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The Historic Village at Brewton-Parker College
The Montgomery County Historic Village features two antebellum log houses located on land owned by Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Georgia. These homes, and the families they represent, illustrate various facets of rural nineteenth-century settlements in southern Georgia.
The Cooper-Conner House
The first house in the Montgomery County Historic Village reflects the intertwined stories of the Cooper and Conner families who settled, but seldom for good, in Montgomery and surrounding counties. Revolutionary war veteran Richard Cooper brought his family to what became Montgomery County around 1793 and settled in the Dead River area, which is about a mile south of Uvalda and roughly nine miles from Brewton-Parker College.
His son George received 537½ acres of land on the Oconee River in 1823 from father-in-law Wilson Conner. George Cooper, and his wife Nancy Conner Cooper, built the Cooper-Conner house around 1831 when their family of ten children outgrew the old home. In this house, two more children were born, four of the Cooper children were married, and patriarch Richard Cooper died. In 1840 or 1841, George Cooper inherited a home from his brother William Cooper in Screven County, and moved his family there, selling the Dead River home in 1842 to his brother-in-law Thomas Benton Conner.
In the decade that George Cooper and his family lived in the Cooper-Conner house, they farmed, engaged in land deals, and also helped build a community. The Coopers, Conners, Ryals and other settlement families established the Dead River Baptist Meetinghouse and an academy, or school, for their children. Newcomer Patrick Hues Mell spent about two years in the Dead River community as a teacher in the new academy. He stayed long enough to become acquainted with George Cooper’s daughter Lurene whom he married in 1840. Mell left the area soon after and went on to become a prestigious professor at Mercer University and later at the University of Georgia. He also was a Baptist minister, as influential in leadership positions in the Georgia Baptist Convention as he was in the field of education. Mell maintained a warm and close relationship with the Cooper family, offering a home to young Thomas Benton Conner Cooper when Cooper attended Mercer University, marrying Cooper to Carrie Abigail Stow in 1856, and encouraging Cooper to visit throughout the year.
While Thomas Benton Conner Cooper’s interests were in theology, his father George pursued farming. Raising cotton and tending livestock, George Cooper sold his goods in Savannah, a two-week round trip event that his son remembered vividly in his memoirs.
The Irish workmen and negroes were then clearing the way and making the embankment at Savannah for the Central Railroad….My recollection is that the city was then being built as far as Broughton and South Broad Street (now Oglethorpe Avenue), but there were few if any stores, beyond Congress Street, and not many on that….The wharf was crowded with sailing vessels, but there were few if any steamers….Cotton, was then worth, if I mistake not, about 50 cents per pound. Shad sold for seven pence (12 ½ cents), the price of a coonskin. The postage on a letter was 25 cents, and it was sealed with a red wafer about the size of our present silver dime. (Ibid, 38-39)
The hustle and bustle of trading in Savannah must have been exciting for a young boy, but the larger point here is that these trips to Savannah were part of rural country life. Travel for various reasons was fairly constant, as was searching for better opportunities for one’s family.
George Cooper’s inheritance of a much larger estate in Screven County ended the decade in the Cooper-Conner house for himself and his children. When the Coopers left for Screven County, brother-in-law Thomas Benton Conner took over the house and remained there until his death in 1886, whereupon the house passed to his daughter Eliza Conner MacArthur. The Cooper-Conner house remained in the MacArthur family until it was donated to Brewton-Parker College in 1991.
The College acquired not only the house itself, but also many of the artifacts of the house, including Thomas B. Conner’s “large pot and sugar boiler.” The Cooper-Conner House has within it many historically significant items. Artifacts made and in use in the 19th century have been accepted and added to the house. These include a hand-spun and woven coverlet from 1857, kitchen chairs with hide bottoms used for wagons as well as inside the house, a bench from the Dead River Meeting House hewn and assembled around 1860, a large black pot from around 1836, a yarn “weasel” for measuring yarn, from the early 1800’s, a feather mattress from 1880, a 19th century alkaline, glazed, Edgefield bowl made by slaves at the Herlong plantation near Edgefield, South Carolina, and a palmetto broom, made of indigenous plants and commonly in use in south Georgia.
Learn about the Berry Thompson House here.