Cabin attracts aunt, niece on family search

PARKERSBURG – A Virginia woman and her niece from Iowa were in Parkersburg over the weekend looking for family connections which led them to the Henry Cooper Log Cabin Museum on Sunday.

Many visitors came to the log cabin museum in City Park for the annual Henry Cooper Day to enjoy tours and refreshments.

The Centennial Chapter of the Daughters of American Pioneers, which operates the museum, greeted guests and answered questions as people made their way through the two-story building looking at the various items on display.

The cabin, which was originally built in 1804 by Henry Cooper, has been a local landmark for years. Henry Cooper Day is the official beginning of the summer season for the museum.

A couple of visitors Sunday included Kathryn Jane Renick of Palmyra, Va., and Ann Rathe of Waverly, Iowa. The aunt and niece were in the area looking up family connections.

“We are here looking for anyone with any information on my grandfather, Albert Jenkins Cooper, who was born in 1860,” Renick said. “We have no records at all of his siblings, where they lived, how they lived or how they made their livelihood.

“We are hoping we can fill in some of the blanks in the family tree.”

They were also looking for connections for her mother, Helen E. (Cooper) Hamrick, who had five brothers but none of them had any children.

“We are trying to piece together what our family was like and what our own history was.”

Renick had recently placed a classified ad in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel asking “Are You My Cousin?” looking for those family connections in the local area.

She knew she was directly related to the original Henry Cooper who is her great-great-grandfather. A year ago she was doing some genealogy research, but wasn’t getting too far with traditional searches. Finally, she typed in “Henry Cooper Parkersburg, West Virginia” on Google and one of the first matches was a past story on Henry Cooper Day and the museum in The News and Sentinel.

She called organizers to make sure it was going to be occurring this year. Rathe said she and her aunt have been to Parkersburg before and never knew the family connection of the cabin.

“I had been here, but never been inside,” she said.

Renick remembers visiting relatives in the area when she was younger but did not remember a lot of the details. She has read other accounts of the area in writings of other family members.

“It is just wonderful to be there and see these places come alive that I have only read about,” she said.

Renick said they have gotten the chance to meet with relatives on the Cooper side and through the Bailey line, going back to John Adams Bailey, around Parkersburg and Lubeck. They toured parts of Parkersburg where her mother lived. Her mother graduated from Parkersburg High School in 1921 and went on to teach school here.

“Parkersburg people are wonderful, warm people who are so eager to help,” Renick said. “Over the last few months, I have been in touch with Carey Clevenger who works at the (Parkersburg/Wood County Public) library in the genealogy section.

“He has searched for things and sent me pictures and an article about when my mother graduated from high school that listed her as an Honors graduate.”

Renick has also been in contact with Paul Borelli of Art Craft Studio who sent her a picture of the elementary school where her mother went to school. The building is now gone and that was the only representation they could get.

Bob Enoch, president of the Wood County Historical Society, found a copy of a high school yearbook that had her mother in it and sent it to her.

“The library did not have a copy of that yearbook and he found one for me,” Renick said. “People have been so generous with their time.

“People have been very helpful. This trip has been absolutely worthwhile.”

Rathe agreed.

“We have been so grateful to everyone,” she said. “People have been very helpful.”

Rathe has been to the Parkersburg area a lot growing up, but had never been able to tour the cabin before.

“I was excited to see pictures of my great-great-grandfather,” she said. “It was very special.

“We are appreciative of the people who have been keeping this alive. It is nice for us to come visit. I think it is great.”

Going into the cabin for the first time, Renick said she was fascinated by the bed because that is where her ancestors slept, the cradle because that is where they put their children and the grandfather clock that belonged to her family.

“It is wonderful,” she said.

Renick credited the Daughters of American Pioneers with preserving everything for those who are interested.

“They put a lot of time and effort into this,” she said.

Renick and Rathe are planning to go to Mineral Wells and see where the cabin originally stood.

The Henry Cooper Log Cabin originally stood on Elizabeth Pike in the Mineral Wells area. Henry Cooper of Virginia built the cabin on a plot of ground which consisted of several hundred acres over 200 years ago in 1805.

In August 1910, the city of Parkersburg purchased the cabin for $400 from Cooper descendants F.L. Barnett and M.L. Lemasters to be preserved as a specimen of early architecture of the white settlers in the region. It is believed to be the first two-story cabin in the local area. The cabin was dismantled log by log and rebuilt at its current location in City Park.

The cabin is divided into two sections. The first floor houses items from 1800 to 1865, including furniture, toys, cooking utensils and more. The second floor houses items from the Victorian era, from 1865 to 1910, including dolls, furniture, clothes and other items.

Renick and Rathe, who came to Parkersburg on Friday, will conclude their trip on Tuesday.

“We are spending a good chunk of time here, because it is important to us to understand more about our family,” Renick said.