconteur Captain Dick Cooper.

Another Cooper, Edward Cooper who had fought in Ireland under Cromwell, took possession of the Marktree estate in Sligo in 1663.  He lost it during the troubles which followed but regained it in 1690.  A descendant built an observatory on the castle grounds in 1830.  Markree Castle now operates as a hotel by the 10th generation of Coopers to live there.

America
Early Coopers came to New England. 

New England
.  Two John Coopers here were: 
  • John Cooper from Buckinghamshire who came to America with his family on the Hopewell in 1635.  He was a member of the party who set off from New England in 1640 to start a new colony at Southampton on Long Island.
  • and another John Cooper, this time from Suffolk, who was deacon at the First Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 1668 until his death in 1691.  His home, built there in 1681, has been preserved as a museum
It was either James or William Cooper from Stratford upon Avon who, arriving in America around 1680, was the forebear of the writer James Fenimore Cooper.  In a letter of 1848, he wrote that his descent ran: ďWilliam (immigrant), James, William, James, William, James Fenimore Cooper.Ē  His father William founded Cooperstown, the home of baseball, in upstate New York.

Virginia.  David Cooper was either born in Virginia or arrived there from England.  He settled in South Carolina in the 1760ís.  His grandsons Malachi and Edward Cooper took the Wilderness Trail through the Cumberland Gap to Kentucky in 1790.  Later Coopers of this line were staunch Baptists who were active in the anti-slavery movement of the mid-19th century.  There followed John Sherman Cooper, US Senator for Kentucky between 1946 and 1973.

Another Cooper line in Virginia, starting in Henry county in the 1750ís, migrated with Thomas Cooper to Hancock county, Georgia in the 1790ís. 

William Jesse Cooper was born in Virginia in 1783.  He moved to Alabama in the early 1800ís and his son later settled in Mississippi.  Wyatt Cooper, born there in 1927, made it as a writer and became socialite Gloria Vanderbiltís fourth husband in 1963.  Their son is the CNN news presenter Anderson Cooper


Dutch.  Peter Cooper, the American inventor and industrialist, was born in New York City in 1791 of mixed Dutch, English and Huguenot ancestry.  His line went back to Obadiah Cooper, a tailor in Albany in the early 1700ís. The Cooper Union was Peter Cooperís main legacy to New YorkDaniel Cooper, who laid out the town of Dayton, Ohio in 1795, was also of Dutch ancestry.  Hermanus Kuiper, a Dutch arrival in the 1870ís, became Herman Cooper in Holland, Michigan.

South Africa.  Dr. Charles Cooper came to South Africa from London with his wife Sarah in 1816, four years before the 1820 settlers.  They made their home at Somerset on the Eastern Cape.

Australia
.  Robert Cooper, a prosperous London publican, was convicted of receiving stolen goods and transported to Australia on the Earl Spencer in 1813.  Five years later he received a conditional pardon and prospered in Sydney.  In 1824 he was granted land rights to the Willeroo estate in the Goubourn area of NSW.  His sons James and Francis developed this land as a sheep station.  Willeroo remained with the Cooper family until 1914. 

Thomas Cooper, a shoemaker by trade, arrived in South Australia from Yorkshire in 1852.  Ten years later he started brewing beer in an experimental way, using his wife Anneís family recipe.  It took twenty years of trial before Thomas was able to perfect the art of brewing at his Leabrook plant in the Adelaide suburbs.  Thomas died in 1897. Cooperís is now the largest Australian brewery, still largely owned by the Cooper family
.

Select Cooper Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


Select Cooper Names

Thomas Cooper
was a 16th century English bishop, lexicographer, and writer.
William Cowper was a popular nature poet of the 18th century.
James Fenimore Cooper was an early 19th century American writer, best known for The Last of the Mohicans.
Duff Cooper was a British diplomat, Cabinet member, and writer in the first half of the 20th century.  His wife Lady Diana Cooper was a well-known English socialite.
Gary Cooper was a well-known American actor perhaps best known for his performance in High Noon.
Henry Cooper was British heavyweight boxing champion in the 1960's.
Anderson Cooper, the CNN news reporter, is the son of the socialite Gloria Vanderbilt.

Select Coopers Today
  • 161,000 in the UK (most numerous in Sussex)
  • 101,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 68,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Scott
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Thompson
Butler       
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Walker
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 
Sanders
Young

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

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