The two-day "Cooper Basin" Cooper's Family Reunion started on Saturday, June 10, 2000 at the Milton High School cafeteria and the second day was held at the Old Cooper Cemetery near Cooper Basin. There were 76 family members, distant cousins and a few friends of the family in attendance on Saturday and on day two, there were 21 family members present at the Old Cooper Cemetery. It was a tremendous success. There were more stories told at this reunion than at the first four reunions combined. It was great!
Saturday, June 10, 2000 started early for my wife and me. We arrived Friday night in Milton after a grueling ten-hour drive from Columbia, South Carolina. We arrived early Saturday morning at the Milton High School, as I have for the past five years, to find Mary Jordan's smiling face there to greet us. The other cousins that had arrived early to help unload the boxes of goodies (posters, booklets, updated charts, maps, scrolls, door prizes, etc.) from my car and helped to rearrange tables and chairs and setup the handouts were: Jim and Betty Brock, Jackie and Vera Cooper and Max and Francis Cooper. Without their help the task would be more than I could handle. Many thanks to them and everyone else that helped.
From about 9:00 until 10:00 we were hurrying around getting everything set up. Cousins started arriving at that time even though I had made a mistake on the mailed announcement, which stated that the Reunion would start at 11:00. All the previous years it started at 10:00 and it will continue in the future to start at 10:00. Cousins continued to arrive and would sign the attendance book and put their nametags on which I have color coded to each branch. Purple for Henry Moses, Blue for William Erasmus, Green for John Robinson, Gold for James Fountain, Orange for Michael Raleigh and red for Susannah Demerrah. The Super Coopers, as Floyd M. Cooper, Jr. has coined, wore a nametag that was half-green and half-gold. This is because John Robinson Cooper's son, Floyd M. Cooper married his first cousin, Lorina Cooper, daughter of James Fountain Cooper. This fact makes all their descendants' double cousins. Each nametag includes the branch name and the individuals name. Because I print the nametags before I arrive in Milton, if anyone would like a different name on the nametag, let me know before the reunion. The other items on the Welcome table, were sheets to fill out for documenting recent births, marriages and deaths since the last reunion, the Reunion Program, with the new Cooper Basin Cooper logo on the cover, order forms for the reunion T-shirts and coffee mugs and lastly but not least was an old coffee can for holding the donations to the reunion fund.
At 11:00 I got up on stage and welcomed everyone to the fifth annual "Cooper Basin" Cooper's family reunion and dedicated this year's reunion to all the family members that had pasted away since last year's reunion. For the first time since we have been having the reunion I asked everyone to please stand and sing one verse of "God Bless America". I think that was one of the things that first energized the family. Nothing compares to a big family getting together and singing. It lefts everyone's spirit and unifies us. I thought it sounded pretty good too. I then conducted the roll call by branches, having each branch stand and tell us their names followed by the distant Cooper cousins and friends of the family to do the same. I then read the outline of the reunion and started my presentation.
I held up for everyone's scrutiny a large image of the Cooper Basin Cooper's logo that I created and explained the symbolism. Then I asked if anyone would like to suggest changes to the design or would they like to adopt it as our personalized symbol. Everyone clapped approval so it will stand as the Cooper Basin Cooper's logo or until someone designs one that everyone likes better. I then talked about the Time Capsule and said that later in the program everyone that has something to place in it could come forward and do so. I then gave a review of what I learned at last years Slay Family Reunion that I attended in DeFuniak Springs, Florida. There were Indians married into the Slay Family and that the photographs that I gathered at the Slay reunion proved that Louisa Slay's looks were not unique but that more than likely her mother, Selimea Thompson from North Carolina was the full blood Indian and not Louisa. Many of Louisa's nieces by her older brother Robert Slay look a lot like her with the high cheek bones, slit turned down mouth and her down turned eyes. I then talked about the latest information on Washington Arnold Cooper. It is documented that he was a Juror in Holmes County, Florida in 1848, 1849 and a witness in 1854. There are a few more records from the Consolidated List of Jurors & Witness Certificates in Holmes Co., FL that may be our Washington A. Cooper. There are a couple of entrees showing a W. A. Cooper and a William A. Cooper during the same time period that some of us believe are our Washington A. Cooper. Court clerks do make mistakes. I then informed the family of the latest information I've discovered on Joseph Franklin (Frank) Cooper, tenth and last child of John and Louisa. This information I collected from the Slay reunion. It was remembered that Frank had spent a lot of time traveling between his grandmother's home (Selimea Slay) in Washington County and home at Cooper Basin. It was speculated that he must have visited his uncle Bob (Robert Slay) in Defuniak Springs because that is where he met his wife who was his first cousin's daughter. The first cousin was one of his Uncle Bob's daughters. Even after they married in Defuniak Springs and made a home there, he still traveled back and forth to Cooper Basin to take care of his mother, Louisa until she died in 1906. In 1918, both Frank and his grandmother, Selimea, died within days of each other from the Spanish Flu epidemic that traveled around the world in less than nine months and killed over 30 million people. It appears that Frank was a devoted son and Grandson and had a devoted wife. I ended my part of the presentation by giving an update on the Cooper Basin Web site. I then introduced our guest speaker, Gloria Haberstock from New Mexico. She is one of our distant cousins that are doing research, which someday may link our branches together. We know that her ancestor, Thomas Jefferson Cooper, must be related to our Washington A. Cooper because they moved around together and always lived close to each other. There were a couple of other Coopers that we know must be related to our Washington for the same reason, Lewis Jordan Cooper and Michael P. Cooper. Someday we'll know for sure. She had a wonderful presentation that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The Family gathered together for the group photograph and afterwards the photographs of the individual branches were taken. Michael Raleigh Cooper's and Henry Moses Cooper's branches didn't have representation this year on the first day of the reunion. One of Henry Moses Cooper's descendants was present on the second day of the reunion, Robert D. Hamm and his wife Alice. Several family members expressed disappointment that no one was here from their branches. I did inform the family that one of Uncle Ike's great granddaughters, Michelle Cooper, was being married the same day, in California, and that most of his family would be attending. Cora's husband, Frank Grasso had been ill. Many prayers went out for Frank's quick recovery. We all hope that someone from Uncle Ike's and Uncle Mose's branches will be able to attend next year.
The luncheon was great as always. Fletcher B. Hinote gave the blessing then everyone sat down to enjoy the variety of home-cooked dishes that different families brought.
This year's reunion was special in a few ways. This was the first Family Reunion of the new millennium; we filled a time capsule to be opened at the Family reunion one hundred years from now and third, we had a second day gathering at the old Cooper Cemetery. The second day gathering, at the old Cooper Cemetery, was such a success that we'll have it again next year.
After everyone had just about finished eating I got back on stage and asked everyone to place what he or she had brought to place in the time capsule. Some of the items were: Sealed personal letters to the descendants, phone book, merchandise catalogs, personal mementos, photographs, old letters, old tobacco can, toothpaste box, old computer mouse, old coke can, CD of music, CD of drafting program, reunion day's newspaper, and several more items. This will be a treasure for the descendants a hundred years from now. I explained that I would be taking the capsule back with me to catalog the contents and to place a copy of the most up-to-date Cooper genealogy book, copy of this year's reunion attendance book, photographs from this year's reunion (day one and two), a CD of historical family photographs, a CD of some of the interviews that I have conducted over the last five years and a few more items before it would be sealed. I also suggested that if anyone wanted to add to the contents they could send it to me and I would include it. I won't be sealing it until November when I return to bury it at the old Cooper Cemetery. Anyone that would like to participate in the burial ceremony at that time let me know.
After we finished with the time capsule, I brought out the three prizes that I would be giving out this year. I explained that this year was going to be a little different. The prizes would be awarded based on the stories told. One for the funniest family story, the second for the longest story told about some family member and the third for the most stories told. Wayne Blocker and JC Blocker got up and told the story about the spirit light of Uncle Mose that used to meander around Cooper Basin after his death until his wife pasted away. Mary Jordan told the story about her grandmother, Lorina Cooper and grandfather, Floyd M. Cooper, eloping and how her great grandmother Lucyann M. Levins Cooper (Lorina's Mother) reacted to the news. Max Morris Cooper told the story about his grandfather, George Washington Cooper, when he was working down at Lake Okeechobee and the great hurricane that trapped them in a train car during the duration of the storm. Ruth Keen told the story about her mother, Arlie Olivia Cooper, playing possum under the seat of the carriage while her older sister, Bessie Elizabeth Cooper was talking to her Bo, Matthew Wilson, about getting married and how once again Lucyann became very upset. I (Miles Davis Cooper) told the story about my father, Marshall Fisher Cooper, and how he had to stuff himself with bananas in order to pass the minimum weight requirement to join the Navy when he was sixteen years old. There were many more stories told in small groups during the reunion and if you were a teller or a listener and would write them down and send them to me I will add them to our history book. I did record the before mentioned stories on tape and if anyone would like a copy, let me know.