Eli Cooper   
Information from his son, Eli Franklin Cooper
recorded by Nellie Cooper Rogers

Family Trees Grow On You

Life on the Frontier 
     In frontier living their nearest neighbor often lived miles away. People in the frontier lived far from cities or even towns.
     At that time, there was no electricity. There was no light except from the fireplace and candles. The family made their
own candles. They made their own soap, both for washing their clothes and themselves. The family also made their own
shoes and clothing. It seemed that there always was thread or yarn to be spun, cloth to be woven, because only then could
clothes be made. Living in Alabama and Georgia in the early 1800's was very different than now. Most of the land was full
of trees and brush. Ifa person bought land or claimed it under the homestead program, he would have to cut the trees down,
pull out the stumps left after the tree was cut, then dig up the bushes and brush that grew under the trees. The first year,
most men would clear just enough ground to put a house, maybe a barn for the animals, and a place for their gardens. Then
they would begin with a small plot to plant crops for food. Almost every man learned to hunt the woods for wild animals for
their family to eat. This was how they provided enough meat for the family, and that meat also had to be cut, cured, smoked,
or dried.
     We do not know many specific things of Eli's life as a child in Alabama. We do know it was a pioneer life with lots of
fishing, hunting, trapping, building of log cabins and working in fields, caring for animals and helping his father and mother
with many tasks.
     They raised their own food, so there was gardening to be done, as well as working in the fields. There were chickens to
be cared for, cows to milk, and then the milk had to be cared for, and butter to be churned. When they could spare a cow
or pig for meat, then they had meat to cut up, to cure or to smoke or to dry. They had no refrigeration, so all meat had to
be specially prepared so they could eat the meat for a period of time after slaughtering the animal.
     If the family was to be comfortable and provided for, all members took the responsibility of keeping prepared and ready.
Always there seemed to be candles to be made, or hides to help tan, sheds that needed mending or adding to and then the
ever present weeds that continually tried to take over the good soil.
    Everyone in the family worked because every person was needed and was important to the family. As the family did their
chores, they talked to each other. They made plans for the next day and the next month. Each person shared their ideas and
hopes with each other.
     The children worked along with their parents. The family raised their own food and made their own shoes and cloth.
Each night the children were required to fill their shoes tightly packed with seeded cotton, picking the seeds from the cotton
by hand. As they had no gins, this is the way they got seeds from the cotton. Martha spun this into cloth and made their
clothes by hand.

Eli, The Man
A Cooper by name and A Cooper by trade

By Nellie Cooper Rogers
     Cooper means "barrel maker". My grandfather was a Cooper by name and a Cooper by trade. He made barrels, tubs,
and wash basins, milk pans, buckets, foot tubs, and so on.
     Eli was also a millwright, a wagon maker, and he make all their furniture including the chairs. He also made almost all the
chairs in the settlements around. They were leather bottomed. The skins of the animals were tanned into leather, and then
made into chair bottoms. The wood for them was hickory and was secured from the swamps.
    He made all his family's shoes and also his neighbors. All the leather was tanned and prepared by Eli, before it was ready
to make shoes. Hickory (peds) were used instead of nails, and hog bristles were used as a needle.
    He was also a blacksmith. His plows were made from steel bars ordered from Savanna, Ga. After moving to Florida, he
was the only shoemaker and blacksmith for twenty miles around.
    Eli also made Martha's looms, spinning wheel and a small hand gin. Eli also made and repaired guns. You have often seen
old pictures of water mills. Eli made the water wheels to many of these old mills. They were called "tub wheels".
    Lots of the dippers which they drank out of were made out of water gourds. I have had a drink out of these myself but the
water does not taste very good. I guess they got used to that though. They also had gourds made into wash pans and hand
gourds (to carry water to the field just as we would use a canteen) until Eli made them of wood.

By Nellie Cooper Rogers
    They were said to have arrived in Orange County (now Lake County) in December about 1860.
    When Eli Franklin was a baby his parents moved to Florida to improve their financial condition. They had heard of the
citrus boom in Florida and had heard much about gathering "gold" from trees. When they reached Florida their draft animals
gave out. They also found to get an orange grove one had to fill out papers and file them on the land with the government,
clear it. When that was done, they had to then buy young orange trees at a high price, plant them and then wait several years
before they began to yield. They were discouraged.
   My grandmother's (Martha) brothers, Jim and John McEwen had made the trip to Florida with them, but when they found
it wasn't going to be very easy to get their "gold", they decided to return to where they came from (where that is, we do not
really know). When their draft animals gave out, Eli and Martha could not go back nor could they go on. So, they took up
land and cleared the land. That means they cut the trees down and they also had to cut and clear the undergrowth brush so
they could build a house and sheds for the animals as well as to clear enough land to plant crops. Eli quickly built a small
cabin of logs with a clay fireplace on which they cooked.

Frontier Life
By Nellie Cooper Rogers
    Like all the other frontier families, they raised their own food. Eli Franklin, their son, remembers that their food consisted
of corn pone made from home ground corn. Corn pone is kind of like the cornbread we eat now, only it was made with more coarsely ground corn flour and therefore the bread was heavier. The family raised their own corn.
   They also grew turnips, cabbage, beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, "cow peas" (black eyed peas), turnips and other vegetables that were the main things they ate. They also found that the heart of the small palms that grew thick at the edge of the swamp made a delectable vegetable. It was called wild palm. The tender leaves, or the center of the palm was a white color. This was gathered and made into a delicious dish of what they called "Swamp Cabbage". It was fixed as we fix cabbage now with a nice piece of pork to season it. There also were wild berries from the woods and swamps that they gathered.                                 
   The family often found wild honey in the woods, and they also made molasses or syrup from the juice of the sugar cane that they raised. For meat, they raised their own pigs and cows and chickens.
   They had whatever wild game the woods provide such as deer and bear and also wild turkey. Deer and bear could be found almost anywhere and were hunted most of the year. Hunting was one of the favorite pastimes of the men and everyman had his hunting hounds.
   The land that Eli and Martha lived on in Orange County, Florida was partly cultivated and part of it was open forest and scrub. Scrub was land upon which grew an undergrowth sometimes as high as a man's head. It was beautiful country with forest on every side, with cultivated spots here and there, but most of it was primitive forest. Eli's property was said to be near a lake, and there are so many lakes in Orange County, (now named Lake County) it is very probably true.

Educating the Family
By Nellie N. Olsen Ostler
   Almost all of the families taught their children to read from the Bible.
   While working with their parents and with each other. Eli and his brothers and sisters were taught by their parents how do many things. Eli learned how to farm. He learned how to plant and care for the crops that would supply the food for his children.
   His father taught Eli how to make tools that were necessary for them to do their chores. In this way he learned to make tools and items for the household. Often the father would make just about all the furniture in the home like the beds, the chairs, the work benches, the tables.
    Eli's father, Robert Cooper, taught his children about the weather, the clouds, etc. Eli learned much about the stars in the heavens. All his life, he planted crops according to the phases of the moon. He was a very knowledgeable farmer and his crops grew plentifully.
   Eli's father, Robert, also taught him how to track animals and to hunt. Eli became a very proficient hunter. In the woods there were bears, deer and wild turkeys. Around the lakes there were ducks, and other water fowl. Eli learned a lot about hunting, like the fact that it was necessary to kill an animal in a place where all the meat could be carried out and saved. With food so scarce, they learned it was wise not to waste anything.
   Almost every man and boy learned to fish. Fish could also be smokes, salted, or dried to be eaten later.
   Eli's parents also taught their children how to take care of their animals. Animals were important to those frontier people. Horses did much of the tasks we use cars, tractors, and trucks for to haul loads as well as to transport people.
   Eli's father was also very skilled as a blacksmith, a millwright, a barrel maker, a shoemaker, a wagon maker, and many other things. Eli's father carefully taught these things to his children as they helped him.
   Eli would often make things for others. He would trade his work for their specialized work, or maybe they might even pay cash once in awhile.

Information by Libbie E. Cooper Olsen
   Eli was a proficient fiddler. Most fiddlers learn to play the fiddle by watching other and then imitating them and often could not read music. We don't know if Eli learned to fiddle from his father, Robert, or whether it was an uncle or someone else. But then, he didn't need to read notes because he didn't need to. Playing the fiddle was fun and natural to him (of course it still took a lot of practice). Eli was the fiddler of the settlement for the dances. They came from miles around for these dances. He was the best musician in the country and my, "how he made that fiddle sing." Eli played often in community functions, and church functions
     Updated on 10/4/2015      
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