The first three books in The Cooley Farm: A Family History are now available in digital and paperback editions. You can get a free download from our bookstore (use promo code "Freebie") or purchase the paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon. The full series will include stories and essays by eight family members.
The Cooley Farm of Randolph Center was a typical farm of its era. In 1910, when it was purchased by William and Anna Cooley, Vermonters still used the nineteenth-century farming methods of their great-grandparents. Over the next fifty years, tractors replaced horsepower. Modern equipment replaced hand tools. Farms got bigger and more specialized. Subsistence farming became a thing of the past. These changes, and their impact on farm life, are recorded in the memoirs of Anna and William's descendants.
Harry Cooley, the eldest of Anna and William's five sons, loved farming. Raised by parents who prized education, he was proud to be in the first class to graduate from the Vermont School of Agriculture. In addition to running a successful dairy farm, he also taught farming skills to veterans and debated farm policy with state legislators and Washington bureaucrats. In 1964, Vermonters elected Harry to the office of Secretary of State, making him the first Democratic Party candidate in the state's history to win that office. He served two terms under Philip Hoff, the first Vermont Democrat to be elected governor in one hundred years. Harry enjoyed his years as a public servant, but when he set down his memoirs at the end of his life, farming was what he most wanted to write about. In 1976, he finished the hand-written draft of an autobiography which was unpublished at the time of his death ten years later. In 2012, almost forty years after it was written, Harry’s autobiography was given to his granddaughter, Sara Tucker. The foreword to this edition was written by Daniel Cooley, Harry's grandson, a plant pathologist who teaches at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. (Paperback edition $9.99 plus shipping; Kindle edition $6.99.)
As a youngster, Charles Cooley, the elder son of Harry and Gertrude Cooley, learned to drive a team, handle a scythe, and tumble hay—skills that had become obsolete by the time he was twenty-five. Charles's memoir begins with a grandfather who lost his job at the start of the Depression; Grandpa Small never in his life received another paycheck. And yet he kept busy. He made himself useful. He raised chickens and sold the eggs in town. He churned the farmhouse butter. He spent time with the children and kept them out of mischief. He is one of the most beloved figures in these memoirs. Despite the economic hardships experienced by the Cooley family and their neighbors in the 1930s, Charles remembers the farm of his youth as both “a great playground” and a well-run enterprise where children worked alongside adults. He writes about the economics of the Depression-era farm, the family members and hired hands who made it run, and memorable events that shaped his life. He writes, too, about the decision he made to give up farming, a decision that impacted the life of his four boys and, to a lesser degree, every family member with ties to that ancestral home. (Paperback edition $9.99 plus shipping; Kindle edition $6.99.)
The Depression-era diary of Kate Crockett Cooley, a Tennessee native, begins in Vermont during a winter of record-breaking cold. Kate, the mother of two young boys, has just turned thirty-seven. In March, her husband is laid off from his job at the mill, and they struggle to make ends meet, he by doing odd jobs, she by taking in sewing and laundry, renting rooms to overnight guests, and picking raspberries on her in-laws’ farm. It is not the life she envisioned when she met Sumner Cooley in Lakeland, Florida, where he was a successful contractor before the crash. But in the hardscrabble farming community of Randolph Center, all is not drudgery and toil. There are dances to attend at the Aggie School, movies to see at The Strand, and world news to follow ("Great upset in England concerning King Edward’s love affair with Mrs. Simpson"). There are snow-covered pastures to ski by moonlight, and meetings of the Legion Auxiliary and the Get-together Club to organize and attend (“Mrs. Morse spoke on her trip to Labrador”). Robert Cooley, who was nine years old in 1936, deftly interweaves his mother's diary entries with his own recollections. "A Mother's Diary" is an inspiring portrait of a woman who managed, with grace and courage, to steer her family through hard times without losing her zest for life. (Paperback edition, $4.99; Kindle edition $3.99.)