The first annual "Cooper Basin" Coopers' Family Reunion was a tremendous success. We had what I would call a phenomenal turnout. There were over 100 participants, family members and guest, but unfortunately not all of them were present when the photograph was taken and a few of them didn't sign the attendance book. It took place on Saturday, May 25, 1996 at the Milton High School cafeteria.

During the first part of the reunion, which started at 10:00, called the fellowship hour, I met many new cousins. I had brought my computer, scanner and printer to the reunion so that I could share the information that I had gathered and to scan any pictures and documents that family members had brought to the reunion. A few people had brought photos, old letters and several documents, which I scanned and then printed copies for other members of our family that wanted them. One of the distant relatives that attended was Joseph Ivan Goyer
from DeFuniak Springs, Florida. His great grandfather was Louisa Slay Cooper's oldest brother, Robert Slay. He brought with him a box of old photographs and some documents that were a real treasure. Among his collection of photos where five images of family members of Cooper Basin. Three of the images were of Joseph Franklin (Frank) Cooper, last child of John and Louisa and two images of one of John and Louisa's grandsons, Charles Robinson Cooper, my grandfather. Joseph didn't know who this person was but knew he was important to the Slay family. I explained that he was my grandfather and that he and his Uncle Frank were very close. One of the photos was of the two boys sitting together. The greatest treasure that he brought with him was the actual Homestead Certificate signed by Theodore Roosevelt on October 6, 1903 giving the 160 acres, that John and Louisa had homesteaded since 1856, to Louisa Slay Cooper. I scanned the images and added them to the family's collection of historical photographs and documents. Joseph didn't want to part with them that day but said that he would give them to me at a later date. The reason that he had the photos and documents was that Frank frequently visited his Uncle Bob (Robert Slay) in DeFunick Springs until his mother died in 1906. After his mother died Frank moved to DeFunick Springs because he had fallen in love with one of his Uncle Bob's granddaughters, Frank's first cousins once removed, by the name of Ada Ann Brannon . Frank had taken the photographs and documents with him when he moved and after his death in 1918 his wife preserved them until she died and then they were passed to Joseph Goyer because his mother was a Brannon. There may be many more lost and forgotten photographs and documents from the Cooper Basin Coopers out there that have a similar history but finding them will be the ultimate challenge.

At 11:00 I started my presentation. It was on the importance in having family reunions and how I believed our ancestors would be happy to see that we all try to gather together at least once a year. I also talked about what I had discovered in my research during the previous year, which included several documents and many ancestral photographs. After traveling to various courthouses and a local LSD library I had started gathering federal census records, probate records and land grant documents. I explained that it was only a start and that it would take many years to collect what documents existed for all of our ancestors. Just prior to the reunion, I had collected over 800 names of descendants of John Jordan Cooper and Louisa Slay Cooper of Cooper Basin. I visited and interviewed many of our cousins during the previous year as well as conducted telephone interviews with more than 50 cousins in order to gather physical descriptions and stories about their parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. That wasn't as fruitful as I had hoped. Most of our cousins didn't know very much because the physical descriptions and life stories had never been recorded or passed down to their individual family's branches.           

Three of the stories that I was told, during the previous year's visits and phone calls to various cousins, were proven to be just stories: 1. John Jordan Cooper had two wives and families, one at Cooper Basin and the other in Alabama, 2. John Jordan Cooper was a deserter from the Confederate Army and 3. Louisa Slay was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian. The first story about John Jordan Cooper having two families in different states was proven erroneous when it was discovered that the John Jordan Cooper in Alabama was a different person, which was proven with various documents. The second story was proven erroneous by one of the guest that attended the first reunion. His name was Nathan Woolsey a young gentleman from the Santa Rosa Genealogical Society. He informed me that John Jordan Cooper had served in public office for ten years as a commissioner in the Reconstruction Government between the years of 1867 and 1877. He explained that John Jordan Cooper could not have been in the Confederate Army or served in any capacity with the Confederates otherwise he would have never been Gubernatorially appointed to the Reconstruction Government. Nathan said that he would put a presentation together for next year's Cooper Reunion. The third story was proven erroneous based on eye color. From my interviews with several cousins, from different branches, I discovered that three, possibly more, of John and Louisa's children had blue eyes. Anyone that has a rudimentary understanding of genetics knows that blue eyes can only happen if both parents carry blue eye genes. Therefore Louisa was not a full-blooded Cherokee because see carried the blue eye gene. Based on an interview, with Joseph Goyer from the Slay clan, William Slay, Louisa's father, had blue eyes. At this time it is only an assumption but I believe that Louisa's mother was the full-blooded Indian. From what tribe is undetermined.

After the presentation, we had the blessing of all the food that the various families brought and everyone sat down to eat but me. I was too distracted to sit and eat but chose to move among the tables and talk to as many family members as I could. I did snack some. After the family feast we had story telling time but very few people got up to speak. I think that during future reunions everyone will be more relaxed and hopefully then more stories will be shared with the rest of the family. People had started to leave so I asked everyone to get up on the stage, where the lighting was better, so that I could take the family group picture.

That ended the first annual "Cooper Basin" Cooper's Reunion. I thought it was a good reunion and I will strive to make them better as each year goes by.   

Cuz'n Miles