Mark A. Cooper

The Cartersville Express
Cartersville, Georgia
September 26, 1879, Page 1
Transcribed by:  

Biographical Sketch of Mark A. Cooper.

One of the most thoughtful public men of Georgia remarked the other day to the writer that an important cause of our present humiliation over public affairs in Georgia results by a mistake in placing affairs of State in the custody of inexperienced young men.  He reviewed the history of officials prior to the war, and showed how, step by step, young America had presumed upon his early responsibilities, and how men of experience, whose real merits had made them modest, had stood aside until the policy of pressing young men to the front had disgraced the country.  We have reflected much upon this topic and have cast about to see if there are left any of those grand characters whose lives are sublime and who yet have that keenness of perception and strength of intellect which would justify calling them into action in this time when the counsels of such men were eminently demanded, it is now.

Bartow county has such a man, almost peerless, in the person of Hon. Mark A. Cooper.  There are few such men.  Some time since we sought a brief sketch of his life.  It was subsequent to the meeting of the Georgia Press Association at Cartersville, and now take the liberty of its use.  Maj. Cooper is a wonderful man, intellectually.  For now that old age has made his step careful and obliged him to go slow, his intellectual powers have grown stronger and more refined.  He furnishes an admirable proof that mind is immortal and that its culture may be progressive to the end.  Major Cooper has that thorough knowledge of affairs in this state which would enable him as its chief executive to steer us over our hazardous issues with admirable sagacity.

However, we give the promised sketch without further comment at present. It contains most interesting reminiscences of the political history and practical upbuilding of public interests in Georgia.

Mark A. Cooper was born in Hancock county, Georgia, April 20th, 1800. His parents, on both sides, were Virginians, whose ancestors emigrated from England and Holland to the colony of Virginia.

He was schooled at Mt. Zion academy under Nathan S. Beeman, and at Powelton academy under Ira Ingram.  At 17 years old he entered Franklin college, at Athens, Georgia.  At the death of Dr. Finley, the president, he went to South Carolina college, at Columbia, Dr. Maxy, president.  He was graduated there in 1819, with Wm. House Taylor, C. G. Meminger, Franklin H. Elmore, John K. Campbell, Wm. K. Clawney, Joseph F. Sims, and others, as classmates.  Returning to Georgia, he chose law for a profession, settled in Eatonton, Putnam county, studied law in the office of Judge C. B. Strong, was admitted to the bar in 1821, began the practice of law in Eatonton, with the late James Clark, of Atlanta, for a partner.  He subsequently had Sampson W. Harris for a partner.  He joined the Baptist church in Eatonton in 1821.

About the year 1825 or ’26 Governor Troup called for volunteers to go to the Florida line and protect the border, now Thomas county, against the Seminole Indians.  A regiment was formed under the command of Colonel Edward Hamilton.  He joined that regiment and served through the campaign.  He was appointed paymaster to the regiment at its close and paid off the soldiers.

He was elected by the legislature solicitor-general of the Ocmulgee circuit, successor to Col. Gibson Clark, and served a term of three years.  He was afterwards nominated by the Troup party of the Georgia legislature, and ran as their candidate for judge of the Ocmulgee circuit, merely to concentrate a party vote.  He received the party vote, but they being in the minority he was of course not elected.  He practiced law in the Ocmulgee circuit under Judges Strong, Thomas H. Cobb, Longstreet, Owen H. Kennard; was successful in his profession.  He was nominated on the first ticket of the State’s right party of Georgia, in company with Julius Alford, Edward J. Black. Walter T. Colquitt, Wm. C. Dawson, Richard W. Habersham, Thomas Butler King, E. A. Nisbet and Lot Warren.  This Delegation split after taking their seats.  Six in order to keep their alignment of opposition to their domestic opponents, voted against Mr. Van Buren and the democratic party in congress, joined Mr. Clay and the whig party.  Three of them. To-wit: Black, Colquitt and Cooper, in order to demonstrate upon the democratic creed of the State’s right party who had nominated and elected them, necessarily voted with the democrats in congress and in opposition to Mr. Clay and the whig party.  This brought about a state of affairs in congress by which the three above named representatives from Georgia, held the balance of power in the house of representatives.  The six, in electing the speaker to organize the house, voted for the candidate of the whig party.  The three declined to do so, because, as representatives of the State’s right party, they stood pledged to oppose the principles and policy of the whig party.  They also declined to vote for the candidate of the democratic party, and chose to vote for a State’s right man of their own.  The vote of the whig party and that of the democratic party being equal, left the power of selecting in the hands of the three Georgia delegates.  Many days were consumed thus voting, and no speaker elected.  An arrangement between Henry A. Wise, of Virginia, and Mark A. Cooper, of Georgia, was made by which R. M. T. Hunter, of Virginia, a States rights man, and a friend of Mr. Calhoun’s, was nominated.  The democratic party concentrated upon this nomination and voting for Mr. R. M. T. Hunter, with Mr. Wise and the three Georgia delegates, Mr. Hunter was thereby elected speaker, and the house was organized.

M. A. Cooper was elected for two terms to congress.  Before he entered on the second term, he was nominated by the democratic party of Georgia as their candidate for governor.  He accepted the nomination and thereupon resigned his seat in congress.  His opponent for governor was Geo. W. Crawford—a schoolmate of his, and a party associate at all times prior to this.

By the lukewarmness of leading men of the democratic party in this election, Mr. Cooper was defeated and Mr. Crawford was elected.  This was about the year 1842.  Thenceforward Mr. Cooper retired from political life and all official positions.  He never asked for any official station that he did not get, except that of the superintendent of the W. and A. railroad after the war.  He was superceeded in this by a good man from East Tennessee, who refugeed to Georgia during the war.

About the year 1836 the United States government called on Georgia for volunteers to go to Florida and suppress the war waged by the Seminole Indians.  Five companies volunteered in middle Georgia, and were organized into a battalion.  He was called on to command them, and was elected Major.  He accepted the call and the command, and marched to Florida and served through Gen. Scott’s campaign in that State.

Whilst at Eatonton he, in connection with Chas. P. Gordon, called a public meeting of the citizens of Putnam county, to consider the policy of building a railroad from Augusta to Eatonton, etc.  At this meeting Mr. Gordon, in the chair, Mr. Cooper was called on to explain the object of the meeting, which he did in a neat and very appropriate address; this being the first meeting called and the first address made in Georgia on that subject; before any charter was granted, a line surveyed, or a shovel full of earth thrown for the construction of a railroad in the State.  Mr. Gordon and Mr. Cooper were then sent to the legislature from Putnam.  During that session the first charter for the Georgia railroad, drawn by Wm. Williams, then of Eatonton, and at the instance of the senators and representatives from Putnam was granted and chartered by the legislature.  He, Mr. Cooper, followed up this subject until the Georgia railroad was built to Athens, Madison, Covington, Decatur and Atlanta, and afterwards, by the state, thence to Chattanooga.  He was amongst the first to celebrate the passage of the State road through the tunnel; afterwards that of its arrival at Ross’ landing, near Chattanooga, where he witnessed on that occasion, by the distinguished Superintendent, Wm. L. Mitchell, the mingling of the Atlantic and Mississippi waters sanctified by the waters of Jordan.

He built with his own means a branch railroad from the State road, up the Etowah river to Etowah.  He was mainly instrumental in negotiating for the successful building of the Van Wert, now Cherokee railroad, to the place now called Rockmart. He drew and procured the passage of the act that changed the name of Van Wert railroad to Cherokee; giving to the corporators the privilege of extending it eastward from Cartersville, to make a connection with a road in Washington City and New York, making thereby, the nearest approximation to an Air Line, and the shortest route from New York to New Orleans.

Whilst in Putnam county he organized a company and furnished a place for a cotton mill, one of the first in Georgia, called “The Eatonton Factory.”  After this he converted all his means into cash.  He then procured a charter and put them into a banking operation at Columbus, Georgia, with a capitol of  $250,000 having enlisted a select company of choice stockholders.  He controlled and directed this institution for four or five years, in the midst of the banks suspensions of ’37, ’38 and ’39, without loss to the stockholders, paying them a dividend annually of sixteen per cent; leaving a bonus of sixteen percent to be divided.  He closed the business and paid to each one their money paid in for stock.

Having selected Cherokee Georgia as his home for life, he built up the Etowah Iron Works and Flour Mills, with a capital of $500,000.  The Iron Works consisted of two blast furnaces, a foundry for hollow ware and machinery, a rolling mill for merchant iron, and nail factory, a merchant flouring mill, with a capacity of 250 bbls. Per day, being the first establishments of the kind in the State of Georgia.  He was dependent upon the natural resources of the country here.

He was the first to open the coal mines in Dade county, and on the Tennessee river, for shipment for manufacturing purposes in Georgia.  What he did in course of manufacturing, is before the country.

He also organized and founded the State Agricultural Society; the objects and ends of which are set forth in its primary constitution drawn by himself.  He presided over its affairs for a series of years, during which it was successfully conducted.

He has been nearly 48 years trustee of the University of Georgia, and was a trustee of Mercer University at its organization.


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