|Brooks Cooper, Chloe merchant and harness maker, died at the age of 80 in 2005.|
By Bob Weaver
"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
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
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
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
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.