Delta County Courthouse in Cooper
Location of Cooper, Texas
The city of Cooper /ˈkʊpər/ is the county seat of Delta County, in the U.S. state of Texas. Located between the north and south forks of the Sulphur River, Cooper is the largest settlement within Delta County. As of the U.S. Census of 2010, Cooper had a population of 1,969.
First inhabited by native people, Cooper was founded around 1870, at the same time that Delta County was established. Cooper grew rapidly and it quickly became the center of local events. The city's economy relied primarily on agricultural farming and the shipping of local goods. In the mid-1890s, a railroad line was built through the city, assisting in Cooper's growth. The city continued to grow through the 1910s, and into the early 1920s. In 1926, however, the region's cotton crop failed, devastating the local economy. Many businesses were forced to close, including the railroad, and the city's population plummeted. Although Cooper began to recover during the mid-1930s, many people who left did not return, and the city never fully recovered. The local economy continued to rely on the growing of cotton as the main economy into the 1960s, until it began to shift to wheat growing in the early 1970s. The population of Cooper has been on a slow decline since the 1970s.
Cooper currently has no sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The city's economy still relies largely on agriculture. Cooper is located on the eastern edge of the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex (DFW metroplex), a large, twelve-county metropolitan area, one of the most populated in the country.
Cooper's economy relied heavily on agricultural farming from its founding until the 1950s, especially on the growing of cash crops. In 1880, cotton, corn, sorghum and other crops were grown on over 100,000 acres (40,000 ha) of farmland. The county also produced large quantities of livestock, with almost 3,000 cows and 10,000 hogs grazing on land near Cooper. The logging industry began to grow in the region, and several mills were constructed, producing furniture and lumber. In 1886, the Santa Fe Railway built a line through the county, and the shipping of crops and lumber became a major business in Cooper. During the early 1890s, the livestock industry in Delta County struggled, with the number of hogs being raised dropping to half of what it had been the previous decade. However, the agricultural business boomed, with the number of farms in the area around Cooper increasing to 1,188, and the value of the farms doubled to $1,400 (equivalent to $2,899,100 respectively in 2015) each. The production of cotton tripled, and the poultry industry began to boom. Within the city limits, Cooper housed a hotel, a shoemaker, a grocery store, a wagon maker, feed stores, general stores, drug stores, and several cotton and oat gins. Delta County contained 18 manufacturing establishments, but they only employed 33 people. The average income for someone working in the region was $208 (equivalent to $2,899,108 respectively in 2015).
At the turn of the century, the cotton industry was booming. The crop made up 69% of the agricultural business in the region. Livestock production was booming, as was poultry production, especially chicken. In addition, the shipping of agricultural goods and livestock was the other main business in Cooper. The First National Bank was rebuilt in 1909 and became an important factor in Cooper's economy. In the 1910s, potatoes become an important part of the economy due to the sudden drop in the livestock business. In 1926, the cotton crop failed and Cooper's economy plummeted. Many of Cooper's inhabitants became deep in debt as the price of crops plummeted. The lumber businesses had exhausted the regions resources, forcing most of them to go out of business. Many people moved away to find new work. The local economy stabilized in the mid-1930s, and cotton, potato, and corn production began to rise. The growing of oats, however, had ended. In addition, the railroad going through Cooper had failed a few years before, so the shipping industry in Cooper was struggling. Cotton and alfalfa carried Cooper's economy through the 1950s and 1960s, until the shift to the growing of wheat in the 1970s. Cooper reported 60 businesses in the 1970s, more than half of which were dairies. During the 1980s and 1990s, Cooper's economy shifted to the manufacturing and shipping of local goods, and in 1991, Cooper had 70 businesses.
Currently, Cooper's economy features several unique industries. According to the 2010 Census, the industries in the town (by percentage of employed civilian population 16 years and over) were educational, health and social services at 34.6%, manufacturing at 18.7%, arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services with 13.6%, construction at 10.2%, transportation, warehousing, and utilities at 5.1%, professional, scientific, management, administrative, and waste management services at 4.9%, public administration with 4.3%, retail trade at 3.9%, finance, insurance, real estate, and rental and leasing with 2.0%, other services (except public administration) with 1.6%, and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and mining at 1.0%.
Of the people in the labor force over the age of 16, 679 people (49.3% of the population) were in the civilian work force, while 697 people (50.7% of the population) were not in the labor force at all. At the time of the Census, seventy people (5.1%) were unemployed, with none in the armed forces. Of the 609 employed residents over the age 16, private-sector wage and salary workers accounted for 475 of them (78.0%). One-hundred-nine people (17.9%) were classified as federal government workers, with the self-employed making up 4.1% of the population. No one was classified as an unpaid worker.
The median household income for the city of Cooper was $27,531, with 137 persons (19.7%) in that class of income. One-hundred-twenty-five people (18.0%) identified themselves as retired.
Since its founding, Cooper has served as the center of attractions for Delta County. The city became host to several small schools and churches. In 1955, the construction of Cooper Lake was authorized. In 1986, major work on the lake began, and the lake was finished in 1991. The lake is now the most popular tourist attraction in the area. Boating, swimming, and fishing are available at Cooper Lake. The main fish stocked in the lake are catfish, largemouth bass, and crappie.Along the north shore of the lake is the Doctor's Creek Unit of Cooper Lake State Park. The park contains several picnic areas, campgrounds and a large swimming area on Cooper Lake. The park also contains several hiking and equestrian trails. On the eastern edge of the lake near the Cooper Lake Dam is the Wildlife Observation Deck, a large birdwatching platform. Along the west and northwest shores of the lake is the Cooper Wildlife Management Area. The park was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and protects four unique habitat types. These are wetland, Blackland Prairie, Upland Post Oak, and Bottomland Hardwood. The park contains several hiking trails, as well as birdwatching stations and wildlife viewing areas. The park allows fishing and hunting to visitors if they have a proper license.
Cooper is also host to the annual Chiggerfest. The event, held every October, serves as a social gathering for the region. The two-day event begins with an open-air concert in Historic Cooper Square. Other events include a 5K run/walk and smashing a car. The festival includes numerous street vendors and a children's area. Patterson Memorial County Library is also located in Cooper, as well as a 15-acre (6.1 ha) municipal park, and numerous recreational and community centers, including the historic McKinney Home, the house of Dr. John and May McKinney, which was built in 1912 and later restored by their decedent author Susan Albright Hyde.
The first newspaper published in Cooper was the Delta Courier in 1873. The newspaper, published by Bob Michiel, ran weekly until the mid-1890s. Around the time the publishing of the Delta Courier ended, the People's Cause newspaper began running weekly. This eventually stopped running; however, The Cooper Review began running weekly in 1982.The Cooper Review, run by Jim and Sally Butler, is still published.