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Dawson W. Cooley is president of the Oxford Bank in Sumner County. His home has been in Kansas for upwards of half a century, and while his years have been chiefly employed in the banking business, he has also identified himself with various other enterprises for the good and upbuilding of this state.
Mr. Cooley is one of the surviving veterans of the great Union army during the Civil war. He served during the first two years of that struggle in one of the noted regiments of New York State. His enlistment was in Company C of the Ninth New York Volunteer Infantry, known as the Hawkins Zouaves. It was a two-year regiment, and its arduous service was indicated by mention of the more prominent battles in which it was engaged, as follows: Big Bethel, Virginia, the capture of Hatteras on Roanoke Island, Elizabeth City, Newbern, Camden, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Suffolk. Mr. Cooley was with his regiment in all these movements and campaigns, and at the expiration of his enlistment returned home and for a short time was in the employ of the Erie Railway Company. He then went to Nashville, Tennessee, and was in the military railroad service of the Federal Government until the close of the war.
He was born on a farm near Attica in Wyoming County, New York, August 11, 1839, being the oldest of the five children of John B. Weltha A. (Winchester) Cooley. His parents were also natives of New York State. His grandfather, Grove Cooley, came from Connecticut into eastern New York and later removed to the western part of the state, being one of the first settlers on the Holland purchase. Mr. Dawson W. Cooley owns the old land warrant which was written from Amsterdam. John B. Cooley followed farming and in later years the commission business. From New York State he went to northern Wisconsin, and for a time was captain of a steamboat on some of the rivers. He was a very successful business man, and was always ready to give his time and energies to any public good in his community. After the war he removed to Brookfield, Missouri, where he was a merchant, but subsequently retired and died at Rogers, Arkansas, in 1888. His wife survived him and died at Buffalo, New York, in 1905, at the home of her youngest daughter. John B. Cooley was a very active Methodist.
Up to the time he enlisted in the army Dawson W. Cooley lived at home in New York State and gained an education in the local schools. After the war he engaged in business at Brookfield, Missouri. In 1869, after the opening of the Osage Indian reserve in Kansas, he started with Captain L. C. Myers and a Mr. Pettijohn and traveled overland from Brookfield in covered wagons into southeastern Kansas. They were two weeks on the road. Mr. Cooley took a claim adjoining what is now called the City of Wellington. The government surveyor was just engaged at that time in laying out the chief lines marking the county boundaries. Mr. Cooley went through all the vicissitudes of pioneering in Kansas. He and his young wife lived on a claim of 160 acres seven years and in spite of hard times, grasshoppers and droughts he managed to prosper. On leaving the farm he spent three years as a traveling representative for a Quincy shoe factory, and he then located at Oxford in Sumner County.
For more than thirty years Mr. Cooley has been successfully engaged in banking. In 1883 he organized the Oxford Bank, was its cashier for thirteen years and has since been president. This is one of the strongest banks in a town of its size in the state, and its creditable record expresses at every point the personality, the integrity and the thorough business ability of Mr. Cooley. When movements have been launched in Oxford and Sumner County for some community enterprise, they have always had Mr. Cooley’s advice and practical assistance.
He could not be called a politician in any sense of the term, though he has consistently supported the democratic party for many years. His chief service in any office has been on the school board. For half a century he has been identified with the Masonic order, is a member of the Knight Templar Commandery at Wellington, served as master of his lodge for eighteen years, and is an honorary member of the Thirty-second degree Consistory No. 2 at Wichita. He and his wife are also active in the Eastern Star.
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In 1870 Mr. Cooley married for his first wife Estelle Temple, who was born in New York State and died at Oxford in 1885. In 1886 he married Annie Milner, who came from Ohio. Mr. and Mrs. Cooley have no children. Mrs. Cooley is connected with the various activities of the Methodist Church and is well known socially in Oxford. The Sunday School has always found her one of the leading workers. Outside of his bank and some town property Mr. Cooley owns 800 acres of farming land, and this is operated by renters.