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James Cooper

c1833 - 1911

In February 1855 Able Seaman James Cooper jumped ship at Port Adelaide and headed for the hills or "Tiers" as they were known as in those days. So began a journey on the opposite side of the world, which was to ultimately create a family tree in which we all belong no matter what name we are known by now. This journey was to be filled with lots of hard work and sorrow and very little pleasure.

Very little is known about James Cooper's life, a small part of it can be gleaned from his Obituary in the "Peoples Weekly" of 25-3-1911 reproduced here as an insight into the life of a True Pioneer.


On Tuesday last there passed to his rest a pioneer farmer of the district in the person of Mr. James Cooper. Deceased, who had been in failing health for some time, had reached the mature age of 79 years. He was born at Arbroath, Scotland, and at the age of 22 left his native country in the ship "Rodney" for Australia. On arriving in this state he engaged in farming at the Meadows for a time, but, the New Zealand gold fields rush occurring at that period, he decided to try his fortune in that colony. Subsequently, however he returned to this state, and in 1871 came to Moonta, where for a time he was employed at the "Hamley Mine". Ultimately he took up land on the Maitland road, which proved a profitable undertaking. About nine years ago declining health was responsible for his retirement, and, his wife having died some three years ago, took up residence with his youngest son (Charles) at Nalyappa, where his death occurred. There are left a family of two daughters (Mrs. C. Pett, Sandy Creek, and Mrs. A.P. Harris, Boulder), and three sons (James, Maitland Rd; William, Boulder; and Charles, Nalyappa). There was a good attendance at the funeral on Wednesday afternoon, the Rev J. Colville conducting the service. The funeral arrangements were in the hands of Mr. W. Cowling.

(end of obituary)

There seems to be a discrepancy about the ship "Rodney" as a check of the book held by the South Australian Archives shows James jumped ship from the "Telegraph" although the "Rodney" was in port at the same time. This was a massive book with two rows of names on each page suggesting that this was a common way of getting to Australia. Jumping ship was a serious offence but because the authorities were trying to populate South Australia a blind eye was usually turned to it if the offender kept out of trouble. There were a number of ships called "Rodney"; James may have travelled to New Zealand on one.

As the obituary stated James took up farming at Meadows in the hills, there are records where in 1858 James leased sections 3498,3499,3500 situated on Jupiter Creek near Echunga with a John Cooper. Who was John Cooper? Father or brother? The lease was for fourteen years and the fee was fifty pounds eight shillings a year for the first seven years and seventy-five pounds twelve shillings a year for the last seven years payable half yearly. This would have expired in 1872 yet his obituary states James came to Moonta in 1871. It would seem that James was actually in Moonta before 1871 because His daughter Amelia was born at Moonta in 1867 and daughter Emma was born 1869 at Moonta. John and James Cooper were described as farmers both of the Western Flat Echunga District. (Echunga is near Meadows).

On October 4th 1860 James Cooper married Eliza McCarty at Meadows in the home of Thomas and Amelia Jones.
Certificate No. 376512 book 45 page 279 District of Kondoparinga.

James was aged 26 and his father was John Cooper. Eliza was aged 24 and her father was Pat McCarty. James signed his name, Eliza signed with a cross.

James and Eliza Cooper's first son James was born at Meadows on 16th March 1862.
Certificate no 424359 No 81 of 1862 District of Strathalbyn.

No trace could be found of James going to New Zealand; this is not to say he didn't as he could have traveled steerage in which case no names were recorded. At this stage nothing is known of the land lease or what became of John Cooper, perhaps John took over the lease? Next we find James working at the Hamley Mine in Moonta Mines, in what capacity he was employed is not known.

His profession as listed on the birth certificates is

1867 Amelia's birth profession Carter
1869 Emma's birth profession Laborer
1871 Eliza's birth profession Laborer
1878 Charles' birth profession Laborer
1882 Stanley Pamphilius' birth profession Farmer

James was setting up the farm on the Maitland road at this time and it would be probable that he was clearing the land and selling the timber to the mines for fuel as many others did at that time. James eventually got the farm up and running and according to the obituary it was a profitable undertaking. Here James and Eliza raised their family of eight children, three children pre-deceased them.

The children were James, Catherine, Amelia, Emma, Eliza, William John, Charles and Stanley Pamphilius. Eliza died in 1907 and James' health began to fail and James asked his oldest son James who was in Western Australia at the time to come back to help manage the farm which he did.

By 1902 James' health had reached the point where he could no longer work the farm and he transferred sections 159,160,258 to Charles Cooper and Stanley Pamphilius Cooper. No fee was charged for the land, the land was transferred "In consideration of the love and affection the said James Cooper bears to his sons the said Charles Cooper and Stanley Pamphilius Cooper". The government on the other hand wanted some thing more tangible such as 4 pound and eleven pence, 10 pounds 6 shillings and one pence, 15 pound 4 shillings and 6 pence.

Some time after Eliza died in 1907 James went and lived with his son Charles Cooper at Rothmore, Nalyappa. James died at Nalyappa on 21st March 1911 and is buried in the Cooper family grave at Moonta.

Details on the death certificate are

James Cooper Died : 21-3-1911
Age : 78 years
Profession : Retired Farmer
Usual residence : Section 262 HD of Tiparra
Born : Arbroath Scotland
Place of death : Section 262 HD of Tiparra
How long in Australia : 54 years
Age at marriage : 25 years
Cause of death : Senile Decay

Note. All dates are, as found and not corrected, many don't add up.

James Cooper's farm was on the left hand side of the Maitland road about 6-8km from Moonta on the hill just past the Nalyappa turn off. When we lived at Nalyappa it was owned by Martins, at the present time a family named DG & JM Smith owns it. The original house is now gone but the foundations could still be seen in the sheep yards in the early 90's, I took photos of the foundations but can't lay my hands on them at present.

James eldest son James who married Emily Roberts built the present house. Emily named the property "Valley Grange". In the dictionary "Grange" is a house with farm buildings attached. One thing that puzzled me was that there is an old original shed made up of several smaller sheds joined together (stone & clay), one of these sheds had the inside walls plastered as though someone lived in it at some time. Perhaps James & Eliza lived there before they built their house? Stow Warring told me that his auntie who lived at Weetulta used to stay with James and Eliza so that she could attend school at Moonta Mines.