Samuel R. Cooper was an early resident of Lea County. He was born near Salina, Kansas in 1874. When he was six years old, his family moved to Erring Springs, in the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma.
As a young adult around the age of 21, Mr. Cooper left his family and moved west to Mobeetie, Texas in the Panhandle. He worked on several ranches including the XIT ranch. He also recalled hunting prairie chickens and sending them to markets in Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri. When he was 27, he married the former Jessie May Gray and the young couple moved to a farm near Mobeetie and supplemented his income by cutting wood and transporting it by ox teams. He also hauled and sold cottonseed cake to ranches in the area.
In 1914, two years after New Mexico became a state, Mr. Cooper sold his Panhandle farm and moved to the area. He homesteaded a half section located roughly ten miles northwest of the area that would give rise to the town of Jal and later added another half section to his homestead holdings. His brothers and father were already residing in New Mexico. Mr. Cooper built a one room house with a dirt floor early on, and lived there for a few years before building a more substantial home. The first three years they were in the area, they had to rely on water which they hauled from Mr. Cooper’s father’s property, but in 1917 they were able to drill their own well and set up a windmill to provide their water supply.
At that time, a one room schoolhouse served the community children and also provided a place for community gatherings and Sunday School meetings each Sunday morning.
After some time, the Coopers set up a post office with Mrs. Cooper serving as post mistress. They later established a small mercantile store near their home, supplying it with goods freighted in from Pecos, Texas. The goods were transported by two large wagons in tandem, pulled by a team of twenty burros.
Oil was discovered in Jal around 1929, and Mr. Cooper recalls that all structures, including barns and chicken houses were converted to housing for oilfield workers. One additional benefit of the oil boom was that Mr. Cooper then was able to get natural gas service to his home where he previously only had wood and kerosene for home use.
Mr. Cooper passed away in 1958 at the age of 84. He had lived in Lea County for forty-four years. His services were held and the Church of God in Jal, of which he was a charter member. He was buried in the Jal-Cooper Cemetery on land that he donated. His wife Jessie survived him another eighteen years. He and Jessie had eight children, four sons and four daughters, all of whom survived him along with 29 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren.