Sunday, March 7, 2021

Coopwood: In Search of Family

I never knew much about the Coopwood side of my family when I was growing up. Daddy’s father abruptly left one day when he was ten years old and daddy saw him only one more time before my grandfather died.

“You need to drive up to Holly Springs and meet that Coopwood man who is the mayor there,” a friend said to me around 1980 when I was attending Ole Miss. He was referring to Sam Coopwood who I’m no doubt related to. Sam died a few years after I graduated from Ole Miss and I have always regretted I didn’t take my friend’s advice and drive to Holly Springs and meet Sam.
All of the Coopwood unknowns changed for me ten years ago when a distant relative in Jackson, Lin Clark, called and said we were distantly related.
The night I met her in Jackson, she handed me a three-ring binder, four inches thick containing research on my Coopwood line that anyone with a PhD would envy.
My Coopwood line goes back a long way in America.
The first Coopwood to arrive in this country was Benjamin, born in Liverpool, England around 1749, and died in Alabama in 1809. Benjamin fought in the Revolutionary War and because he did, his father back in England disinherited him and instructed Benjamin to never contact them again.
Benjamin began his life in America in Orange County, Virginia, where he married Millie Thomason on February 11, 1792, and they had five sons. The family migrated from Virginia to Granger County, Tennessee, then down to Alabama where Benjamin died not long after arriving. His oldest son, Thomas, took over the family at that point, and he became a landowner and a lawyer in Alabama.
Thomas also served in Alabama’s House of Representatives and Senate. For some reason, he then moved the family to Aberdeen, Mississippi, where he continued his career as an attorney and farmer, and he served Monroe County in our legislature as well. Thomas and the next brother in line, William, played the role of parents to their much younger brother, James Monroe Coopwood. By the time the Civil War began, Thomas was an older man. Yet, he took his own money and put together a company in the Confederate Army. Thomas was killed at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky. After the war, his children moved on to Texas and younger brother James moved to Marshall County. That is the line in which I’m descended.
I’ve always known my father’s family was from Marshall County, but up until last weekend, I had never visited that area of the state. Cindy and I got up early last Saturday morning and drove to Mt. Pleasant that is located north of Holly Springs where the Coopwoods once hailed. I stopped at the small store there and asked for directions to the town cemetery. The rain arrived as we entered the cemetery. It didn’t take five minutes before I stumbled across several Coopwood headstones. Some were so old I couldn’t read them and what was more troubling, I couldn’t find my grandfather’s grave.
The rain began to pour and Cindy ran back to the car. However, I wasn’t going to leave until I found that particular grave. After ten minutes of more walking, in another section of the cemetery, I found additional Coopwood graves. Then, moments later, I was standing over my grandfather Coopwood’s grave. It was the first time I had ever seen it.
“Francis M. Coopwood, PVT, US Marine Corps, World War I, October 1, 1899 – May 26, 1952” read the inscription. My father was a Marine in World War II; however, he never mentioned his father had served in the Marines in World War I.
What is that famous saying, “The past is always present?”
It certainly was for me that rainy day standing on top of a hill in north Mississippi.


scott coopwood
Scott Coopwood is a seventh-generation Deltan who lives in Cleveland, Mississippi with his wife Cindy and their three children. Scott is the publisher and owner of Delta Magazine, one of the South’s leading lifestyle publications, the Delta Business Journal, the first business publication in the Mississippi Delta; and Cleveland’s weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Current.
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