Sampson County, North Carolina

I am a descendant of FLEET COOPER, SR. Of that I am sure. PENELOPE, daughter of his son, FLEET COOPER, JR, was born in 1797 in Sampson County, NC, and was my third great-grandmother. She married Thomas Allen HOWARD and their issue and many of their respective descendants can be found on my HOWARD page at this web site.

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  Information regarding FLEET COOPER, SR, and several generations of his descendants are shown on this page. In some instances this surname was recorded as CUPER, CUPPER, COUPER, COWPER, COOKER and possibly COKER.

Much research and study as been done over scores of years of FLEET COOPER, SR., of Sampson County. Surprisingly to some, but not to this writer, we still know very little about him. On 2 July 1795 he made his will, so we do have some factual evidence of his children and a granddaughter from Fleet himself.

Several years ago, Dick Booth, a good friend, told me that his most important family research tool was to "follow the land." That bit of sage advice has been my guiding light in deciphering the early life of Fleet Cooper, Sr.

The scant knowledge of FLEET COOPER, SR, the progenitor of a great many descendants, has led to a great amount of speculation and incorrect information over the years. It is the purpose of this writer to set the record straight and to differentiate fact from fanciful folklore.


A Case for Fleet Cooper, Sr, A Native of Virginia, Not Philadelphia

MISTAKEN IDENTITY: FLEET COOPER, SR, appears to have been born about 1724 in southeast Virginia. Contrary to many published accounts, there is not one piece of supportable evidence that this FLEET COOPER was born in Philadelphia—or elsewhere, for that matter—to a Benjamin Cooper whose ancestry could be traced back to English royalty. This writer found sufficient extant records that this FLEET COOPER had probable ancestors in Virginia a number of years before his alleged father, Benjamin Cooper, came to North America and settled in Philadelphia.

For a number of years several sources, such as The Heritage of Sampson County: 1784--1984, Murphy Rowe Cooper's book, The Cooper Family--History and Genealogy - 1681-1931, and more recently a publication by Oscar & Virginia Bizzell entitled, Revolutionary War Records of Duplin & Sampson Counties, have contained information indicating that Fleet COOPER, SR, was born about 1721 in Philadelphia, PA, the eldest son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Kelly COOPER. These reports go on to state that Benjamin moved his family to Isle of Wight County about 1725 and shortly afterwards to Loudoun County, VA. It was here, some unsubstantiated sources state, that Fleet spent his youth and married Marguerite COORE. Moreover, some researchers have provided information suggesting that this Benjamin COOPER has been traced back to English royalty. In studying the assertion that Fleet COOPER, SR, later of Sampson County, NC, was a son of Benjamin of Philadelphia, it appears to me that all of the aforementioned publications have relied primarily on the same source: Murphy Rowe Cooper's 1931 book, THE COOPER FAMILY HISTORY and GENEALOGY 1681-1931 . That is unfortunate, for I believe the author was grossly in error with respect to the ancestry of Fleet COOPER, SR, of Sampson County, NC, and many readers have blindly accepted his information as accurate and continue to disseminate it in numerous messages and web pages on the Internet. I was informed in July 2001 by a grandson of Murphy Rowe Cooper that the author died in 1959 and none of the heirs knows of the whereabouts of his backup material of his book. Furthermore, the grandson stated that his grandfather was an amateur family researcher. How sad that is.


Do You Know That Fleet Cooper, Sr, ...

  • was NOT a son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Kelly Cooper?

  • was NOT born in Philadelphia?

  • very likely was born in Nansemond Co., VA?

  • likely was named for Fleet, the surname of his possible  maternal grandparents in southeastern Virginia?

  • likely was a son of a Fleet Cooper or a John Cooper of southeastern Virginia?

  • never lived in Loudoun Co, VA?

  • did not marry Margureite Coore in Loudoun Co, VA, but very likely in Nansemond County, VA?

  • has no confirming evidence of his death in 1795?

  • likely was incapacitated by a stroke prior to making his mark (X), though he was literate, on his will 2 July 1795?

  • likely died after the 1800 census and before Nov. 1802?

  • left no confirming evidence of the times he served as a court justice, rather than his son, Fleet Cooper, Jr.?

Most of the foregoing questions stand in contrast to much long-standing family lore stemming from two publications of the 1930s. Here, I have attempted to set forth the results of my many years of research and study of Fleet Cooper, Sr., which refute much of this family lore that has misconstrued the truth of this Sampson County ancestor and patriot.

Please read on for detailed explanations of my findings that prompted the foregoing questions. Refer to the INDEX on the top, left side of this page for easy navigation to and from several main topics.

If you have any comments or questions, e-mail this writer at FamilyTree@johncroom.com


My studies suggest that the allegation that Fleet COOPER, SR, who died about 1801 in Sampson County, NC,  was a son of Benjamin COOPER of Philadelphia hangs by a very thin thread. I believe the primary source for this assertion has been The Cooper Family, which was written by Murphy Rowe Cooper and  published in 1931. According to the author, his material largely was obtained from interviews with several Cooper descendants.  Philadelphia records confirm that a James COOPER of that city had a son named Benjamin and that this Benjamin married Elizabeth KELLY on 28 Nov 1720. The author cited no sources, however, for his statement that this Benjamin COOPER was the father of Fleet COOPER who ultimately lived and died in Sampson County, NC. Nor did the author provide any clues as to why he stated that it was this same Benjamin who moved to Isle of Wight County, VA, and received in 1725 a patent for 100 acres in Surry County, VA. As revealed later on this page, this writer found a copy of the original deed that proves conclusively that Mr. Murphy Rowe Cooper selected the wrong Benjamin Cooper as the recipient of the 1725 land patent.

Another event seems to have added more momentum to the acceptance by many of the information set forth by Murphy Rowe Cooper in his book. Prior to her marriage, Mrs. Columbus Marion WINN was Mary Elizabeth COOPER, born 1867 in Rocky Comfort, AR, a daughter of Simon COOPER. A membership application to the Magna Charta Dames Society was submitted by Mrs. WINN and approved sometime during the 1930s. The threshold for acceptable levels of proof was much less stringent in those days, certainly so for the NSDAR, and very likely for the Magna Charta Dames Society. Her application claimed that her father Simon was a son of John who was a son of George, born 1740 in Loudoun County, Virginia, and died shortly before 12 Oct 1826 when his will was probated in Cole County, Missouri. She stated that this George was a son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Kelly COOPER of Philadelphia and that Benjamin owned land in Moreland Township, Montgomery County, PA. Some family searchers have posted on the Internet forums that this George was a younger brother of Fleet. I have reviewed Murphy Rowe Cooper's book from cover to cover and read the entries in John Wurt's Magna Charta, Volume VII, for Mrs. WINN. Neither of those publications gives any indication that George had a brother named Fleet. In fact, the Cooper book does not even suggest that Benjamin had a son named George.

It is my belief that Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Cooper Winn mistakenly concluded that her great-grandfather George was a son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Kelly COOPER of Philadelphia. George's father very well may have been named Benjamin. I have learned that there were several COOPER families living concurrently in VA and NC in that period with a father named Benjamin and a son named George. All that aside, it is not my purpose here to attack the credibility of Mrs. Winn's claim of her ancestry to the Benjamin of Philadelphia. I do, however, have reasons that are displayed further down this page for concluding that there is no factual basis for tying Fleet COOPER, SR, to Benjamin and Elizabeth Kelly COOPER.

For some time I have vainly searched for documentation that Fleet COOPER, SR, was a son of the Benjamin COOPER who married Elizabeth KELLY in Philadelphia Christ Church on 28 Nov 1720. I know of no evidence listing a son named Fleet born to this Philadelphia couple. In fact, I know of NO RECORDS that list any issue of this Benjamin and Elizabeth COOPER. All we have is the statement of Mary Elizabeth Cooper Winn which apparently was based on her memory of the memory of her grandparents who were relying on the memory of their grandparents.  Sadly, some correspondents have taken issue with me, mistakenly accepting information submitted to the LDS Pedigree files as unassailable truth. The LDS does not warrant the accuracy of those submitted files and indeed alerts viewers to that fact. Not one of those files points to a record supporting the names of the issue of Benjamin and Elizabeth Kelly COOPER of Philadelphia.


I have read the COOPER ancestral line of Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Cooper WINN that she apparently claimed in her application for membership in the Magna Charta Dames Society. I have found records that support her claim that she was born 1867 in Rocky Comfort, AR, to Simon COOPER who was born in Washington, AR, in 1835. Mrs. WINN claimed that Simon was a son of John COOPER who was born in 1803 in NC and died in 1868 in Little River County, AR. She further stated in her application that John was a son of George COOPER who died in Cole County, MO, shortly before his will was probated 12 Oct 1826.

Now this is the sticky part. Mrs. WINN stated that her great-grandfather George was born in 1740 in Loudoun County, VA, a son of Benjamin and Elizabeth COOPER of Philadelphia. Based primarily, if not solely, on Mrs. Winn's application, author John Wurts states in his book, Magna Charta, Part VII, that George COOPER, who was living in North Carolina in 1803 when his son John was born, moved his family to Missouri via Kentucky about 1808 in the company of Col. Benjamin COOPER and his sons and grandsons. Whether this is true or not, I do not know. My study of a book entitled, "Revolutionary War Soldiers Buried in Missouri," reveals that a Lt. Colonel Benjamin A. COOPER, born 25 Jan 1753 in Culpeper County, VA, died 5 Nov 1841 in Saline County, MO. The book reveals that he had service as a private and a spy while serving in South Carolina. Curiously, however, the book's biographical information for Col. Benjamin COOPER concludes with the statement that "(h)is residence during the Revolutionary War was in Virginia." It is puzzling to me that he would have lived briefly in North Carolina and then gone to Missouri with George in 1808. Culpeper County to Kentucky to Missouri makes a lot more sense.

I also noted a biographical piece in the same book for a Jesse COOPER who was born in 1760 and reared in Culpeper County, VA. Jesse married in 1782 in Kentucky a niece of Daniel Boone and later moved to Missouri where he died in Boone County in 1822.

Based on my research that includes the aforementioned information, I am of the opinion that there has been some confusion as to the George COOPER whom Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Cooper WINN claimed was her great-grandfather. Perhaps he was a son of a Benjamin, but was it the one from Philadelphia? There were a number of men named Benjamin COOPER who had sons named George. If this George was a son of Benjamin of Philadelphia, I am not convinced that Benjamin and/or George lived in North Carolina.

A posting by Mrs. Betty K. Price on the GenWeb asserts that the  1740 Chowan County Vestry Minutes entry, "Fleete COOPER a poor Boy which is now Lame,"(see my discussion of these records further down this page) represents the first known appearance in North Carolina of  Fleet COOPER, SR, later of Sampson County. The same posting maintains that this Fleet was the son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Kelly COOPER of Philadelphia who by 1740 or thereabouts were living in Loudoun County, VA, but offers no proof.

A few years ago, I asked Mrs. Betty K. Price, former editor of My Heritage is Cooper, if she could direct me to some documentation that my FLEET COOPER, SR., indeed was a son of Benjamin COOPER of Philadelphia. She responded in an email to me that to her knowledge there was not any written evidence. Here is an excerpt of what she sent me:

"The only proof that I was ever able to find was the lineage of Mrs. Marion Columbus Winn (Mary Elizabeth Cooper) in the Volume of Magna Charta Dames members. You can find these records in your local library or on inter-library loan. She was a descendant from George, brother of Fleet Sr. sons of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Kelly) Cooper. She was born back in the early 1800s and her grandparents were still living in her childhood who remembered who their grandparents were. I don't have my records where I have all that right at hand. But without this information, there doesn't seem to be any documented proof of Fleet Sr's  father. (The highlighting is my own. JHC) Mrs. Winn supplied a lot of research for the Cooper Family book I have been told.  Betty."

A careful review of both the Murphy Rowe Cooper book and the record of Mrs. Winn in John Wurts' Magna Charta, Part VII, should lead any open-minded reader to conclude that proof is sorely lacking for tying FLEET COOPER, SR., to Benjamin COOPER of Philadelphia. The Magna Charta information provided by Mrs. Winn hardly qualifies as "documented proof." In the face of contrary circumstantial evidence, are we to accept the words of one woman who late in life recalls her family ancestors, all based on what she might have learned as a child from her grandparents of what they in turn recalled hearing from their grandparents?

My studies have provided sufficient information for me to conclude that FLEET COOPER, SR, WAS NOT A SON OF BENJAMIN OF PHILADELPHIA. I believe Fleet's ancestry can be traced to COOPER families in southeastern Virginia, but not to the Benjamin of Philadelphia that so many claim. Contrary to implied statements of Murphy Rowe Cooper in his book, the COOPER name can be traced back to the earliest settlers of Virginia. Furthermore, I have found records of COOPERS living in Virginia decades before James, the father of Benjamin, came to America and shortly afterwards to Philadelphia.


MANY BENJAMINS: Comments on the name Benjamin COOPER are presented here for the reason that so many people for so long have held to the notion that Fleet COOPER, SR, was a son of a Benjamin COOPER and that this particular Benjamin lived in Virginia during most or all of Fleet's youth. Recognizing that there may be some foundation in this name association, I have sought the identity and lineage of a number of males of this name who appear in Colonial Virginia and North Carolina records.

  • Surry County, VA, records indicate that in 1711-1712 a Benjamin COOPER was chided for not attending church.
  • Benjamin COOPER of Isle of Wight Co; 100 acs (N.L.), Surry County, ss of Nottoway River and ss of Racoon Swamp, 24 Mar 1725, 10 Shill.
  • Records for a Benjamin COOPER who made his mark with an "O" have been found in Southampton County, VA, as late as 1757 (Southampton was formed from Isle of Wight in 1749). A Benjamin COOPER who made the same "O" mark wrote his will in Granville County, NC, in 1759. His will made no mention of a Fleet, nor have I found that given name among his descendants. It's noteworthy that this Benjamin had sons named William, Benjamin, James, John and George.
  • A Surry Co, VA deed dated 20 Oct 1747 reveals a Benjamin COOPER (mark "O") of Isle of Wight, VA, granting land to a James COOPER, of Surry Co, VA, said land being the same that a Benjamin COOPER had patented in 1725. A deed dated 7 Jan 1754 and recorded in Surry Co. VA on 15 Jan 1754 reveals James COOPER and wife Elizabeth COOPER selling the same land to John RICHARDSON JR. of Brunswick Co, VA. This sale by Benjamin "O" COOPER appears to refute the assertion by Murphy Rowe Cooper that Benjamin of Philadelphia received this 1725 patent. More recently DNA tests reveal no close matches male descendants of this Benjamin "O" Cooper and male descendants of Fleet Cooper, Sr. of Sampson County, NC.
  • Among heirs named in his 1732 will, Wm. COOPER of Lower Norfolk County, listed a son, Benjamin. This Benjamin remained in that county as late as 1765. He does not appear to have been the father of my Fleet COOPER; however, I have not ruled him out of consideration. Of note, other sons were: Joseph, John, Edward, George, James and Jacob, all given names similar to those attributed by some to the Philadelphia COOPER family. The Norfolk County COOPER family appears to have been well established and of some means. Most sons lived on nearby plantations and William the father owned a mill which he willed to Benjamin after the death of his sons' mother.
  • A William COOPER named a son Benjamin in his will which was proved in Southampton Co, VA 12 Aug 1762. Others named were wife Mary and sons James, Demsey, John and Jesse. To date, I have not tracked down each of these sons.
  • Others named Benjamin COOPER have been found in several NC counties, most notably one who wrote his will on 11 Mar 1784 in Bladen County. While no evidence suggests he was a father of Fleet of Sampson County, it is possible that this line of COOPER families in nearby by Bladen County could have contributed to some mistaken identifications.
  • And finally, this interesting tid-bit: In a Pennsylvania publication listing "Landholders of Philadelphia County, 1734," can be found a Benjamen (sic) COOPER, 100 (acres?) and a Patrick KELLY, 100. Another 1720 record shows that Benjamin, son of James, owned land in Moorland Manor. We note that Moreland Township is now in Montgomery County which was formed from Philadelphia County in 1784. Is it possible that Benjamin COOPER left Philadelphia for Virginia later than some have suggested? Do we know for a fact that Benjamin the son of James ever left PA? It certainly appears to me that Benjamin Cooper of Philadelphia was NOT in Isle of Wight in 1725, as asserted by Murphy Rowe COOPER. And if that is the case, it further weakens arguments that he was the father of Fleet.

Benjamin Cooper
Bladen County, NC

  • 1753: Benjamin COOPER got 640 ac. on Hollingsworth Cr. off the N.W. Cape Fear R.
  • 1763: Bladen County Taxpayers List included Benjamin COOPER, George COOPER, Isaac COOPER and Joseph COOPER.
  • 1784: Bladen Co. abstract of will by BENJAMIN COOPER reveals: Elizabeth LOCK (sister); Benjamin, Joseph and William COOPER, (grandsons). Other Bladen County records indicate that these grandsons were children of son Joseph COOPER, that Benjamin had another son Thomas, and possibly another sister named Rebecca who married Leonard LOCK.
  • 1799: Abstract of will by JOSEPH COOPER, Mary (wife), William, Benjamin and Joseph. [These are grandsons of Benjamin. See 1784 will abstract.]

Who was this Benjamin? Where did he come from? Who were his parents?

Some have speculated that this Benjamin was born in Philadelphia, a son of James COOPER, the same James COOPER who some allege also was the grandfather of Fleet COOPER, SR. This Benjamin does not stack up as the son of James of Philadelphia. In his 1784 will, Benjamin of Bladen mentioned a sister Elizabeth. In his 1731/32 will, James of Philadelphia listed his living issue which did not include an Elizabeth. Benjamin of Bladen appears to have had a sister named Rebecca; however, records reveal Rebecca, the daughter of James of Philadelphia, died in 1755. The Benjamin of Bladen does not appear to be the son of James COOPER of Philadelphia.

Was the George COOPER listed as a 1763 Bladen County taxpayer a brother or a son of Benjamin? Was this the same George who was later listed in the 1790, 1800 and 1810 censuses of nearby Duplin County, who later died in Missouri in 1826 and, according to Mary Elizabeth Cooper Winn, was her great-grandfather?

From records, I believe this Benjamin and his sons were in Craven before coming to Bladen. Was Benjamin of Bladen related to Fleet COOPER, SR, of Sampson County? This writer does not believe so.

So far, I have found no evidence tying any Benjamin COOPER to a Fleet COOPER as a father or a brother. To my knowledge, Fleet COOPER, SR, had no sons named Benjamin or James, somewhat of a departure of the then conventional naming patterns, if his father had been named Benjamin and his grandfather named James. Conversely, Fleet named sons John, Fleet, William and Coore. The last obviously was in recognition of his wife's family. Was Fleet's father a John, a Fleet or a William? I am aware that Fleet's son William named a son Benjamin; however, by that time, many families used this popular Biblical given name. Viewers are invited to share their thoughts with me on this matter.


COOPER & FLEET FAMILIES: Virginia patents and grants, as well as several other records that I have reviewed, suggest to me that Fleet COOPER, SR, most likely was born in southeastern Virginia. It appears possible that he was the same Fleet COOPER of Nansemond County, VA, who sold land along the Blackwater River on 9 Mar 1757, which he had purchased in Feb 1745. Of particular interest is a Fleet COOPER living in Elizabeth City County, VA, who was fined by the Court 19 February 1718 for not attending church. Also in the same county a Fleet COOPER witnessed the will of Robert BRIGHT on 19 Jan 1723/23. (Note: In 1645/6 the southwestern portion of Elizabeth City County became Nansemond County). Very likely these two of the same name and living in relatively close proximity were related, possibly as uncle and nephew or father and son. I am aware of an even earlier Virginia record which links the "widow FLEET" and a Jno. COOPER and his wife as grantors in a 1675 Gloucester County deed. This record strongly suggests a family relationship of some kind between FLEET and COOPER surnames. This conclusion is further buttressed by several other extant York County, VA, records revealing connections between Anne FLEETE, a widow,  and John COOPER, "attorney of Anne." These documents were recorded between 1665 and 1672. These dates are noteworthy because James COOPER, alleged by some to be the grandfather of Fleet COOPER the Revolutionary War patriot of Sampson County, was not born until 1661 in England and did not come to America before 1682, almost 20 years after Virginia records show  connections of FLEET and COOPER families. James' son Benjamin, who some allege was the father of our FLEET COOPER, later of Sampson County, did not marry in Philadelphia until 1720. IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE ORIGIN OF THE GIVEN NAME OF OUR FLEET COOPER VERY LIKELY CAN BE TRACED TO THIS EARLY FLEET COOPER WHO WAS AN ADULT LIVING IN YORK COUNTY, VIRGINIA IN 1718.

Here are some other interesting records:

  • Vestry Minutes of St. Paul's Parish, Chowan County, NC, 1701-1776," Raymond Parker Fouts:
    The 25 day of October 1740:
    Ordered That the Church warden be allowed for a Doctors Bill or acctt. For a Cure or Trouble with Fleete COOPER a poor Boy which is now Lame.

  • Att a Vestrey mett and Held at The Chappell at Meherin The 10th day of April 1742:
    Ordered that the Ch. Wds. Pay to Doctr. Arthur GOURLEY forty five pounds for his Trouble and Charge in Cureing Fleete COOPER a poore Lame boy.

  • At a Vestry met at the Church in Edenton, Tuesday the 23rd Day of October 1765 Present:
    Ordered that John CHARLTON Be allowed Two pounds fifteen Shillings proclamation for nursing and Burying John COOPER a poor man.

Who was this young Fleete? What happened to this Fleete after he was cured? Was he related to this John COOPER who died as a poor man in Chowan County? Was he related to the several COOPERS living in nearby Northampton County at that time? Where exactly was "The Chappell at Meherin?" I note that the Meherrin River courses through southeastern Virginia and courses through a part of Northampton County before heading in a southerly direction as the eastern boundary of the county. Prior to the formation of Hereford County in 1754, that river was a boundary between Northampton and Chowan counties.

Note: January 15, 2003, this writer received an email from noted author Raymond Parker Fouts in which he  provided the location of "The Chappell at Meherin" and other useful information pertinent to the study of young Fleet COOPER of Chowan County. I am most grateful for the author's response which stated in part: "(the) Chappell of Meherin (refers) to what was then known as 'Meherrin Swamp,' located just to the south side of the community of Sunbury, Gates County, NC. It is now known as 'Raynor Swamp.' " Mr. Fouts reported that a quit-claim deed was granted by Mr. James COSTEN, SR, to the Church Wardens of St. Pauls Parish on 9 Aug 1756 for "...one acre whereon the Chappel now stands..."  We know that the described area was in Chowan until the formation of Gates County in 1778. My inspection of a rare 1733 map revealed the word Chappel, approximately at the location provided by the author, Raymond Fouts.

  • What is young Fleet COOPER, apparently penniless, doing in Chowan County, NC, while his alleged parents are back in northern Virginia, as some continue to assert?
  • Is it reasonable that a penniless, lame boy who was cured by 1742 could be the same Fleet COOPER of nearby Nansemond County, VA, who purchased hundreds of acres of land in Feb 1745 on the west side of the Blackwater River in what is now Southampton County, VA, which he later sold in 1757? If they were the same person, how did the penniless Fleet acquire the means to purchase this land less than three years after being lame? If the two records do not reflect the same person, would not the Fleet COOPER selling land in 1757 more than likely be the same Fleet COOPER who bought land in Johnston County, NC, in 1761? Could not the Fleet Cooper, "poore lame boy" in Chowan County, have been the son of John Cooper, "a poor man," who was buried in the same county? These questions are somewhat rhetorical. Common sense tells me that the FLEET COOPER who sold land in Southampton County, VA, in 1757 is my FLEET COOPER who moved to Dobbs County, North Carolina before 1761 and began acquiring land  in an area that would become the new county of Sampson in 1784.


My review of microfilmed records of Surry County at the Library of Virginia revealed that the 1725 patent to Benjamin COOPER of Isle of Wight was sold by a Benjamin COOPER in 1747 who made his mark with a very distinctive "O," very much like that of Benjamin "O" COOPER who made his will in Granville Co., NC, in 1759. In my mind, that settled it once and for all that the Benjamin COOPER of Philadelphia was not the one who received the Surry land patent while living in Isle of Wight in 1725. I had already discovered a record in Philadelphia County showing a Benjamen (sic) COOPER as a landowner in 1734. That Benjamin was living in the same township as one who purchased land there in 1720 and was reported to be a son of James, presumably the same James who many COOPER descendants wish to claim because of his ties back to Sir George Ashley COOPER and his illustrious ancestry of England. My confirmation further helps to explain why I have long had  difficulty understanding the odd migration pattern of Benjamin of Philadelphia, as initially reported by Murphy Rowe Cooper in his 1931 book. It seems strange to me that Benjamin would have come from Philadelphia to Isle of Wight in the extreme southeastern part of Virginia, stayed a few years, then moved back up to the northern part of Virginia for a few years, to an area that eventually became Loudoun County, only to be reported later living in Kentucky. Some descendants have even claimed that before Benjamin went to Kentucky, he left Loudoun and went to North Carolina. A strange migration pattern, to say the least. I do not believe that Benjamin of Philadelphia lived in all of those places, certainly not in Isle of Wight County, VA.

Many years ago, I surmised that the Benjamin and Fleet who sold their respective Southampton County properties in 1757 might be related, possibly as brothers or first cousins. The proximity of their respective land holdings and the coincidental 1757 sales suggested that they might be leaving the area for more promising land. That seemed to be the case. If one looks at the names of the offspring of Benjamin "O" and of Fleet, one can immediately grasp the similarities. Benjamin "O" COOPER certainly appears to have followed the then prevalent English naming patterns. Perhaps Fleet also adhered to this practice of naming offspring.

English and Welsh Naming Patterns 1700-1870:
1st son = father's father
2nd son = mother's father
3rd son = father
4th son = father's oldest brother
5th son= father's 2nd oldest brother or mother's oldest brother.

Sons of Benjamin "O" COOPER:
1 - William (father's father?) The 1762 will of a William COOPER of Southampton County named a son Benjamin.
2 - Kennon (Cannon) John CANNON appears to be father-in-law of Benjamin from records.
3 - Benjamin, Jr. (namesake)
4 - James (oldest brother?) The aforementioned will of William COOPER also named a son James. Benjamin "O" sold land in 1747 on ss Racoon Swamp to James COOPER)
5 - John (next oldest brother? father of Fleet?) The aforementioned will of William COOPER also named a son John

Turning to Fleet COOPER, SR, his named sons do not fall as neatly into the aforementioned naming pattern. A possible explanation includes: (1) records do not clearly confirm the dates of birth of sons John and Coore. One source estimates that John was born about 1748; however, it is possible that he was born after Fleet. Coore's estimated DOB is 1754, but it could have been earlier. (2) we should consider the possibility that one or more named sons could have died while very young, thus contributing to an apparent departure from the customary naming pattern of sons.

Sons of Fleet Cooper, Sr:

  1. John (father's father?)

  2. Fleet (father?) If Fleet was born before John, could he be named for a grandfather named Fleet, the Fleet Cooper who was an adult in 1718 in Elizabeth City County?

  3. William (father's oldest brother?)

  4. Coore (mother's father?)

In keeping with the then conventional naming patterns, I suspect  that a John COOPER very likely was the father of Fleet and a William COOPER, brother of John, was the father of Benjamin "O." Circumstantial evidence suggests to me that Fleet and Benjamin "O" were first cousins. This relationship certainly could have given rise over several generations to the mistaken belief that Fleet's father was a Benjamin. Another intriguing possibility is that Fleet's father was the Fleet COOPER who was an adult in 1718 in Elizabeth City, VA. (Read afore-mentioned interesting records.)

As previously stated, information pertaining to the ancestry of FLEET COOPER, SR, which appears in the Heritage of Sampson County, My Heritage is Cooper, Bizzells' Revolutionary War Records for Duplin and Sampson Counties and on many Internet bulletin boards, is not confirmed by any known facts and in this writer's judgment is incorrect.

My studies have convinced me that Fleet and Benjamin "O" were NOT sons of Benjamin and Elizabeth Kelly COOPER of Philadelphia. More likely, as previously stated, a John or Fleet COOPER was the father of Fleet, and a William COOPER, brother of John, was the father of Benjamin "O." Recent DNA tests offer compelling evidence that Fleet Cooper of Sampson County, NC, and Benjamin "O" Cooper of Granville County, NC, were not closely related.


COORE FAMILIES: According to Murphy Rowe Cooper in his 1931 book, Fleet COOPER married Marguerite COORE in 1747 in Loudoun County, VA, where the Benjamin COOPER of Philadelphia had moved his family from Isle of Wight County, VA. I believe this is plain WRONG! I have found no evidence that this COORE (CORE) family ever lived in Loudoun County, certainly not in the time frame of the approximate dates of birth and marriage of Fleet COOPER, later of Sampson County, NC. To the contrary, records clearly show the ownership of lands in Nansemond County, VA, only one-half mile from the NC border by several CORE families, including a Henry COREon the 1704 Nansemond Quit Rent Rolls and one Thomas CORE who later purchased land in 1750 in Northampton County, NC. Additionally, I have found no evidence that a Fleet COOPER or a CORE/COORE were ever in Loudoun County. Another source states that the marriage took place in Northampton County, NC, the final home of Thomas CORE (COORE), father of Marguerite. This most likely is closer to the truth, although I feel it is more likely that Fleet COOPER married Marguerite about 1747 in Nansemond County, VA,  a county that records clearly reveal was the home of Thomas CORE (COORE) and several other members of the CORE family for a number of years. Nansemond County, VA, records reveal that Thomas CORE, Senior, and Junior, lived near Henry CORE, about two and one-half miles east of the Blackwater River and only one-half mile from the VA border with Northampton County, NC. Henry CORE very likely was the father of Thomas and records show that he had owned land in Nansemond as far back as 1704. (Note: In 1749 Southampton County was formed largely from Isle of Wight. Later a small piece of the extreme southwestern corner of Nansemond was annexed by Southampton. It was in this annexed area that the CORE families lived.) Further buttressing the likelihood that Thomas was a son of Henry CORE is the fact that his son, Thomas CORE (COORE), Junior, named a son, HENRY COORE. Thomas CORE (COORE), Senior, lived in Nansemond County Virginia as late as 1746, purchased land a few miles south in Northampton County, NC, in 1750 and was a resident there when he died between 26 Oct 1751 and May 1752.

In his 1751 will, Thomas COREspelled COORE in his willnamed his wife, "Margitt Core," and two sons and four daughters, among whom was "Margett Cooper." Shortly after Thomas' death, records indicate that his two sons, Thomas, Jr, and Arthur, purchased land in Johnston County, NC, more particularly in an area that eventually became Dobbs and Wayne counties. So did Fleet COOPER. To this writer it is clear from this trail of land records that Fleet COOPER, SR, was affiliated with these CORE (COORE) family members, formerly of Northampton Co., NC, and prior to that, of Nansemond Co., VA.

(this section last updated 4 June 2010)

FLEET COOPER, SR, was born before 1724 in VA and died after he made his will 2 July  1795. It was produced for probate in Sampson County Court by Fleet COOPER, JR,  on 2 Nov 1802. This interlude of seven years poses a mystery. When did Fleet COOPER, SR. die? Some have long argued that he died in 1795. Go on this page to WHEN DID FLEET COOPER, SR, DIE? and read this writer's conclusions.

When did Fleet COOPER, SR. last serve as a Justice on the Sampson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions? Court records reveal that a Fleet COOPER was serving as a Justice as late as 11 Nov 1799. Was that Fleet Senior? Or was that Fleet Junior? Or was  Fleet Junior appointed to succeed his father on the Court? Fleet COOPER, Junior, is found a number of times in Sampson County Court records. Go on this page to WHICH FLEET WAS A COURT JUSTICE? and read my conclusions.

Fleet Cooper, Senior, married before 1750, most likely in Nansemond Co, VA, Marguerite COORE, born about 1726, most likely in Nansemond Co, VA, and died between 1790 and 2 July 1795 in Sampson County, NC. The earliest court record I have found of Fleet's arrival in North Carolina is one dated 20 Oct 1761  in Dobbs County in which "Flat" Cooper enters 100 acres on a branch of Little River "...between his own line and Arthur Core..." This indicates that Fleet already had secured land in the county sometime earlier. Another Dobbs County record the following year reveals that he purchased 200 acres on the Great Coharie in what is now Sampson County. It is my judgment that the timing of these land purchases in North Carolina ties nicely to the sale of lands by a Fleet COOPER in Virginia in 1757. It is noteworthy that no further record has been found to my knowledge of a Fleet COOPER living in Virginia after 1757. It certainly does appear that the Fleet Cooper of Virginia and the later Fleet Cooper of Johnston & Dobbs counties are one and the same.

Fleet COOPER, Senior, was one of 25 to sign the "Oath of Allegiance & Abjuration" which renounced the Crown and Parliament. This act effectively placed a death warrant on his head. It has been commonly reported that Fleet COOPER, SR, was appointed Judge of the first court in Sampson County. Some evidence, as previously presented, suggests that his son, Fleet COOPER, JR, may have succeeded his father. Fleet and Marguerite COOPER were parents of four sons and three daughters. Fleet COOPER, SR, prepared his will 2 Jul 1795. Although a number of extant records reveal the signature of Fleet COOPER, SR., it is noteworthy that he did not sign his will, but placed his mark (X). We know from earlier records that he was literate. Was he incapacitated, perhaps a victim of a stroke? Fleet COOPER, SR, most likely died in late 1801 or early 1802 in Sampson County, NC. Fleet COOPER, JR, presented his father's will to the Court 2 Nov 1802 for probate.

 Fleet and Marguerite COOPER, SR, had the following issue:

  1. John, b abt 1748?, most likely in VA, d abt 31 Oct 1791 Sampson Co.; m abt 1760 Zylphia WILLIAMS, dau of John & Pricilla WILLIAMS; their issue: 3 sons & 5 daus.
  2. Fleet, Jr., b abt 1750?, d 28 Jan, 1828 in Sampson Co; m 1777 Sarah "Sallie" SCOTT, b 1756 and died 15 Mar 1826 Sampson County. Fleet COOPER, Jr. was a farmer and a Baptist minister for 50 years. He was a chaplain in the Revolutionary War. Fleet and Sarah had the following issue, all born in what is now Sampson County, NC:

    1. Elizabeth, b 1779, d 1848; m 1796 Jonathan POPE. 3 sons & 5 daus.
    2. Wilson, b 1780, d 1857; m Mary "Polly" SMITH
    3. John, b 1782, d 1832, m Rebecca TAYLOR
    4. Jacob, b 1783, d 1826; m 1798 Sallie BUTLER. 4 sons.
    5. Mary, b 1783, d aft 1860 Sampson Co.; m 1st Charles BUTLER, Jr., b abt 1775, d abt 1820. 2 sons & 2 daus; m 2nd Solomon Sessoms, Jr.
    6. Daniel, b 1785, d 1851; m 1812 Zilpah STEPHENS
    7. Sarah, b abt 1790, likely m abt 1811 in Sampson Co, Henry PORTER, a widower with a very young daughter.
    8. Nancy, b 1793, d 1878; m Hiram BLACKBURN
    9. Penelope, b 1797; d 16 Apr 1881 Sampson Co; m Mar 1817 Thomas Allen HOWARD, b 1791 and died in Sampson Co. on 7 Mar 1875. Click here to view the issue of Thomas Allen and Penelope Cooper Howard.
    10. Dicey, b 1798, d 1879 Salemburg, NC; m 1822 Martin HOWARD (brother of Thomas Allen; both sons of Minson Brough HOWARD & his wife, Ann WILLIAMS.) Issue of Dicey & Martin HOWARD: 4 sons & 3 daus.
    11. Rhoda Scott, b 1802, d 1862; m 1829 Hardy D. BENNETT

  3. William, b 1752, d 14 Dec 1821 Bogue Chitto, MS; m 1st bef 1790 name unknown who died in NC bef 1814. They had a son, Fleet, b abt 1790. In 1814, William moved to Lawrence County, MS where he served as a Baptist minister. His son Fleet also was a minister in the same county. William m 2nd in MS Martha THAMES.
  4. Coore, b abt 1754?, d bef 4 Dec 1826; m 10 Mar 1788 Duplin Co. Esther MAGEE. 2 sons & 2 daus.
  5. Elizabeth, b 1759, d 13 Jul 1825 Monroe Co, AL; m William WIGGINS, b 1755, d 1819 Monroe Co, AL. 8 sons.
  6. Mary, b abt 1758, m John William PETERSON (Note: looking for proof of his given name.)
  7. Grace, b abt 1760, m Lewis HOLMES


DEATH of FLEET COOPER, SR: An excerpt from the Heritage of Sampson County, 1784-1984, reads: "A bronze plaque at Concord Crossroads on High 24, 6 miles west of Clinton reads: "Fleet Cooper, Sr. 1722-1795; Civil Officer; Judge, Court of Common Pleas, First Court in Sampson; Signer of Oath of Allegiance and Abjuration for Duplin County; Wed Margureite Coore 1747 and had issue: John, Fleet, Jr., William, Coore, Elizabeth, Mary and Grace." To the best of my knowledge, no extant record sets forth FLEET SR’s year of death. My purpose here is to set forth reasons why I believe FLEET COOPER, SR, lived beyond 1795.

The federal census for 1790 listed the following Cooper names in Sampson County:

  • Coor Cooper: 2 FWM1 16 & over; 2 FWF2; total 4
  • Fleet Cooper: 3 FWM under 16; 1 FWM 16 & over; 4 FWF; 1 Slave; total 8
  • John Cooper: 3 FWM under 16; 1 FWM 16 & over; 5 FWF; total 9
  • William Cooper: 3 FWM under 16; 2 FWM 16 & over; 3 FWF; total 8
           1 Free White Male
           2 Free White Female

 For years I accepted Fleet Cooper, Sr, as the one appearing in the 1790 Federal Census for Sampson County. Upon more recent study, I have concluded that the Fleet Cooper listed more likely is Fleet Cooper, Jr. All of the children match. An inspection of Coore Cooper, son of Fleet, Sr, in the 1790 census reveals 2 white males over 16 and 2 white females. This is interesting data, given the fact that Coore Cooper was first married in 1788 and had no children until 1792.

 In the Federal 1800 Sampson County Census, Coore Cooper’s household looks like this:

 FWM: 1 <10; 1 26-44; 2 45 & over;

 FWF   2 <10; 1 16-25; 1 26-44

In the 1800 census, all of the sons of FLEET COOPER, SR, are accounted for, including son JOHN who died in 1791. What is interesting about the census for COORE COOPER, is the presence of 2 FWM 45 & over. Coore Cooper’s oldest son is about 8 years of age in 1800. One could hypothesize that the extra male 45 and over is a father-in-law or a brother-in-law; however, I think a more reasonable explanation would be that the additional male was FLEET COOPER, SR., the same one who was in the 1790 census for COOPER. Though FLEET, SR, wrote his will in 1795, there have been many instances where a person did not die until years after his will was made. FLEET COOPER, JR, for example, made his will in February1816 but did not die until January 1828.

 Now, before I comment on my analysis of those two census enumerations for COORE COOPER, I recite FLEET COOPER, SR’S
 2 July 1795 will:

Will of Fleet Cooper, Sr. as recorded in “The Cooper Family” by Murphy Rowe Cooper, printed by Garrett and Massie Incorporated, Richmond, Virginia. Copyright: 1931.

In the name of God, Amen.
I, Fleet Cooper, Senior of the county of Sampson and state of North Carolina, being of sound mind and memory, calling to mind the mortality of my body, do make and ordain this, my last will and testament in the following manner and form:

First: I give to the estate of my son John Cooper, deceased. one cow and calf, he having received part of his legacy in his lifetime.

Likewise to my son Fleet Cooper 136 acres of land where he now lives.

Likewise to my son William Cooper 150 acres of land where he now lives and all the land I own on Sheppard’s Branch.

Likewise to my son Coore Cooper the tract of land that I bought of James Bennett and Henry Easterling and 150 acres joining the same; and 150 acres of land at the White Pond and head of the Great Branch.

Likewise to my daughter ELIZABETH WIGGINS I give five shillings, she having already received her legacy.

Likewise to my daughter Mary Peterson I give five shillings, she having already received as aforesaid.

Likewise to my daughter Grace Holmes I give five shillings, she also having received as aforesaid.

Likewise to Polly Holmes, daughter of the said Grace Holmes, seventy five acres of land where the said Grace now lives the right vested in the said Polly after the death of her mother, the said Grace, who is to have her lifetime on the said land.

And all the rest of my property I leave to my son, Coore Cooper; and each legacy to each of the legatees as before mentioned, to them their theirs(sic) and assigns forever.

And I, the said Fleet Cooper, Senior, acknowledge this and no other to be my last will and testament.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal; this 2nd day of July, 1795.
Fleet Cooper, Jr.
William Cooper
Abner Fort.
See Will Book 8, p. 255, Clinton, NC
North Carolina
Sampson County

This is to certify that the above is a true and correct copy of the will of Fleet Cooper, Sr., as recorded in the Clerk’s Office of Sampson County, in Book No. 8, at page 255, Clinton, NC
This August 5th, 1930
Clerk seal imprinted
J.M. Page
Clerk, Superior Court.

 In her Sampson County Abstracts, 1784-1900, Elizabeth Ross noted that Fleet Cooper, Senior, made his mark: Fleet (X) Cooper. We know from an earlier deed that Fleet, Sr, could sign his name. Consequently, I have concluded that Fleet apparently was incapacitated by a stroke, perhaps occurring much earlier than 2 July 1795 when he wrote his will.

From his will, we see that Fleet gave land to two of his surviving sons “where he now lives.” To son Coore, he gave a parcel of land and “all of the rest of my property.” From this and the 1790 Census, it seems to me that Coore Cooper was acting as the head of the household in the old family place where he was raised and his father and mother were living in the household in 1790.

At the time Fleet Cooper, Sr, made his will 2 July 1795, it appears that his wife, Margarite Coore Cooper had died.

I have examined the 1790 Sampson County census information for Fleet Cooper and it appears more likely to be that of Fleet Cooper, Junior, than of the father. If that be the case, where then does Fleet Cooper, Senior, appear in the 1790 census?

It is conjectural on my part, but I believe Fleet Cooper, Sr's will and the 1790 and 1800 censuses support the proposition that Coore Cooper, who married 10 March 1788 Esther McGee, had continued living in the family home after his marriage. They did not have their first child until about 1792. Of course, it is possible that Fleet Cooper, Sr, was in the household of his son William Cooper in 1790; however, my analysis of 1790 census records for both brothers in conjunction with Fleet's will, weigh more heavily towards Coore Cooper.

To the best of my knowledge, no extant record sets forth FLEET SR’s year of death. I have never found any mention of a grave stone or marker for FLEET COOPER, SR. It seems that most published accounts I have seen implied that FLEET, SR, died shortly after writing his will. Without some evidence, I think that is a faulty assumption.

So, at this point I think it is more likely that FLEET COOPER, SR, dictated his will 2 July 1795 when he was incapacitated, most likely from a stroke. His wife, MARGUERITE, had died between 1790 and the time he made his will. FLEET died shortly after the 1800 census at the home he had given to his son, COORE COOPER. FLEET'S prolonged incapacitation and death late in 1801 or 1802 would explain why FLEET COOPER, JR, a knowledgeable man about the ways of the court, did not produce his father's will for probate until November 1802.


When Did Fleet Cooper Die?

Can anyone lead this writer to proof that Fleet Cooper, Sr, of Sampson County NC, died in 1795, as some have alleged?

If so, please





COURT JUSTICE FLEET COOPER? Answering the question: Which Fleet Cooper served in the Sampson County Court from its inception in 1784 until November 1799? has been a challenge.  Minutes of the Sampson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions reflect the attendance of FLEET COOPER as a justice at the very first session on 21 June 1784 and at least 52 additional times before the last time on 11 November 1799.  I have studied three scenarios:

  • Scenario 1:FLEET COOPER SR, was appointed by the Governor in 1784 to be one of the charter justices of the new Sampson County, Court. He served until becoming incapacitated, some time before 2 July 1795,the date FLEET COOPER, SR, wrote his will. FLEET appeared in Court once during the November 1795 term and, apparently due to illness, did not appear again until the February term in 1797. He continued to appear as a justice until 11 November 1799.
  • Scenario 2: It is important to note that some court minutes are missing from the end of the May term and the beginning of the August term for 1794. Possibly, the missing court minutes reflected that FLEET COOPER, JR, was appointed as a justice to replace his incapacitated father as a justice of the Sampson Court.
  • Scenario 3: FLEET COOPER, SR, never served as a justice of the Court. His son, FLEET COOPER, JR, was appointed by the Governor in 1784 and Fleet served as a justice until 1799.

Scenario 1 seems the least likely of the three. The court records after July 1795 reflect the appearance of a FLEET COOPER a number of time until November 1799. Moreover, the Court commissions FLEET COOPER numerous times to make surveys and make lists of those who owe taxes.  A FLEET COOPER makes a number of court appearances to prove deeds and wills. This is work for a younger man, not an older one who has been severely ill. So it would seem a stretch to suggest that FLEET COOPER, SR, continued his duties as a justice of the court after he wrote his will.

I know that this will anger some Cooper descendants, especially in Sampson County, but I now believe it is probable that the missing court minutes in 1794 recorded the retirement of FLEET COOPER, SR, for ill health and the appointment of his son, FLEET COOPER, JR, as a justice of the court. Of course, it all seems possible that Fleet Cooper, Jr, the well-known Baptist pastor, was the one who was appointed by the Governor and appeared as a justice in the Sampson Court between 1784 and 1799.  Take your choice.


On this page much information has been displayed concerning FLEET COOPER, SR, who was born very likely in southeastern Virginia and died in Sampson County, NC. While many questions still demand firm proof, it is this writer's hope that enough evidence has been presented to at least gain an acknowledgment that much of what has been published over many decades about the life of FLEET COOPER, SR, is suspect and in many cases plain incorrect. In all fairness to the many descendants of this patriot, fanciful folklore should not obscure the search for the truth.


If you have any information which can add siblings to the above listed Cooper families, fill in missing dates and places, and especially, direct me to some proof of the parents of Fleet COOPER, Senior, I would be quite pleased to hear from you.






This page was last revised on 30 October 2014

© Copyright 1995-2017 by John H. Croom, all rights reserved.


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