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Post by Paul2CV on Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:34 am

Hi Forum,

I would like to pause for a moment and get some reactions to what has been posted so far in this "Insider's History." We see the growth of the Village in size, we see the commitment and genius of Mr. Cooper and his wife. We see amazing generosity. Yet even deeper than all of this is an intangible special "something" growing. What is this community vision? What are your thoughts about what it is and where we are in relation to it? (The history will continue tomorrow.)


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Post by Paul2CV on Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:26 pm

Hi Forum,

Here is the next installment. I want to thank Tattercreek49 for her encouragement on these postings. I hope they are enlightening. Once again, I draw our attention to the emphasis on a shared community vision and the generosity of John Cooper and his wife Mildred in bring it to be by many gifts. Enjoy...

Mr. Cooper's generosity and desire for a "community-feeling" enabled many organizations to grow in the Village. He gave time, land and encouragement to many. In 1965 St. Andrews Episcopal Church, was the first church to be built in the Village. The Cooper company gave a building site to them and to all other churches in following years as they built in the Village.

The big event in June, 1965 was the open-house tour of the Coopers' new home. People came by bus loads from all over Arkansas.

Mr. and Mrs. Cooper built to let everyone know that they too intended to make Cherokee Village their home. A mansion was erected on top of the highest point in the Village overlooking Thunderbird Lake. Their home was a large, luxurious, rustic complex. They used a lot of hand carved wood, black wrought iron, bright splashes of color and big open spaces.

Mildred Cooper researched Cherokee Legend and found the message that was carved on their front doors. It translates:

"When man's journey, at day's end brings him to his hogan, house of waters, house of abundance, may he rest in protection and friendship and join in ceremony with the Great Chief" -- on the second door -- "Under the wise, watchful eye of the Chief, be carefree, share the beauty, plenty of game, abundance of all, with evil spirits warded off, the prospects bright, leading to happiness, happiness for all ages shall be constant. When you must, go in peace and may our paths cross once more."

The basic design of the estate is rustic elegance. Sitting on several acres, the buildings cover the whole hilltop. Yet nature -- in a carefully controlled sense -- remained uppermost in its design. The terrace affords a view that could grace any postcard; on the level below is a swimming pool flanked by umbrella tables and a broad expanse of lawn. The Cooper home is now known as Fountain Place, a Christian independent living facility.

The Coopers lived in Cherokee Village from 1954-1982. Many of both Mr. and Mrs. Cooper's families lived and worked in the Village, as did their children. They were very generous with their home. It was used for many Village affairs, charity events, etc. The guest house not only served for family overflow, but was also used as a hotel for company visitors and businessmen coming to the Village.

Mr. Cooper gave the Kia Kima Boy Scouts a new area, three times the acreage of the old camp. They moved the moveable cabins and built more. He built a new kitchen and dinning hall and put in a new lake further out South Fork River for their campgrounds across the river. A couple of years later, he built an information center for them.

The Cooper company gave 15 acres of land for the Eastern Ozark Hospital to be built in Cherokee Village. ...


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Post by Paul2CV on Tue Sep 28, 2010 11:06 pm

Here is our next entry.... (I have added italics to those sections that take up our initial question of Cooper's Vision" and CV today.) Enjoy!

"June 11, 1955 marked the official 'Grand Opening' of Cherokee Village. Orval Faubus, governor of Arkansas delivered the speech dedicating the airstrip and Cherokee Lake. By fall of 1958, the new Community Center was opened and a sundeck and gift shop were added to the Sitting Bull restaurant.

By the fifth anniversary in 1960, the Village covered 5200 acres with property owners from 36 states and 4 foreign countries. Then by 1968, the Village covered 14,000 acres. E. Faye Jones, an architect from the University of Arkansas (he died in 2004) who had studied under world-renowned Frank Lloyd Wright, designed many of the buildings and town houses, as he would later in other Cooper villages. Mr. Cooper's dream was coming true.

Reports from several sources told a true story that happened during the 30th anniversary celebration of the founding of Cherokee Village in 1985. Mr. Cooper took the young, long-haired speaker aside to offer a tip: 'You could go places, but you're going to have to cut your hair and get your wife to take your last name.'

The guest, the 'Boy Governor' of Arkansas, did cut his hair as he developed a national profile, and less than eight years later he became President of the free world. Another eight years after that his wife was elected to the U.S. Senate from the State of New York, not as Hillary Rodham, but as Hillary Clinton!

The Arkansas Gazette once referred to Cooper as one of the state's most powerful men, and wrote, 'Cooper must be recognized for the social, economic and political impact of the retirement communities he founded. By luring a large and totally different group of residents, John Cooper, more than any other person has altered the character of Arkansas.'

Today, the most common accent heard on the street is a Midwestern twang, not the once-familiar cadences of a hillbilly drawl. The demography of the Ozarks has changed completely and the man who more than anyone else caused that change was John A. Cooper, Sr. In so doing, he built his empire.

The Cherokee Village development is recognized in the industry as the first modern-day planned community built in this country. It became a model for all other vacation retirement areas in the nation.


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The Early History continues....

Post by Paul2CV on Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:11 am

Hi Forum,

Here is our next installment of the “Early 'History' of Cherokee Village.

“Bill Orr said, 'Mr. Cooper made you believe in what he was doing. He just had one bulldozer...that's the extent of the equipment he had (and one time Mr. Cooper even sold it and we had to lease a dozer)...but I ran it, building a lake, roads and even an airport runway.' Mr. Crockett, an engineer from up at Thayer, Missouri, laid out a lot of roads.

'He put everything he had into what he believed in. We all just hung in there for him because we believed him. He took these old hills that weren't good for anything but looking at and did exactly the best thing he could do...make a place for people, where they could live and enjoy them.'

Developing Cherokee village wasn't an easy task. First a road had to be paved so people could get into the Village. It was a testimonial to the tremendous political power Mr. Cooper wielded, when highways U.S. 63 and U.S. 67-167 were paved.

He did things on a big scale and as he began putting people to work, he brought in planners and development experts. After a time, he had in place what was called 'The Brotherhood of Five': Bill Orr in charge of construction; Jim Gore the head of engineering; Joe Basore ram-rodding marketing; George Billingsley spearheading sales; and Wayne Shenerman watching the dollars.

Those who worked with Mr. Cooper saw him become a strong influence in the community. He took an interest in those who were a part of his adopted family and was always concerned about the welfare of the people who worked for him and helped him. Then members of the Cooper family started moving to the hills and most of the original staff was of kin.

When phone lines were needed to have a telephone system in the Village, the locally owned telephone company was not equipped to handle expansion of any kind. So Cooper loaned them the money to expand into the Village.

Mr. Cooper had a way with people. He made deep impressions. People believed in him. One native of the area was noted to say, 'If the old man tells you something, you can take his word to the bank, because it's as good as gold. His word is as good as anybody's I know.'

Cooper avoided personal publicity, he said, 'I've been able to get more done by staying out of the limelight.' He would walk around Cherokee Village and Hardy and often not be recognized. He said he would walk around, '...just to talk to the people there. They don't have any idea who I am, but I talk to them, find out how they like it---find out what's right and what's wrong.'

It was a mark of a man who, though immensely successful as the founder of a national industry – the retirement village – had not lost touch with more humble pursuits.

June 11. 1955 marked the official “Grand Opening' of Cherokee Village ....”

(to be continued.)


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Post by Paul2CV on Sun Sep 26, 2010 11:09 pm

Hi Forum,

Here is the next section. I have highlighted some passages that refer to Cooper's vision that seem important to me as we consider how we are doing 56 years later.

John and his wife Mildred bought their first property and built their summer home on South Fork River, a tributary of Spring River, in the mid-1940's. 'It was the prettiest place in the world.' Cooper said, 'I've looked at land all across the United States and this is the prettiest in America. Now mind you, I'm not talking about Spring River. I'm talking about South Fork. The fishing, the swimming, the water's just the best place in the world.'

Cooper began buying the land that adjoined his Vacation retreat in Sharp County. In the early 1950's, when Cooper first conceived the notion of a retirement community, he had already made his mark in east Arkansas as a planter, real estate developer, lawyer and banker.

His vision was for a planned community composed of residents from all ages and income levels, living in a scenic setting where they could come for vacations and later retire for permanent living. In 1954 he started the community called Cherokee Village in the foothills of the Ozarks with 2400 acres. It didn't exist 50 years ago, but looks as though it has always been there.

Many thought he was a crazy, rich man from West Memphis. They didn't have faith in his development idea. The land in the Ozark wilderness was beautiful, but it was primitive. No industry existed there, and the whole area was one of the most poverty-ridden in the nation. The majority of the population depended on subsistence farming in poor hill soil for a livelihood.

He said, 'Some parts of the land are made for farming, and on those parts you can raise cotton, or rice, but this kind of land wasn't made for that. It was made to be a beautiful place that people can enjoy.'

The community was to have the conveniences of the city, but with an abundance of hills, woods, fresh water, and natural wildlife. Cooper was quick to point out that this natural look was one of the bases of his philosophy of real estate development. He said, 'you can't be a developer without being a conservationist. If you try it, you're crazy.'

'Before he would make big commitments he would go over and over the situation,' said Wayne Sheneman. 'When he decided, it seemed sometimes foolhardy, but he made the broad decisions very carefully and with a lot of thought.'

The area was mapped out and work began in 1954 by putting in Cherokee Drive, Hiawatha Drive, Cherokee Lake and the air strip. It is told that Hiawatha was the first road marked out. Mr. Cooper walked ahead putting red flags where he wanted the road to go, then Bill Orr followed behind on a bulldozer to clear the way.”


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Post by Paul2CV on Sat Sep 25, 2010 10:01 am

Here is the next excerpt form the "Early 'History' of Cherokee Village":

John A. Cooper's
Became a Reality

Mr. John A. Cooper
A Man with a Vision

John Alfred Cooper, Sr. was born into a large family on March 27, 1906 in Earle, Arkansas. He was raised in an environment of challenge and competition that directed his entrepreneurial life.

Virginia Hall, his younger sister, said in an early interview, "There was a lot of rivalry in our family. We competed with one another for acceptance and attention. John was always involved and had some kind of project going on even as a young boy. He had drive."

At age 5 young John, the son of a county sheriff, took his wagon filled with cabbages into town to sell. During his life, he was involved in farming, airport and highway construction, real estate and finally community development.

He earned a law degree at Cumberland School of Law at Sanford University, Birmingham, Alabama and spent a lot of time around West Memphis representing insurance companies. From 1927 to 1938 he prcticed law and was a partner of Congressman E.C. "Took" Gathings.

He said, "After a few years, I realized that I didn't have the kind of legal education that would let me really be competitive in legal circles, so I concentrated on real estate."

That led him eventually into the contracting business. He would buy some old land, clean it up to make the land look better than it had when he bought it. He was generally able to sell it at a profit.

He was a Southern gentlemen who mixed an urban manner with country-boy grammar; a giant in the world of business and real estate development, who lived by making deals. It was said his facial expressions changed constantly, willfully, punctuating his conversation, giving emphasis and vitality to the words he used. He was courteous to everyone.

Selling property to a man in Minnesota made him think about all those other people in the North who might want to live someplace where they didn't have to put up with cold weather and all that snow.

He also realized this was the first generation of people to receive Social Security, the first with secure retirement income after they spent their whole lives working. They were ready to retire with their savings and Social Security. It was a natural market.

Since the 1920's many Delta people had owned cabins along the Spring River. People, especially from the Memphis area, came to Sharp County to spend their summer in the days before air conditioning was common. Cooper knew anyone who didn't have to make a living trying to farm the land would be delighted to live here.

John and his wife Mildred bought their first property..."

To be continued ... We see the vision developing!


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Post by Paul2CV on Fri Sep 24, 2010 8:30 am

So here is begins a little taste of the local history of Cherokee Village and its wonderful development told through the memories of those who really were there:

The title of the book is:

Early "History" of Cherokee Village
by The Cherokee Village Historical Society
Dedicated to:
John Alfred Cooper, Sr.
"A Man with a Vision"
and his wife
Mildred Borum Cooper
The Woman Behind the M

Now that is the title page of this limited edition book, only 500 copies of which mine is numbered 429, with a wonderful photograph of the couple. But what is the operative word, the key word here, on the title page? I will tell you what I believe that it is:


Now isn't the question before us 56 years later, how is the "vision" going? What is our commitment to it? To what extent do we understand what Mr. Cooper hoped would be our shared life? Let's ponder that question together.

To be continued....


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Post by Paul2CV on Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:53 pm


Hi Forum,

Over the next several months, I will be posting brief sections of a local history of Cherokee Village put together by our local historical society. It is memories of those who were on the scene at the inception of this first planned community of its kind in the USA. You will find those reflections really interesting and will get a sense of the core vision and spirit that went into making Cherokee Village a reality -- from conception, to early marketing, to building, to land acquisition, to roads and lake development, to mostly the wonderful visionaries that made it all happen. You will be surprised by who shows up in the tales -- including a former President and famous architect. You will be touched by the generosity of John Cooper who started it all in his gifts of land for hospital and churches. You will also get a sense of the early vitality and energy. Stay posted!

See below for updates...

Last edited by Paul2CV on Fri Apr 29, 2011 9:44 am; edited 10 times in total


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