REMEMBERING: CHLOE MERCHANT BROOKS COOPER - Real-Life Harness Maker

(10/13/2017)

Brooks Cooper, Chloe merchant and harness maker, died at the age of 80 in 2005.

By Bob Weaver

(Published 4-25-2001)

"This is a rare plantation jump saddle. I've only seen two of them with a suede leather seat," declared Brooks Cooper, who gave a tour of his harness shop on White Oak (Oka Road) last week.

The 76-year-old Cooper has been making saddles, harnesses and dozens of other specialty items from scratch since 1974. There is little doubt about the quality of his work. Each piece he carefully demonstrates with his hands, the pride of a crafter. Large cuts of raw leather can be found on his work bench.

Cooper makes saddles from scratch

A shop full of leather products

Beyond dozens of hand tools, most of Cooper's equipment is nineteenth century vintage, including the sewing machines and presses to work with leather. "This old Landis #1 sewing machine I got from Leonard Hicks, and I've been using it ever since," he said.

19th. century sewing machine

Cooper, who was born at Nebo, Clay County, went to Ohio in 1961 to work for a spell, but returned to Calhoun to open Cooper's Hardware and General Merchandise at Chloe in 1973.

His son Bob has been running the store in recent years. "He just sold it to John Rose on Oka," he said. "I've stuck with the harness business, moving it up to the house."

He builds from scratch or re-builds old saddles, besides the fancy harness work. "I also do a little furniture, hunting vests, deer horns and seats for lawn mowers and tractors. Sometimes I re-do some truck seats and even have done some covered wagons." He worked on one fancy set of "work" harnesses for three years.

Hunting coat has a built-in seat

"I worked on a set of harnesses for three years"

Cooper said most of his customers come from all over the country. "I ran a big sewing needle through my finger one time," demonstrating the large size of the long sharp instrument. "Had a heck of a time figuring how to get loose from the thing."

He has devised a hunting coat that has a pocket for everything, including a drop-down seat on which to sit. "I think they are making such a thing on the market, but I had the idea a long time ago."

Cooper's wife Genevieve died in 1996. "I take care of the place since she's gone. It's a pretty big job." Ferrell Friend, well-known Clay County columnist for The Charleston Gazette, has visited Cooper a couple of times over the years. He is proud of Friend's pictures, taken several years ago and are displayed around the shop.


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