(Transcribed and unedited excerpt from a story written by WPA (Works Projects Administration) writer, Susan Russell.
The Cooper coffin and the strange duel from
Chief Oo Liska, of the Chickasaws
Written ca. 1938 by
Colbert County, Alabama
It was rare for the Chickasaws to make a pale face an honorary chief, but this title was conferred on William Cooper, by the Indians, who called him Oo Liska, meaning “Double Eyes,” because he wore glasses. He was also appointed their “Counsel Man” (lawyer) in 1832.
A character of his day, Cooper lived in a large and comfortable home at East Third and High Streets, which today is in a splendid state of preservation and occupied by the Carl Rands. Mrs. Rand tells a story she declares to be true that happened in a room on the second floor, reserved by William Cooper for himself. (NOTE BY TRANSCRIBER OF THIS STORY – This location of William Cooper’s house by The National Register of Historic Places for Tuscumbia, Alabama records William Cooper’s home as: 401 E^ Sixth Street (William Cooper House); c. 1825; one and one-half story frame. Only example in district of tidewater type cottage with full length inset porch. Full length shed dormer on side facing gable roof, front facing gable extension at side, shed extension at rear, prominent end chimney.
William Cooper, noted Alabama jurist and legislator, lived in this house, Tuscumbia, Alabama, photographer Carol Highsmith 2010, (Library of Congress)
A very large man, weighing almost 200 pounds, he had premonition his coffin was going to be too small, and he wanted a comfortable fit, “for I’ve got to stay in it so long.” Cooper order a coffin of mahogany, from Huntsville, taking the dimensions himself. When it arrived, he decided to “fit it on.” It proved too small, so he sent it back, this time ordering a black walnut coffin, made according to the dimensions taken by a tailor. This time the coffin was satisfactory. It was filled with apples, and thus used as a place of storage until the time when the coffin was used to serve its intended purpose.
The Inns and houses of entertainment in Tuscumbia, in 1824 were scenes of many unexplainable events. One of them began on Christmas Day in 1823 when there appeared at a log house Inn a tall stranger, dressed the part of a gentleman. He was unaccompanied by a servant, and carried a small bag, which he carefully guarded. The man engaged two rooms, a most unusual occurrence for a lone traveler.
Two days later, on the northbound stage, a second stranger cordially welcomed by the first, arrived and was given the extra room. The two seemed to be inseparable companions.
Log cabin that once served as a stage coach stop, Tuscumbia, Alabama, photographer Carol Highsmith 2010 (Library of Congress)
New Year’s morning the pair invited the landlord and a few of his friends to accompany them for pistol practice, This frequently happened for diversions were few. The party went to the lowlands where the waters of Spring Creek and Big Creek converged. There they stopped short. The first stranger announced: “Gentlemen, this is an affair of honor. I want one of you to act as my second, and one as the referee.” The second stranger made a similar request.
The referee called” “Ready” and the duelists took their places. “Aim,” and the weapons were raised with steady hands. “Fire.” Two reports sounded as one – and both men fell dead.
The witnesses searched the bodies for some identification but found only a note in the coat pocket of each man addressed to the landlord of the hotel requesting that in case of death, the body be buried where the duelist fell. Spectators complied with the request.
In 1930, laborers excavating at this point, unearthed the two skeletons, and in each coffin was a pistol.
Prior to statehood, Alabama was a vast wilderness with a large Native American population. It is only natural that when new immigrants from other states arrived, conflicts over the land would arise. Soon, these small conflicts exploded into war.
Alabama Footprints Confrontation is a collection of lost and forgotten stories that reveals why and how the confrontation between the Native American population and settlers developed into the Creek-Indian War as well as stories of the bravery and heroism of participants from both sides.
Some stores include:
- Tecumseh Causes Earthquake
- Terrified Settlers Abandon Farms
- Survivor Stories From Fort Mims Massacre
- Hillabee Massacre
- Threat of Starvation Men Turn To Mutiny
- Red Eagle After The War