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BELLE COOPER - A SWEETGUM COMMUNITY LANDMARK
By Marshall McClung
It would be hard to imagine Sweetgum Community without Belle Cooper. She has been a part of the community for so long that she has indeed become a landmark.
Belle was born Belle Weaver in 1905 in Union County, Georgia near Blairsville. Her~parents were Orian and Mary Smathers Weaver. When Belle was 18, she met and married Zebulon Vance "Zeb" Cooper from Graham County who was in Blairsville visiting the "Lum" Deiton family who had moved there from Graham County. At the time of their marriage Zeb was 45.
Belle then moved to Graham County and has lived somewhere in the Sweetgum community since 1924. She lived in a house that sat in a field above the Sweetgum Baptist Church for 13 years, lived in another house near the current residence of the Buck Ayers family, lived in another house in the intersection where the Sweetgum Baptist Church sign is now located, and has lived in her current home across the highway from Tammy's Country Store for more than thirty years.
Belle has five children, Ed and Frank Cooper, Essie May Andrews, Mary Sue Wilson, and Maxine Perkins, all of Robbinsville. Their youngest child Maxine was born when Zeb the father was 72 years old. Zeb died when the children were all still young, and Belle was left with the task of raising five young children on her own. Belle said she worked at whatever was available including washing and ironing for people, working crops in the field, such as hoeing corn, working in burley tobacco, etc. She recalled that she once worked an entire season and received a small calf as payment. She would also pick and sell blackberries. She later worked at Fontana Village in the housekeeping unit.
One of her granddaughters, Sue Stewart, stayed with her for several years. Some time ago, Sue did some extensive historical research on the Cooper family and was instrumental in supplying some of the information contained in this article.
Belle remains young at heart, and always has been as long as I have known her. Her grandchildren will testify to this. They said Belle would dress up at Halloween and go trick or treating with them. Belle has also tried her hand at riding a motorcycle, playing poker, shooting pool, and has even been known to try out various video games. They recall she also taught them to work and would take them up on the mountain to cut poles for firewood and drag them into the yard. If this was not enough, Belle had a part in the recent movie "Nell" which was filmed in Graham County. In the movie, Belle plays the mother of Nell (Jody Foster). Belle said she enjoyed this and would take a part in another movie if asked. The movie people
I still stay in contact with Belle. Some came to visit her while others called to check on her. Belle spent five days of filming at the cabin built on Fontana Lake for the movie.
Belle never fails to have something to eat in her home much to the delight of her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, neighborhood children, or whoever happens to drop by. In true mountain tradition Belle "feeds her company."
Belle has always liked to travel and visit. She makes a round visiting her friends and neighbors in the Sweetgum community including her good friend Helen Hardin. Belle always visited Burlean Tipton when they ran the Sweetgum Grocery, and the two became good friends. Two other good friends of Belle's have passed away; Minnie Phillips and Amanda Crisp. Now that Tammy Williams has reopened the store at Sweetgum, Belle will again add that to her rounds especially since Tammy stocks Belle's favorite brand of snuff!
Belle's travels often take her out of Sweetgum. She likes to attend the annual singing at the John Stratton Meadows and go pick huckleberries at Hooper Bald.
Several years ago, Dana Colvin, another granddaughter began taking Belle for a Sunday drive. Darla said she usually visited her grandmother on Sundays and thought it would be good to get her out some. Their travels have taken them over a lot of back roads in Graham County including a lot of Forest Service roads. They visit cemeteries where a lot of Belle's friends and relatives are laid to rest.
Belle reached her 89th birthday this month. She still grows a garden, does her own cooking, washing, and other household chores. Belle has 14 grandchildren, 20 great-great grandchildren, and three great-great-great grandchildren They along with several other friends and relatives held a surprise birthday party for Belle that past Saturday. Of course Belle was the life of the party. Would you have expected anything less?
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Education Election Information Emergency Services Family Resources Fontana Dam
Forestry Facts Genealogy General Information Government Health Care
Hiking/Camping History Local Color Library Map of Graham Co. Media
N.C. Forest Service Real Estate Swan Cabin Sheriff's Department Travel & Tourism
U.S.F.S. District HQ U.S. Forest Service Utility Services Weather Forecast Wildflowers
These pages are from the people of Graham County, North Carolina.
For additional information on Graham County Adventures
the Travel and Tourism Authority or
go to the Visitors Information Center of the Travel and Tourism Authority Webpage
or call 1-800-470-3790 or 828-479-3790 Fax 1-828-479-4733
This page is maintained by Tom Livingston, Robbinsville, North Carolina