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Bluff Head Cove - Part Two

James Ivany

(from The Fisherman's Advocate, February 5, 1965



Similar to a man groping to find his way in pitch darkness, I was following the back trail of one about whom I knew absolutely nothing. But now I think it is time for me to reveal his name, after which I shall return to where I left off in part one.

I know that it's not necessary for me to explain - but I will - that the surname Cooper is an occupational or trade name. And before whoever is was thought of adding surnames to Christian names, the title could belong to - not anyone or everyone - but only to those whose occupation it was to make barrels, casks, and so forth. and so today, all over the world, the surname "Cooper" is presumably uncountable.

But the Christian name "Absalom" is wondrously scarce. In my 45 years or so of roving around, I have known only half a dozen to be living, those are in the old choice of names. Seemingly, then, it would appear that the name is fast becoming obsolete.

Going back to the Bible, however, where the name "Absalom" first began, it is mentioned only once. There it was applied to the third son of David, and according to the Bible Dictionary it means "peace".

My father, and my mother, too, instructed me always to give credit where credit is due, but I think I failed their advice in part one when I dealt with what Absalom Cooper's grandson wrote to me to lightly. True, he couldn't give me the information I needed to make my story full, but he did give me a lot of minor details which I shall use at intervals as the story is told. Right now let me mention only one:

"My great grandfather's name was William, and of him that's all I know. but my grandfather, Absalom, in whom you are interested to the point of writing a story, was born in Lower Island Cove, Conception Bay, in 1832 and died in Bluff Head Cove in 1901 at the age of 69."

This information was indeed valuable, but it didn't go back far enough to supply me with what I really wanted. And now back to where I stopped in part one.

The next morning I awoke with a clear brain and eager to study some more, and as it happened to be Saturday I had a whole day to myself with the exception of going with my wife to the grocery store for another supply of food.

After learning so much about the Barretts, I wondered if the Coopers, or Cooper, didn't come over to Newfoundland in the same manner, and worked my thoughts and ideas accordingly.

Some say that it's better to be born lucky than rich, but I'm not too sure whether I would sign my name to that. However, I had been informed a few days before of an organization in St. Columbans, Nebraska, that dealt in genealogy for a small fee, and decided to take a chance on their sincerity. In answer to my inquiry, the following is what I received.

Dear Mr. Ivany:

We regret that we are unable to fulfill (sp) your request, since we have discontinued our work with genealogy. However, John Ward & Co., 73 Wentworth St., Charleston, S.C., deal largely in that line and may be able to help you.

The Columban Fathers.

With tingling hope and trusting to luck that this company had what I wanted, I took another chance and wrote to find out what it had to offer.

My letter had some delay because Mr. Ward - accompanied by his wife - was over in England on business and pleasure combined, and the company was closed down for two weeks' holidays. The nature of his business while in England was collecting family history for his business library at home.

However, after telling me that he had for sale a coat of arms which was held and treasured by the Cooper family in the long ago, he supplied me with a long list of old family names of which he could help to trace if so required. The name "Cooper" was on the list.

As the "Cooper coat of arms" has an interesting part in this narration, I shall write some more about its use and nature later on.

But here I want to confess that thus far in my beclouded search for the ancestry of one human being, I wandered in the task and wondered to myself if all the writing and asking questions was worth the time and while. But having my shoulder to the plough so firmly, I couldn't turn back. For not only was I committed to the promise of writing this, I also remembered the encouraging letters I had received from Advocate readers of the stories I wrote before and I couldn't let them down.

And so, with renewed determination and a few days rest, I started out again either to conquer in my quest or obtain some excuses for not doing so.

In about seven days I was in possession of the "Cooper coat of arms", a short citation on the Cooper family, a note on heraldry, and a list of eleven bibliography books out of which I could pick my choice to get the information I was seeking.

Everyone will agree, I am sure, that, not so incessant these days, but in olden times, Newfoundlanders hung on to the custom of keeping or repeating names in the family down from generation to generation. And so it was that as Thomas and William Cooper were in Absalom's family, the last paragraph in the short citation on the Cooper family caught my eye. It is as follows:

"Two of the earliest members of the family to come to America in the 17th century were Thomas Cooper (1617-1675) who came from England to Boston in 1635, and William Cooper, who came from Yorkshire, England, to Bucks County, Pa., in 1699. Other members of the family came to Virginia and other colonies."

But what other colonies they came to was the next question to which I had to find an answer.

(To be continued)


Return to Bluff Head Cove Index

Page Transcribed by James Butler 1998
Page Revised: July 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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