Friday, July 31, 2020

William Armstrong Cooper


In all the years I have studied and researched the first one hundred years of my church on Clear Fork creek, I never paid close attention to the name "W.A. Cooper," or "Bro. Cooper," until just recently. Morris Gaskins' book, "A Lighthouse in the Wilderness," includes minutes from the first century, and while looking through them the other day, I realized that phrases like "preaching by WA Cooper" or "moderated by Bro. Cooper" that were written into the 1840's minutes were also written in the minutes from the 1880's. It was then that I came know more about William Armstrong Cooper.

"The Gospel Plow"

William Cooper, known as "Uncle Billy" to local folks, was born on Beaver Creek in Wayne County in 1813. He became a Christian in 1835 and was licensed to preach the same year. Three years later, in 1838, Clear Fork Baptist Church called him to act jointly with pastor Isaac Denton in helping with the church. But, his calling extended far beyond Isaac Denton. For the next seventy years he kept his hand on the gospel plow by, not only assisting Bro. Denton, but also the following two pastors, Isaac's son Joseph and Alvin Bertram, by preaching regularly or serving as moderator at business meetings. He baptized both men, Joseph in 1838 and Alvin in 1866. Although I haven't found any records saying it, more than likely he preached or assisted at Joseph Denton's funeral in 1887, and probably Isaac Denton's funeral in 1848. It has also been written that he baptized both of Clinton County's governors, Thomas Bramlette and Preston Leslie, whose brother, Ellison, was my third great-grandfather. The minutes state that more than once revivals lasting several days broke out while he was preaching.



Bro. Cooper not only served God at Clear Fork. His labors as a gospel messenger also spread to many other churches mostly within the Stockton's Valley and South Concord associations. Churches like Beaver Creek (his home church), Seventy Six,Cumberland City, New Hope, Bethel, Friendship, Mt. Pisgah, Taylor's Grove, Canada's Creek, Parnell, Mt. Pleasant, Charity and Steubenville, and his work was abundantly fruitful. It has been said he baptized more than 2,000 people during his 73-year ministry, performed marriage ceremonies for some 1,300 couples and led about that same number of funerals. He also served one year as Missionary in Texas. In his obituary, R.C. Kimble noted that for almost three quar­ters of a century William Cooper was a "champion of truth against every attack of Satan's hosts."

"The Civil War"

There was a season of revival following the Civil War. In 1866, Bro. Cooper baptized some 450 converts during the month of May alone. Clear Fork's building was burned during the war, but the church continued to meet in homes and other church houses after the conflict had ended. In 1866, during the months of April, May and June, Clear Fork held both revivals and regular services at Albany First Baptist, Beech Bottom and Locust Grove churches, where William Cooper preached at all of these services and many people were saved or rededicated their lives, and were added to the church roll.

The Civil War, with its roots deeply imbedded in the hearts of both Northerners and Southerners, affected everyone. Sides were chosen and strong sentiments were formed. Fighting would have broken out in Wayne County at the onset of the war had it not been for one man, William Armstrong Cooper. On August 30,1861, with much of the county gathered around the steps of the Wayne County courthouse, he spoke for more than two hours, pleading for residents to remain peaceful. Afterwards, a white flag, a symbol of peace, was raised above the courthouse with the inscription: "Peace is the Motto of Wayne County."


"Plea For Peace"

William Cooper was a scholar, theologian, sur­veyor and orator. He was the grandson of revolutionary war veteran George Fredrick Cooper, who had allegedly been a companion of Daniel Boone. His influence reached far beyond the boundaries of Wayne County. As a powerful preacher and compassionate pastor he was unexcelled. It was written that he left a deep impression about public thinking and morality on all who listened to him. No incident reveals the powerful influence exercised over people more than his "Plea For Peace" sermon. Both sides of the conflict were ready to begin what could have led to horrible bloodshed, but they were so heavily influenced by his words that after his sermon the crowd dispersed and went home instead.

In his diary, Captain John Tuttle of Monticello described the speech as "the most interesting and best delivered speech that was ever heard." Guy Shearer wrote, "He told all those present the truth and they lis­tened. The worst did not befall local citizens during that four years of (the Civil War) conflict. The Battle of Mill Springs was brought in and there were a few minor skirmishes involving guerilla warfare, but for the most part reason ruled the minds of the people and peace ruled the day.

May the spirit of William Armstrong Cooper and the same power of God that folks felt after hearing his words in 1861 fill our hearts and be cultivated within us during these troubled times we are living in, and as we face an uncertain future.

Wanna get to Heaven I'm a tell you how
Keep that hand on the gospel plow
Just keep that hand on the plow
Hold on

Hold on, Hold on
Keep your hand on the plow and hold on
Hold on




Wednesday, July 1, 2020

I Come From A Long Line Of Musicians


Anthony Bassano, a 16th century musician who is buried in the churchyard at All Hallows by the Tower, the oldest church in the city of London, was born in Italy but later moved to England to serve in the court of Henry VIII. Five of his sons also served as musicians there, while his daughter, Lucreece, married the french-born courtier and artist, and my ancestor,  known as Nicholas Lanier, the Elder.

Nicholas, who was born in Rouen, France in 1542, served as a court musician to Henry II. After fleeing to England to escape Catholic persecution in 1561, he began serving the court of Queen Elizabeth I.


Nicholas and Elena's grandson, also named Nicholas Lanier (see photo), became the first person to hold the title of Master of the King’s Music while serving as court musician, composer, performer and groom of the chamber to King Charles I and Charles II. He was a singer who also played the flute as well as the viola.


I am descended from Nicholas Lanier, the Elder's son, Clement, my 11th great-grandfather, who served as Gentleman of the King’s Chamber to both James I and Charles I. Clement's son, and my ancestor, John Lanier, Sr., known as The Immigrant, migrated to Virginia in the late 1600's. His great, great-grandson, George Washington Lanier, later moved to the North side of Obeds Creek in Overton County, TN, then Jackson County. George's  granddaughter, Nancy Asburn, married John Speck. They are my 4th great-grandparents. I wonder if Nancy knew she descended from aristocrats who were distinguished and educated musicians for kings and queens of France and England for three generations?

Another of Clement Lanier descendants, his third great-grandson, Lloyd Addison Lanier, came up the Cumberland River from Nashville and operated a general merchandise store near Mill Springs in Wayne County. His brother-in-law, Thompson Brown, owned a twelve hundred acre farm there, which he eventually purchased. When the Battle of Mill Springs was fought, Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer used the home as his headquarters. Today, the Brown-Lanier house and grounds, which includes the mill there, are part of Mill Springs National Park.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Let's Get Together (And Do It Right)

There is too much noise in the world right now that is producing a level of adrenalin rush never before seen in my lifetime, and most likely yours. Raised blood pressures, accelerated heart rates, stressed out to the max, hypertension overload that is increasing the risk of strokes and heart attacks. What are we doing?

If ever there was a moment for an awakening, it is now. It happened once before, you know, and it could happen again.

It was in the spring of 1966, when a group known as The Youngbloods signed with RCA Records. Later that year they recorded their self-titled debut album. One of the songs on it had been discovered several months earlier after singer and bass player Jesse Colin Young had gone out looking for a place to rehearse. As he entered a club in New York City, folk singer Buzzy Linhart was on stage rehearsing a song. He was filled with emotion by what he heard.

“Love is but a song we sing, fear’s the way we die, you can make the mountains ring or make the angels cry, Though the bird is on the wing and you may not know why, Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now"

It was in that moment that Young had an awakening. He ran backstage and asked Linhart who had written the song. The answer was Dino Valenti, whose real name was Chet Powers. He had written the song in 1963.

“Get Together” had been so tightly arranged during The Youngbloods' rehearsals that in the studio no one with RCA dared to do anything to it. It was a pure and self-contained piece of art, whose sacred nature was apparent.

But in New York the song didn't go over very well. It wasn't until the band took it's tour to San Francisco that it's popularity began to rise. It was 1967 and the "Summer of Love."

People then actually wanted to learn to love one another. Imagine, today, a world where peace and love are the counterculture to what we have become, a place where everyone gets along. We need that awakening.

"Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now"




Wednesday, June 10, 2020

J.H. McKinley was Bozo Texino


Pleasanton City Cemetery in Atascosa County, Texas is where Clinton County, Kentucky native J.H. McKinley lies buried. Born at Cartwright on March 25, 1893, he was an early-20th-century train man who was also a railroad car graffiti artist, someone who marked up freight cars with pictures and messages in text.

For a long time the identity of Bozo Texino remained at least semi-anonymous. The mythical character McKinley created began leaving his hobo chalk-drawn graffiti/artwork on the sides of boxcars from Maine to California as early as 1919. In the photo you can see his graphic signature and the simple bust of a pipe-smoking character in a peaked hat with an infinity-shaped brim. In 1939, he told a reporter he had adorned a quarter-million or so boxcars since bringing Bozo Texino.

James Herbert McKinley worked for Missouri Pacific, first as a fireman then later as a locomotive engineer. He was known to sometimes wear a checkered shirt, a bow-tie and a derby hat with his denim railroad overalls and is remembered by his peers as one of the wildest engineers who ever worked for Missouri-Pacific.

As I mentioned, Bozo Texino's identity wasn’t exactly a secret. For more than 25 years he wrote a humor column called “Bozo Texino Sez” for Missouri-Pacific magazine and occasionally would write a piece in Albany's New Era newspaper.

"When I was a teenager," he wrote in 1953, "and used to climb the steep grade from the foot of the 76 Falls, I didn't know that some day I'd go to the top of the falls in a boat. When I used to swiim in the 7-foot swimming hole on Ind­ian Creek I didn't know that some day it would be a 77-foot swimming hole. No one could have ever made me believe that some day I'd catch a fish 100-foot above Aunt Ann Ellen Grider's chimney.

Born March 25, 1893, McKinley left Clinton County when he was barely 17 and moved to San Antonio. In 1914 he was hired to work on the San Antonio, Uvaloe and Gulf Railroad, then two years later on the IGN. Both of those railroad companies were eventually bought by Missouri-Pacific. McKinley was promoted to engineer in 1928, but it was his penchant for humor that made him well known and admired through­out that part of the country.

"I remember when very few people trusted a bank and buried their money under the hearth in front of an open fire­place or under a haystack," he wrote in 1954. "Ev­erybody trusted and loved one another and nobody would tell a lie until they started trading coon dogs."

James Herbert McKinley was the son of Charles Ellis and Rachel Neathery McKinkey. He died in Pleasanton, Texas, just outside San Antonio, on February 26, 1967. Several of his relatives live in Clinton County.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Day the Civil War Came to Albany, pt. 4, "Blessed are the Peacemakers"


It was during the late winter and early spring of 1862, as the civil war was now in full swing, that the Union and Confederate factions of the Upper Cumberland attempted to reach a peaceful compromise in order to prevent the raids that were occuring in Fentress and Overton counties in Tennessee, and Clinton County in Kentucky.

Murder, theft and arson had become commonplace during the absence of regular soldiers who had gone off to fight in the war. It was decided that a peace conference should be held in hopes a solution might be reached that would end the senseless acts of guerilla warfare. It was agreed the meeting would be held at Monroe in Overton County.

The Northern side was represented by men from Fentress and Clinton counties. The Southern side was represented by men from Overton County. Since confederate guerilla Champ Ferguson was committing the largest number of atrocities, he was invited to the conference to represent the Confederate interests of Clinton County. It would prove to be a big mistake.

Even though the parties agreed to stop the raids into adjoining counties, on the way back to Clinton County, Ferguson and his men killed four Overton County men. Before the wars' end, most of the Union men who had participated in the peace conference were killed, while others were pursued but only terrorized. Those killed were James Zachary, Thomas Wood, William Johnson, Robert Martin, Joseph Stover, Louis Pierce, Eli Hatfield, Parson Joseph Dalton, John McDonald and a Mr. Taylor. Another was my third great-grandfather, Elisha Koger.

Elisha had been a member of the home guard in Clinton County. On the morning of Sunday, June 1, 1862, just as the sun was starting to rise, he rose from his bed and headed out to the spring that ran beside his home at Oak Grove, with his wife, Nancy, by his side. Shots rang out as a band of men appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Nancy screamed for him to run, but it was too late as Champ Ferguson overtook him and shot him. Elisha threw up his arms and said something, but Nancy couldn't make out his words because the couple's children were screaming.

As shots continued to ring out, he ran toward a fence some fifty yards away. He reached the fence and tried to cross it, but Ferguson and nine other men rode up to him and continued shooting. By the time Nancy reached the fence, the couple's 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, was holding her daddy in her arms, covered in his blood. Elisha gasped once, but never spoke. He had been shot more than 30 times. Nancy knelt beside her dead husband's body as Ferguson and his outlaw gang ransacked the Koger home.

Seven months earlier, on Nov. 1, 1861, Ferguson had killed Nancy Koger's brother, William Frogge, as his wife Esther, also watched in horror.

On October 20, 1865, Ferguson was hanged for the brutal murder of 53 people. Nancy and Esther were two of those who testified against him at his trial.

The historical significance of the peace conference rests upon the premise of what might have been, a story of reasonable men who searched for solace during unreasonable times.

For the record, I had family members on both sides of the Civil War conflict who were both persecuted and harmed over what they believed in.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A Tale From Caney Gap, KY


There once was a wealthy farmer who lived at Caney Gap in Clinton County and his name was Bill Burchett. He always had something to sell. He didn't count his money, he measured it in a cedar water bucket that held a peck. When he'd get this bucket four or five times full he'd have a bushel. He also had an earthen crock to measure gold that held $3,000 worth when it was full. Sid Burchett, an old African-American who was born a slave, always lived with Bill or some of his children. Sid couldn't read or write and he stuttered, but when he finally got the words out of his mouth they were words of wisdom. Sid could lean on a hoe handle in a cornfield and smell the atmosphere and tell within thirty minutes when it was going to rain. No deal or business transaction was ever made without consulting Sid, and his decision about anything was seldom wrong. If he told them to sell a hog and they didn't sell it, it would die of the cholera the next week. - J. H. McKinley, The New Era, April 12, 1951

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Hymns of Hope: Faith is the Victory!


Rev. John H. Yates was born in Batavia, New York on Nov. 31, 1837. He was licensed as a Methodist preacher after high school, but instead was forced to get a job to help maintain his aged parents. His father had been a shoemaker, so John's first job was in a shoe store. For thirty years he worked at different retail jobs, including a hardware store and a department store, eventually becoming the editor of the local newspaper.

All through his years of working Yates still managed to preach here and there, sharing his faith in Jesus Christ. Before his death in 1900, he switched from a Methodist to a Free Will Baptist and in 1897 began pastoring at a church near Batavia.

He also had another way of serving the Lord. His mother had been a school teacher who loved poetry and literature, and it was at her beckoning that Yates became a writer of poetry and songs. It wasn't long before hymns he had written were being sung all over the land.

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” - 1 John 5:4

John's faith was severely tested when his wife and two sons all died within the space of one week from an outbreak of diphtheria. He eventually remarried and kept going, giving living illustration that our faith in the promises of God and in our Lord Jesus gives us overcoming victory.

His success as a hymn writer led the famous singer and musician, Ira D. Sankey, to ask Yates to write hymns for him. Perhaps the deaths of his wife and children, and the testing of his faith, is what led him to write his most famous hymn, "Faith is the Victory."

Encamped along the hills of light
Ye Christian soldiers rise
  And press the battle ere the night
  Shall veil the glowing skies
Against the foe in vales below
  Let all our strength be hurled
Faith is the victory we know
That overcomes the world

Faith is the victory!
Faith is the victory!
Oh glorious victory
That overcomes the world


William Armstrong Cooper

In all the years I have studied and researched the first one hundred years of my church on Clear Fork creek, I never paid close attention...