He never really thought it would come to this. His oldest daughter (one had died as a young child, so now she was his oldest) was leaving home. Not just leaving home, leaving her comfortable home in middle Tennessee, but really leaving! Going to Africa, maybe never to come home. And as a father, he was worried and a bit scared. So, as she left, he wrote her a letter.
Micajah Thomas Cooper was born in 1806 in Rowan County, North Carolina. His family moved to first Cannon County, then Rutherford County, Tennessee by about 1810. They settled in the Woodbury area and then moved south into Rutherford County. In 1829, Micajah married Sarah A. “Sallie” Vincent in Rutherford County. They had twelve children together and lost at least three of the twelve as children. Micajah was a fairly successful farmer. He bought land in Rutherford County, in the Bell Buckle area and grew to have a farm valued at $8000 in 1860, with personal property valued at $15000.
Micajah and Sallie’s daughter, Elizabeth “Bettie” Cooper, was born in 1834. By the fall of 1855 and spring of 1856, she had become quite attached to student at the Union College in nearby Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He was studying to be a preacher, a Baptist preacher. He wanted to share the Gospel not only to the people of middle Tennessee, but across the globe. This student, Jeremiah H. Cason, wanted to be a missionary in the foreign service. And Bettie wanted to serve with him, wherever that service would take him.
Micajah and Sallie raised Bettie to be a devout Christian, but this was never what they saw as her future! The wife of a preacher? A missionary? And Africa? What kind of dangers would she face there? Was this anywhere for a nice Tennessee girl to be?
Bettie and Jere married in July 1856 and by September that year, they boarded a sailing ship for the Yoruba County of Africa (today’s Nigeria). Not knowing whether he would ever see his daughter again, Micajah took pen to paper and wrote them a letter, hoping it would find them before they sailed. In it, he sent them on their way with his blessing, but with more than a little sadness and trepidation.
At Home Aug 10th 1856
My heart was very much gladdened on the reception of your short letter from Augusta and again by a similar one from Richmond. I hasten to write you a few lines which will have to be consise[sic] – first I would say we have tryed[sic] to submit to your departure with all the fortitude we are capable and am happy to say your mother has bore it better than I could have expected – but not a day has passed that she has not alluded to you – but I busy her up the best I can and mention the importance of your mission and the consciousness you feel – that you are discharging a duty to that God who willeth not that any should perish but that all should have eternal life. This reflection is gratifying but you know how human nature is such that it is hard for us to be willing to be separated from children who would afford us so many pleasures along the journey of life – but enough on this subject – we are all in good health and attending the Garrison Camp Meeting.
Bettie and Jere stayed in Yoruba for about a year, but that’s a story for a different day.
Micajah and Sallie died. She in 1864 and he in 1874 during a visit to a daughter in Kentucky. Both are buried right in front of the New Hope Baptist Church, in Fairfield, Bedford County, Tennessee.