Charles Alexander Cooper


Birthplace: Germantown, North Carolina
Residences: Germantown, North Carolina; Salem, North Carolina
Trades: Turner, House Painter
NC Work Locations: Salem, North Carolina
Building Types: Residential
Styles and Forms:

Charles Alexander Cooper was born in Germantown, NC, on March 22nd 1810. His areas of expertise were turner, joiner, and house-painter in Salem, North Carolina. Several buildings in Salem have been attributed to his hands, and several others were built under his advisement until his death in 1866.

There is not much recorded of his early life in Salem. Cooper first shows up in the records as wishing to apprentice under Abraham Steiner to learn the turner’s trade.[1] Cooper is mentioned in the records in between 1821-1831 as a mischievous child who often got up to no good. He wished to become a turner and a joiner in the early 1830s. Cooper found himself initially rebuffed by the town leaders as there were an abundance of joiners in Salem. In 1831 he turned aside his ambitions as a furniture maker and worked as a bar keeper for Salem Tavern for one year.

Questions arose on August 6th 1831 in the records whether or not Cooper had been employed as a house-painter.[2] Upon their discovery they soon granted Cooper a week later permission to pursue this for compensation.[3]

Several buildings were painted at the time, however no records exist to definitively place Cooper at any of these though it is safe to assume he was there.

In 1832 Cooper went back to furniture making. He seemingly did well at his trade. In 1834 purchased a house from the widow Schulz.[4] Cooper intended to expand his operations, and on the 4th of August 1834, Cooper staked out his new shop.[5] This shop shows a trend in Salem of detached businesses and shops, as opposed to the in-residence locations that had been the norm.

1839 saw Cooper plan to build an additional outbuilding to his lot that measured 14 feet, though approved by the Aufseher Collegium, there is no indication this project ever started. In 1841 he made major alterations to his house by adding 20’ to the south end, a second story and a rear porch. Cooper is mentioned several times wishing to add outbuildings to his property, some of which were an added bake oven and a smoke house to his property in September 1851.[6] In 1852 he expanded to a second story to his own shop as well.

An election of the Aufseher Collegium in 1843 saw Cooper elected to the board. On January 10th 1843 Cooper was appointed to be a fire inspector for the town.[7]  On August 18th 1843 he reportedly was advising another turner, Peter Fetter on his turning shop.[8] He also found himself often put into the position in the Collegium of appraising houses, the records mention this several times throughout his life. This displays the trust and the respect Cooper had at his trade and in building.

During the last 20 years of his life Charles Cooper was assigned various tasks within the community. Being responsible for all necessary repairs for the Home Moravian Church was one of these important tasks. He also inspected the Single Sisters Woodshed, to determine whether or not it would need rebuilding.[9]

Charles Cooper passed away in 1866 at the age of 55. Cooper lived a life of service to his community, and left a lasting monument to his life and trade. The Cooper shop was torn down between 1912 and 1917, and reconstructed using period plans. His house was reconstructed in 2010, the latest reconstruction in Salem.

[1] RNC 3478-79

[2] AC 8/6/31

[3] AC 8/20/31

[4] Ibid 4086

[5] Ibid 4134

[6] AC 9/9/51

[7]AC Jan 10 1843

[8] AC 8/18/43

[9] AC 2/10/46