John Cooper would be the first to say that he had been blessed by life. Born in Exeter, New York on May 6, 1844, John came of age just as the Civil War began and he proudly wore the colors of the Union Army during the conflict. He felt very fortunate to survive the war when so many men had not.
After the war, John traveled west and settled in Rockford in 1869. He decided to become a barber and opened his own shop. Business was good and John was soon seen as a successful business man.
John’s personal life also flourished and he was married to a young lady who had the reputation of being one of the prettiest girls in town. The couple’s happiness was complete when they welcomed a son they named Gale.
John’s father was elderly and when he became unable to care for himself, the couple opened their home to him and John’s wife cared for him while John was at work. John became involved in many social groups of the day including the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the Masons, and the Rockford Rifles. The Rifles were a military group that traveled to different parts of the country to perform for parades and conventions.
In December of 1880, John was returning from a trip with the Rifles to attend a soldiers reunion convention in Atlanta, Georgia. John had been away from his family for a while and he was quite anxious to get home and see them.
There was a terrible accident when the train John was traveling on collided with another train. Several men were hurt including John. He was injured when he struck his head on the side of the train car he was riding in. John had to leave the train when he began to vomit uncontrollably. His friends from the Rifles helped him secure lodging in Evansville, Illinois.
They were relieved when John felt better the next morning and they were able to continue the trip home. John’s wife and father were startled to hear of the train wreck but John brushed aside their concerns. He explained he was just tired and would be fine after a nap.
No one could know that would be the last time they would see John alive.
John was only thirty six years old at the time of his death. He was so respected that the different organizations he was involved in led a grand procession to Greenwood Cemetery where he was buried. Men representing the GAR, the Masons, and at least twenty barbers from all over the area attended the funeral and procession down East State Street to the cemetery.
The family struggled with the loss of this honorable man. This tragedy was compounded when less than a week after she stood over the grave of her beloved husband, Mrs. Cooper was back at Greenwood for the burial of her eight-year-old son. Gale Cooper died of diphtheria shortly after his father’s funeral. He was buried next to his father close to the Chapel at Greenwood Cemetery.
Copyright © 2016 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events