Monday, December 24, 2012

Caroline (Thrall) Cooper 1804-1826

In the fall of 2011 I made what seemed like an epic journey to Mt. Carmel, Wabash County, Illinois, to walk and read the Sand Hill #2 cemetery where some of my maternal grandfather's relatives are buried. (This is the cemetery where I was accosted by a policeman, but that is another story.)

Among other things I found the graves of Caroline (Thrall) Cooper (1804-1826) and her brother Aaron (1807-1847), two of my great-great grandfather's siblings. Caroline's stone is well preserved although flat on the ground. According to it, she died just short of age 22. According to other accounts, she and husband Samuel C. Cooper left Ohio in 1824 or 1825 and went down the Ohio and up the Wabash to frontier Illinois, where her husband was involved in a foundry. There she died in childbirth, leaving four children including the baby, all of whom went on to have long interesting lives and many descendants. (Samuel became a Methodist circuit rider in Indiana and had a second family.) I took a picture of the stone.

Because she was a woman and died young, Caroline left few records and has always been a mystery. We can try to guess a few things about her from her children William, Sarah Ann, Samuel, and Stephen. It hadn't occurred to me to do any guessing based on this stone. Last week I was reviewing it for a talk and reread the inscription:

My flesh shall slumber in the ground
Till the last joyfull trump shall sound
Then burst the bands with sweet surprise
And in my saviours image rise

Now I have a high opinion of these relatives, but I didn't think her widower wrote this. Sure enough, it is from Isaac Watts and if you google the first line in quotes, the top hit should be its page at, where there's a short biographical sketch of Watts and two page scans of what appear to be two different tunes, or at least two different arrangements, for this hymn. It does not seem to have appeared in hymnals after 1850.

All these tunes have names, which is so cute. One is called "Felicity." The other, which rather made my hair stand on end, is called "Illinois."

Can you see a drafty cabin in the woods? A wet, clammy day in late fall? A dozen or so people inside singing this in parts, as best they can without accompaniment? Would Samuel have put it on her gravestone if it hadn't been one of her favorites?

Harold Henderson, "Caroline (Thrall ) Cooper 1804-1826," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 24 December 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]


Lois said...

This is so cool! I sent the link to some of my shape note singing friends.

Harold said...

Thanks, Lois. Do shape-note singers take any interest in other aspects of the songs, like when and where and with whom they were popular, etc.?