Gilbert Cool

Gilbert Cool (b. about 1798 - d. November 11, 1879) was a blacksmith and farmer in western Pennsylvania.

His ancestry

Gilbert's ancestors are unknown.

His life

Gilbert Cool was born in Pennsylvania around the year 1798. The county of his birth is unknown, but he reportedly was born east of the Alleghenies, and moved west as a young man, arriving in northern Washington county. As a young man, he apprenticed as a blacksmith in the smithy of John McConnell, near Paris, a town in Hanover township, Washington County, located next to the current state line with West Virginia.

Early 1800s smithy, from Compass Inn Museum, used with kind permission.

We know something about Gilbert's employer. John McConnell was born about 1784, about 14 years before Gilbert. John was the son of William McConnell, who came to Washington County in 1784. William McConnell prospered, eventually owning over 600 acres of land near Harmon's Run, a creek north of the town of Florence, Hanover Township, Washington County. The McConnell farm was near the farm of Augustine Moore, my gggg-grandfather, an early settler of western Pennsylvania. In 1807, at the age of about 23, John married Ellen Moore, a daughter of Augustine Moore. They settled on the McConnell home farm, where John had lived since boyhood, and where they lived together seventy-two years.

Gilbert would have only been about 9 when John McConnell married Ellen Moore, so we may be safe in assuming that his employer was already married into the Moore family when Gilbert began his apprenticeship, or soon thereafter. We're told that it wasn't long, however, before Gilbert married Rebecca Moore, a sister of Ellen Moore. John and Gilbert were more than master and apprentice; now they were brothers-in-law. We don't know when Gilbert married Rebecca, but their first child, Sarah, was born between 1820 and 1825, so we may assume that the marriage took place sometime between 1818 and 1824, when Gilbert would have been between the ages of 20 and 26.

Gilbert's first appearance in the official record is in the 1830 census, where he is counted as "Gilbert Coal." He appears in Hanover Township, in the southernmost part of Beaver County, Pennsylvania. With him is a young man between the ages of 15 and 20, who is presumably an apprentice. In the household are five females: Rebecca, Gilbert's wife, and their three daughters: Sarah, Verlinda, born about 1830, and Alice, born after 1828.

By the time of the 1830 census, Gilbert, at the age of 32, had his own blacksmith shop near Frankfort Springs, Hanover Township, Beaver County. In the western Pennsylvania of the early 19th century, blacksmiths and other artesans lived fairly well. ". . . artisans and craftsmen -- carpenters, tailors, blacksmiths, bootmakers and the like . . . were . . . generally self-employed and independent, and frequently property owners in their own right. A growing economy in which labor was short put a high value on their services, so that they were better off than their counterparts in the East or in Europe. Travelers were impressed with their high standard of living. They noted that they had all kinds of food which their European counterparts could hardly dream of and they had turkeys, beef, butter, and of course plenty of whiskey and cigars." Pg. 104, "Pittsburgh, the Story of an American City," by Stefan Lorant, 5th ed., 1999, Esselmont Books.

Waters from the Frankfort Mineral Springs in 2002. The waters contain over 15 minerals. A health spa began here in the 1790s and lasted more than a century. The town of Frankfort Springs, where Gilbert had his home and smithy, is about a mile south of the springs.

Reportedly, Gilbert was energetic and industrious. That he prospered we cannot doubt. By 1838, he bought 198 acres of farmland on the waters of Raccoon Creek, in Hanover Township, Washington County, PA. This farm was near the lands of Thomas Levingston, John McComb, Samuel & James Paxton, John Fullerton and William Coventry. A 1876 maps indicates that this farmland was probably east of Florence, PA, and just north of the road that is today Route 22. The purchase price of $4365 was a considerable amount in that day; apparently Gilbert helped finance the purchase and the operating capital of his new farm with a $6000 loan from his neighbor, Samuel Levingston.

Two years later, the 1840 census finds Gilbert, now age 42, and his family on their new farm in Hanover Township, Washington County. The family now includes the eldest son, my ggg-grandfather, William Cool, born in 1830. Also, Sarah, Verlinda, and Alice; as well as John M. Cool, born September 1832; Augustine Cool, born December 1834; Thomas Cool, born June 1838; and the youngest, Christopher Colombus Cool, born April 7, 1839.

In his will of 23 January, 1841, Frederick Cool bequeathed to his son, William Cool, "all of the tract of land which I purchased from Gilbert Cool which is now cleared and all that part of it South of the Frankfort road." (Read more about Frederick Cool and his possible connections with Gilbert.) We haven't found the deed for this sale; but it's clear that Gilbert was buying and selling land during the 1840s. According to Allegheny County land records, on April 12, 1848, Gilbert bought land in Findlay Township from the estate of E. Charles, with an additional purchase from the same estate on December 11, 1850, and five other land purchases following, with the last one December 26, 1877.

Gilbert Cool sold his Washington County land and moved to the new farmland in Findley Township, Allegheny County, probably in 1848. This land is west of Clinton, north of the Clinton-Frankfort Road (Route 30), generally opposite the Hopewell-Hebron Cemetery.

The land seen in the background on the other side of Route 30 was once part of Gilbert's farm. In the background on the left, you can see some of the markers of the Hebron Cemetery (AKA Hopewell-Hebron Cemetery). Gilbert's marker is off-camera some dozens of yards to the left of those markers.

Neighboring land has been converted to a golf course. This photograph gives a good idea of the terrain that the farmers worked.

Gilbert and Rebecca lived in Clinton for the rest of their lives. Most of their children would live and die in the Clinton area. My gg-grandfather, William Cool, would die there at the young age of 40; my g-grandfather, Sherman Moore Cool, was born in Clinton in June 10, 1864; my grandfather, William Randolph Cool, was born in Clinton on March 21, 1897. Today, there are Cools who live in Clinton, descended from one or the other of Gilbert's children.

This is the ruins of a 19th century farmhouse built by one of Gilbert's sons, Thomas Cool (June 1838 - March 07, 1913). It is situated in a small copse of woods, on the north side of Route 30, in the vicinity of Potato Garden Run, an area that corresponds to the location of Thomas Cool's farm shown in the 1876 map from "History of Allegheny County."

According to a Beers biography, Gilbert "was a hard-working, successful business man and in politics was an Old-line Whig, afterward uniting with the Republican party. He possessed a robust constitution, and was ill but for a short time before his death, which occurred November 9, 1879, followed by his wife a year later. They are buried side by side in Hopewell cemetery, Allegheny county. Both were members of the Presbyterian Church."

In the summer of 2002, I visited the gravesite of my ggg-grandparents. This is their marker, an obelisk on two pedastals, about three feet tall. On the easterly face, it reads, "Rebecca, Wife of Gilbert cool, died Sep 22, 1880 in the 84 year of her age." The pedastal on the west side reads, "Cool." The inscription on the more northerly face is less legible, but it reads, "Gilbert Cool, died, Nov(?) ? 1879 in the 83 year of his age."

Gilbert Cool's will papers indicate that he died on November 11, 1879. The will provides that his land be sold and the proceeds split, with his beloved wife, Rebecca Cool, receiving all his household goods & kitchen furniture, as well as the interest of a third of the profits from the sale of the farm. The rest of the proceeds was split in sixths, between his daughters Verlinda Cool (married with Wm. Dawson), Alice Cool (married with Philip Strouss), and his sons, John M. Cool, Augustine Cool,Columbus Cool, and Thomas Cool. His grandson Romulus Cool received three hundred dollars. My gg-grandfather, his firstborn, William Cool, having preceded him in death by nine years, is not mentioned in the will.

Notes and sources on Gilbert Cool

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