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  • Sara Tucker

The Move to Essex Junction

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

By Harry Cooley

Harry Cooley was my maternal grandfather. His son Charles transcribed the handwritten version of an autobiography that runs to 45 handwritten pages. The first six pages of the original have gone missing, and I cannot explain the discrepancy between the mention of Luke and Olive's "eight" children and the six names that follow. Patrick and I are preparing the autobiography for publication. Part I recalls the series of events that brought the family to Randolph Center, Vermont. You can help us proof it! —Sara Tucker


I was born on November 13,1893, in Georgia, Vermont. My parents were William Augustus Cooley and Annie Rogene (Hale) Cooley. We lived on a small farm near the Milton town line on the north and south road parallel and westerly of Route 7. My Grandfather Cooley was always careful to identify that road as “the main road between Burlington and Montreal,” and it was during stagecoach days when roads were laid out “as the crow flies“ without much regard for hills, or “vertical curves“ as the present day Highway Department calls them.

My great-grandfather, Luke Cooley, was the first member of the family born in Vermont. He was the the oldest son of Solomon and Lucy Cooley, who came from Springfield, Massachusetts and settled in Milton about 1780 on a farm east of The Cobble now owned by John Duffy.

My grandfather was Henry Boardman Cooley, oldest son of Luke, born in Milton in 1816. Luke and his wife, Olive Knight, moved to the Georgia farm when he was twelve years old. Luke and Olive had eight children: Henry, Heman, and Reuben, Samantha, Sally, Mary. Luke died at an early age, and Henry and Olive brought up the family and paid for the farm.

Heman moved to Minnesota before the Civil War. Reuben married and lived on a farm on Route 7 in what is now known as the Conger district. Samantha married James and lived in Georgia all her life. Sally married Dighton Kempton and also lived in Georgia her life long. Mr. Kempton was a blacksmith, wheelwright and small farmer and lived in Georgia Center. Mary married [?] Dewey and moved to Wisconsin.

I am the oldest of five sons born to William and Annie Cooley. Sumner was born July 21, 1896. Hollis was born March 9, 1899. Oscar was born November 13, 1901. He and I have the same birthday eight years apart. Emerson was born in Essex Junction in 1909.

I started school in September 1899 and walked a mile and a half to the schoolhouse located at the junction of Route 7 and the road to East Georgia and Fairfax. It was known as the East Plain School District No. 14. At that time there were only two houses on the cross road between our road and Route 7, and the road was lined on both sides with trees and a back growth of thick woods. My route to school made a U turn, going south about a quarter of a mile then east a mile and north a quarter of a mile. I could go across lots straight east and save a half mile but usually preferred the long way since I had company on the easterly part of the trip. There was no trouble in good weather, but occasionally a winter storm made walking hard. My parents seldom thought it necessary to “hitch up” a horse to take us unless the weather was very bad.

My grandfather died in 1903, when I was ten years old. He was eighty-seven years old and hoed a half acre of beans on a hot morning in July. He sat on the front porch resting and waiting for the morning mail. As the mail team approached, he started across the yard, where there was a small pile of new mown grass. He stumbled, fell on the hay, and died immediately. It was called apoplexy, now days “a stroke.”

I was riding the horse for my father to cultivate corn. We heard Grandma wailing. She was quite excitable. Father unhitched the horse from the cultivator and told me to ride to the neighbors and call the doctor on the telephone. We did not have a telephone. The first neighbor on the w