Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

 

J.E. Copper
founder of The Williamson County Sun

Historical Sketch

JE COOPER, editor of the Williamson County Sun, and an attorney of George-town, the subject of this sketch, is a man of whom Judge Chessher says: " He is a straightforward, reliable and successful business man, true as steel and honorable in every way. His success in business has been attained in a quiet manner and he has never bored anyone with his paper." Mr. Cooper was born in Maury county, Tennessee, February 5, 1855, and came of the noted Cooper family of that State. His parents, Robert T. and Louise Clementine Cooper, were both natives of Tennessee, where- they were reared and married. The former, a farmer of Tennessee, served as Sheriff of Lewis County for one term, and enjoyed an extensive acquaintance. During the late war he enlisted in 1861, was made Captain of Company H, Third Tennessee Infantry, and was taken prisoner at Fort Donelson, being retained for about a year at Johnson's island, when he was exchanged and returned to service. During his entire term of service he enjoyed only two short furloughs and was killed at Raymond in battle near Jackson, Mississippi, in 1863. Colonel John C. Brown, late Governor of Tennessee, in speaking of him, says: No braver man was in the service than he." He was leading his men on to victory, having himself just taken two prisoners, and the company many more, when he was shot in the breast by the enemy, and only lived about two hours. They were led into ambush and were having a hand to hand encounter. Two of his company, who saw him fall, ran to his relief, one on either side, and both were instantly killed, falling each way dead over him. His age, at death, was thirty-five years. During life he attended the Presbyterian Church, in which faith he was reared, although he was not a member of the church. His father, grandfather of our subject, Robert O. Cooper, served as County Clerk for Lewis County for over twenty years. He had a remarkable memory, and was one of the best read men in the State. He had ten sons and five grandsons in the Confederate army, of whom five of the former lost their lives in the service, four of the others returned home wounded, and only one of the ten escaped unhurt. In addition to the ten sons in the army, Mr. Cooper had one son physically unable to go into the army, and three daughters, and reared his fourteen children to maturity. This honored gentleman died at the age of ninety-four. The maiden name of his wife was Cooper, but she was no connection, a native of Iowa, of Irish extraction, her grandparents being natives of Ireland, who settled in South Carolina on coming to this country. Our subject's mother, Louise Clementine was one of four daughters born to Robert O. Smith, while her father was a nephew of Robert O. Cooper, our subject's grandfather. The mother was reared by her maternal grandfather, who was a Baptist in religion. Owing to her training she inclined to the same faith and was noted for her sweet and kind disposition, being one of the most amiable of women. So strong was the attachment between her husband and herself that she never recovered from the shock of his death, although she survived him until 1867, when she died. She possessed many of the sweet and loving attributes of the wife, mother and neighbor, and so strongly were her acquaintances impressed by this fact that they were all her friends.


Our subject is the oldest of five children, two of whom were twins that died in infancy, those living, being: Mary Belle, wife of W. S. Leake, of Georgetown: Robert T. Cooper, who married Miss Corinna Taylor, and is the collector in the First National Bank, and our subject. The last was educated in his native State, and after finishing he engaged as clerk in the Chancery's Clerk's office for about two years, during which time he did a great deal of writing necessary in such a capacity. He then came to Texas, January, 1876, and taught school in Williamson County for seven months, being very successful. In spite of his success in the work, he felt that he was better suited for other things, so engaged as clerk at Round Rock for Captain J. C. S. Marrow. He came to Georgetown in 1877, and in April of that year started his paper, The Williamson County Sun, to which he gave the present name. Since that time he has been the editor and publisher with the exception of the year 1891-'92. This paper has a circulation of 1,500, and has been the official paper of the county and city for many years. The success of the paper has been wonderful. Although be started without money, his energy, determination and zeal have amply compensated for that lack. During his residence in Georgetown he has been importuned many times to accept office, but has always refused. Being a person who has had the welfare of the county and city at heart, he has done more than his share of the charity work, both as an editor and a private person. He has served as Chairman of the Democratic County Executive Committee, and is now a member from his county of the Congressional Executive Committee, and has always taken a leading part in advancing the best interests of the county.

Mr. Cooper was married in 1878, to Miss Mary Sansom, daughter of Colonel Richard Sansom of Georgetown, an old settler and ex-County Treasurer, also a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1875. He died in 1880, at the age of fifty-four. Our subject and wife have three children, namely: Jessie A., Louise S. and Edgar L. Both our subject and his wife are members of the Presbyterian Church, in which the former has been an Elder for many years. He is a member of the K. of H. and Knights and Ladies of Honor, and Knights of Pythias.

reference


 

STORY OF THE SUN


Editor's Note: With this issue, the Williamson County Sun enters its 98th year of continuous publication. The following articles are self-explanatory, the first was written by the paper's founder, J. F. Cooper, the second by John M. Sharpe, a strong and distinguished editor who sold his interests to the current owner and editor and retired in 1948.
—0-
- IN RETROSPECT
_

(By J. E. Cooper)
Published May 19, 1939 THE SUN enters its 62nd year.
IN 1877 THE SUN
published its first issue. At that time there was no newspaper being published in the county, although several efforts had been made to establish going concerns, however all, up to the time had been short lived, although some had been manned by literary giants of their day. When the Sun was established there were no telephones, no electric lights, no automobiles; no barbed-wire fences; no deep wells; no settlements on the prairies; no radios; few hotels; no road houses, but plenty of saloons.


ALL SETTLEMENTS WERE ON STREAMS,
near wood and water and as many as possible near at least one never-failing spring. At that time Texas had been a member of the United States thirty-nine years, and the Democrats in charge of the State government only two years following the rigors and hardships of reconstruction, which was under full headway. Richard Coke was governor with a full cabinet of Democratic state officials.


THE CONSTITUTION OF 1876
was adopted soon after the arrival of Cooper and a new order of things was beginning. The E. J. Davis administration had bequeathed to the Coke and succeeding administrations a very bad condition of state affairs. The Davis administration with its many Negro officers, most of whom had been former slaves, had not been able to check the reckless careers of dangerous outlaws who did not fear the Negro officers, nor respect the lives and property of the good citizens. The Sun was born in the midst of such conditions, and it followed the lead of courageous citizens who gave their time and influence toward making the county and State a safer and better place in which to live.
The Sun, as of this date, has been published regularly for sixty-two years not missing an issue, save now and then a holiday vacation. It was born on a G. Washington hand press and is now printed on a modern high-speed power press, driven by electricity. In its news columns are recorded some of the stories of some of the greatest scientific discoveries, mechanical inventions, the rise and fall of governments and nations, changes in the financial and economical systems, methods of transportations and communications, and many other things that have been brought into being for the advancement, use and benefit of the human family in the years the Sun has been on the watchtower for the advancement of Central Texas and the world.


IN THE SUN'S FILES
may be found literally thousands of interesting items about occurrences in Williamson County, the State and Nation. The names of all county district and State officials, cities and schools as well as their development through the years. Marriages, births, deaths, purchases and sale of property, construction, fires, rains, storms, crops, droughts, freezes, and all manner of development from clap-board houses oxen-drawn automobiles, airplanes and other theretofore undreamed of developments and improvements that go to make up the progress that places this county and its people in the front rank of Texas counties and Texas people. During the 62 years of The Sun's career it has had seven editors: J. E. Cooper, founder; Marvin M. McLain, Capt. F. T. Roche, Dr. John R. Allen, W. W. Jenkins, John M. Sharpe, Robert W. Cooper — three Presbyterians, three Methodists and one Episcopalian. These editors used their intellects and influence through the paper to elevate and advance the interests of Williamson County and the State of Texas and some of them were high in the councils of the Nation.


Thoughts on the Career of a Great Newspaper
(By John M. Sharpe.)
The story written by the Hon. Jesse Eugene Cooper, founder of The Williamson County Sun, is interesting to any thoughtful reader, yet, as one close to din; story, it left unsaid mad,' thing that should have been revealed..
Mr. Cooper gave breath to its dream first registered in Ida mind in his war-torn East Tennessee home, when he launched the Sun and became its guiding genius in 1875.


I learned to read from the columns of The Sun as a poor West Williamson County boy and followed it from that day the remainder of my life. I became interested in printing and publishing in those far-off days and located in Georgetown in the late 1900th Year of last century, arriving here on the eve of the Galveston hurricane which battered the State Sept. 9, 1900.
I joined The Sun as president and general manager of the holding company and editor in October, 1918 when I purchased the interests of Dr. John Allen, who had been Mangager the Department of Romance Languages and manager of "The Annex" Woman's, Dormitory at Southwestern University for many years, remaining with the publication untill1949 when I sold my interests to Don Scarbrough present (1907) owner and publisher. That much as an explanatory format.


MR. COOPER, a devout Presbyterian, retiring in nature, would not mention in his article written on the 39th anniversary of the publication, he founded personal matter that is of paramount interest to those interested, in factual matter. After his arrival in Georgetown he set about building an interpretative newspaper and bringing relatives from Tennessee to join him. Of these his brother, Robert Theodore Cooper, Cooper Sansom, Dee Sansom, and Italy Watson, the latter three cousins, were the first arrivals. His brother became interested in farming and buying, developing and selling cotton farms in the Blackland Belt from Dallas through Williamson County to the south; the Sansoms studied and entered the practice of law and Watson became a proof-reader and editor in South Texas Daily offices. Mr. Cooper also found time, in addition to publishing the paper, to teach school and study law, being admitted to the bar about 1889. He also served a term in the legislature, headed movements for the betterment of his country, including the prohibition movement, the campaigns of which organizations he headed several times. It is not passing strange to those who knew him that he led every fight that ended in victory in the county save one.


Mr. Cooper was elected president of the First National Bank of Georgetown first in 1896, server until 1906, retired until 1913 when he was again elected and served until 1936.


Mr. Cooper and his family suffered greatly during the Civil War in East Tennessee, being robbed of almost all they owned; he frequently recounted that he had traveled on horseback to carry food to a kinsman for whom the Union forces occupying the region were searching. He delivered the food but was captured by the Yankees before reaching home. They finally turned him loose, taking his horse and saddle, to walk home barefoot in a blizzard. Of course he was an uncompromising democrat.


About 1894 Mr. Cooper sold The Sun to Capt. Frank T. Roche, a Confederate soldier, who had lost a leg in the cause. He was a Virginian and had been chief clerk in the Texas General Land Office for several years. He was an Episcopalian and positive in his approach to political and personal questions and appalled by the policies of Reconstruction which had faded some but did not disappear until the administration of Pres. Woodrow Wilson who, in so far as he could, removed the last of the inequities from the South — however, he succeeded only partially, Capt. Roche died as the result of a streetcar accident in El Paso in 1916, after a brilliant battle for the right as he interoperated the right based on a rugged honesty been named
Shortly before his death. Capt. Roche had been named Postmaster of Georgetown and had sold The Sun to a group of printers and publishers headed by Dr. John R. Allen, Methodist minister, world-traveler, head of the Department of Romance Languages at Southwestern University for years and manager for a long period of time of "The Ladies Annex" A Southwestern University dormitory, later destroyed. He was a member of the last contingents of Methodists who believed the Bible literally and preached the certainty of salvation if Christ was accepted and served, and also a literal burning hell for the damned.


IN 1918 JOHN M. SHARPE,
bought Dr. Allen's interest and became executive head of the Sun Publishing Co. and editor of the Sun. He battled for good government; reasonable taxes denounced the Ku Klux Klan and won their hatred and threats including the threat to burn his home and business, and his family. The Klan was beaten, many convicted and all has been serene since that period. Yet the battle for good government, the majesty of the law and reasonable taxes under just laws was his shibboleth until he had served his town on three separate occasions as Mayor and three terms as Postmaster.


He served as a member of the Executive Committee of Southwestern University during the trying days of the depression, as secretary of the Democratic Committee, of Williamson County for more than twenty years, is an Odd Fellow, a Woodman and was a Charter member of the Chamber of Commerce and the Country Club. He early in life recognized the value of irrigation and worked continuously and consistently for the development of the Colorado and Brazos Rivers, aiding in arranging the meeting with Congressman Buchanan at the site of the defaulted effort, to dam the Colorado at Buchanan Dam and served on the Brazos Authority until the building of Possum Kingdom Dam.
by Don Scarbrough, 1948


It was in 1948 when the late John M. Sharpe came to Taylor and offered to sell me ”control" of the Williamson County Sun. At the time I was publishing The Taylor Times, and I had recently bought Elgin Courier, but I was eager to have the SUN and to bring my young family to Georgetown.
"Control" of the SUN meant at least 51 per cent of the stock, for at that time the SUN was a corporation. I received stock owned by Mr. Sharpe, Donald Barron and Lowrey Foster. Later I bought the remaining stock owned by Howard Harrison, who moved to San Saba to buy a newspaper, and from W. Grogan Lord, who had purchased stock from the Hon. Marsh Smith who had acquired it through his connection with the Cooper family.


I was the first person to own the SUN outright and the first thing I did was liquidate the corporation. The SUN became a privately owned concern at that point. About the time this was happening I sold the Taylor paper to Henry Fox and disposed of the Elgin paper to a fellow named Hunt.
The SUN was a strong paper when I bought it. It had a circulation of 3,000, was democratic to the core and just wild about then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson who had shown his admiration and affection for Editor Sharpe in many ways. That Sharpe would have supported LBJ was a bit strange because in virtually every other aspect the SUN was a conservative newspaper and had been since its origination.


Mrs. Scarbrough and I have now published the SUN for 27 years and we have seen many changes here. Southwestern University, a main-stay of the local cultural and economic structure, has been virtually rebuilt. Of the buildings now standing, only two were there when I returned to Georgetown. Many old business establishments, long patronized and cherished by local folk have vanished from the scene; Many citizens now would not even recognize the names -- Hoffman and Son, Ben Neuman's, Stromberg Hoffman, Braun Motor Company, Freund Motor Company, Giddings Grocery, Farmer's State Bank, Belford Lumber Company, Lundblad Hardware, Buchholz Variety, Cooper's Corner Drug, The Toggery, the list goes on and on.


But many have endured, such as Atkin Furniture Company, Jones Auto Supply, First National Bank, Citizens State Bank — an outgrowth of Farmers State Bank, Hodges Drug Store, Gold's Dept. Store, Georgetown Hospital and Clinic, Hendersons, Three Way Grain, and others, although the list is growing smaller.


The most notable change in the SUN under the present ownership came nearly a decade ago when the paper "went offset", a revolutionary process in printing that permits the reproduction of pictures with a clarity not possible under the old "hot type" process. From linotypes the paper went to photo setters, from a Slow, 3000 per hour press limited to 8 pages, to a 16 page press that runs 15,000 per hours. Also a Sunday paper, The Sunday SUN, was begun 1 year ago and at this date appears firmly established.
Circulation of the Sun is now above 5000. Our present pressrun is 5350, reflecting Georgetown's continued growth.


Since 1877 the SUN had done "job" printing and during the past fifteen years had purchased considerable expensive printing equipment, establishing a flourishing department operating as a second establishment called Heritage Printers. In 1974 this firm was sold to Mr. and Mrs. John King. King is also managing editor of the SUN and Sunday SUN.


Under the current ownership the paper has won many state and regional awards — for editorials, columns, public service, feature writing, creative advertising, appearance and news writing.

 

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