Lee began digging into Chambers’ life in his spare time after a reference in a history book piqued his curiosity. He said he gets “weepy” just thinking about all that the man went through.
Chambers and his family traveled by steamboat to the swampy area of Blaine Township from Kentucky after he was discharged from the Union Army during the Civil War, in 1865. That was after Chambers had sustained a serious injury, Lee said.
Chambers had to track down his family members and had to leave behind two of his five children, whose whereabouts were unknown.
In Blaine, other people had tried and failed to cultivate the less-than-ideal land, but Chambers stuck with it. “For a bit, their farm was one of most prosperous in Blaine Township,” Lee said.
Given Chambers’ deep connection to the area, “The school ought to be named the Chambers School,” Lee said, adding, “What great lessons his story can teach to kids about the courage of rising out of slavery.”
Even though the Cooper family no longer lives at Coopers Corner at Highway 65 and 237th Avenue, it’s still a landmark of sorts.
Linda Mundle, an Isanti resident whose grandmother was Ruth Cooper Gardner, said the name often comes up when people are giving directions. “Someone might say, ‘Oh, turn left at Coopers Corner,’ ” she said.
The corner owes its association largely to James Cooper, an Irish immigrant who, in 1855, was drawn to the area for the “good land and hunting,” she said.
After building a house on the corner, Cooper retrieved his family in Pennsylvania. Moving involved a three-month journey by covered wagon, Mundle said.
Before long, Cooper had started up a post office in his home, for which he was the postmaster. Later on, he opened a general store on the corner.
By the time the railroad came through, the area known then as Bethel Township was booming, with more businesses springing up, she said.
A story that has been passed down in Mundle’s family is that Cooper came up with the town’s name. Bethel was a biblical reference, she said.
But other families may tell a different version of the story. “It depends on whom you talk to,” she said.