The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

An Amazing Family Reunion

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1985

Issue: April, 1985

E.D. Patterson and James H. Cooley have been neighbors for years in the Coal Creek Community near Galax, Virginia, but the ties go back much further than that.

The Pattersons and Cooleys both live on property that belonged to their grandparents. (The Cooley property is the same property Elizabeth Cooley lived on when she began her Journal in 1842. Her brother James, was James H. Cooley's grandfather.)

Mr. Patterson has a beautiful grandfather clock that was made by Elizabeth's father. In short, the two families have been neighbors for 150 years.

About five years ago, Mr. Patterson found an old letter written to one of his ancestors in 1871. It mentioned that one of the Cooley family who had gone west, George Cooley, was seen in Brownsville, Oregon. This George Cooley was James Cooley's grandfather's brother, a branch of the family that had lost touch. Although the letter was over 100 years old, James Cooley wrote to the Chamber of Commerce in Brownsville, Oregon asking if there were still Cooley's living in the area.

Not only were there still relatives of the Cooley family in the area, it seems that they had become prominent citizens and very interested in family history.

The direct descendant was quickly traced and the family was united once more.

In 1980, James Cooley and his wife Jesse traveled to Brownsville to meet their long lost relatives. Each of the two branches of the family came prepared with old photographs and an exchange of information. They were amazed at the striking resemblance in this present day generation.

In June of 1980, Linn County, Oregon celebrated their 93rd. Annual Pioneer Picnic. The Brownsville newspaper, "The Times" covered the related events in stories and photographs. James and Jesse Cooley attended this event with their present day relatives, Eugene, Oregon lawyer, David Ramstead and his mother, Ruth Bailey-Ramstead. On the pages of that June 26, 1980 issue of "The Times", another photograph was printed, showing both branches of the Cooley family reunited once more. It documented for future generations a family strong enough to endure centuries. Maybe "temporarily" lost for over a hundred years, but not forgotten.