Williamson County
Historical Commission



Jesse Cooper House -
Historical Marker

the house is at the far end of  Wilbarger Point but is fenced off

 off SH 29, 1.5 mi. E of Georgetown




Marker Text
Tennessee native Jesse Eugene Cooper (1855-1944) came to Texas in 1876. The following year he helped establish a Georgetown newspaper, the "Williamson County Sun." In addition to his role as editor, he also founded a local bank and cottonseed oil mill. The C. S. Belford Lumber Co. built this home for Cooper and his second wife, Sara (Wilbarger) (d. 1935), in 1911-12. The American Foursquare design features rustic detailing of native limestone. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1988



The Jesse and Sara Cooper House (1912) is an American Four Square form with Prairie School influences facing south on a high bluff approximately 1.8 miles east of downtown Georgetown on Highway 29. Covered in a tripped roof of asphalt composition shingles, the 2story wood frame house rests on stone piers. The principal elevation is noted by groupings of three 1/1 windows on both the first and second stories, and a single wooden door with transom in the center of the first floor. A shed roof porch extends from the house and wraps around the south and west elevations. The porch is supported by square stone pillars and stone balustrade. A porte cochere with similar stone supports extends from the southeast corner. The house is surrounded by low scale shrubbery and several large live oak trees. Two 1-story additions extend from the north elevation and appear to be the only compromises to the original building. A detached 1 story building is approximately 30 feet from the northeast corner of the house and is Noncontributing. The Jesse and Sara Cooper House (1912) faces south on a high bluff approximately 1.8 miles east of downtown Georgetown on Highway 29. Set back from the highway, the house commands a view of the surrounding countryside and of Georgetown. large live oak trees denote the rear yard and west yard while deciduous trees are aligned on the eastern side of the house.


The 2-story wood frame Cooper House is covered by a large tripped roof of asphalt shingles. A small roof ornament denotes the peak of the tripped roof while an interior brick chimney rises along the east elevation and ends in a corbeled cap. Box eaves enclose the roof making clean transition lines between the roof and weather-board siding. The house rests on stone piers.

The principal facade (south) is highlighted with 1/1 wooden double-hung windows set in groups of three. These groupings are on both the first and second stories almost directly above each other. A single wooden door with glass transom marks the entry directly in the center of the first floor. The most notable architectural on this facade is the shed roof porch which sweeps down on the south and west elevations to rest on full height stone piers capped in cast concrete. The piers are connected by a solid stone balustrade also capped with a band of cast concrete. A wooden porch floor ties the piers to the house and leads to three wide concrete steps flanked by stone stoops with concrete caps. The porch also continues on the east elevation to form a porte cochere supported by stone piers. Two 1-story additions extend from the north elevation and break up the original four-square form. A gravel driveway comes under the porte cochere and leads to the rear of the house. A 1-story gable roof building lies at the northeast corner of the property ens is Noncontributing.

The property is in excellent condition and retains its integrity.

BIBLIOGRAPHY (see historic context statement).


PRIMARY LOCATION OF ADDITIONAL DATA: State historic preservation office (Texas Historical Commission)



The Jesse and Sara Cooper House is one of the few Four Square forms with Prairie School influences in the Georgetown area. Constructed in 1912, the American Four Square and Prairie School were popular influences on domestic architecture in the early decades of the 20th century. A large sweeping front porch and four square interior plan mark the significant architectural features of the house. Its high level of integrity and prominent location make this example particular good and important in Georgetown's architectural development. The Cooper House is eligible under Criterion C in the area of Architecture at the local level of significance. It is associated with the multiple listing: Historic Resources of Georgetown, Texas.


Jesse Cooper, a native of Tennessee, came to Williamson County in 1876 settling the following year in Georgetown. Cooper and local businessman Gus Ivey then founded the local newspaper, Williamson County Sun. In 1890 he became one of several organizers of the First National Bank of Georgetown. Cooper served as bank president, vice-president, board member, and chairman of the board. In the late 19th century, Cooper also co-founded the Georgetown Oil Mill to provide a local service for area cotton growers. The First National Bank and Georgetown Oil Mill are discussed in the historic context for the multiple listing.


In 1912 Jesse Cooper contracted with Charles S. Belford of Belford Lumber Company to construct a dwelling on property east of town. Originally owned by George and Lucy Wilbarger, the property lay outside the city at the time but provided a commanding view of Georgetown. The Belford Company records indicate that the house costs included $2,062.09 (merchandise), $13,440.05 (labor), and $590,90 (masonry). Jesse and Sara Cooper (his second wife) lived in the house until their deaths in 1944 and 1935, respectively. Robert W. and Ida Cooper (son and daughter-in-law) then occupied the house until 1947 when it was sold to Gordon and Lois Nave. In recent years the house has served as a bed and breakfast. The house was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark by the Texas Historical Commission in 1988. The Cooper House is associated with one of Georgetown's leading families of the late 19th and early 20th century. It also is one of the best examples of a Four Square with Prairie School influences in the community and is similar to the Cooper Sansom, Marsh F. Smith, and S. A. Easly houses (all National Register 1985). The house was ranked as a "High Priority" in the comprehensive survey of 1984-85.






JESSE COOPER HOUSE - - - narrative

Researched by:

Dan K. Utley and David Moore, Austin

Written by:

Dan K. Utley July, 1987


Jesse Eugene Cooper (1855-1944) was a native of Tennessee. He was born near Mount Pleasant in Maury County, southwest of Nashville. His father, Robert T. Cooper, Sr., was sheriff of Lewis County, Tennessee, before serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Incarcerated as a prisoner of war, but later released, Robert Cooper was killed in fighting near Raymond, Mississippi in 1063. [1]


In 1876, at the close of Reconstruction, Jesse Cooper came to Texas, settling in Georgetown. He taught school for one term in the Matsler community before becoming a clerk in a store at Round Rock. Although founded in 1850 as "Brushy," Round Rock did not develop into a significant commercial center for south central Williamson County until 1876, the year Jesse Cooper and a line of the International & Great Northern Railroad reached the settlement. Cooper's description of life in the tent city that sprang up along the rail line, marking a new town site for Round Rock, provides interesting insight into the community's transformation from the frontier to the Gilded Age:


I was clerking for Captain Morrow at the time and was sent with the first wagon load of goods. I was afraid to sleep much that night, and, along in the early morning hours, two rough looking fellows circled around and kept coming closer. I sat up and laid the six shooter across my knees and when they got close enough to see it, they slunk away. When we had all the goods moved, Sam W. Henderson, who was also clerking for Captain Morrow, joined me, and we slept on pallets on the floor of the store. There was a crew of Irish section hands sent in to work on the railroad terminus, and they fought for three weeks. At night, Sam and I would pile up sacks of salt around our pallets to stop any stray bullets that might whiz past. [2]


Whether he grew tired of the excitement as a frontier clerk or decided to trade it for that of a different nature, Cooper returned to Georgetown in 1877 and, with Gus Ivey, founded the Williamson County Sun. The partnership paired Ivey's experience as an Ohio newspaperman with Cooper's knowledge of the county and its people. Early issues of the Sun noted Ivey was editor "with the assistance of Mr. J. E. Cooper as local editor."  Ivey's association with the newspaper was short-lived, but Cooper continued his ties in a variety of capacities throughout his life. His commitment to the newspaper was instrumental in its longevity--it continues to serve as Georgetown's primary source of local news over a century after the founding.


In 1890, Jesse Cooper entered the banking business as an organizer of the First National Bank of Georgetown. Two years later, he increased his participation in the bank and began an active interest in its daily operation. Over the years he served as vice-president, president (he retired from the position in 1906, but was recalled to the office in 1913), board member, and chairman of the board. [4]


With J. W. Snyder and R. F. Young, Cooper founded the Georgetown Oil Mill in 1891. [5]A plant for processing cottonseed oil, the business was essential to the continued development of the area's cotton industry. In the decades immediately prior to 1900 and continuing into the early twentieth century, cotton production was the determinant of the economy for both Georgetown and Williamson County. With the establishment of the oil mill, Jesse Cooper aided greatly the steady economic growth of his adopted home.


Jesse Cooper wed Mary Sansom in 1878. To the union were born four children: Jessie Agnes, Louise, Edgar Leake, and Duncan Crosby. Mary died in 1907. Several years later [6], Cooper married Sara Wilbarger, the daughter of Col. Henry Clay Wilbarger and Annie Harper Wilbarger. Their only child, Robert Wilbarger Cooper, was born in 1914. [7]


In 1911 and 1912, Jesse and Sara Cooper purchased land for a home site from George C. and Lucy Wilbarger. The property, part of a promontory overlooking the nearby San Gabriel River valley was known as Wilbarger's Point. They contracted with C. S. Belford, a prominent local builder, to construct their family home in 1911. Records of the Belford Lumber Company show the following costs: $2,062.09 for merchandise, $1,344.05 for labor; and $590.90 for masonry. [8]Completed in 1912, the residence features a variation of the Four Square plan, with influences of the Prairie School. In overall design, scope, and size, it is similar to both the Cooper Sansom Home (built 1910) and the Marsh F. Smith House (built 1908). Both structures, constructed by Belford for Cooper family members, are presently under consideration by the Texas Historical Commission for Official Texas Historical Markers.


The rustic setting of the Jesse Cooper House is reinforced by the dramatic use of native stone in porch supports 1-1d walls. The relatively low-pitched pyramidal roof with wide overhanging eaves enhances the horizontality of the Prairie School design. The three-window arrangements on the front facade contrast with the overall horizontal scale and are arranged in a manner that visually supports the roof. The home faces south, with a porte cochere on the east side. The massive porch features a solid balustrade wall capped with a concrete stoop. The porch piers, of rough-faced limestone, are capped with simple concrete capitals. Minor additions to the north side (including an open storage area) and to the west side (adjacent to a wooded lot with limited accessibility) do not detract from the overall design of the home or from the original features of the primary facade.


Sara Cooper was an accomplished musician, trained at Southwestern University in Georgetown and at the Julliard School of Music in New York. She used her talents for the benefit of young people in Georgetown, serving as a music teacher in the public school system."' Jesse Cooper, in addition to his business successes, was a prominent civic leader. In his obituary, he is remembered for his public service:


For sixty-nine years Mr. Cooper was closely associated with every movement for the material, civic; moral and spiritual advancement of Georgetown, Williamson County and Central Texas, giving liberally of his time, talent, his strength and his funds in the interest of every worthy cause. He was always interested in business and industry that would supply a market for raw products of the county, provide employment or needed supplies for the people whose welfare always received his best consideration. [10]


In addition, the obituary notes the impact of his life on future generations:


"The Snatcher," as Mr. Cooper called himself in his weekly column',- "Snatches," in The Sun, has gone to his final rest, but the influence of his Christian life and staunch defending of the right, through the medium of his writings, will continue to have bearing upon the lives of others for many, many years to come. [11]


Sara Wilbarger Cooper died in 1935 and Jesse Eugene Cooper died in 1944. Following them as owners of the family home were Robert Wilbarger Cooper (d. 1974), their son, and his wife, Ida (Dotta) Cooper, who still resides in Georgetown. Robert and Ida Cooper remained in the house until 1947, when they sold the property to Gordon and Lois McGee Nave." The current owners, Patty Thomas and Carol Gafford, have transformed the Jesse Cooper House into a bed and breakfast operation known as the Lone Star Inn of Texas. They continue to maintain the site with the historical dignity and integrity of its original owners.

The Jesse Cooper House is a significant structure in the Georgetown area. It serves as a reminder of an important family and of the contributions they made to the early growth of Georgetown and to its quality of life. The architectural style reflects the town at the height of its early development, a legacy to the life of Jesse Eugene Cooper.


Researched by:

Dan K. Utley and David Moore, Austin

Written by:

Dan K. Utley July, 1987






view more Historical Markers in Georgetown
view more Historical Markers in Williamson County