Joseph R. Cooley Letters
Escambia County Florida
~ 1880s ~

Copyright © 2003, Margaret R. Winders. All Rights Reserved.

Postal envelopes not available.
       J.R. Cooley
       Isaac Peterson Howard in Montgomery County, Tennessee.

Muscogee, Fla. Jan. 22, 188--
Mr. I.P. Howard
Dear Sir,
       Your Postal card of the 18th at hand . Glad to hear all is well. I am well with the exception of a bad Chill. This weather is So changeably. As Soon as I ger rid on one I take another. This is a solder State than I had any Idea it was. I arrived in Pensacola Dec. 29 and had a pleasant trip. Did not see a familiar face from Clarksville to Pensacola a distance of Six Hundred miles. I came nearer freezing the night I got to Pensacola than I ever did. Murcury Standing down at 11 deg. thick ice on the Streets next morning. the pumps were so badly Frozen that could hardly get water to drink. Muscogee is in Escumbia County on the Escumbia river 17 miles from Pensacola about 440 miles across the Ala. line.---------Society might-------in its infancy --the roughest white men with few exceptions you ever saw. but with little regard for the Sabbath or preaching. from what I have seen of the State it has not made a very good impression. No farming at all. Nearly all in Sawmilling or logging business. This is no Stock Country. no mules but a few horses. Cows are very common. I suppose they average about half gallon milk per day, about the size of a three year old heifer. but few hogs. they grow Slowly. weigh about fifty lbs at a year old.
       Everything is high priced down here. Pork is worth $12.50 per hundred [lbs] Flour $11.00 per barrel, meal $1.40 per-----, Sugar 6 lbs for a dollar, Coffee 3 lbs for a dollar, Corn $5.50 per barrel, oranges are 60 cents per Doz. I think on the extreme. The trade is nearly all barter. Not much inducement for clerking. I think this a healthy place but from what information I get from the oldest citizens they say it does not Suit invalids from other places that are not acclimated here. The atmosphere is too damo and Strong from the bay which looks very reasonable. This is the Sandiest place I ever saw. On a bright moonlight night it looks almost like Snow. In some places it is said to be eighty feet deep and can’t have any cisterns in this country or wells. Although water can be found anywhere. They have iron Tubing and sharpened and drive it in the sand.If this is not long enough have to Screw a piece on until you reach the water. This gives it an unpleasant taste. This is a good country for the laboring man, one willing to work in logs and lumber. Farming would not pay where I am.
       I don’t think there are but three inducements for this country. Health, good living and good wages. Ike tell your mother and the children howdy for me and write Soon. I recken you will get worn out over this if you read it all. I never could write a letter worth reading.
Your friend
J.R. Cooley

P.S. Ike, write me who was elected U.S. Senator. Also have my Chronicle sent to Muscogee.


Muscogee, Fla. June 19, 1881
Mr. I.P. Howard
Dear Sir:
       I seat myself to write you a few lines hoping they will find you and family well. I am well at this times and getting along tolerably well. We have the warmest weather at this time of year that I ever felt. Murcury standing at 96 to 102 Days. Although it is not so oppressive in the shade as one might expect. Generally have a good breeze from the gulf. I have been up in Ala. about business for the Company, got home Saturday morning. Had a good time with the Alabainians.
       Ike, how is crops in Tennessee? have you got out a full Tob crop or not. My Tob. seed did not come up. I guess the soil was too dry and Sandy for them. This Country looks like Starvation. Haven’t seen 4 acres in cultivation. Sawing timber and getting logs is all the laboring class can depend on. This part of Florida is not very attractive. No tropical fruits of any consequence. Winter too severe for them. Write me word how all the neighbors are getting along especially Mrs. Becca Riggins and family. Sorry to hear of Mr. Riggins death. I guess A.L. Cherry administered on his estate did he not. how is uncle Buck getting along. I guess this is about his time of year to have the hystericks. What is Willie Riggins doing. I guess he is farming at the Burchette Place as he would rather do that than anything else. How is John getting along. Is his foot nearly well or not. Sorry he happened to such bad accident. Although I am thankful it is no more.
       Ike, sell my horse for what you can get for him blind or not blind. If you cannot get the cash Sell him on time. I spent a day or two in Pensacola last month. It is a pretty city. The part of the city that was burnt down has been rebuilt and is the best building in the city. From all accounts it is the worst mixed up Town in the South. I think there are more Spainards and Creoles than anything else. I think if a bridge over the harbor------. Although I am no judge you can count 50 to 150 -----in all parts of the globe. Write soon and let me hear from you.
J.R. Cooley
P.S. This Company sells a great many goods. I sell myself Some days $450.00 Dollars worth.


Muscogee, Fl
Feb. 16, 1882
Mr. I.P. Howard
Dear Sir:

       I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines although I have neglected to answer your letter for so long that I am almost ashamed to do so. But will promise to be more punctual in the future.
       I am well and doing as well as I could expect. I am getting fifty Dollars per month. Still Clerking for the same Company. One reason I have not answered your letter is because I have been trying to get a leaf of absence for a Short time to come home but I can’t unless I give up my Clerkship. This I do not feel disposed to do at present.
       Ike, tell the children howdy for me and I will be up to see them Christmas or sooner, provided I live and keep my health.
       We have Scarlet fever very bad here in Muscogee. Wes family have been been down with it too but I think the children are out of danger now. [Wes is Joesph’s half brother, Wesley Daniel Booth. Joe’s mother Mary T. Pollard Cooley married second, Wesley Daniel Booth, Sr. after her first husband, Thomas F. Cooley died in a gunfight.]
       Ike, Jim Osborn is down here at work for this company. He worked like a Negro for about a week. Now he is night watchman. Watches the Store and follows the train out of Muscogee for fear of an accident from fire. Why did he leave home? He begs us not to write anything about him.
       How is Uncle Buck’s family. Are they all well? Did Willie go to Texas or not? I guess not if Uncle Buck could keep him at home.
       How is Dave and Miss Blanche getting along? Does still teach Singing school yet or not? Tell him to write to me if he feels like it and let me know if he is dead or alive.
       Ike, write me Soon and give me all the neighborhood news.Excuse all mistakes and bad writing. And answer soon.
Your Friend
J.R. Cooley


Muscogee, Fl.
Aug. 26, 1882
Mr. I.P. Howard
Dear Sir,

       Your welcome letter at hand I am glad that you are all well. I am well and enjoying better health than I have in a long time. I have gained ten pounds in flesh Since I got back home.
       I am glad to hear that you were not beaten in your district for magistrate as there was a certain faction that prayed for your defeat. I guess they think now that they are not the ------or cannot elect who they please.
       Ike, please send me a copy of your new Clarksville [newspaper] for that paper [date] I only get one Side of the Question from the Nashville American and Chronicle. I do not think that General Bates will get 200 votes. The Chronicle gives Mulligan fits.
       Well I hope you all elect your ticket although Mulligan now -------neither one would be my choice if I had a voice in your election. It looks like you all could find better timber in Montgomery Co. for the legislator [sic] Write Soon and let me know all the general news.
J.R. Cooley


Muscogee, Fl.
Dec. 22, 1882
Mr. I.P. Howard
Dear Sir:

       Yours of the 18th at hand and I am glad to hear that all is well. I am well at the present and quit Muscogee this morning. Will leave for Pensacola this morning. Do not know what I Shall do next. I may come home soon. Do not know for certain.
       We have been cooped up during the epidemic and have not been able to get any mail but a Short while ago all my Papers come in a bunch at one time and after the election was over. We Tennesseans down here were all for Gen. Bate[s] and highly elated over his election. I guess the Chronicle and Tobacco Leaf are badly wilted Since Fussell’s defeat and will follow as small a faction as the Bailey and & Howell E. Jackson Party soon. I am glad to hear that Montgomery county has redeemed and throwed off the tyranical yoke of depotism. we thought that Montgomery would elect the Sky Blue ticket.
       I am sorry to hear of Uncle Buck’s death which was very unexpected to me. I am Confident that his days were Shortened by looking at the dark side of all Questions and taking trouble to heart before it came.
       Well I will close for the present. Give my best wishes to all friends and write soon.
J.R. Cooley


Muscogee, Fl.
September 26, 1882
Dear sir:
       As I have not had an answer to my last letter to you I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know that I am well at this time. hoping that when these few lines come to hand they will find you and family well.
       We have been under Strict Quarentine one month and got no mail. The muscogeean does not come with the mail train but is carried to Pensacola where it will remain till the yellow fever is froze out. The yellow fever has spread with alarming rapidity in Pensacola. This week 250 new cases and 31 dead. Mortality has been very light comparatively speaking to What it was in Memphis in 1878. I do not think it has been over 10 percent.
       All roads leading to this place are guarded at night and day. By so doing I do not think it will get here.There are four cases in Oakfield eleven miles from this place. I think it was carried there by refugees from Pensacola.
       Ike, you need not answer this letter for it will go to Pensacola and I would not get for a month. Will write to you Soon again.
Yours very respectfully
J.R. Cooley


Pensacola Fl.
Oct. 9, 1884
Mr. I.P. Howard Dear Sir,
       I take my pen in hand to write a few lines and when they come to hand hope they will find you all well.
       I am well at present and getting along as well as could be expected. although it is Said to be the dullest time ever Witnessed in Pensacola think things will brighten up soon as there are a good many ships chartered for Pensacola and entering daily. I think business will open up soon.
       Ike, you wrote me that you sold my horse for fifty dollars. I think you well to get that much for him as he is blind.
       I want you to Settle my account with the Clarksville Democrat. I get an average of one paper a month. Take out Fifteen Dollars for Ella and Rena and Send remainder in Registered letter to Pensacola. Give my regards to all inquiring friends and write soon.
Yours Respectfully
J.R. Cooley


Pensacola, Fla. Dec. 22, 1884
Mr. I.P. Howard
       Your letter of the ---at hand. It Seems to me that S. Buckley don’t want to pay that note ---to interest. make him pay it and as soon as you get this letter go to see him and say I want my money as soon as it can be sent to me. and if he does not pay it ---the law on him. I guess he does not want to pay the interest. If I had waited too long he would object to paying anything. Try and --- --- ---Sueing him for I need the money now but if he does not pay it warrent him at once. If you do collect it pay yourself and send it direct immediately.
       Where is Charles Booth? Is he employed? I would write for him but I am afraid of Yellow fever here this summer. If you do see him tell him I will be ready for him this fall if he wants to come to Pensacola. I have not received a copy of my paper yet. I am well.
J.R. Cooley


Aug. 7, 1882
Dear Sir:
       This leaves all well. The Election is over and all quiet again. We had a very hard time over the Magistrates Election all through the County. there were 18 of the old magistrates beaten. I come through with 52 ahead of the foremost man on the track. Clint Young headed that Same old Gang against me. He bought negroes and told lies and Run the Courthouse Question on me & Comer Stone & Tyler and everything that was unfair but I had some good friends that Rallied around me and threw hot Shot into their rankes. Just me and A. Darnell back and & Ben Dodd, Willy Riggins, A.J. Riggins, Chilton and the Meacham boys & Clarence Cherry & host of others. D.M. Buck was a candidate & got 45 votes. S.E. Garrard 47, W.K. Cummings 35, Pew [Pugh] Haynes 74, & one Dave Johnson 7, and I got 126.

       Sam Garrard withdrew some months before the election, but Clint thought D.M. could not beat me & he talked Sam out about a week before the Election & was badly beaten. If Sam had stayed on track all the time he would been elected easily. My friends would have voted for him, but as it was he didn’t get any of their support. Clint Young and his crowd went back on------and Slaughtered Sam Garrard. I do not think Sam wanted to injure me but wanted to beat Cummings. If Cummings had worked or had someone to work for him he would have beaten him. He never asked a man to vote for him. That was a mighty sick looking crowd that night. Well I hope you got home safe. Write to me.
I. P. Howard.

Notes by Margaret R. Winders:
       Joseph H. Cooley was the brother of Martha Ann Cooley Howard, wife of Isaac Peterson Howard. ~~

       Joseph R. Cooley was the son of Thomas F. Cooley and Mary T. Pollard Cooley. His grandparents were Joseph Henry Pollard, Sr. and Elizabeth Coleman Pollard. Joseph was listed in Joseph Pollard’s will April 1865. After Thomas Cooley died, Mary married Wesley Daniel Booth. The above John Booth was one of their four sons.
A family connection:
       The Isaac Peterson Howard Letters, 1861, and Obituary, 1923, Montgomery County Tennessee.

The following special to the [Clarksville, Tennessee] Chronicle was received from Pensacola, Florida Wednesday evening:

J.R. Cooley was found dead in his store here this morning with his skull crushed by a lick with an ax. His watch and money were gone and the door found ajar. He was found lying on the floor, having been killed while weighing some meat, and was struck from behind. The store is in the outskirts of this city, and nothing was known of the killing until this morning, though he must have been killed early in the night. No clue yet as to the murderer, but the coroner's jury is investigating the case. The deceased was well thought of here and was doing a good business. If the murderer is captured, he will hang for sure.

J.R. Cooley was a native of Montgomery county, having been brought up in the Eighth district. He was a brother to Mrs. Isaac Peterson Howard, and a half brother to John Booth, of St. Bethlehem. He was about 35 years old, and spent nearly all of his life until six years ago, in this county, living several years in New Providence, doing business with J.J. Garrott, S. Buckley and Thomas Riggins. Six years ago he went to Florida where for two years he held a responsible position with Muskeegan Lumber Company before he went into business for himself.

We trust the law will not be thwarted in administering to the murderers the punishment this horrible deed demands.

[Source: Clarksville (Tennessee) Semi- Weekly Tobacco Leaf February 26, 1886]

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