Daily Journal staff report
The trust of Frances Cooper Wertz has left $38,384 to the Bourbonnais Grove Historical Society.
Cooper Wertz, who was born Dec. 3, 1915 and died Jan. 8, 2018, grew up on the Cooper Pony Farm located at Davis Creek near Route 102, just outside of Bourbonnais.
Cooper Wertz’s great-grandfather, Wesley Cooper, and his younger brother, William, went West during the 1850s Gold Rush and were successful. When Wesley returned, he bought a large parcel of land near Davis Creek and began raising Percheron horses.
Her grandfather, John B. Cooper, later ran the farm and her father, Harry W. Cooper, ran the farm from 1907 until his death in 1969.
As a girl in the 1920s, Cooper Wertz was photographed by Duane Hodgekiss of Powell Studios while sitting on top of a boulder on the farm that was engraved “Last Camp Ground of the Pottawatomie 1859.”
In addition to her bequest check, Cooper Wertz donated the above mentioned framed photograph, a quilt handmade by her mother, Mabelle Cooper, sleigh bells, horse shoes, a photograph of her great-grandfather’s farmhouse and several scrapbooks and historical books to the BGHS.
Cooper Wertz taught at Steuben School in Kankakee and Bradley East Elementary School until her retirement in 1980.
According to BGHS President Jim Paul, “Since Mrs. Cooper Wertz began her teaching career in a one-room schoolhouse in Will County in 1936, it seems appropriate that we honor our benefactor’s memory by allocating some of her bequest check to the restoration of Bourbonnais Grove’s first log schoolhouse (1837-48).”
The next BGHS meeting will be 7 p.m., Aug. 1. At that meeting, members will decide what portion of the bequest check “In Memory of Frances Cooper Wertz” will be allocated to the ongoing log schoolhouse restoration fundraising.
Twelve other charitable organizations also received bequests from Cooper Wertz’s trust.