Obituary Record

Henry Clay Cooper
Died on 7/7/1935
Buried in Herman Cemetery

#1- 18 July, 1935 - The Enterprise


Herman Man, 91, Killed Scores of Animals to Sell Hides

When he read in a news dispatch a year ago that the last of the buffalo hunters on the western plains was dead, Henry Clay Cooper, who died at Herman July 7, at the age of 91, snorted, “Not by a jugfull —at least not until I’m dead, because I made a good living hunting buffalo several months.”

This week, while going through his private papers, relatives discovered written evidence of his exploits on the plains in the 1870’s, published stories, family records and personal notations. From these records it appears likely that with Mr. Cooper’s death, the last of the plainsmen to make a living slaughtering buffalo solely for the value of their hides, is gone.

Dismissed from service with the Union forces at the close of the Civil War, Mr. Cooper, after farming a few years, left his farm near Kirkwood, Illinois to join three cousins who had preceded him west to Rock county, Kansas in the west central part of that state five years previously. They were organizing a buffalo hunt and persuaded him to join them.

Sitting Bull’s tribe of Indians and other Indian tribes were roaming the plains at that time - some of them hostile, but the rich rewards offered on the buffalo hide market far more than compensated for the danger involved. Besides, as Mr. Cooper told relatives frequently more than sixty years later, after dodging bullets on Confederate battlefields for four years, the threat of Indian arrows was not sufficient to deter him.

An ardent horseman throughout his life, Mr. Cooper had brought with him to Kansas a fleet horse, Johnny, one of the few in the west that could actually outrun a buffalo in a chase. Blind in one eye, Johnny would take after a buffalo without direction from its rider, leaving him free to use both hands with his gun.

Invariably, Mr. Cooper explained, Johnny would draw alongside the buffalo with its blind eye next to the animal. Hence, it did not shy at the wild thrusts of the beast’s head and each time Mr. Cooper was able to get an advantageous shot through the buffalo’s shoulder.

Buffalo hides at the time brought $1.50 for cow hides and $2.50 for bull hides and the hunters averaged around 25 to 30 animals a day. The carcasses were left to rot where they fell because in the wild, unsettled region, they could not be transported to any settlement.

Mr. Cooper recalled vividly, and told often, of his first shot at a buffalo. It was shortly after his arrival in Rock county from Illinois, when on a trip with a cousin a buffalo herd was sighted. Hiding themselves near the waterhole toward which the herd was traveling, the two awaited its arrival. When they came close enough the Kansas cousin gave an order to shoot. One animal fell.

“I got mine” Mr. Cooper exclaimed, but the cousin corrected him, showing him the mark of his bullet, 20 feet from where his quarry had stood. “It looked as big as a barn” the Herman man often said. “I still don’t see how I missed”. He killed his first buffalo with a shotgun.

His stories and experiences covered a period of several months, and led into the unbroken parries of Colorado. He did not spend all his time hunting buffalo, however; he was a farmer by vocation, but after two years in western Kansas, he returned to his farm in Illinois.

Mr. Cooper maintained his interest in horses until his death. One tale, particularly, is familiar to members of Washington county post, Veterans of Foreign Wars, of which the aged Herman man became an honorary member shortly after its organization, and remained active in it until his death.

While serving with the Union army he said, he was with a cavalry division and horses were not assigned men - being tied at pickets and each soldier choosing one at random. One horse, called “Stockinglegs”, showed every evidence of having been trained in steeplechasing and his fortuitous choice of “Stockinglegs” once saved him from capture by Confederate forces he related.

With others, he says, he left the camp one day for a foraging trip, each of the “scouts” later going his own way. At the fork of a road Mr. Cooper, thirsty, saw a farm house and rode up for a drink of water. Before he had secured the drink he turned and observed with alarm a party of 25 or 30 rebel horsemen coming for him.

“Stockinglegs” he said had little difficulty in beating his pursuers to the fork of the road, and he selected the route back to camp, rebels in close pursuit. Suddenly, he said, he saw a negro, pulling a large sled-like conveyance on which was a bucket of water, crossing the road ahead of him.

He shouted loudly, but the negro continued his way across, blocking the road with Mr. Cooper’s approach. “Stockinglegs” Mr. Cooper declared didn’t reduce his speed at all upon approaching the obstacle, but hurdling high into the air cleared the sled, barrel and negro in a jump that would have done credit to any thoroughbred steeplechaser ever entered in a race. The result was that Mr. Cooper escaped capture.

#2- 11 July, 1935 - The Enterprise


Member of G.A.R. and Honorary Member of V.F.W. Called

After an illness of only a few weeks’ duration, H. C. Cooper passed away at his home in Herman last Sunday, July 7th. Funeral services were held at the Herman Methodist church on Tuesday afternoon at 2 o’clock with Rev. C. C. Norlin officiating, and the services held under the auspices of the V.F.W. and the American Legion, both organizations taking part in the ceremony. The interment was made in the Herman cemetery by the side of his wife, who had passed on before him.

Henry Clay Cooper was born October 2, 1843 at Howell, Michigan, and died in Herman at 1:15 o’clock July 7, 1935 at the advanced age of 91 years, 9 months and 5 days. He was the last survivor of a family of five children born to Andrew J. and Hannah Jane Cooper.

At the age of eighteen he moved with his parents to Kirkwood, Ill. When he became twenty years of age, he enlisted in the 11th Illinois Cavalry and served his Country to the close of the Civil war.

On March 28, 1867 he was united in marriage to Priscilla J. Byers. Twenty years later on March 1, 1887 this happy couple, with their family, moved to Nebraska, residing on a farm northwest of Herman. A year later they moved to a farm seven miles northeast of Herman near the Homestead schoolhouse. They made this their home for twenty years.

After selling their farm, the family lived in and near Tekamah for the following seven years. Mr. and Mrs. Cooper moved into Herman in 1920. This was their home until the time of their deaths. Mrs. Cooper departed from this life February 22, 1934. Mr. Cooper then made his home with a daughter, Mrs. D. W. Rutledge, for nine months. At this time another daughter, Mrs. J. T. Fitch, moved into the home place, and the deceased lived there with her until he passed away.

Those left to mourn the loss of this loved one are four sons and three daughters: Eugene Cooper of Tekamah; Mrs. Louie Fitch of Herman; William Cooper of Cincinnati, Ohio; Mrs. D. W Rutledge of Herman; Bert Cooper of Tekamah, Nebr.; Harry Cooper of Herman; Mrs. Earl Prussia of Grant, Nebr. One daughter, Irene, preceded her parents in death twenty one years ago. There were twenty grandchildren and twenty four great grandchildren left besides many friends.

Mr. Cooper was a member of the G.A.R. at Tekamah and an honorary member of Washington County Post No. 1251 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at Blair. He was well know here, having been a regular attendant at V.F.W. meetings until his final illness. A delegation of members of the V.F.W. attended the funeral at the Methodist church in Herman on Tuesday, and six members of the Herman American Legion Post acted as pallbearers. Burial was made in the Herman cemetery.

#-3 -H. C. Cooper, 91, Herman Vet, Dies

Oldest Resident of Herman Died Sunday; Served in Civil War

Henry Clay Cooper, aged 91, oldest resident of Herman and a Civil War veteran, succumbed, Sunday. One of Herman’s best-known and respected residents, his passing was a shock to his many friends.

Mr. Cooper was born October 2, 1843, at Howell, Michigan, where he spent his childhood. When 18 years old he moved with his parents to Kirkwood, Illinois. Two years later he enlisted in the 11th Illinois Cavalry and served his country until the close of the Civil War.

On March 28, 1867, he was married to Miss Priscilla J. Byers. Four sons and three daughters, all but one daughter of whom survive, were born to the couple.

After being married 20 years, Mr. and Mrs. Cooper and family came to Nebraska, locating on a farm northwest of Herman. A year later they moved to a farm seven miles northeast of Herman, near the Homestead school, where they remained 20 years. Retiring then from farming they moved to Tekamah, and 7 years later, in 1920 came to Herman. Mrs. Cooper died in February, 1934.

Since her death Mr. Cooper had lived with a daughter, Mrs. D. W. Rutledge. For several months another daughter, Mrs. Louie Fitch, has with the deceased resided at the Cooper home.

At the time of his death Mr. Cooper was a member of the Tekamah G.A.R. post, and an honorary member of the Washington County post, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Blair.

Surviving Mr. Cooper are his children: Eugene, Tekamah; Mrs. Louie Fitch, Herman; William Cooper, Cincinnati, Ohio; Mrs. D. W. Rutledge, Herman; and Mrs. Earl Prussia, Grant. There are also 20 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were held at the Herman Methodist church Tuesday afternoon at 2 o’clock, with Rev. C. C. Norlin officiating. Music was furnished by Mrs. C. E. Johnson, Mrs. George Lowe, Fred Robertson and C. H. Gray, with Miss Louie Larsen at the piano. Interment was in Herman cemetery.

A delegation of members of the local VFW post attended the funeral services, and six members of the American Legion acted as pallbearers.

~~~ Obituary courtesy of the Washington County Genealogical Society. Newspaper clippings on file in the Blair Public Library at Blair, Nebraska.~~~