Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Houseboat Hooky: Martha Justine Cooper Heagy


I had a wonderful time with my grandpa Ebert Heagy going through some of his original old photos and documents. One of the treasures we unearthed was a notebook ledger that contained some family and personal history written by his grandma, Martha Justine Cooper Heagy, in 1942. It was fun to learn more about her, even if she only wrote a few pages. We took some digital photos of the journal pages and I uploaded them onto footnote.com, if anyone would like to read them in their entirety or print them out.
I also included this family picture of Grandma Martha as a Mom, but there is a picture of her as a sassy-looking young lady that I like much better, in a frame on the bookshelf at Grandpa's house, and I forgot to take a photo of that one!!! Maybe someone will take pity and email it to me? I don't know who all of the people are in this picture and am too lazy to look it up right now, but the Dad is Charles Samuel Heagy (He looks a bit like my Uncle Scott to me, who even used to wear a mustache in the 80s.) The striking young man behind him is my Great-Grandpa Charles Aaron Samuel Heagy, who I've already written a little about.
(Me>mom>Grandpa Heagy> Charles Aaron Samuel Heagy>Martha Justine Cooper Heagy)

Here is a little of what she says about her father, Thomas Benton Cooper's unusual livelihood.

His mother [Emily Coffin Cooper] hired him out to a shoe maker to sit all day on a bench making shoes. After working at it for a while he decided it was not the life for him; so he ran away from home and went to Chicago where he found work on boats that moved on the Ill. and Michigan Canal and on the Ill. river. He later owned three fleets of boats and a good freight business.

Apparently that was good enough for Martha's mother, Swedish immigrant Christina Bloom, because she married him when she was 17 and he was about 23.

She later went to Peoria to work, where she met my father, Thos. Cooper, and they were married there when she was seventeen yrs old.

They lived on one or the other of their boats for 41 (forty one) years, and all we children were born there. Lydia, Fred, Martha lived to be old. Gilmore lived eighteen months old. Aaron Peter eight yrs old and John Vincent five yrs old. Aaron and Vincent died one week apart of diphtheria in 1885 [when Martha was about 20].

My fathers boats used to be loaded with corn or oats or clay at different towns along the Ill river and canal and taken to Chicago, and lumber or hard coal taken from Chicago to towns on the route from spring till fall.

When freezing weather came the boats would stop at some town and we children would go to school.

We enjoyed only five months of school each year until we were old enough to board away from our parents.


I remember always liking a picture book of a little girl who lived on a houseboat that I think Grandpa Heagy used to have at his house. I never dreamed that his Grandma was a little girl just like that! My mom told me not long ago that she always liked visiting the Heagy side of the family as a little girl--that they were a hoot. I wonder if they got some of their fun from this girl who played hooky every year?




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