Benjamin Cooper was the grandson of William Cooper, the first Englishman to settle in Camden. The house he built in 1734 was one of only two pre-Revolutionary War structures to survive standing and undamaged in 2012. Occupied as late as 2010, the owners of the property left the building unsecured and the City of Camden’s policy of non-prosecution of squatters, trespassers, and vandals allowed this building to be infested by undesirables. This historic building was set on fire on the morning of November 22, 2012—Thanksgiving Day—and heavily damaged.
The Benjamin Cooper house was built in 1734. It’s history goes back over 50 years prior to that date. Benjamin Cooper was the grandson of William Cooper, the second Englishman on record as having settled in Camden.
The first known settlements on the Delaware River within the limits of Camden were made by Richard Arnold and William Cooper. Before the land they located had been surveyed to them and before the Dublin colony, composed mostly of English Friends who had fled from England to Dublin to avoid persecution, had located inland from the river between Newton and Coopers Creeks. It would appear from the order given below that the number of Friends living along the river was sufficient to warrant the yearly meeting held at Thomas Gardiner’s house, in Burlington, the 5th of Seventh Month (September), 1681, to grant permission, as follows:
“Ordered that Friends of Pyne Point have a meeting on every Fourth day, and to begin at the Second hour, at Richard Arnold’s House.”
The Richard Arnold here mentioned lived on the riverbank, a short distance above the mouth of Newton Creek, although he did not receive title until March 1, 1702, when two hundred acres were surveyed to him. His house is marked on the map made by Thomas Sharp in 1700. He sold this building the same year to Martin Jarvis, who had purchased the year previous two hundred and twenty-two acres of the adjoining land bounding on Coopers Creek. The name of Arnold disappears from this time in the history of the territory now Camden County.
The next resident on the site of Camden, so far as known, was William Cooper. He was born in England in 1632, and for many years prior to his emigration had resided at Coleshill, in the parish of Amersham, county of Hertford, where, early in the history of the Society of Friends, he became a convinced member of that religious body. He is styled in various deeds and in his will as “Yeoman.” Upperside Monthly Meeting, to which he belonged, contained within its limits the home of William Penn, whose projects for a settlement on the Delaware thus became well known to its members, and William Cooper, attracted by the prospects, and wearied by religious persecution at home, concluded to emigrate thither in the early part of 1679, with his wife, Margaret, and five children. He brought with him a certificate from Upperside Monthly Meeting, setting forth “that the said William Cooper and Margaret, his wife, having lived in these parts for many years, ever since the first of their convincement, have walked conscientiously and honorably amongst us, agreeably to the profession and testimony of truth, according to the best of our observation and knowledge of them.”
He arrived at Burlington in the spring or summer of 1679, and soon after located fifty acres of land within the town limits, and had the same surveyed and returned to himself by deed dated October 5, 1680. On this land he built his first home and temporarily settled his family. During the same year, no doubt conversant with the project of planting a city near Shackamaxon (now Kensington, Philadelphia), he located a tract of three hundred acres immediately opposite, at the junction of the Delaware with Aroches Creek, which now bears his name, and obtained a certificate for the same from the commissioners June 12, 1682. He built his second house and established his family on a high bank above Coopers Point, called by him Pyne Point, from a dense pine forest which then grew there. This site is now washed away and is near where Fifth Street touches the river. “The remains of this house,” says Mickle, writing in 1844, “were visible a few years ago.” It was built, according to reliable family tradition, of brown sand-stone, which, no doubt, was quarried at Pea Shore, north of the creek. It had a stone portico, and a door opened out from the second story hall to the roof of the portico. Benjamin Franklin, who was a guest there nearly a century after it was built, styles it “a large house.” His son Joseph, a few years later, built a house a short distance east of his father’s, on the bluff near the creek, and that, too, has disappeared.
On his arrival the place he selected was occupied by a small band of friendly Indians, under a chief named Arasapha. The title to the land on the Delaware between Oldmans Creek and Rancocas Creek had been purchased of the Indians in 1677, but William Cooper extinguished what rights they still might possess at Pyne Point by a conveyance from the chief Arasapha. This deed was a few years ago in the possession of Joseph W. Cooper, but is now unfortunately lost. Intercourse between Shackamaxon, where the pioneers of Penn’s colony, under Fairman, the surveyor, and Markham, the deputy-governor, and Pyne Point had long been established by canoe ferry between the Indian settlements at those places, and the settlers on both sides of the river could therefore well meet together for religious worship.
Treaty of Penn
William Cooper was present at the treaty of Penn with the Indians in 1682 at Shackamaxon, opposite his house. He was chosen one of the members of Assembly from the Third or Irish Tenth in 1682 -83 and also in 1685. In 1687 he was appointed by the Assembly of the province one of the Council of Proprietors. The history of the early settlement of Camden is so interwoven with the acquisition and transfer of land within its limits, largely made by William Cooper and his descendants, that a skeleton genealogical chart of the first four generations is given on page 406 to elucidate the descriptions in this article.
Joseph Cooper (born 1666, died 1731), second son of William, the emigrant, married, 1688, Lydia Riggs, a member of the Philadelphia Meeting of Friends. They resided on Coopers Creek, just east of the residence of his father. They had seven children, – Elizabeth, who married Samuel Mickle and died without issue; Joseph, Jr., who married, first, Mary Hudson, and, second, Hannah Dent; Lydia, who married John Cox and died without issue; Hannah, who married Alexander Morgan; Benjamin, who was three times married: first to Rachel Mickle, secondly to Hannah Carlisle (a widow née Clarke), and thirdly to Elizabeth Burcham (a widow née Cole); Sarah, who married Joshua Raper; and Isaac, who married Hannah Coates.
Joseph Cooper, Sr., son of William, purchased one hundred and sixty-seven acres of land (adjoining the Turner survey) and other lands of Joseph Dole, November 19, 1723, and conveyed the same, January 27, 1728, to his son, Isaac Cooper, who, by will dated in 1765, devised it to his son Marmaduke, who, upon obtaining possession, built the two-story and attic brick building, with extension. This residence still stands on the Haddon pike, near Coopers Creek and west of the Harleigh Cemetery. These lands have also passed to the name Cope.
Joseph Cooper, Sr., received from his father, William, the first settler, by deed dated August 24, 1700, a tract of land of one hundred and sixty-four acres and “his house in which he liveth,” on Coopers Creek, being part of the original survey, and on the 18th of February, 1708, his father conveyed to him two hundred and twelve acres of land at Coopers Point, being the remainder of the original survey, together with all appurtenances, etc., and on the 2d of May, 1728, Joseph Cooper, Sr., conveyed the last-mentioned tract of two hundred and twelve acres to his son, Benjamin Cooper.
Benjamin Cooper, son of Joseph, Sr., was three times married, as heretofore stated. By his first wife (Rachel Mickle) he had two daughters, both of whom married Woods, of Philadelphia. By his second wife (Hannah) there was no issue, and it was during this marriage, or in contemplation of this marriage with Hannah Carlisle, that he erected the brick mansion at the Point, which bears on its gable end the legend, “B. + H.C., 1734.” By his third wife (Elizabeth Cole) he had seven children – Joseph, of Newton, born 1735, married Elizabeth Haines and died childless; Benjamin, of Haddonfield, born 1737, married Prudence Barton; James, of Philadelphia, born 1739, married Sarah Erwin, and, secondly, Hannah Saunders; Samuel, of Newton, born 1744, married Prudence Brown; William, of Waterford, born 1746, married Ann Folwell; Isaac, of Philadelphia, born 1751, married Elizabeth Lippincott; and Elizabeth, born 1756, married George Budd.
The old dwelling-house of Benjamin Cooper, mentioned above, still standing near the corner of Point and Erie Streets, being surrounded by a garden of several acres, was in later years used as a pleasure resort by the old residents of Camden Village, Kaighnton, Dogwoodtown, Fettersville and Coopers Ferry. Many of the old trees and a portion of the shrubbery of this garden may yet be seen, but are now on the property of house-owners in the vicinity. The mansion is built of stone, has two stories and attic, with hip-roof and dormer-windows. The dimensions are twenty-four by forty-five feet, with L extension of stone and brick twenty-four by twenty-seven feet, and on the front and river-side are wide piazzas. There are fifteen large rooms in the mansion. It was used in 1778 by the British General Abercrombie as his headquarters, and when not occupied by their forces, was a favorite target for the practice of the English cannoneers from the Pennsylvania side of the river. In the attic is a red-oak girder cut and splintered by a twelve-pound shot which entered thereof; struck the girder and fell to the floor. This shot is in possession of Samuel C. Cooper, of State Street. This mansion was long the residence of Joseph and Elizabeth (Haines) Cooper, he being the eldest son of Benjamin.
From the early 1900s through at least 1910 the house and surrounding properties were used by the John H. Mathis shipyard and its successor, Camden Ship Repair. The City of Camden posted a web-page stating the building was still occupied by Camden Ship Repair in 1910. Shortly afterwards, the building was abandoned and taken over by criminals.
The two hundred and twelve acres of land which Benjamin obtained from his father, Joseph, Sr., was conveyed by him to his sons Joseph and Samuel, the bulk of the property, one hundred and twenty-two acres, going to Joseph, by deed dated July 31, 1762, but Samuel, in 1769, received in addition forty-four acres, at and near the ferry, together with all ferry rights and privileges, and the next year he built the brick ferry-house, which bears in its gable-walls the initials “S. + P.C., 1770,” which stands for Samuel and Prudence Cooper. Joseph Cooper, son of Benjamin, built upon his one hundred and twenty-two acres, at the Point, the brick house near the river at the head of Third Street. It is constructed of English brick, alternately red and white, and has two stories and an attic, thirty-six by eighteen feet, and contains nine rooms. A lean-to at the rear is fourteen by eighteen and one story high. It contains the remains of the old Dutch bakeoven of the period when the house was built. On the north end, worked in black bricks, is seen the inscription, C I + E 1788 which, interpreted, means Joseph and Elizabeth (Haines) Cooper. The house is popularly known as the ICE-house, and is now dilapidated and unoccupied. Joseph Cooper, by deed dated November 17, 1817, devised the said one hundred and twenty-two acres to his grand-nephew, Joseph W. Cooper, son of William, son of Samuel.
The house built by Samuel Cooper was the second ferry-house built at the Point. It has two stories and an attic, with dormer-windows, built of old English red and black brick, and has a front of sixty-three feet on State Street, with an L extension on the side next to the river, making the entire length seventy-five feet. There are twenty-four large rooms in this mansion, which is still in good condition, has been known as Coopers Point Hotel, and in part is now used as offices of the Camden and Atlantic Railroad Company.
Samuel Cooper, son of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Cole) Cooper, was born Ninth Month 25, 1744, and died Sixth Month 25, 1812. He married, at Evesham Meeting, in 1766, Prudence, daughter of William and Elizabeth (Haines) Brown, of Nottingham, Pa. His wife, Prudence, survived him, and died Eighth Month 14, 1822. For many years they had resided on his farm called “Pleasant View,” now Pavonia, in Stockton township. They had children, – Joseph, born 1767, married Sarah P. Buckley, of New York; William, married Rebecca Wills; Mary, born 1766, married Richard M. Cooper, of Camden; Sarah, married Henry Hull, a minister, of New York; Benjamin, born 1775, married Elizabeth Wills; and Elizabeth, who died unmarried. When Samuel withdrew from business, about 1790, and retired to “Pleasant View,” he turned over the control and management of the upper ferry and the ferry property to his son William, and during the same period the lower ferry, at Cooper Street, was owned and managed by a cousin bearing the same name, – William, the son of Daniel.
William, the manager of the upper ferry, at the Point, was an active business man, and kept pace with the progress of the times in all things that pertained to and facilitated ferrying. In later years he leased the ferry and the ferry-house, and resided in the old brick house on State Street, built in 1789, and now occupied by Mrs. Sarah Gaskill and Rachel Cooper, his daughters. The ferry and the ferry property eventually passed to Joseph W. Cooper, son of the last-named William, who continued it until the property was obtained and incorporated by the Coopers Point Ferry Company. The land lying along the south side of the ferry property was left by William Cooper (son of Samuel), of the upper ferry, to his two grandsons, William and Samuel, the sons of Samuel H. Cooper, who married Hannah Wood, and deceased in year 1827, and before his father, William, who died Ninth Month 27, 1849.
There are plans to renovate the Benjamin Cooper House into the American Revolution Museum of South Jersey by 2026. Here is an Alternate Article via the Courier-Post.
History – Built 1734 by Benjamin Cooper; Present Owner, The Mathis Shipbuilding Company
The Benjamin Cooper House Point and Erie Streets Camden, Camden County, Hew Jersey
The house Benjamin Cooper built in 1734 was one of only two pre-Revolutionary War structures standing and undamaged in 2012.